I was reminded recently of a series of books and movies that were very popular several years ago called the “Left Behind” series. The premise of the books was a situation the authors claimed was about to unfold within the context of Biblical prophecy, in that Christians would disappear from the face of the earth leaving behind those who would have to go through a period of intense drama including the establishment of the mark of the beast, the persecution of anyone converting to Christianity after the ‘rapture’, the rule of the Antichrist, and the pouring out of the plagues upon mankind culminating in the end of the world as we know it.
Now for any casual reader of the Bible, the above scenario seems entirely plausible. The Bible certainly does mention an event when God’s people are changed, in the Apostle Paul’s words, ‘in the twinkling of an eye’., and are taken to heaven. The Bible also mentions a coming time when a global form of governance will enforce the much talked about and controversial ‘mark of the beast’; the head of this governing authority is indeed the dreaded Antichrist; and yes, we are all aware of the fearful plagues that the Apostle John warned about in the book of Revelation.
The entire ‘Left Behind’ series has become an icon within the walls of evangelical Christianity, and I fear that many who do not study their Bibles carefully enough have taken the authors’ word for all that is written, and presume that all is Biblically based and almost prophetic in itself, despite the authors’ own admission that it is a work of fiction. So how Biblical is it? Is there any basis for believing that countless thousands of people from all walks of life and from all nations, are suddenly going to disappear leaving loved ones, workmates, passengers in planes, buses and taxis, and society as a whole, ‘left behind’ ?
Let us look at those Biblical passages most commonly used in support of the rapture theory, and that form the basis for the ‘left behind’ phenomenom.
As we study these scriptures we must realise that all of them are in the context of prophecy regarding the second coming of Jesus Christ. It is the second advent that climaxes all the above crisis’ and is the focal point of all prophecy.
Matthew 24:37-41 But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
Now please note carefully what Jesus is saying here. First, the second coming will be affected in precisely the same way as the great flood. The unrighteous will not be aware of the signs of the times, they shall be living at ease, living life as normal with little or no thought of eternity, when they shall be taken all away.
Let us go to the parallel passage in the gospel of Luke. You will note that Luke adds a little more detail giving a slightly different perspective.
Luke 17:26-37 And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it. I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.
The people that Matthew says are taken away, Luke adds that they are destroyed. Thus the ‘taken away’ aspect or context of what Jesus is telling His disciples equates to death or destruction. This is borne out later in Luke’s passage when the disciples ask Him, “where are they taken to?” Jesus answer concerning the gathering of eagles around the carcasse echoes the following:
Revelation 19:17 And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great. And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.
I am beginning to think that being left behind isn’t such a bad alternative. But we shall see. We will now look at another passage and see how consistent Jesus is regarding the subject.
Matthew 13:24-30 ¶ Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.
A little later Jesus explains the parable to His disciples.
Matthew 13:37-42 He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
So let us recap the main points:
- The second coming of Jesus Christ is in like manner as the great flood.
- The wicked, who in Noah’s day were living their normal everyday lives in ignorance and sin, were all taken away by the flood (Matthew 24:39) therefore so also will the wicked be at the second coming.
- They are taken away to their ultimate death, or destruction. (Luke 17:27,29)
- The concept of the wicked being taken is repeated many times. (Matt. 24:39-41; Luke 17:34-36)
- The taking away or removal of the wicked to be destroyed comes before the gathering of the righteous.
Now, let me ask a question. In Noah’s day, after the flood had removed the wicked from the face of the earth and destroyed them all, who was left behind?
Genesis 7:23 And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark.
Who was it that was left behind when fire and brimstone fell from heaven and destroyed Sodom and the other cities of the plain? Was it not Lot and his two daughters?
The Left Behind series of books and movies are based on the premise that it would be a terrible thing to be left behind; that to be left behind was to be avoided at all costs. If we are to believe the words of Jesus however it would appear to me that to be left behind, alive and kicking, would be a far better alternative.
- The Rapture is Imminent:Apocalyptic Extremes For 2012 (5 Videos) (raptureimminent.wordpress.com)
- Chapter Seven, Soul Deceiver, Don’t Be Late for the Wedding! (read Second) (lynleahz.com)
- Jesus Will Soon Gather His Elect (raptureimminent.wordpress.com)
- More tares [tears]… (nnyphishnet.net)
- The Parable of the Tares (raymondjclements.wordpress.com)