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Burning Questions answered
by Rev. Colin Le Noury.

Q3. Does the parable of the Ten Virgins support the idea of a Partial Rapture?

The partial rapture theory is not a widely held one but it is gaining some popularity; especially among some extreme charismatic groupings.

The parable of the virgins is just one of a number of scriptures used by proponents of this theory in support of their particular belief.

Partial Rapturists will seize hold of particular verses and use them as proof texts. Such verses centre on the idea of 'watchfulness' and 'readiness' - sentiments held, of course, by all believers of the imminent return of the Lord.

Some of the so called proof texts are as follows:

'And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day comes upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all that dwell upon the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man'. (Luke 21 vv.34-36)

'Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when He cometh shall find watching; verily I say unto you, that He shall gird Himself, and make them to sit down to meat and will come forth and serve them. And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants'. (Luke 12 vv. 37-38)

'.... unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation'. (Hebrews 9 v.28)

'And now little children abide in Him; that when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming'. (1 John 2 v.28)

In the first of these verses - Luke 21 vv.36-38 - much emphasis is made by partial rapturists of the phrase, 'Accounted worthy to escape' suggesting that only the watchful will avoid the Tribulation.

In Luke 12 v.37 the emphasis again is on the blessedness of those watching, as opposed to the slumbering believers who will 'miss out' on the rapture.

Hebrews 9 v.28 is said to imply that the rapture is only for the watchful, and it is inferred from 1 John 2 v.28 that some believers will 'loose out' when the Lord returns for His church.

Another line of argument used by partial rapturists is the repetitive use of the phrase 'To him that overcometh' in the Lord's letters to the seven churches of Revelation. The implication being that those who have become spiritually strong and mature enough will be spared the refining process of the Great Tribulation, and will instead be translated into the presence of the Lord. In support of this it will be asserted that Enoch's godly walk and maturity was very much the basis of his translation.

Again partial rapturists will often use the phrase, 'the victorious church'. The implication being that the church divides into two parts; the 'victorious church' is spared of the Tribulation whereas the 'slumbering church' is refined by the Tribulation.

It is in conjunction with all of these ideas that the parable of the ten virgins is brought into play. The interpretation being that the five wise virgins represent the 'victorious church' whilst the foolish ones represent the 'slumbering church'.

On the surface the partial rapture theory looks plausible but one soon finds that the theory is full of holes and doesn't tie in with other tenets of the faith.

Let us firstly consider the parable of the virgins. It has to be said, first and foremost, that that it is a dangerous thing to try to build a doctrine from parables. Parables are simple stories told usually to convey one simple truth. To emphasise and spiritualise every detail in a parable can often lead to erroneous conclusions.

Clearly the truth conveyed in the parable of the ten virgins is that of readiness - a tenet of the partial rapture theory. Beyond this any attempt to support the theory though the parable is questionable.

It has to be said that there are a number of interpretations to the parable and its questionable whether it refers to the church, or to the Jews or to christendom in general. It is also arguable whether the virgins represent the church or if they are attendants at the marriage feast. Good evangelical scholars over the years have been divided on these interpretations.

The partial rapture theory comes into difficulty on a number of points. Gavin Hamilton in his Olivet discourse has this to say:

"There is no ground here to warrant the belief that only saints that are watching will be caught up in the rapture, and those not watching will be left to go through the Great Tribulation. In the first place it is not the rapture that is in view but the coming of the bridegroom to begin the Kingdom festivities; and, in the second place, the emphasis is not on watching but having oil.'

Furthermore, if, as the partial rapturist asserts, the five foolish virgins represent the 'struggling church' left to face the Tribulation, and be refined by it, then why does the bridegroom say in verse 12 'I know you not'. Also in verse 10 the door is shut on these people. Is it conceivable that the Lord would ever close the door on his people? Did he not say, 'Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out'.

Quite apart from the flaws raised above in connection with the parable of the virgins, there are also fundamental reasons for rejecting the partial rapture theory. Not least of these is the doctrine of grace. The theory does lean strongly towards legalism and seems to set human works and effort as the criterion for salvation from the tribulation wrath. This is quite contrary to grace. Romans 6 v.14 states that 'We are not under law but under grace'.

The whole doctrine of grace implies that we have no human merit and all that we receive is an undeserved favour. Our sufficiency is in Christ and not in ourselves.

To mix human merit with grace is to take away from Christ the glory that is due only to Him. Salvation from beginning to end is all of grace so that none may boast.

Partial rapturists are also forced into believing in a partial resurrection if they are not to be left inconsistent. 1 Thessalonians 4 v.16-17 states that 'The dead in Christ shall rise first then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air.' There is no mention here of being selected on the basis of readiness or watchfulness. The criterion is to be 'In Christ' - that means all believers.

If the partial rapture theory were true, and if only selected raptured, then of necessity the same basis of selection would have to be applied to the resurrection of believers gone before, but in verse 14 Paul states that, 'ALL those that sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him'. Also in 1 Corinthians 15 vv.51-52, which refers to the rapture, the statement is clearly made that 'we shall ALL be changed.'

Also arising from the above is the problem of dividing the body of Christ. The apostle Paul at times goes to great pains to emphasise the unity of the body of Christ under the headship of our Lord. The partial rapture theory effectively divides that body and establishes a two tier christian order based on spiritual maturity. The lower order being left to face an 'earthly purgatory' in the form of the Great Tribulation whilst the rest of the body enjoys the benefits and blessings of being in the presence of the Lord.

This seems to go against all the scriptures showing the unity of the church as depicted by a bride, a body and a building fitly joined together in Christ.

This writer is of the opinion that there is a certain arrogance about the partial rapture theory. Surely the spirit of humility and grace which the Lord desires to see in all of us creates a feeling of unworthiness as opposed to delusions of self worth. In any case we might well ask how do we know if we have reached a point of worthiness or readiness to be included in the rapture? At what point can the believer be assured that he is among those to be taken if this theory be true?

Let us remember that the Tribulation is a time of outpoured wrath on a Christ rejecting world and more particularly a time of 'Jacob's troubles'. Paul writing to THE WHOLE BODY OF BELIEVERS IN CHRIST at Thessalonica said: 'God hath not appointed us unto wrath but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ' 1 Thessalonians 5 v.9, Maranatha.

YT 12/96