In examining rapture views, I noticed there was disagreement between scholars about whether it was better to be “taken” or “left” in Matthew 24. One view is that believers are “taken” into heaven (raptured), and the ones who are “left” remain to face judgement. The other view is that unbelievers are “taken” to hell at the sheep and goats judgment following Jesus’ Second Coming, and believers are “left” to enter the Millennial Kingdom. I decided to follow this trail to see where it would lead me.
In His Olivet Discourse, Jesus gives a sweeping overview of the “latter days”. I truly believe the entire discourse should be examined in sequence instead of bit by bit, and I have done so in THIS POST. However, it’s really long, so if you are just wondering about the Taken and Left portion when Jesus refers to the days of Noah and Lot, I will summarize that here.
Both Matthew 24 and Luke 17 cover the Taken and Left segment of the Olivet Discourse. From Matthew’s version, and the corresponding passages in Luke 21 and Mark 13, we know that in the sermon’s progression it follows the Fig Tree Parable, the Terminal Generation Parable, and the introduction that “No One Knows the Day or the Hour” when the Taken and Left will occur. It’s entirely possible that the phrase “no one knows the day or the hour” is a direct reference to the Feast of God that no one knows the day or hour of; namely, the Feast of Trumpets. It’s also possible that it does not. We will discuss that possibility elsewhere. However, we definitely know it applies to the time when some will be taken and some will be left. Let’s read the passages in question. Matthew’s version is shown in Teal, Luke’s in Purple, and my commentary is in black:
Matthew 24 / Luke 17
37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming [parousia, Strong’s #3952, can also mean presence] of the Son of Man.
26 Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man.27 They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building,29 but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all— 30 so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed [apokalyptetai, Strong’s #601].
Jesus compares the “coming” (or “presence”, Matthew) or the “revealing” (Luke) of the Son of Man as like the days of Noah and the days of Lot. When He is revealed, people will be:
- eating and drinking
- marrying and giving in marriage
- planting and building
- buying and selling
- knowing nothing about what will happen
These seem like regular, mundane, everyday activities including planning for the future (marrying and giving in marriage, planting and building). Everything is continuing as it always has been. Note that apart from Noah and Lot, the people knew nothing about what would happen in those days (despite Noah’s preaching to them all that time during his ark-building). This brings to mind:
“…knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. (2 Peter 3:3-10)
In the latter days, when the world is about to be deluged in fire, people will be saying “Where is the promise of his coming? All things are continuing as they were….” The upcoming judgment upon the world by fire is known in scripture as The Day of the Lord. The Day of the Lord is a period of time that has a Beginning, a Middle, and an End, with a duration of approximately 7 years. In it, God pours out His wrath upon the world. Church Age believers in Jesus Christ are promised to be spared from this time of judgment and wrath.
At the beginning of the Day of the Lord, when Christ comes to deliver His body, He will be revealed. This event will spring like a trap upon the unbelieving world. It will be as in the days of Noah and Lot, who were pulled out of the path of destruction while the end to the rest of humanity comes on “like a flood” – severe and sudden (Daniel 9:26). This passage emphasizes the unexpected nature of the beginning of the Day of the Lord. Elsewhere it is referred to as “the beginning of birth pains” which have no escape. It will be life as usual, until WHAM! The Day of the Lord begins.
This stands in stark contrast to the End of the Day of the Lord when the Son of Man returns. At the battle of Armageddon (the END of the Day of the Lord), life will not have been continuing on as usual. The “flood by fire” will be almost over – well over half the human population will have died by that point. Everyone will know about what has been happening on the earth. Everyone will have been affected. It won’t be a surprise that Jesus is coming, because people will have gathered deliberately in expectation to fight Him (Trumpet 6). They KNOW He is coming. So this passage that suggests life as usual and the surprise element in Noah’s and Lot’s days MUST be referring to the beginning of the Day of the Lord and not the End.
The passage in Luke 17 continues:
31 On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back.32 Remember Lot’s wife.33 Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.
