Will Some Believers Miss the Rapture?

The technology of today is amazing.  It can be amazingly good or amazingly bad.  This would definitely apply to “YouTube.”  On “YouTube” you can find just about anything by way of subject matter and posted by most anyone. I have found watching some videos of events in nature to be interesting; such as flash floods, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis. But other subjects, such as how to clean tile, do not exactly fire me up.  On “YouTube” you can also find an astonishing array of preachers as well as amateur theologians who put forth their views on all subjects. “YouTube” has become a modern day pulpit. There seems, however, to be a special preference, among these folks, on prophetic subjects, which brings me to our present discussion.

I have noted that a number of individuals promote the idea that some believers in Jesus will miss the rapture because they are living sinfully and selfishly when Jesus comes.  So because of their sinfulness and carnality, they will not be taken up in the rapture but will continue to live on into the tribulation period. Many teach that if these sinful believers repent and get their act together, then there will be other times during the tribulation when they could be taken up. They use Revelation 7:9-14; 11:2; 12:5 and 16:5 to teach raptures occurring during the Tribulation. However, a close inspection of these scriptures, in their contexts, reveal that no sudden, supernatural meeting of Christ in the clouds is in view. These are not rapture passages.

Now for someone who discovered this subject on “YouTube”, they might think they have stumbled onto a new, enlightened teaching. That would not be true. This idea of a conditional rapture has been around since it was first articulated in the mid-nineteenth century.  It is commonly referred to as the “Partial Rapture” theory and it teaches that only believers who are “watching and waiting” for the Lord’s return will be taken up to meet Him in the air. In this view, the rapture is actually a reward for faithful believers. And so, those passages that emphasize the need to be alert and anticipating the Lord’s return are the ones focused on.   

Many scriptures are used by those who promote this theory. And the use of so many scriptures gives the impression that there is significant support for this idea of a conditional rapture. However, the Partial rapturists generally fail to observe some necessary distinctions.  Some of their scriptures are referencing the 2nd Coming and not the Rapture event.  Other scriptures are focused on the nation of Israel and not the Church.  Yet other passages are really talking about the rewarding of believers and not the rapturing of believers. But beyond this failure to observe these distinctions, there are four reasons why this view should be rejected.

(1) THIS VIEW HAS PROBLEMS IN RELATION TO THE DOCTRINE OF SALVATION. The believer in Jesus Christ is justified by faith and not by works. All aspects of our salvation come to us because of the grace of God.  The resurrection and translation of believers to heaven to be with Christ is the future part of our salvation, and we receive that aspect of our salvation also by God’s grace not by our works. Yet, in the Partial rapture view, this aspect of our salvation is based on merit, at least to the extent that the future aspect of our salvation is postponed.  To accept a works principle for this important aspect of salvation is to undermine the whole concept of justification by faith through grace, as well as to diminish the present work of the Spirit (Eph. 4:30) who has sealed us for the day of redemption.

(2) THIS VIEWPOINT CONTRADICTS THE PLAIN TEACHING OF SCRIPTURE THAT ALL BELIEVERS ARE INCLUDED IN THE RAPTURE.  In the rapture passage of         1 Corinthians 15:51, the Apostle Paul declares that “we shall all be changed.”  This rapture passage speaks of just two categories of believers (the living and the dead) and states that all will be involved.  There is no indication at all of anyone being excluded. In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 that those involved in the rapture are those who are “in Christ”, whether living or dead. Those who are raptured are those who “believe that Jesus died and rose again.”  He does not divide believers into categories of “watching” and “not watching” of the partial rapture theory.  And these are the two primary rapture passages, and they clearly teach that all believers are taken in the rapture, prior to the Tribulation period. There is no category of “unwatchful believers.”

(3) THE PARTIAL RAPTURE THEORY CONTRADICTS A CORRECT UNDERSTANDING OF A KEY RAPTURE PASSAGE, THAT OF 1 THESSALONIANS 5:9-10.  Here the Apostle teaches that it is the sovereign will of God that His children not experience His wrath but, rather, that they obtain deliverance. Paul then gives them additional encouragement concerning their removal from the earth before the time of wrath when he says, “that whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him.”  Often those “awake or asleep” have been interpreted as living and dead believers.  Paul, of course, does speak of these two categories of believers in relationship to the rapture event in 1 Thessalonians 4. There Paul contrasts living and dead believers and uses the Greek word koimao when speaking of the dead believers (“those who have fallen asleep”).  But in 1 Thessalonians 5:10, Paul has chosen to use the Greek word katheudo to speak about those who are asleep.  This word is rarely, if ever, used in the N.T. for death.  And in this context it refers to one who is not being watchful and alert.  The word was used in verses 5 and 6 to describe the state of unwatchfulness against which Paul is warning. In the same way, the verb in verse 10 for “awake” has been used in verse 6 to describe the state of alertness which is what Paul desires for these believers.  Unless sound exegetical procedure is to be thrown out, verse 10 cannot be seen as a description of living and dead Christians.  Rather it refers to watchful and unwatchful believers.  So Paul is clearly saying that whether a believer is watchful or unwatchful, they will be involved in the rapture which forcefully contradicts the Partial rapture view.  Paul, of course, is very concerned that believers live godly lives, waiting eagerly for the Lord’s coming. But in these verses he makes the point that all will go in the rapture.  The very next event after the rapture (the judgment seat of Christ) will be the place where the matter of how the believer lived will be dealt with—not the rapture itself.

(4) THE PARTIAL RAPTURE THEORY DIVIDES UP THE BODY OF CHRIST.  The unity of the Church, the Body of Christ, is important to Him.  And the vital, organic union between Christ and believers cannot be broken.  The N.T. doctrine of the oneness of the Church stands against the Partial rapture view.  When the Lord Jesus and His Bride are united in marriage (Rev. 19:8-10), which is then followed by the marriage supper (the millennial kingdom), they are never seen separated again.  It is inconceivable that after being united with His Bride that Jesus would have part of the Bride disappear for the millennial kingdom (which is what many partial rapturists hold will be the fate of those unwatchful believers who don’t repent during the Tribulation).

To the credit of the partial rapturists, they clearly encourage believers to live holy lives.  But the theory has so many exegetical and theological problems that very few people in the last 150 years (since the idea was formulated) have held to it.