There seems to be a difference in the understanding of who the ONE WILL BE TAKEN is and who is THE OTHER LEFT. Some say this is a secret rapture, while others say THE ONE WILL BE TAKEN are taken into destruction leaving the other group to be those who are saved into the Kingdom. This Bible essay attempts to give the clear picture as we find it in the scriptures, comparing text with text and scripture passage with scripture passage.
The two scripture references where we find the issue under consideration are found in:
a) Matthew 24:40,41
Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left; two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and the other left.
b) Luke 17:34-36
I tell you, in that night there will be two (men) in one bed; the one will be taken and the other will be left. Two (women) will be grinding together the one will be taken and the other left. Two (men) will be in the field; the one will be taken and the other left.
All scripture references are from the NKJV, if not it will be indicated.
Note in the Greek men and women are not mentioned, it reads only duo. Two are in bed, two are grinding, and two are in the field.
From the context we know that the setting is the second coming of the Son of Man, Matthew 24:39 & Luke 17:30.
The first thing we will settle is the visibility or no visibility of the coming of the Son of man. Will it take place in secret or in public, visible for all?
In Jude 14 we have the testimony of Enoch …saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints,”.
In Isaiah 25:9 we read And it will be said in that day: behold this is our God; we have waited for Him; and he will save us. This is the Lord; We have waited for Him; We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.
Then in Joel 3:16 we read The Lord also will roar from Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem; The heavens and earth will shake;.
From Christ Himself we learn in Matthew 24:23-26 that it will not be in secret:
Vs. 23 Do not believe when they say Christ is here or there
Vs. 24 Do not become misled by signs and wonders; believe them not.
Vs. 26 Do not believe when they say He is in the desert or an inner room.
But how will it be? In vs. 27 “For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” And in vs. 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.” Not just with glory, but with GREAT Glory. Mark confirms the same in 13:26 “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.” Luke follows with the same in 21:27 “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”
The coming of Christ will be a glorious event and appearing. Not in secret or noiseless. It will be in the same manner as He ascended into heaven. Acts 1:11 …This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven. As He left this earth, so He will return. Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 3:10 indicate Christ’s return will be glorious and with great noise, Revelation 1:7 every eye will see Him, and Revelation 19:11-14 in glory with the armies of heaven, His angels.
What do we know about what will happen when Christ returns? According to Christ’s own words angels will be send to gather His elect, Matthew 24:31 And he will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet and they will gather together His elect… Mark confirms the same in 13:27. The apostle Paul divides this gathering together into two parts. One part will be raised and the other will be changed. Also with the sound of a trumpet as Jesus mentioned in 1 Cor.15:52. In 1Thess.4:14-17 we find the same. The Lord will descend with a shout, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God. The dead in Christ will rise first, and then the living saints will join them and together be caught up in the clouds. Those who are not ready and the dead wicked ones will not be in this group. We discover here a certain order of events to happen. What will happen first and what will follow after.
Some conclude from reading in Matthew 24:40, 41 & Luke 17:34-36 that the “shall be taken” ones are first and are taken into destruction. The Greek word for taken in Matthew and Luke is paralambano which means to take with or to one’s self, take from beside another, from him. The SDABC vol.5, p.504, reads: paralambano, meaning literally,“ to take to oneself” used in the papyri of receiving to oneself articles that belong to him.
