Left Behind and other books have had such success, many people can’t read Matthew 24:36-41 without seeing the Rapture. When I say “Rapture,” I am not using it as a synonym for Christ’s second coming. I am not referring simply to the time when the saved go to be with Jesus. I believe Jesus is coming again. I believe the saved will be taken to be with Him forever. When I say “Rapture,” I’m referring to the premillennial doctrine that claims a day is coming when all the saved will be taken off the earth and the lost will be “left behind” on earth to endure a period of tribulation. As far as I can see, there is actually no biblical support for the idea that when Jesus returns and takes the saved to be with Him forever that He’ll leave anyone behind on earth to endure tribulation or receive another chance to be saved. Matthew 24:36-41 is no exception.
First, note to what this judgment is compared in Matthew 24:38-39. The judgment described in this chapter is compared to the days of Noah. Did you happen to notice who was taken in that judgment? Not the saved. The saved were left behind. The worldly and unrighteous were the ones that were taken. This is a picture of judgment on the lost, not a picture of removing the saved.
Second, trying to think like a first century reader who was well aware of what national and city sieges were like, we get a completely different picture. The taken and left behind don’t refer to the wicked taken and the righteous left behind or vice versa. It actually presents a great picture of a raiding horde as it approaches a city. When they drive their force through the field, hacking and chopping at all in their path, one will be killed, another will be missed. As they pillage the mills, one woman may be grabbed and hauled off for the soldiers pleasure while another is simply left behind. That is exactly the way a raiding Roman horde would have acted. Jesus is saying, if you stay in Jerusalem, you may get lucky. But then again, maybe not. One will be killed or captured and another won’t. It will be the luck of the draw.
Third, look at the greater context. Back in Matthew 24:15-21 a picture completely different from the Rapture is given. When all these events occur, Jesus tells His followers to flee immediately. If they are on the housetop, they shouldn’t even go back into the house to pack. They should rather run from housetop to housetop out of the city. If they are in the field, they should not go back to get their cloak. They should just run. Those who are in Judea should flee to the mountains. Jesus said it will be a bad day for pregnant and nursing mothers in that day. Why? Because it will be hard for them to flee quickly. Then He says pray that it won’t be in the winter or on the Sabbath. Why? Once again, it will be hard to flee at those times. Please be honest with this passage, Jesus is not giving instructions to folks who won’t believe Him and get left behind. He is giving instructions to His followers about what to do when this day comes.
Think about the picture here? Does this sound like an instantaneous moment in which the saved are just taken? No, it sounds like something occurring for which the saved need to pay attention because they will be able to flee and avoid it. But if they want to escape, they have to act quickly. They have to get on the ball. Let me ask, if the Rapture scenario is what is being presented, why would it matter if it happened on a Saturday or in the winter? Why would it matter if the person was pregnant or nursing? None of this would matter because the Rapture scenario does not present a need to flee. It will just happen and the saints will be gone, whether it is winter, Sabbath, or any day, whether the person is pregnant, nursing, old, young.
The picture here is not Rapture. It is national judgment on Judea. In AD 70, the Romans attacked Jerusalem with finality, destroying it and the temple. As they approached and raided the city many were killed, some few by luck of the draw survived. However, the Christians who remembered the message of Jesus, saw the Roman “eagles” coming (cf. Matthew 24:28), they got out of dodge. They fled, just like Jesus had said. They were saved from the tribulation during the time of this destruction. They were saved from God’s wrath then.
I’m sorry, I don’t care how you cut it, you just can’t get Rapture from Matthew 24.
Keep the faith and keep reading,
P.S. What did you get out of today’s reading?