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Jesus the Master is Returning: Who is Taken and Who is Left?


This is a very good over-all message, for Praise God, our Master will be returning! But what especially interested me was the author’s explanation to a question I’ve long wrestled with concerning who will be left and who will be taken. While I know the most taught view in the west, at least in the last 100-120 years, is those belonging to Christ will be taken, referred to as the secret rapture; but a number of scriptures, not the least being Jesus’ referencing the world at the time of Noah, have caused me to seriously question this. 

By Stephen Sizer (source)

noah_ark_people_drowning_2“What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3).

In the verses before us today, Jesus elaborates on the events immediately preceding his return. I want to draw out three implications for us:

1. Jesus will return to an unsuspecting world
2. Jesus will rebuke unfaithful hypocrites
3. Jesus will reward his diligent servants

1. Jesus will Return to an Unsuspecting World

Let us make some observations:

1.1 No one knows when Jesus will Return

“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matthew 24:36)

Anyone who claims to know is either a liar or a fool, or both. No one knows when Jesus will return.

1.2 Most People don’t care that Jesus will Return

“As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matthew 24:37-39)

It will be business as usual until the day Jesus returns.

Most people don’t care that Jesus will Return. But…

1.3 Everyone will know when Jesus Returns

“Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.” (Matthew 24:40-41)

What about the idea of the secret Rapture? Popularised by the Left Behind books and film, advocates believe Jesus will return secretly to rescue true believers. In one cataclysmic moment, millions around the world will disappear. Then life will continue on earth for between three and a half and seven years during a period of great suffering known as the Tribulation culminating in the Battle of Armageddon. Jesus will then return visibly, defeat the Antichrist and reign on earth for a thousand years. On the one hand I’m glad that “end time” speculation has created a sense of urgency about getting right with God. But there is much that worries me as well.

The idea of the secret rapture has generated a lot of bad theology. It contradicts Jesus and undermines the gospel. There will be no secret rapture. Jesus tells us quite plainly,

“For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matthew 24:27)

So how are we to understand the illustration of one person taken and one left behind in Matthew 24:40-41?

Do you want to be taken or left behind? It is important to get this right. Confused? Don’t be. Every verse of scripture has a context. If a verse appears ambiguous or unclear, we simply need to look at the verses immediately before or after for an explanation. What is the context? Twice in the preceding verses Jesus insists that the story of Noah provides the pattern for his return:

“As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matthew 24:37-39)

Notice the “as” and “so” in verse 37. Then in verse 39, Jesus insists, “That is how it will be…”

So 40-41 is an illustration of the events described in verse 39. Who will be taken and who will be left behind? Well, who was taken in verse 39? The people who mocked Noah and did not believe his message. Noah and his family however were left behind, safe in the Ark. In a similar story, in Matthew 13, in the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares. when the servants ask, “Do you want us to go and pull the weeds up?” Jesus replies,

“Let 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.” (Matthew 13:30).

So do you want to be taken or left behind? Jesus is clear – there will be no secret appearing for his saints and then a visible appearing with his saints. It will be unbelievers who are taken away and believers left behind to enjoy his presence. The return of Jesus will be one event, visible, universal and cataclysmic. This is what the rest of Scripture has to say about the Rapture.

  • “My Father’s house has plenty of room; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? … I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:2-3)
  • “in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.“ (1 Corinthians 15:52)
  • “For 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. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)
  • “by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” (Philippians 3:21)

No one knows when Jesus will return.
Most people don’t care that Jesus will Return.
Everyone will know when Jesus Returns

Jesus will return to an unsuspecting world.

2. Jesus will Remove God’s Unfaithful Servants

“But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 24:48-51)

The return of Jesus is intended to be a day of great joy and celebration. But it will also be a day of great sadness to those who have ignored or rejected Jesus. Observe that Jesus regards everyone as a servant of God. We are either living in submission to God or in rebellion against God – but we are all servants whether we recognize him or not. Think about it, we are all created in the image of God.

He has revealed himself to everyone through the beauty and wonder of creation and the convicting voice of the conscience. We all enjoy his good gifts of food and drink. We has entrusted to us gifts, talents and abilities for the service of others. Jesus here distinguishes between faithful and unfaithful servants but he regards all are servants.