We will go through some Biblical examples to find the order of events when Christ returns. Jesus refers to the time of Noah and Lot in Matthew 24:37-39 and Luke 17:26-27, as it happened in those days so it will be in the time when Christ will return. We read in Genesis7:1-7 that Noah, his family and the animals were not forced into the ark; they chose to follow God’s command, using their own wills. The Lord commanded them to go into the ark, as the Lord also had commanded Noah to build an ark. Gen.6:14; 6:22; 7:1; 7:5; 7:16; 7:17-24 contains the record of what happened thereafter and vs. 23 giving the summary of events, stating that Noah remained alive (in the ark). Then 7 days later the flood came and the ones outside the ark, left behind, perished in the floodwaters. This is what Jesus confirms in both scripture passages of Matthew 24 and Luke 17; the people were living it up until the day that Noah entered into the ark and they knew it not until the flood came and took them all away. “So shall also the coming of the Son of Man be.” Luke states it clearly that they were living it up until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Some read into Matthew 24:39 that took them all away applies to Noah and his family taken into the safety of the ark. The Greek word for took is from airo not from lambano as in vs. 40 & 41. The contextual meaning is also the opposite. Here it means to take away, to lift up for destruction, for death. This is in harmony with Luke 17:27 the flood came and destroyed them all. The “took them all away” as in Matthew 24:39 is the same as “the flood came and destroyed them all” of Luke 17:27. The people of that time saw, visibly, Noah and his family and the animals going into the ark. They, Noah and his family and the animals, were taken first.
The same happened with Lot. The angels came to Lot in Sodom. People saw these angels. Lot was told to go out and warn the people. The next day Lot and his wife and daughters were taken out of Sodom. Then came the fire from heaven for Sodom and Gomorrah and destroyed those who were left behind. Jesus refers to this in Luke 17:27-30: The people were living it up, But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed. We read in Genesis19:16 that they were taken by the hand of the angels and brought out of Sodom. In terms of Matthew and Luke, we may say they were taken.
We will now look at some parables of Jesus in regard to His coming. Matthew 25:1-13; The parable of the ten virgins. The wise ones, ready for the coming of the Bridegroom went in first. The foolish ones were left behind and arrived before a closed door. Matthew 25:31-33; Separation of two groups, sheep and goats. The sheep are mentioned first to be put on the right side, and then follow the goats.
John records a similar order of events written in his book The Revelation of Jesus Christ. In Rev.14:14-20 we see first the harvest of the good produce then follows the harvest of what is for the great winepress of the wrath of God. Here again the saved are taken first and what is left goes into perdition. Also in Revelation 19 it first deals with the ones called to the marriage supper of the Lamb, and then in vs. 19 we learn about the ones called for the supper of the great God where the birds of the air will feast on them that are left.
We have one parable where it looks like that the events will be in reverse. Matthew 13:24-30 the parable of the tares sowed into a field by an enemy at night. In vs.30 it reads that tares and wheat will have to grow together till harvest time. Then the reapers will gather first the tares and bind them together in bundles to burn them, but the wheat will be gathered in my barn. Some mayconclude from this parable that the wicked will be dealt with before the righteous are taken into heaven. But the reading does not indicate that the burning of the tares will take place immediately. If my reading and understanding is correct it means that the tares are bundled together for the purpose of being burned. “To be burned”
Comparing various translations we may be correct to read “to be burned”
NIV reads to be burned
Jerusalem Bible same
NEB in bundles for burning
Moffatt to be burned
5 different Dutch translations all read to be burned
German Luther translation is the same as Dutch
French for the purpose to be burned
French N.Tr. to be burned
All these translations indicate that the tares will be bundled together to be burned at a future time, not immediately. The wheat is brought in or taken into the barn first. In the barn of safety before the burning of the tares takes place.
It seems to be clear that this is the correct order of events at the time of the coming of the Son of Man. Those who are ready will be taken first and then the ones left, to perish. Noah and his family were taken into the ark first; Lot and his family were taken out of Sodom first. In each case, those who were left perished.
Let’s have a closer look at the expression of the other left in Luke 17:37. Some think this applies to the ones not taken into destruction, but into safety. We have discussed the meaning of taken (or received). What is the meaning of left? The Greek word in this passage is aphiemi, which means to send forth or away, to let go from one’s self. In SDABC, Vol.5, p.504, we have this in addition: “to dismiss. “The Greek precludes the idea that it is the righteous who are “left” The righteous are literally “received” and the wicked “sent away”. The expression “received” (taken) is correctly translated as such, in the various Dutch translations, by Luther in German and Louis Segond in French.
