Friday, May 20, 2011

It Is Good to be Left Behind

As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. (Matt. 24:37-44)
Now we are getting into some end times-type stuff. This is that infamous passage from whence came the Left Behind phenomenon. If, like the authors of the novels that began the merchandising blitz, you’re a pre-tribulationalist, you read this passage as Jesus, in the rapture, coming back and taking away his followers to heaven.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll be up front and confess that I am not a pre-tribulationist. Without getting too much into the various views of eschatology, I will say that when I read this passage, I don’t see it as being a good thing to be taken away.

Before you demur, let me explain:

Notice Jesus compares his coming to the flood coming in Noah’s day. Just as then, people were minding their own business, eating and drinking, going about their daily life, unprepared and unaware of the imminent danger. Suddenly, God came and wiped them away. In the same way, Jesus says, he is coming and people who are not prepared for the invasion of the physical kingdom will be minding their own business and will be taken away. I believe this means they are taken away to judgment. Can we agree that a thief coming into your house is not a good thing?

Further, if you keep reading into the subsequent verses, Jesus tells this little story about a master finding an unfaithful servant and having him chopped up into pieces. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound too rapturous to me. I mean, it’s a no-brainer for me. I think I’d prefer to get left behind with Kirk Cameron than go get vivisected.

Whatever you think of this passage, however you interpret it eschatologically, Jesus is clearly saying, “You don’t know when I am coming; be prepared.”

This is an excerpt from Your Jesus Is Too Safe.


Loren said...

There is an excellent article in the Westminister Theologial Journal (2010)(pages 169-179) by Benjamin Merkle entitled Who Will Be Left Behind? Rethinking the Meaning of Matthew 24:40-41 and Luke 17:34-35 that addresses this very issue.

His conclusion:

"Although many assume that those taken in Matt 24:40-41 and Luke 17:34-35 are taken to be with Jesus and those left behind are left for judgment, this interpretation should be rejected. Throughout the context of these passages Jesus uses judgment language reminiscent of the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem and the subsequent exile of its inhabitants. Those who were taken away were the ones judged by God whereas those left behind were the remnant who received grace.

Furthermore, the teaching of Jesus confirms this thesis. In the Parable of the Weeds the Son of Man sends his angels to gather out the children of the devil and throw them in the fiery furnace whereas the wheat is left behind (Matt 13:36-43). The context of Matt 24 and Luke 17 also suggests Jesus is intentionally using judgment and remnant language. Such language naturally brings up images of the former destruction of Jerusalem where the enemy came and "took away" (i.e., killed) those in the city.

Finally, the parallel with Noah and the flood in the preceding verses strongly confirms our thesis. Just as in the days of Noah the people were taken away by the great flood, so those who are not prepared will be taken away when the Son of Man returns."

Roberta said...

I believe that God is a God of order so would God cause everything moving like cars, airplanes, trains, people, the earth with earthquakes, etc to crash and burn? Seems very disorderly to me.

Drew said...

I know I am late in this discussion I just wanted to ask a question. How does this view correlate with 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 of which the word rapture originates (caught up)? Are the wicked “raptured” first, then the dead in Christ, then we who believe will be caught up together with Christ? Is there a gap between the first “rapture” to the second? I am not wanting to debate, just trying to understand. I grew up being taught pre-trib, pre-millinialism and have slowly morphed into a post-trib or even amillinial. So, I have no qualms with different views.

Michael Wiley said...

Good to see you agree with the theologians of the first 1800 years of Christianity and not the very recent teaching started by John Darby in the early 1800s