To our Master we remain accountable, none more so than on the day he returns. The fate of those who have rejected Jesus is bleak. The expression Jesus uses here “cut … to pieces” is the same expression used in Exodus 29:17 to describe the way a sacrifice is cut up as an offering to God. So even in judgment, God will be glorified. If people reject the precious sacrifice of Christ for their sin, they must pay with their own lives. Jesus will return to an unsuspecting world. Jesus will rebuke unfaithful servants…

Continued Here 

6 comments on “Jesus the Master is Returning: Who is Taken and Who is Left?

  1. Reblogged this on The Diary of a Slave.

  2. I’ve been pondering Matthew 13 lately. There are things in this chapter that are explained more clearly later on. The writer of the article refers to the one parable of the wheat and weeds.

    I’d just add these thoughts. We see several things about chapter 13. These are nuances of Matthew’s style and how the Holy Spirit goes about sanctifying the “good”/righteous from the “evil”/unrighteous. We know by the teachings of the Holy Spirit none is righteous. We are born under condemnation then we are born again by hearing. Notice in Matthew 13:15 Jesus makes a clarifying point about “hearing”, there are some who “barely” hear:

    Matthew 13:15 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’

    This chapter starts with Jesus telling a parable to crowds of people next to the Sea of Galilee. We learn earlier in Matthew that this is where the Gentiles crowd together:

    Matthew 4:12 Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee.
    13 And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali,
    14 so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
    15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
    16 the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”
    17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

    In chapter 3 we see the first mention of the Jews confronting John the Baptist by the Jordan then Jesus come “from” Galilee to John to be baptized:

    Matthew 3:13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him.

    Chapter 13 has both private and public meetings with Jesus. It starts with Jesus speaking the parable about the sower sowing his seed. Notice that Jesus “doesn’t” mention this is a “Kingdom” parable to the public. It’s not until we see the disciples “at a private gathering” where He identifies the parable as a “Kingdom” parable. Then we see Matthew then goes back to the public time then back to another private time.

    The first group of parables are about speaking evangelistic messages to people publicly. After explaining privately what the public messages are all about Jesus then focuses on the GREAT issue of this life! HIM/the Pearl of great value. Not everyone sees and heard and comes to understand that this is the singular issue in our life.

    Only to those whom the Father reveals the Son to see, hear and understand this!

    Consider this verse in Deuteronomy 29 in relation to what Jesus says in Matthew 13:

    Deuteronomy 29:1 [fn] These are the words of the covenant that the LORD commanded Moses to make with the people of Israel in the land of Moab, besides the covenant that he had made with them at Horeb.
    2 [fn] And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them: “You have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land,
    3 the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, and those great wonders.
    4 But to this day the LORD has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear.

    Matthew 13:9 He who has ears,[fn] let him hear.”
    10 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?”
    11 And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.
    12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
    13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.
    14 Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “‘”You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
    15 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’
    16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.
    17 For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

    All through “History” starting with Adam and Eve there has been a warfare and generational battles, good against evil. Is there any other thing in this life we need besides the PEARL of great value that a man, when he discovers it in a field goes and sells everything he has then buys that field to obtain that PEARL?

    The last parables Jesus tells are parables about the end. The first parables are about starting out seeking Christ, learning to die to the self nature and live in this fallen world selflessly, fully manifesting His nature, His Life, some 100, some 60 and some 30%. To those who have Christ will be given more Christ!

    Then we come to the last of these parables before Jesus heads home to settle in for a time teaching the Jews again in synagogues.

    It’s to this last parable I’ll conclude my thoughts inspired by the posted article:

    Matthew 13:47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind.
    48 When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad.
    49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous
    50 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

    Notice this parable is like the Noah event but much greater in numbers of people than then? This parable is about God’s active work bringing this present world to an end and gathering all humanity into one place.

    In eschatological sense I’d say this event follows the events laid out by John in Revelation where we read about the beast, the false prophet, the Devil himself, Death and Hades are all now in the lake of fire and sulfur.

    This great event all humanity are destined to! There is no escaping this date with destiny! On this day the gig is up! Either you will be found a man or woman of His Faith, once delivered to the Saints, found to be a tree of His Righteousness bearing the fruit of the Spirit or NOT! On this day the Angels of God will separate the good from the evil! This is the big fear of God producing parable that those who have been given ears to hear speak about to the world in hopes their/our Word of Grace through His Faith falls or is sown in good soil to germinate and come to life to see Him and give up the sin filled life for living with Him at the center and core of their being as we do too!

