Matthew 24: In Case of Rapture. . .

Eschatology — the study of the end of this life and the advent of the world that is to come — is, by nature, a bit speculative.  The Bible does give us guidance but it is often slightly cryptic, imaginative, and figurative.  How, too, do you talk about something that is not exactly like this world?

I am going to use today’s post to do what many blogs do regularly: float ideas out there for review that are still in the formative stage.  I would love to hear what you think of these thoughts.

Like many, I grew up thinking of the next life as a place called Heaven that is out there past the wild blue yonder, certainly a place out there far away from our present, evil world.  A lot of education, steady reading of the Bible with new glasses on, and a bit of N. T. Wright and others have changed that view of the world to come radically.  I am uncomfortable with escapist theologies that paint this world that is precious to God and still owned by God as evil and disposable (Psalm 24:1).  I am finding more and more each day that indicates the new world (or Heaven, if you want to it that) will be right here on a renewed earth.  Emotionally this question really made a lot of things click for me: what parent would say of a rebellious and sinful child, I’ll get rid of him and get a new one?  God is in the business of redeeming; it only stands to reason that applies to all He created.

Let’s read this passage with that way of thinking in mind:

You see, the royal appearing of the son of man will be like the days of Noah.  What does that mean?  Well, in those days, before the flood, they were eating and drinking, they were getting married and giving children in marriage, right up to the day when Noah went into the ark.  They didn’t know about it until the flood came and swept them all away.  That’s what it’ll be like at the royal appearing of the son of man.  On that day there will be two people working in the field.  One will be taken; the other will be left.  There will be two women grinding corn in the mill.  One will be taken; the other will be left. (24:37-41)

Many of us are familiar with the belief that there will be a time slightly before the Second Coming of Christ when many Christians will be taken up out of this world and taken off to Heaven.  This is usually called the Rapture.  That is a belief I have never held, probably because I come from an amillennial tradition.  But as you can imagine, this belief doesn’t fit with the way I am proposing we should understand the future.  We are not going up and off to anywhere.  The New Jerusalem is coming here to a cleansed and renewed earth (Revelation 21-22).

This passage quoted above is often cited in supported of the Rapture.  Two people are in a field and one is taken away.  There it is.  But why do we think that the one taken away is taken away to Heaven?

I would like to suggest that the one taken away is taken off for punishment.  He is part of the cleansing, that which has to be taken out of this world in order for renewal to take place.  I would cite the very example Matthew uses in this passage as support.  In the days of Noah, you did not want to be swept away.  You wanted to be one of the eight left behind on the Ark.  If you were taken, it was punishment.  Likewise, if you are one of the two men in a field or two women grinding corn, you don’t want to be taken away.  You want to be the one left.

What do you think?

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Categories: Matthew | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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8 thoughts on “Matthew 24: In Case of Rapture. . .

  1. susan rubio

    I dream of heaven often but rarely is this dream set on earth. I’m a huge advocate of God’s redemptive work so today’s thoughts fit well within my personal theology. With this, like so many of my other personal choices, beliefs, preferences, I find myself visualizing that day when I stand before Him and hear Him say, “No, Susan, that wasn’t at all what I was trying to say (or trying to do); that isn’t at all the correct interpretation.” My response? “I’m so so SO grateful that my being here with you (whether taken or left) didn’t depend on my getting it right, Father.”

  2. Rhett

    That’s a really interesting idea Jason. It makes me wonder how it compares to the parable of the wedding that we read not that long ago. There seems to be a lot of ideas of “out there” and “in here” when Jesus talks about the Kingdom of Heaven. How do you think this idea of the evil being taken out line up with his other parables? I’ve never looked at it that way, but off the top of my head I’m thinking of Matthew 13, specifically (I just looked it up) verses 30 and 41. There’s the explicit mention that first the weeds will be taken away to be burned, and the wheat will be with the harvester.

    Whatever happens, I have to remind myself that I don’t have to worry, no matter how scary all the talk of the end times gets, it holds only good things in store for us.

    Also, unrelated, an amillenialist believes that there is no 1000 years of Jesus reigning on earth (i’m just guessing from the etymology) Why do you believe that? (I have no idea which millenial view I prescribe to, I’ve found they all have good points.)

  3. Rhett: Good call! I noticed those too and so many other things since changing “my set of reading glasses.” In the kingdom of God, evil is “out there” and you don’t want to be taken there. On millennialism: I simply meant that this is what my church tradition teaches. Much of the latter-day prophecy tradition depends upon a rather literal or hyper-literal reading of the prophetic sections of the Bible, and usually small portions of the text. My religious tradition is not typically as literal, and I certainly am not. I have never been impressed enough with latter-day prophecy to want to spend the time to figure out all of the ins and outs of it. Millennialism has never had the ring of truth to me, so I have devoted my study time elsewhere.

    Susan: You are absolutely right! I too am thankful a topic like this does not affect salvation. But I have noticed that it definitely affects things like mission, how we do church, how involved in the world we are, how we treat our world, what we place importance on, and the like. Those sorts of things are really important; they shape who we are as Christians. When I realized that is when I started caring more about topics like these.

  4. You’ve really got my head buzzing with this strange but reasonable suggestion. Whether it will or won’t be here or there, where He will be I wish to be. Still, I cannot think of any references to directly, authoritatively disprove the idea of the weeds being removed and the righteous branches remaining to receive the New Jerusalem coming down out of Heaven. Proverbs 10:30, “The righteous will never be uprooted, but the wicked will not remain in the land.”

    I have never been able to reconcile the idea of “rapture” with the promise that “for the sake of the elect” the troublesome end times would be shortened (Matthew 24:22, Mark 13:20). Your postulation would seem to answer that…except for the gathering of the elect from the four winds.

    You have a remarkable knack for getting me to think outside my intellectual box. Thank you, Jason!

  5. “Whether it will or won’t be here or there, where He will be I wish to be.”

    Amen! That I think is the key. But I have seen how a view that this world and the communities of this world are not disposable has made a huge difference in my own sense of mission. I guess that is why I dwell on this point from time to time.

    I like that Proverbs verse. It is amazing how when you switch glasses so many verses really pop out.

    One reader of this blog did bring up John 14:1-4, “going away to prepare a place . . . come back . . . take you there.” I am studying that one now. I think the key is in the next few verses, John 14:5-6. More on that later, I am sure.

    Appreciate the comment, brother!

  6. I am drawn to this chapter and others, I guess, because I like eschatology. But it is so conjectural. And a bit academic. What really matters in this discussion of the return of Jesus? “Stay awake, be alert, be vigilant.” How? By always doing God’s work, taking care of God’s people. We can’t expect to be ready if we are only trying to time it right and clean ourselves up from our “drunken abuse of others” in order to receive the Master. Stay ready. Every day could be the end.

  7. Eddy

    I had forgotten about your ideas on this verse! I’m intrigued again. This time the concept of the Babylonian exile of the Jews in the Old Testament comes to mind. In this context as well it was positive, at least “positive” in God’s long-term view, that one was left behind. It wasn’t the most important people in (the eyes of those doing the exiling) who were left either. God did, however, use those poor and unwanted ones not “chosen” for exile to be the remnant of his chosen people. Again, you want to be left behind. Interesting.

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