What does the Bible say about the rapture and being left behind?

The concept of the rapture is an interesting one. It is Biblically based, but the popularised concept in the “Left Behind” series, isn’t Biblically correct at all. If anything, it’s backwards.

I’ve been studying this a bit, and the key things to the rapture concept seem to me to be, the saved will be taken with no warning and the sinners left behind on earth.

That doesn’t line up with what the Bible says, though.

To start with, the Bible doesn’t indicate that there will be no warning. Only that no one knows the time.

Have a look at Matthew 24:42-44.

42“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43But 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. 44So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

Also Luke 12:39-40.

39But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

Peter says the same thing in 2 Peter 3:10.

10But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.

You can find it in Revelation 3:3 as well.

3Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.

Note that the references to coming like a thief are always the reference to time, no more. Lets look at how the Bible shows the second coming of Christ.

1 Thessalonians 4:16

16For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

Luke 17:24

24For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other.

Matthew 24:30-31

30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

Revelation 1:7

7 Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.

That seems quite the opposite of something that could happen in secret and be easily missed, right? Let’s also look at Acts 1:7-11, when Christ ascended to heaven.

7 And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

9 Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11 who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.

So, from all of these verses, its pretty clear that when Christ returns, it will be very visual, very audible, and impossible to miss. Acts 1:11 in particular should be noted, that the SAME Jesus that left the earth will return in like manner. He didn’t just vanish, he was taken up through the clouds out of their sight as they watched. In Revelation 1:7, even those that pierced him, those that aren’t saved will see him. That doesn’t line up at all with people just vanishing.

I haven’t really said anything about the rapture concept itself yet Biblically though, so lets look at that.

Matthew 24:36-41

36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. 37 But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 38 For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 40 Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left.

Also see Luke 17:26-28

26Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. 27People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.

28“It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building.

Luke 17:34-36

34I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. 35Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.”
36Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left.

Okay, it sounds like there could be maybe something to it? Note the references to Noah and the days of Noah, also to Lot. Lets look at Noah and the flood shall we? Genesis 7:21-23

21 Every living thing that moved on the earth perished—birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind. 22 Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. 23 Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; men and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds of the air were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark.

Particularly note the last part, only Noah was left. Does that sound like the language used in the other verses above? Similar, when Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, as Lot and his family fled, it was only Lot and his daughters who were left. Note that in none of these verses does it say left behind, as though it is a bad thing, they simply say some people were left. In Matthew 13:24-30, Jesus told the parable of the weeds which explains it:

24Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

27“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

28‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

29” ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them.

30Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.‘ “

We don’t need to try and interpret this parable, in Matthew 13:36-43, Jesus explains it to the disciples and it is recorded for us:

36Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”

37He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

40As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

So, when Christ returns, it’s not the saved that will be taken. Like the weeds, the evil will be gathered up and destroyed, leaving behind those that are saved. With the knowledge of this parable and it’s explanation, it is pretty clear that in the above verses about some people being taken and some left, that it isn’t the righteous being taken, but rather, like during the flood, it is the evil that are taken and destroyed, and the righteous that remain, or that are left, like Noah and his family.

It’s also worth noting that the Bible doesn’t explicitly say ‘left on Earth’, just that one will be taken and another left. Being left doesn’t mean remaining on Earth and waking up to missing people. As in the parable, being left simply means not being destroyed.

I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer to be left!

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