As in the days of Noah

The idea of the “Rapture” comes from interpretations of Scripture that see believers being taken out of this world into heaven. According to this view, the clearest rapture-reference in the Gospels appears in the Olivet discourse, in which Jesus says that some will be “taken” and others “left” (cf. Matt 24:40-42; Lk 17:34-35). When read in isolation, this statement may sound like a record of the Rapture; however, the broader context clarifies that those who are “taken” are not whisked to heaven, but rather taken away in judgment, while those who are “left” will remain with the Son of Man in the kingdom of God.

During the Olivet discourse, Jesus declares, “Two men will be in the field; one will be taken (παραλαμβάνω; paralambáno) and one will be left (ἀφίημι; aphíemi). Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on which day your Lord is coming” (Matt 24:40-42). The popular Left Behind book series takes its title from these verses, and understand them to mean that some will be “taken” to heaven in the Rapture, while others will be “left behind” for the tribulation on earth. However, the Messiah’s actual message offers the opposite picture: those who are “taken” will experience a tribulation, and those who are “left” will be saved from it.

Just before Yeshua mentions those “taken” and “left,” he states, “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 took them all away (ἦρεν ἅπαντας; aeren hapantas), so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Matt 24:37-39). In this context, Jesus asserts that just as people in Noah’s day were “taken” by the floodwaters, people will be taken in judgment at the second coming. Conversely, just as the righteous Noah and his family were “left behind” on the earth when everyone else was “taken,” the righteous will be left behind when the Son of Man returns. Whereas the Left Behind series understands being “taken” as a good scenario — namely, being raptured to safety in heaven — in the biblical context being “taken” is a very bad thing. On the other hand, to be “left behind” is to be spared from eschatological judgment and to join the Son of Man in his Father’s eternal kingdom.