Matthew 24:36-44 and The Rapture

Left_Behind (1)The doctrine of the rapture is a relatively recent one in the life of the Church, only having been around for almost 200 years. My general opinion on new doctrines is to receive them with a healthy dose of skepticism until they have stood the test of time. Some may argue with me that 200 years is the test of time, but we are talking about God’s special revelation in this world, which began 4000 years ago with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and culminated 2000 years ago with the Incarnation of Jesus Christ and the writing of the New Testament. Two hundred years in light of those numbers is just a drop in the bucket.

Nevertheless, one way to investigate new doctrine is to look at some of the Scripture used to prove it. One major passage comes from this section of the Gospel according to Matthew:

36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 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 of the Son of Man. 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. 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.

Here is the argument: two will be there; one will be taken and one will be left. This is used as proof positive that the living saints, the true Christians, will be taken out of this world before the end will come.

But that is not what this passage says at all, quite the contrary. Verses 36-39 give the background for how to understand the rest of the verses. In the days of Noah, after the ark was completed, Noah and his family entered the ark. Then the floods came and took them all away. Took who away? The people eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage. In other words, all of the people who were not Noah or his family were taken away by the floods. These are the evil people of the world who are taken away by God’s judgment.

Now look at the rest of the passage. Two are in a field where one is taken and one is left. Two are grinding and one is taken while the other is left. In this teaching of Jesus, being taken is not a good thing! The ones being taken are equated by Jesus with the ones who were taken away by the flood. They were not the righteous. The righteous were spared being taken.

Whether the rapture is true or is not true will be a long debate over the next several decades, I am sure. One thing is certain, though. Supporters of the doctrine of the rapture cannot use these verses from Matthew as support for the doctrine without taking them out of context and giving them the exact opposite meaning that Jesus gave to them. That is not something I would ever want to do with Scripture.

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