Matthew 24:40-41 (ESV) Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding oat at the mill; one will be taken and one left.
1 Kings 15:1 - 4
ESV - 1 Now in the eighteenth year of King Jeroboam the son of Nebat, Abijam began to reign over Judah. 2 He reigned for three years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Maacah the daughter of Abishalom.
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Who is being taken in Matthew 24:40-41 depends how we interpret the object of the message of Matthew 24. Those who believe that Jesus was speaking about His coming hold that Jesus was addressing the circumstances leading to the rapture or the gathering away of the church in accordance with 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Those who say that Jesus was specifically addressing a Jewish audience and was speaking of what would befall the Jewish people after the rapture of the church will argue that the church was not contemplated in this message. They say that Jesus was speaking about the Jewish people who will face the great tribulation (the wrath of Satan) in which millions of Jews will be persecuted and exterminated by the Antichrist and his agents. This postulation is consistent with the pre-tribulation rapture theory which teaches that the church will not undergo the great tribulation because God cannot possibly subject His elect to that scale of suffering. The tribulation is however the wrath of Satan and not the wrath of God (Rev.12:7-13). I believe that Jesus was most certainly referring to the believers, the church of Christ, by reason of the context of the passage of Matthew 4:29-51. This, in my view, is about the taking away of the church, an event that will take millions of earth's dwellers by surprise. There are several parallels in the Bible that identify with the rapture with the harvest of grain or wheat or the separation between sheep and goats (cf. Matthew 13:25-30,32-34). The angels, the trumpet, the gathering of the elect and the surprise - that no man knows the day or the hour (Matthew 24:36)- are all indicative of the rapture of the church. Jesus reveals that not all will be lucky to be part of those to be caught up in the rapture. The idea of one being taken and the other being left is simply figurative or metaphoric of the distinction between the saints and sinners; the redeemed and the lost, the worldly people and the elect of God in Christ. These are painful realities. In the days of Noah, they ignored warnings about the coming floods until it was too little too late and all perished save for eight souls. In this day and age, we are witnessing the same complacency with our contemporary society who have turned deaf ears to the things of God. The generation that will be living in the days leading to the coming of Christ will exhibit the same characteristics seen in the generations of Noah and Lot. They simply have no time for God and His word. I can bet that we are probably living in the end time days contemplated by Christ in the above passage and that the coming of Christ is sooner than many may care to imagine!
In my opinion, the emphasis in these verses is on the separation or differentiation that will occur at the close of the age between the saved and the unsaved, and the necessity on the part of believers to always be spiritually prepared for it. I'm not sure that it's possible to read too much into the verses with regard to the precise chronology of that separation, or the form that it will take (such as the concept of the Rapture, for example). The idea being expressed is just that there will be a final, irreversible distinction drawn between those who will inherit eternal life, and those who will not.
In Matthew 24 Jesus make it abundantly clear who is being "taken." Although the text has been used by some to suggest a secret rapture where people will suddenly disappear and be taken to heaven, taken in its context, Matthew 24 does not support such secret rapture at all. Before the flood, people were enjoying life as usual right up to the time Noah entered his boat. They didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes - “Two men will be working together in the field; one will be taken, the other left. Two women will be grinding flour at the mill; one will be taken, the other left (Matt 24:37-41). In Noah's days, the people who were swept away, or “taken,” were the wicked, not the righteous. Jesus tells us it will be the same when He comes. So, the ones taken in the field and at the mill are not the righteous, they are the wicked! They are taken away from the presence of the righteous and destroyed, just like in the days of Noah. So, Jesus is telling us that two men will be in the field; one will be taken and destroyed, just like the tares that are bundled up and destroyed in Matthew 13:30 while the wheat remains in the barn. By saying the other man is left, Jesus means that man is left alive and not destroyed - just like Noah and his family were left, while the wicked were taken away to destruction. In Matthew 13:38 Jesus says the field is the world. That tells us that the one who is taken is destroyed while the one who is left inherits the new earth. (Matt 5:5; Rev 21:1-5).
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