After Jesus said, in Luke 17:37, the one will be taken and the other left, the disciples raised the question, where Lord? And Jesus answers wheresoever the body is; there the eagles will be gathered together. It looks reasonable and logical to conclude that the question of the disciples refers to Jesus’ statement of the other left. The disciples having in mind ‘where left? Jesus answers, in the place where the eagles are. A number of translations have the word vultures instead of eagles. A vulture is more a bird of prey than an eagle. We find vultures in Moffatt, NASB, NRSV, Berkeley, NEB, NIV and the Jerusalem Bible. That should be pretty convincing that the word vultures is the more preferred one.The question of the disciples “Where lord” should not be referred to the “one taken”. The context has clearly indicated that the “One taken” goes to heaven, gathered together by the angels.
This connects properly with Rev.19:17, 18 where the birds of the sky have a feast on the dead bodies left behind, after the saints have gone into the marriage supper of the Lamb, as mentioned first in Rev.19:9.
We would also like to mention that when a word study is being done of the Greek word used for shall be taken (lambano or paralambano) as in Matthew and Luke, the usage in those passages is similar in meaning as that of the word used for be caught up in 1 Thess.4:17 (Greek arpadzo). They overlap one another. The word used in 1 Thess. 4:17 is of a stronger nature, being caught by force, but both have the meaning included of being taken/caught up to one’s self or to take from beside another. The Greek word paralambano is also used in John 14:3 where Jesus, when He will return, will receive you unto myself, or NIV translation and others: take you to be with Me.
(I have found this in “A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek NT”, by Bullinger and in my Greek-Dutch dictionary).
When Christ appears at His second coming as the Son of man He will take the ones ready to Himself, away from the other one who is not ready and will be left. The ready ones will be taken/caught up with Christ in the cloud to be with the Lord where He is, 2Thess.4:17; John 14:1-3.
We may also conclude safely and convincingly that all this is not done in secret, thus strongly negating the unbiblical doctrine of a so-called secret rapture.
One question remains and that is, the various places where we read that the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, as in 1Thess.5:2, 4; 2 Peter 3:10; Rev 3:3, 16:15.
We must ask ourselves: what will be as a thief in the night? Is it the actual coming in glory; or is it the timing of His coming, as when a thief comes unexpectedly?
We read in Matthew 24:42, …for you do not know what hour the Lord is coming. In the same chapter, vs. 44, …for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. In Matthew 25:13, … for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming. Mark 13:32 But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. And in vs. 33 Take heed, watch and pray, for you do not know when the time is. Luke 12:46 the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware…. Noah was commanded to build an ark. He knew that destruction was coming, but he did not know the day or the hour.
We learn from these Scripture passages that it is the time which will be as a thief in the night, unknown, unexpected, not the glorious and visible event of the coming of the Son of Man itself. For that reason we are admonished over and over again to watch and pray in order to be ready when the glorious visible return will take place and when all eyes shall see Him.
The one taken, represents the ones ready for the Lord’s coming and ready to be taken to Himself. The one left, represent those that will be food for the birds of the sky. The actual coming of the Son of Man will be glorious, with the sound of a trumpet, and be visible for all eyes. He will return in like manner as He ascended into heaven. The thing that is secret and unknown is the timing, the day or the hour of His coming.
There is a statement in Testimonies to Ministers by Ellen G. White using the one shall be taken scripture passage. It reads as follows:
Those who have been obedient to God’s commandments will unite with the company of the saints in the light; they shall enter in through the gates, and have right to the tree of life. The one shall be taken. His name shall stand in the book of life, while those with whom he associated shall have the mark of eternal separation from God. TM, p.234/5
This favours the idea that the one taken is not taken into destruction but into safety.
Pastor Jan T. Knopper
Cooranbong February 2007
Updated March 2007
Edited August, 2010
Revised August 2013