You know how ten people can read the same verse and come up with 12 different interpretations? Of course you do. And some of the reasons are because they already have a set of beliefs surrounding that subject and so new information must fit nicely into this belief system in order for it to make sense to them. Some people concentrate on the verse itself, ignoring the context. And some people repeat what they’ve heard. Well for this study, I’m going to tackle this subject by using related themes in the bible to see if I can come up with the correct interpretation. If you study the bible Hebraically using themes, then you will notice that the same story is told over and over. Different story, same theme. And it’s written this way so that we can truly compare scripture with scripture to determine the correct interpretation.
Matt 24:40,41 Then there will be two men in a field – one will be taken and the other left behind. 41There will be two women grinding flour at the mill – one will be taken and the other left behind.
The context of this is the Son of Man coming. It is commonly taught by the pre-trib rapturists that this verse means that the saints will be raptured or taken so that God can judge the wicked. This study isn’t about Messiah’s timing when He returns. It’s not about debating pre-trib vs post-trib. It’s about examining these verses thematically to see what it’s talking about using other verses.
Let’s look at another verse…
Luke 17:34-37 “I tell you, on that night there will be two people in one bed – one will be taken and the other left behind. 35There will be two women grinding grain together – one will be taken and the other left behind.” 37They asked him, “Where, Lord?” He answered, “Wherever there’s a dead body, that’s where the vultures gather.”
Assuming that these people who are “taken” are the saints, then where are they going? Verse 37 tells us, “where the vultures gather.” Vultures gather where the dead and decaying carcasses are and the beginning of this verse also tells us this. I have never heard any teacher go on to quote the next verse of the vultures and the dead bodies. But after reading that verse, hopefully you will see the confusion because the saints are supposed to be raptured and taken to heaven but this verse clearly states differently.
Let’s go back to Matthew
Matt 24:27,28 For when the Son of Man does come, it will be like lightning that flashes out of the east and fills the sky to the western horizon. 28Wherever there’s a dead body, that’s where you find the vultures.
So how is the rapture of the saints connected to the dead bodies and vultures? Again, I’ve never heard anyone explain this.
Luke 17:34-37 gives the same scenario as in Matt 24:40-41 in that it talks about two people, one taken and one left. So those two sets of verses are talking about the same thing. But Luke gives us more details and tells us WHERE they are being taken…where the dead bodies and vultures are! And we have more proof of this from Matt 24:27-28. This too is in the context of Messiah’s coming and the dead bodies and vultures.
So you have two choices at this point.
1) You can continue to believe that when Messiah returns, He will rapture the saints and take them to heaven.
2) Or you could conclude that the context of these verses are not about the rapture, but about God’s judgment and destruction of those “taken” when He comes.
There are no other choices unless you ignore them.
Let’s see if we can find another theme with the idea of being taken or gathered and see where they go.
Matt 13:37-42 “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38the field is the world. As for the good seed, these are the people who belong to the Kingdom; and the weeds are the people who belong to the Evil One. 39The enemy who sows them is the Adversary, the harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. 40Just as the weeds are collected and burned up in the fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41The Son of Man will send forth his angels, and they will collect out of his Kingdom all the things that cause people to sin and all the people who are far from Torah; 42and they will throw them into the fiery furnace, where people will wait and grind their teeth.
One thing to note is that this takes place at the end of the age. If this was a verse about the rapture three or seven years prior to the end of the age, then it wouldn’t be the end of the age. The verse doesn’t make sense if this is put into a pre-trib rapture scenario. And…if this is a rapture verse, then the people gathered and burned are the saints! There is nothing here stating that the saints will be raptured and taken to heaven but it does speak of evil people being taken for their destruction by fire. So all of these verses have the same theme of being gathered or taken, and destruction. Let’s move on…
Rev 19:17-18 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out in a loud voice to all the birds that fly about in mid-heaven. “Come, gather together for the great feast God is giving. 18to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of generals, the flesh of important men, the flesh of horses and their riders and the flesh of all kinds of people, free and slave, small and great!”
Here we see the birds again that feast on the flesh of men just like the previous verses. This context is when Messiah returns and destroys evil nations and people. The unclean birds will have their feast, and the saints will have theirs in the marriage supper.
I’m not saying that there are no verses about the saints being gathered to meet Him because we know that when the dead in Messiah rises first, then we will meet Him in the air. We will be gathered. We have to understand that gathering or taking away of the wicked does not mean they get transported somewhere while they’re alive. It means they are singled out and destroyed. These verses about two grinding and one taken etc. does not mean a removal of the wicked geographically and they certainly are not talking about the saints. It means a judgment upon the wicked right where they stand (and be removed from among the living) and the righteous will be spared or protected even though they are right next to the person.
I too used to believe that we would be raptured before His coming. And reading the Left Behind books and watching the movies added to that faulty belief. And I’ve always been stumped on what the vultures and dead bodies meant and why they were going to their destruction. Well now that I know, I’d rather be Left Behind!