The idea of the “Rapture” comes from interpretations of Scripture that see believers being taken out of this world into heaven. According to this view, the clearest rapture-reference in the Gospels appears in the Olivet discourse, in which Jesus says that some will be “taken” and others “left” (cf. Matt 24:40-42; Lk 17:34-35). When read in isolation, this statement may sound like a record of the Rapture; however, the broader context clarifies that those who are “taken” are not whisked to heaven, but rather taken away in judgment, while those who are “left” will remain with the Son of Man in the kingdom of God.

During the Olivet discourse, Jesus declares, “Two men will be in the field; one will be taken (παραλαμβάνω; paralambáno) and one will be left (ἀφίημι; aphíemi). Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on which day your Lord is coming” (Matt 24:40-42). The popular Left Behind book series takes its title from these verses, and understand them to mean that some will be “taken” to heaven in the Rapture, while others will be “left behind” for the tribulation on earth. However, the Messiah’s actual message offers the opposite picture: those who are “taken” will experience a tribulation, and those who are “left” will be saved from it.

Just before Yeshua mentions those “taken” and “left,” he states, “As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and took them all away (ἦρεν ἅπαντας; aeren hapantas), so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Matt 24:37-39). In this context, Jesus asserts that just as people in Noah’s day were “taken” by the floodwaters, people will be taken in judgment at the second coming. Conversely, just as the righteous Noah and his family were “left behind” on the earth when everyone else was “taken,” the righteous will be left behind when the Son of Man returns. Whereas the Left Behind series understands being “taken” as a good scenario — namely, being raptured to safety in heaven — in the biblical context being “taken” is a very bad thing. On the other hand, to be “left behind” is to be spared from eschatological judgment and to join the Son of Man in his Father’s eternal kingdom.    

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180 COMMENTS

  1. Woah. This is definitely a head spinner Dr Nicholas. But you make an excellent point and have definitely caused me to re-read this passage and others with new eyes! Thank you for sharing.

  2. Thanks! You provide an excellent example of the necessity to read Scripture in context to prevent us from getting the wrong end of the stick!
    Your short devotions are an inspiration!

  3. Jesus and the 12 preached to Jew only so the interpretation is correct. But to apply that message to the church is an unscriptural mixing of law and grace.

  4. Wow! What an eye opener…another perspective of Scripture and according to what you’ve written, directly from Hus Word, it makes more sense than what we’ve been taught! This is a perfect example why we must read the Word and pray that the Holy Spirit be our Teacher in all things!

    • Exactly. This is false teaching and does not align with what the Bible clearly states. The Harpazo will be the snatching away of the church.

  5. Thank you for this making this a clearer understanding of this verse, now when I teach, I can make it more meaningful.

  6. I read it slightly different. Just as in Noah’s day those left behind suffered death and those taken up in the Ark lived. New Testament says that those dead in Christ will rise first and we who are alive in Christ will join them. Then the white throne judging occurs.

  7. It actually is a picture of The Day of The Lord. That there will be divine protection on the very day of the divine judgment. The context seems to be process and not product.

  8. Sorry, I disagree. Read in conjunction with I Cor. 15:51-52,I Thes. 4:13-17, and Jude 1:14-15. Before the Second Coming of the Lord to defend Israel (Zechariah 12:1-14; 14:1-7) and His feet shall stand on Mount Olives (where He ascended), the last three and half years of the 7 years covenant

  9. The Rev. Finis Jennings Dake, (I was his pastor for the last 15 years of his life), notes this in the Dake Annotated Bible. It’s a little known truth but very clearly correct.

  10. between the antiChrist and Israel (Dan. 9:27) is the time of the tribulations that the Lord refers to in Matt. 24:21-41. Note verse 31. He will gather His elect from the four winds (the four corners of the world) before executing judgment on unbelievers (Rev. 6:15-17). So, those taken out

  11. Appreciate so much your writings. My husband taught me exactly what you are saying before his death.

    2 questions:. Rapture theory is fairly recent (1800s). How did it evolve?

    You are NOT saying believers will escape the tribulation period, are you?
    It seems that is the appeal of rapture theory.

  12. before the judgment are believers and those left behind will face the judgment. He took Noah and his family out before destroying the world of unrepentant unbelievers. He took Lot and his family out before destroying Sodom and Gomorrah. The Second Coming of the Lord is to defend Israel, defeat

  13. What a beautiful word, thanks Dr Nicholas – i am not a scholar of Biblical studies, but i agree with you completely. Awesome word.

  14. Not so sure that I agree. I joined this web site to gain more knowledge and wisdom with regard to Hebrew routes of Christianity. I’am not sure but is your position one of Preterism, Amillennialism, or Post -Millennial? Or dare I say, Covenant.

  15. the antiChrist and the nations that gather against Israel (Zechariah 14:1-7) before settling up His millennial reign. Many people confuse the cloud gathering (rapture or take out) of the saints with the Second Coming when He comes to defend Israel and His feet touch down on Mount Olives.

    • Thanks for your comment, Ayodeji, but Zechariah doesn’t mention the “Antichrist.” What’s best to do is let the actual text speak for itself, rather than reading concepts into texts that aren’t there.

  16. Yes the context is the 2nd coming of Jesus and the end of the age and temple destruction. Jesus answered about the abomination in vs 15 as a sign to Jews in the Trib. That is Jacobs Trouble for those who missed the Rapture

  17. Hear, hear, hear! Dr Schaser, I came to the understanding you present about a year and a half ago. To say I was shocked is an understatement. I had to revise all the eschatology I had accepted as truth. I was free at last! The Lord bless you.

  18. Dr. Schaser, am I to understand that whether we interpret that passage as being raptured out or left behind, believers are not subject to the effects of judgment at all?

    • Thanks for your question, Kathy. Yes: according to this passage in Matthew, the wicked are subject to judgment (i.e., are taken away) and the righteous are not subject to that judgment.

  19. The rapture does not come from nor is found in the Olivet Discourse. It is revealed in I Thessalonians 4:13-18. I find the article missing the point completely because it is based on a wrong premise.

  20. A very counterintuitive view of that doctrine. You obviously make a strong case against what some of us believe.

  21. It’s so refreshing in the popular days of dispensationalism (sp. intentional) to hear a sound biblical presentation like this! I appreciate your good work. Blessings!

  22. That is the correct interpretation of that passage. Thank you for getting it correctly. At the rapture believers in Christ are taken up or raptured as in 1Thessalonians 4:13-18. The Lord comes in the air the dead in Christ and we who are alive are caught up to meet Him.

  23. This is great. Considering the context, a link to judgment during Noah’s time is the key. I understand that the Olivet discourse is mainly about Israel, and the rupture is for the Church (1Thess 4:17). I thinks making a distinction between Israel and the Church makes the topic more clear.

  24. Hello. Thanks for pointing out about the “Rapture”. Can you explain the Apostles ability to call down fire from heaven, and could that be relevant for believers today?

  25. