A Rapture Position I Overlooked :: by Gene Lawley

A reader of my summary of positions on the Rapture, posted recently, reminded me that I had overlooked a position that is held by some believers—a “partial Rapture.” That is, those folks who are really faithful are taken when Jesus comes for that event, but others who are not faithful are left behind to face the wrath of God with the unsaved.

Right away, that begs the questions of just where the line is drawn, and who draws that line?

When Jesus, in Matthew 16:5, warned His disciples, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees,” He was not concerned about their having a faulty recipe for baking bread. But what, exactly, was the “leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees?”

That account Jesus gave in Luke 18:9-14 gives as clear a description of their “leaven” as we need, along with a comparison of the attitude He is looking for in His followers:

“Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.’”

The introductory statement for that parable reveals the essence of the “leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.” Abraham, father of the Hebrew people, did not assume that position because one day he had a bright idea and decided he would pack up and move to a totally unknown region and start his own nation.

Genesis 12 tells us that God led him out and away from his family ties, where God would make of him a great nation. And Abram (his name then) believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Abraham became one who believed God despite evidence to the contrary in the physical realm, and his legacy is marked by his faith, not by his works. You might say that his leaven was not the leaven of the later religious leaders of Israel.

I relate this for background on what Paul wrote in Romans 4:20-26:

“He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore ‘it was accounted to him for righteousness.’

“Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.”

Perhaps this is a roundabout way to come to the heart of whether or not the partial Rapture position is a valid Bible-based truth. The above verses are quoted to show that from the beginning a person’s relationship to God has been based on faith and not good works or keeping of the commandments. As an analogy with the game of baseball, now the bases are loaded. Let’s see if the following passages will hit the needed home run. First, let’s look at the source of eternal life and then, its availability to mankind:

“For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself…” (John 5:26).

Jesus started out with life existing in Him. Actually, it was and is eternal life. You and I get our life, physically, from our parents, and it goes all the way back to Adam. But only physically can we trace it, for in the spiritual realm, we are dead before Christ comes into our life, as this next passage establishes, and we are dying physically because of Adam’s fall:

“And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life,and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:11-13).

Now, how does this truth work out in a believer’s life if certainty of eternal life can be known, based on one having Christ in his life? Paul writes of this in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15:

“For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”

This speaks to the assurance of salvation, for if Christ in a person’s life is the one single determining factor for salvation, then He is the one single determining factor in who goes to be with Him in the Rapture. Note in the above passage that even with no redeemable good works after his works are tested by the fire of God’s judgment at the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10), he is still saved.

The basic issue that makes the partial rapture theory one that some folks hang onto is the issue of faithfulness, or good works. Yet Paul would tell us in 2 Timothy 2:13, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.” Thus, God remains faithful to His promises regardless of man’s faithlessness.
In his writing to the Ephesians, in Ephesians 2:8-9, Paul settles this source and issue of salvation:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

The faith that brings salvation is a gift from God and no man’s works has any input to that equation—lest that person should boast of his own part in his salvation. Yet, the very basis of partial rapture is that I, if I am a believer in that theory, am worthy to be raptured because I have been faithful, but you, of course, not being faithful, are not worthy.

The next verse is where Paul deals with works, or worthiness, when he says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

Some practical considerations need to be addressed, if for no other reason than just to inject some common sense into the discussion—salted, of course, with the flavor of Bible truth. If the Rapture is when Jesus returns for His Bride, identified also as the “body of Christ” and His Church, then what part of His Bride does He leave behind in a partial Rapture? Is it her feet, because she did not carry the gospel as far as she could have?

Or is it her eyes, because she did not read the Bible and study it consistently? And, of course, the “feet” in the body of Christ are many believers, so how does He take the faithful ones and leave behind the unfaithful? Does His Bride show up crippled in heaven? Dumb thinking, eh? Well, the picture is clear enough, that God indeed is no respecter of persons, and the dividing line is whether or not a person has Christ in his life.

The partial Rapture theory also begs the question of how that plays out in regard to the fact that the dead in Christ will rise first. Those not worthy are left in the grave? But for how long?

The real issue has to do with the integrity of God’s character and the quality of God’s love for His redeemed. In the account of Lot’s redemption from the judgment of Sodom in Genesis 19, it is difficult to see any redeeming qualities in Lot. We have to go to  2 Peter 2:7 to learn that God looked upon him as a righteous man and worthy to be, literally,  dragged out of the city before the angels could destroy it. And Jesus referred to that incident as a likeness of His coming in the days of this generation (see Luke 17:26 and following).

It comes down to this: When God saves a person like you or me, He stakes His reputation upon us. We are His ambassadors in this world. He entrusts us with Himself. When Jesus says, in John 15, “I am the vine, you are the branches,” He revealed a great truth, for when someone looks at a grapevine.

For example, the vine is obscured by its branches. And the fruit of the vine is revealed in its branches. So God’s love is so strong that it can endure whatever failure of those who receive it experience. As John 5:24 puts it, when a person believes what God says, he has eternal life right then and will never come under condemnation again:

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”