Premillennialism and the Tribulation Part V: Partial Rapture Theory -- By: John F. Walvoord

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 112:447 (Jul 1955)
Article: Premillennialism and the Tribulation Part V: Partial Rapture Theory
Author: John F. Walvoord


Premillennialism and the Tribulation
Part V:
Partial Rapture Theory

John F. Walvoord

Definition of the Theory

It is generally held among pretribulationists that the entire church, composed of all believers in this age, will be translated and resurrected at the coming of Christ for them preceding the tribulation. There has arisen in the last century, however, a small group of pretribulationists who contend that only those who are faithful in the church will be raptured or translated and the rest will either be raptured sometime during the tribulation or at its end. As stated by one of its adherents: “The saints will be raptured in groups during the tribulation as they are prepared to go.”1 He states further: “The basis of translation must be grace or reward. …We believe that frequent exhortations in the Scriptures to watch, to be faithful, to be ready for Christ’s coming, to live Spirit-filled lives, all suggest that translation is a reward.”2 The theory includes the concept that only the faithful saints will be resurrected at the first resurrection.

Historical Background

The modern theory of partial rapture seems to have originated in the writings of Robert Govett who published a book

setting forth the theory as early as 1853.3 In this work he expounds his view that participation in the kingdom is conditional and depends upon worthy conduct. The most able exponent of the theory in the twentieth century is G. H. Lang.4 Others have made a significant contribution to the propagation of the theory. D. M. Panton, as editor of The Dawn (London), uses his publication to promote this teaching. Such writers as Ira E. David, Sarah Foulkes Moore, William Leask, and C. G. A. Gibson-Smith contribute to The Dawn articles in support of this theory. For the most part, however, the view is limited to a few adherents who are generally treated as heterodox by other pretribulationists.

General Reasons for Rejecting a Partial Rapture

It is commonly held by evangelical Christians that salvation is by grace rather than a reward for good works. The believer in Christ is justified by faith, and receives the many benefits of salvation quite apart from merit or worthiness on his part. This is normally carried over into the doctrine of translation and resurrection. Most pretribulationists as well as most posttribulationists consider the translation and ressurrection of the saints on this basis. By contrast, the partial rapture teaching transfers both ...

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