This brief paper will only acknowledge these conflicting views but not include the various arguments for or against them. But feelings are strong and unyielding on both sides. This is because each side sees its position in the Bible and they logically conclude that the other view has to be incorrect. Godly, well-intentioned people much smarter than I differ on this subject, and I will not dogmatically presume to be fully correct, but consider the case described herein.
BOTH RIGHT? A strong possible explanation for the conflict is that they
both right, or at least partially! There is one position that reconciles
both positions and that embraces the Scriptures on both sides. That is the "phased rapture" position, sometimes called "split" or "partial" rapture, or also the "firstfruits and main harvest" raptures. This double event may be why some see one and some see the other, but neither sees both.
Good Company. I have found the arguments for this position to be persuasive, and I am not alone. It reportedly represents the understanding of spiritual giants of the past such as the highly respected J. Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission; Dr. A. B. Simpson, founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance; John Wilkinson, founder of the Mildmay Mission to the Jews; and Joseph A. Seiss, described as one of the greatest prophecy scholars who ever lived.
If true, whether a believer is raptured in the initial "firstfruits" phase, or later at the "main harvest" phase, it has nothing to do with salvation, which the Scriptures assure us is clearly by grace through faith alone and not a result of works. Instead, it is based on the biblical principle of rewards that promises some believers a removal prior to tribulation, such as the Philadelphia church, but others no such removal.
An "Open Door" For example, the Philadelphia church is the only one of seven churches that the Lord promises a way out of the tribulation, through " an open door": "I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth " (Revelation 3:8,10, NIV).
Note the open door in that passage. Immediately afterward, Revelation 4:1 also refers to an open door which many scholars believe refers to the rapture. It appears that those end-time believers represented only by the Philadelphia church may be raptured before the tribulation. This does not mean the others are not saved, but because of their unfaithfulness, they will have to undergo further preparation for Godís eternal kingdom, for their own sakes, actually an act of Godís love!
The Ten Virgins. Another possible reference to what many believe will be a "separation" of believers at the rapture is the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25. Only five of the virgins had their lamps full of oil (representing the fullness of the Holy Spirit) and were allowed to go with the bridegroom to the marriage feast. To the others, "the door was shut" (verse 10).
Longing and Waiting. A separation may also have something to do with who is watching and longing for the Lordís return, versus the many who scoff and who are very comfortable with this world. Paul said, "Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day--and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing" (2 Timothy 4:8, NIV). Sadly, only a fraction of Christians "long for His appearing." It is tragic how many are very satisfied with this evil world.
Another indication is Hebrews 9:28: "So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him."
Spring Versus Fall. Song of Solomon 2:8-13 may describe at what season the bride of Christ will be removed from the Earth. It is in the springtime (verses 11-12) that the bride will be taken away to be with the Bridegroom. This suggests a Pentecost-season firstfruits rapture, completing a 2,000-year-old fulfillment of the harvest. A rapture in the fall, maybe 3 1/2 years later, will also fulfill what many are convinced will be the fulfillment of the Feast of Trumpets.
Special Resurrection? Paul yearned for what may be this special firstfruits resurrection: " I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead "(Philippians 3:10-11, NIV). This appears to be something other than the resurrection of all believers for which Paul was so confident--something special that Paul felt he had to "attain ."
The phased rapture may also explain how the Bride can be raptured and yet evangelism can continue afterward at full speed. I suspect many formerly lukewarm Christians would suddenly get red hot for the Lord and who, when combined with the believing, evangelistic Jews, will bring great harvest, from whence will come the multitude of tribulation saints.
Prayer for All. This is just a brief summary. Volumes go into more detail on this subject and I am not really doing it justice. But let us prayerfully consider its plausibility. Regardless, we all need to pray as Jesus commanded in Luke 21:36, especially as we see the Day drawing so near: