The Rapture? Why I want to be Left Behind

Ian Paul writes on his blog Psephizo Why I want to be Left Behind. He refers to Matthew 24:36-41. This is one of the main passages used to support the teaching on the Rapture, the idea that at some time before Jesus returns to earth all Christians will be taken away from the earth – and those Left Behind will suffer the worst of the Great Tribulation.

But Ian notes that in this passage the teaching in verses 40 and 41 that some “will be taken” seems to parallel “the flood … took them all away” in verse 39. Thus the ones who “will be taken” are not the ones God is rescuing from disaster but the ones subject to his judgment. So not surprisingly Ian concludes that when this happens he wants to be left behind. So do I!

I note that in the original Greek the parallel is not quite so clear as different verbs are used for “took … away” and “will be taken”. This explains Dick France’s earlier caution about this interpretation, mentioned by Ian. But the parallel seems clear to me even if it is conceptual more than verbal.

Meanwhile the other passage used to support the idea of a Rapture before the return of Jesus teaches no such thing, in fact precisely the opposite. In 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 it is very clear, from the Greek word epeita “After that” which links these two verses, that it is only after “the Lord himself will come down from heaven” that “we who are alive … will be caught up”. There really is no biblical basis for the popular idea of a secret pre-Tribulation Rapture, which was in fact first put forward clearly as recently as the early 19th century.

So Tom (N.T.) Wright, as quoted by Ian, is surely right about the Matthew passage when he writes:

There is no hint, here, of a ‘rapture’, a sudden supernatural event that would remove individuals from the terra firma….  It is a matter, rather, of secret police coming in the night, or of enemies sweeping through a village or city and seizing all they can.

Thanks to Simon Cozens for the link, in a comment on Eddie Arthur’s post The End of the World Is Nigh (or Is It?).

13 thoughts on “The Rapture? Why I want to be Left Behind

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  4. Hi Peter
    I read the above and wondered how you thought that the verses Matt24 vs 30-31 fitted into that. I can see the comparison to the Noah days but with the additioal vs 30-31 could that leave the possibility that the ones taken up are those in vs 30 and 31 who would be the elect. Maybe it could refer to those who have already died but it doesn’t mention that. If it isnt to do with a sudden supernatural event then what would you consider the 30 and 31 to relate to.

  5. Mick, thanks for commenting. 24:30-31 is certainly not about a secret rapture which precedes the coming of Jesus; rather, it is a very public event which follows his coming. It is possible that 24:40-41 refers to the same event, but in that case it is not about a secret rapture either. The problem comes with the comparison in v.39 between the flood and the coming of the Son of Man. I think this means that vv.36-44 are about judgment rather than rapture. But I accept that there is more than one possibility here.

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