    I’ll end with these words from Hosea. Note the expression from this Prophet about the “Heart” of God! Our God desires a true heart felt relationship with His Children. It’s His Heart to grant us repentance as both John the Baptist and Jesus called out during their earthly ministries and as we see all the Apostles and Disciples spoke out as they were sent into the fields to be harvested on that day Jesus describes is like a day when a great drag net is thrown into the sea of ALL humanity to be drawn up to the shores of Heaven and the good are separated from the evil:

    Hosea 11:7 My people are bent on turning away from me, and though they call out to the Most High, he shall not raise them up at all.
    8 How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender.
    9 I will not execute my burning anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not a man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath.

    • Michael, it sounds like we’ve both been studying in Matthew. I’ve been studying the words of Jesus in Matthew 21 this week..

      Would have liked to have heard your thoughts on who will be left and who taken….

  3. PJ,

    This is who: “…This great event all humanity are destined to! There is no escaping this date with destiny! On this day the gig is up! Either you will be found a man or woman of His Faith, once delivered to the Saints, found to be a tree of His Righteousness bearing the fruit of the Spirit or NOT! On this day the Angels of God will separate the good from the evil! …”.

    There’s an interesting irony between those who obey Him and those who don’t. The irony can be understood by citing some verses.

    First notice “who” is being referred to “obeying” The Lord:::>

    Mark 1:27 And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”

    Now consider these three verses:::>

    Acts 6:7 And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.

    And

    Romans 1:5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,

    Romans 16:26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith—

    So you ask who goes on to Life in Jesus Christ? Who doesn’t?

    Matthew 13 and those parables, the last three show us who goes on to a life with Christ after death and judgment. The ones who realize the “treasure” and the “pearl” are the ones who sold all to obtain the treasure, the pearl, the Life in, by and for Christ!

    That final parable in Matthew 13, the dragnet that is full then brought to the heavenly seashore, then comes the final irreversible judgment where the good/treasure/pearl are separated from the others, who, the others/disobedient to the Faith, are thrown into the fiery furnace prepared for the devil and his angels!!!

    How ironic that the demons know their fate and they buy time in this life by being obedient to Christ!

    Matthew 8:29 And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?”

    And

    1 Corinthians 4:5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

    Where does this leave us?

    I suggest this admonition works well even in these days even so many centuries later after it was first written:

    Micah 6:7 Will the LORD be pleased with[fn] thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
    8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

  4. Regarding “who is taken and who is left,” I’ve come to agree with Sizer (at least on this point) that Jesus was saying it would be better to be left than to be taken. I personally connect this to the Roman-Jewish War of 67-73 AD. If we look at Luke 17:28-37, we see that Jesus connects the “one will be taken and one will be left” to His command to flee Jerusalem when it becomes surrounded by armies (see also Luke 21:20-23), and we know from church fathers, Josephus, and Roman historians that Christ’s followers did this and were spared. Here’s the text from Luke 17:28-37:

    It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it. I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. “Where, Lord?” they asked. He replied, “Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.”

    So Jesus said the “taking” and the “being left” would happen on the same night when the believers would need to flee.

    If you’re interested, I have a study on these verses from Matthew 24 at my blog:

    http://kloposmasm.com/2012/02/21/matthew-2435-51-part-2-of-2/

    (See the section on verses 40-41.)

    Regarding the question of which is better, to be taken or to be left, I found it interesting that John Wesley held one view, while Albert Barnes and John Gill held the other:

    John Wesley (1703-1791)… said in his commentary on verse 40, “One is taken – Into God’s immediate protection: and one is left – To share the common calamities.”

    Others believe that to be “left” was instead to be desired, while those who were “taken” were the unfortunate ones. This was the opinion of Albert Barnes (1834), who said, “The word ‘taken’ may mean either to be taken away from the danger – that is, rescued, as Lot was (Luke 17:28-29), or to be taken away ‘by death.’ Probably the latter is the meaning.” Likewise, John Gill (1746-63) said, “the one shall be taken; …by the eagles, the Roman army, and either killed or carried captive by them: and the other left; …by the Romans, being by some remarkable providence, or another, delivered out of their hands.”

    • Yes, i’ve come to agree with you and Sizer…and a whole lot of other theologians which see it this way too.

      What i asked myself was, what if there wasn’t a doctrine known as the pretrib rapture? What would i think this means?

      Knowing that pre-Darby and pre-Scofield’s bible most all read it in the manner of Gill and Barnes (and Sizer), this helped to convince me also.

      I am going to check out your link.

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