“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” (Matt. 24:37-41).
These verses are often mistakenly applied to the Rapture of the Church, the Body of Christ, when in truth they refer to the Lord’s Second Coming at the close of the seven-year Tribulation period (Matt. 24:29-30).
The Lord taught His disciples about people’s preoccupation with everyday living—eating, drinking, getting married—when judgment suddenly fell on them in the days of Noah. They had received warnings in the form of Noah’s preaching and the building of the large ark itself which testified of the judgment to come (Heb. 11:7; 2 Pet. 3:5-6). But they were unconcerned, unbelieving, and did not respond, so they were swept away when the flood came.
The Lord taught His disciples that it will be like this at the end of the Tribulation, when two men will be working in the field, and one will be taken and the other left; two women will be grinding at the mill, and one will be taken and the other left.
While this might sound like the Rapture, these verses are not referring to the Lord’s coming to take believers to heaven. It is important to note that the Lord compares His Second Coming to the judgment of the days of Noah, when “the flood came, and TOOK them all away” (Matt. 24:39).
Who were the ones “taken” away in Noah’s day? Those who perished in the flood. Who were the ones “left”? Noah and his family. They were the only ones left after the judgment. The flood waters took the rest of the world away. The ones “taken” away in Noah’s day were not taken to blessing, but rather they were taken in judgment and they died.
Like the ones who were taken away in Noah’s day, the ones “taken” at the Second Coming are not taken to heaven. So, where are they taken? That’s what the disciples asked the Lord as we learn from Luke’s account of the Olivet Discourse.
“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” (Luke 17:35-37).
The Lord’s answer to where these people will be taken is a direct reference to the Battle of Armageddon, where the eagles and other birds will gather together to feast on dead carcasses. At that battle, John tells us in Revelation 19:17-18,
“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.”
“All men, both free and…small,” refers to the humble laborers who will be grinding at the mill or working in the field when Christ returns at His Second Coming. At that time, unbelievers will be taken to Armageddon where they will perish and birds will eat their flesh, but believers will be “left” (Matt. 24:40-41).
At the Rapture, the believer is removed from the earth and caught up to heaven prior to the Tribulation, and the unbeliever is left behind (1 Thes. 4:13-5:3). Just the opposite takes place at the Second Coming: unbelievers will be removed in judgment at the Battle of Armageddon. The one who is “left” at the Second Coming is the believer, who will enter into the blessings of Christ’s earthly Kingdom. And it is logical that Tribulation believers are left on the earth because that’s their hope (Jer. 23:5-6). Believers in the true Messiah who endure to the end of the Tribulation will be able to walk right into the Millennial Kingdom.
The Rapture is part of the revelation of the mystery made known first to Paul (1 Cor. 15:51-53). Old Testament prophecy and the Olivet Discourse have nothing to say about believers being caught up to heaven. Instead they reveal how Israel’s Messiah will return to earth, and unbelievers will be taken away in judgment, while believers will remain to enter His earthly kingdom. In this sense, the Second Coming is a reverse Rapture!
To the Reader:
Some of our Two Minutes articles were written many years ago by Pastor C. R. Stam for publication in newspapers. When many of these articles were later compiled in book form, Pastor Stam wrote this word of explanation in the Preface:
“It should be borne in mind that the newspaper column, Two Minutes With the Bible, has now been published for many years, so that local, national and international events are discussed as if they occurred only recently. Rather than rewrite or date such articles, we have left them just as they were when first published. This, we felt, would add to the interest, especially since our readers understand that they first appeared as newspaper articles.”
To this we would add that the same is true for the articles written by others that we continue to add, on a regular basis, to the Two Minutes library. We hope that you’ll agree that while some of the references in these articles are dated, the spiritual truths taught therein are timeless.