Who will be left behind?

Here is an interesting take on the classic “left behind” passage in Matthew:

Matthew 24:37-41 is a key passage some Christians use to justify an escapist theology, approaching this world with a “Why shine the brass on a sinking ship?” attitude. In this passage Jesus likens “the coming of the Son of Man” to the time of Noah, when people “were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away.” Then Jesus gives two brief pictures of the effect of his coming: “Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left.”

These verses have been employed to support the idea that God will one day evacuate, or “rapture,” all the righteous people, leaving behind an evil world destined for annihilation. Therefore, the thinking goes, Christians should focus exclusively on seeking to rescue lost souls rather than waste time trying to fix things that are broken in this doomed world. This perspective is evidenced in a comment I read not long ago from a well-known Bible teacher: “Evangelism is the only reason God’s people are still on earth.”

But a closer look at the context reveals that in those pictures Jesus gave of men in the field and women at the mill, those “left behind” are the righteous rather than the unrighteous. Like the people in Noah’s day who were “swept away,” leaving behind Noah and his family to rebuild the world, so the unrighteous are “taken,” while the righteous are left behind. Why? Because this world belongs to God, and he’s in the process of gaining it all back, not giving it all up.

(It’s from this book; longer excerpt here. Via.)

I let go of “left behind” theology many years ago. I’m surprised, however, that I have never noticed or heard anyone mention that the central passage is not clear about who it is that will be whisked away and who will be left behind.

What do you make of that, Tim LaHaye?

7 thoughts on “Who will be left behind?

  1. Rick Wadholm Jr

    That is a fascinating take on it I’ve never considered before, but just reflecting a bit on it actually does make sense of the one taken and the one left in the context. WOW! That’ll stir things up. I’m still a pre-Tribber, pre-mill. fellow (but will neither die for it, nor force anyone else to hold to it…nor would I be disappointed if Jesus doesn’t match my schedule in any way ;-). Great thoughts. I’m going to have to chew on this for a while and look into it further. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. Matt

    Good job on bringing up a divergent perspective that offers a chance to think more critically of this issue.

    Let’s do coffee some time soon. I may even need to come out there to get my transcript. Anyway, I’ll have my people call your people.

  3. Toni

    I blogged about exactly this a year or 2 ago. Not seen this quote before, but I’m glad not to be the only one to spot it.

  4. Dr. Tim LaHaye

    I take great umbrage at your suggestion that the bible doesn’t explicitly proclaim a rapture out of the destruction of the world.

  5. Marc Post author

    Dear Dr. LaHaye,

    I take umbrage at your series of books on the “end times”. You do the faith an injustice by churning out sub-par “literature”.

  6. Steven birnie

    Sorry just a short post, I’m at work just now and spotted your blog.”…..the dead shall rise first and we which are alive will be caught up in the air and will ever be with the Lord….” the theology behind noah’s ark is a foreshadow of the age we now live in, at the moment judgement is coming but the good news is the door is open (Noah’s ark) to Jesus Christ. but there will come a time when the door will close and judgement will come (the tribulation period). The resserection of the dead and eternal judgements are shown in the foreshadow of the Jesus teachings on the harvest, seperation of the grain and the chaff. Just a few thought ‘s for you. god bless

  7. Steven birnie

    Hello again, I just wanted to get in touch with you again to apologize for my last blog it was as we say in Scotland ‘out of order’. Felt conviction pretty quick on that so apologies.

    God bless

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