We know this part about Lot’s wife turning back isn’t the same as Matthew’s mention of the abomination of desolation fleeing (v15). We know this because there is no mention of fleeing here – instead, it is inserted in between two different “taken” and “left” statements.
The “remember Lot’s wife” part terrified me for awhile – at the rapture would I turn back???? I prayed about it a lot. I believe that what this is referring to, Jesus also teaches in Luke 9:62. Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Lot’s wife wasn’t looking back for family, for her kids – they were with her. She was looking back longingly, because her heart was in Sodom. It’s all about the heart.
Luke 21:36 Jesus admonishes us to pray that we are “worthy to escape all these things.” How can we be worthy to enter the kingdom of God? Jesus teaches over and over again that we must love Him more than life itself (Matthew 10:39, 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24; John 12:25). Our hearts must be with HIM, not in the world. Where our treasure is, there our heart will be also. We should examine ourselves, to see if we are in the faith! We are worthy to escape all these things by being clothed in the righteousness of Jesus – true Christ-followers.
The passages continue with more examples:
40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.
34 I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. 35 There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.”
Here we see people:
- men in the field (perhaps planting as mentioned earlier?)
- women grinding with a hand mill (to make flour)
- sleeping in bed
Again, more every day activities. These activities emphasize the sudden nature of the rapture – it will happen in the twinkling of an eye – we will be changed, and then snatched. There won’t be time to actually turn back at that point (don’t worry!). But nor will there be time to repent and join in. Men and women, the body of Christ, will be taken to heaven.
No, God doesn’t use the word “harpazo” here. There seems to be more than one way to express our disappearance.
Interestingly, the word used in these passages, paralambanetai (Strong’s 3880), is used elsewhere to represent “received”, not “taken”. As in, the ones taken will be received unto the Lamb.
“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I am coming again and will receive [paralempsomai (Strong’s 3880)] you to Myself, that where I am, you may be also.” (John 14:1-3)
We are seized (harpazo) from the earth, and received (paralambanetai) into heaven.
The ones who are taken will be received into heaven and will STAND before the throne of God and the Lamb (Luke 21:36 & Revelation 7:9-17). The ones who are left behind will suffer the wrath of God.
In anticipation of questions surrounding the subsequent verses we will continue:
37 And they said to him, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.”
At first this seems like a strange reference, out of the blue. We dig in scripture to find the key. There are two instances in prophetic verses where God prepares a banquet for the birds of prey and wild animals. There is one at Armageddon, yes – at the END of the Day of the Lord. However, there is also one at the Gog/Magog war at the BEGINNING of the Day of the Lord. This passage, among other keys, connects Ezekiel 38-39 with the BEGINNING of the Day of the Lord, as well as the rapture. Ezekiel 39:17 “Son of man, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Call out to every kind of bird and all the wild animals: ‘Assemble and come together from all around to the sacrifice I am preparing for you, the great sacrifice on the mountains of Israel. There you will eat flesh and drink blood.” (Notably, this also brings in the death by “wild beasts” of seal 4).
Matthew, however, continues his passage with the thief in the night analogy:
42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
Jesus will come unexpectedly to those who are not AWAKE and WATCHING. This is explained very well by Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians (bolding mine):
“Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.4 But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5 You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.6 So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11)
Believers are not in darkness. The Day of the Lord will not surprise or overtake us if we are AWAKE and WATCHING. We have the hope of salvation!
One final word. Remember that the apostles didn’t know that there would be gaps of any type at all in Jesus’ prophecies. Upon His ascension, they were still anticipating His setting up His earthly kingdom. Of course, if Jesus had told them it would be roughly 2000 years from then, that would have been very disheartening to all believers between then and now. God, in his mercy and wisdom, gives us just enough light to illuminate the path in front of us. The very fact that we can see the events of the latter days so clearly, indicates their nearness. He is near, at the very gates! Maranatha!
Are you CERTAIN of your Salvation, beyond a shadow of a doubt? Do you KNOW that no matter when the rapture occurs, you will be counted worthy to escape? If not, please read What Must I do to Be Saved.
A Disclaimer: The Bible is infallible. I am not. Be a Berean – examine the scriptures to see if these things are so!