AN EXPOSITION OF MATTHEW 24:41-42
You’ve probably heard the stories. A bus is heading down the highway when the bus driver and several passengers suddenly disappear causing the bus to veer off the road in a horrific explosion of broken glass and twisting metal. One of the pilots of a jet airliner disappears forcing the other pilot to take over the controls just in time to keep from crashing. It dawns on everyone that millions have vanished from the earth in an instant, leaving all those remaining with a sick feeling of dread.
Is this really what the Bible teaches will happen at the end of time?
Many evangelical Christians believe that a day will come when the saved will be removed from the earth without having experienced death, leaving behind all those who do not know Christ. I do not believe the Bible teaches this “Doctrine of the Rapture.” I’ve seen the supposed biblical evidence for it and I am not convinced.
In this post, I want to focus on Matthew 24:40-41, a passage that is often used to support the the rapture. I want to show that, in reality, this passage teaches exactly the opposite of what proponents of the rapture doctrine teach. The text reads:
“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.”
It may appear that these words support the doctrine of the rapture as described above. However, those who interpret it this way have committed one of the classic errors of biblical interpretation; they have ignored the context in which these words are found. To understand that context, we must look at the words immediately prior to our text. Jesus says:
“For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Mat 24:38-39).
Jesus is comparing the days of Noah with the days immediately leading up to His second coming. Here is the key: Jesus says, “they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.” The phrase “took them all away” is a translation of the word HEREN in Greek and it literally means to be “lifted up,” “taken up,” “carried away.” Our English word “rapture” comes from an archaic French root that originally referred to the “act of carrying away.” So, Matthew 24:40-41 is in fact talking about a rapture.
Here is my question: in the days of Noah, who were the ones raptured? Obviously, the wicked are the ones taken away by the flood. They are the ones who were eating, drinking, and getting married. They are the ones who “did not understand.” It is the wicked who are raptured by the flood unto destruction and the righteous remain in the safe protection of the ark.
Now, let’s read the text again:
“Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. “Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left” (Mat 24:40-41).
If we take the context seriously, we are left with no choice but to understand that the ones taken are the wicked. Jesus is simply using another example to say the same thing he just finished saying in the Noah example. Two men will be in a field and suddenly, the wicked will be “raptured,” “taken away,” and the believer will be left in safety. Two women are grinding at the mill; the wicked woman is taken while the redeemed woman is left behind in safety.
If this is a correct interpretation of Matthew 24:41-42, then it dismantles one of the key arguments used by those who support the idea that it is the Christians who are taken first and that the wicked are left behind.
Dr. Greg Waddell
Director of Institutional Improvement
Mid-South Christian College
DrGregWaddell (at) gmail.com
See his Blog: www.SpiritOfOrganization.com