Shock and Surprise Beyond the Rapture! The Mystery of the Ages Revealed. By Gary T. Whipple. Hayesville, NC: Schoettle Publishing Co., 1992. (Cloth), $10.95.
Those who are interested in the mission of GES will find Beyond the Rapture by Pastor Gary Whipple a mixed blessing. The burden of the author is to clarify in a systematic way the doctrine of rewards as a subset of the larger issue of eschatology. The message of the book is completely compatible with the grace message of the gospel. The author clearly states that justification is by faith and that eternal life is received by faith alone in Christ alone. These are encouraging words in a day of theological confusion.
The theological model and matrix of the book’s message is embedded in classic dispensationalism with its eschatology maintaining premillennialism with a pretribulational rapture scheme. As such, the book builds off of this theological platform to offer a lively exposition of the reward and warning passages of the NT.
The style of the book is expositional as opposed to exegetical, although some Greek is utilized. Many of the fine points of exegesis are left out, but the exposition of the NT texts covered is clear with an occasional chart for clarification. Much, if not most, of what is said is in line with the many fine books coming from the grace camp such as Grace in Eclipse and The Gospel Under Siege both by Zane Hodges. Also many similar themes are seen in Joseph Dillow’s excellent work, Reign of the Servant Kings and in Robert Wilkin’s, Confident in Christ. Pastor Whipple’s exposition of the Bema Seat of Christ, the parable of the soils, the conditional nature of the warning passages in the Book of Hebrews, “the abundant entrance,” the “out-resurrection” of Philippians, the “outer darkness,” and other standard reward passages are dealt with in a way that maintain distance from the Reformed theological persuasion and do not compromise the freeness of the gospel.
However, Beyond the Rapture departs from this stream of rewards teaching into a different current that was started by Robert Govett in his Kingdom Studies, and Entrance into the Kingdom, both of which were written at the end of the 19th century. These views were carried on through the writing ministry of G. H. Lang during the 1940’s and 50’s in his Commentary on Hebrews and in his insightful work First Born Sons, Rights and Risks.
Beyond the Rapture articulates the partial rapture model in which only those Christians who have invested their life for Christ will be raptured. Only those who “overcome” are “found faithful,” “endure to the end,” will receive “the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus,” which is the “first resurrection” that leads to the “the wedding feast,” and have the right to enter the millennial kingdom and reign with Christ. The author would have benefited from a reading of “The Rapture in I Thessalonians 5:9-10” by Zane Hodges in Walvoord: A Tribute which seeks to clarify not only the fact of the rapture but also that the rapture is pretribulational and not partial for all believers whether they be “awake or asleep.” Pastor Whipple contends that those Christians who are not faithful will spend the millennial kingdom in the Gehenna fire (p. 174). This is distinct from the lake of fire reserved for the lost and the devil. The Gehenna fire is for those believers who did not live out the life of faith and obedience to Christ during their time upon the earth. This is identical to the teaching of G. H. Pember and others concerning the future of unfaithful Christians (pp. 156-94).
One of the interesting concepts presented in Beyond the Rapture is the idea that there needs to be a salvation of the three constitutional parts of a person: the soul, spirit, and body. The concept is built from the tripartite view of human constitution interpreted from 1 Thess 5:23 (pp. 17-63). This is accomplished by the justification of the spirit, which results in eternal life. The believer then awaits the resurrection of the body. However, the salvation of the soul is through progressive sanctification and results in participation in the millennial kingdom if one is deemed worthy. This is based upon the saying of Jesus in the synoptic gospels that in order to “save your life/soul you must lose it. If you lose it you will save it.” The same theme is seen in 1 Pet 1:9 in which a future salvation awaits those who have a strong faith and hence “obtain salvation of the soul.” This view has its antecedent form in Govett and Lang. It is also the teaching of Watchmen Nee in his work, The Salvation of the Soul written in 1930. A modern rendition of this view is found in A. Edwin Wilson and Arlen Chitwood in works of the same title.
There is much in Pastor Whipple’s book concerning the doctrine of rewards that is commendable, especially as he shows how this teaching can be applied to motivate Christians in their spiritual life. However, the degree of nuance concerning the levels of existence and the housing of the saints during and after the Millennium seems to drift from clear exegesis.
The book contains a good Scripture and Subject Index. It is easy to find the topics and texts desired to investigate certain aspects of the study. However, it contains a slim bibliography. Only a few of the “partial rapture” sources are mentioned and almost none of the modern works on the topic of rewards are cited.
For those who are interested in a modern exposition of the historic partial rapture theology of Robert Govett , G. H. Lang, and G. H. Pember, this is a very good work. However, although there is much to be gained from the theme of biblical rewards, for those who embrace the reward theology of GES this book must be read with caution due to its theological commitment to a partial rapture theology.
Associate Professor of Theology and Biblical Literature
Director of Doctor of Ministry Studies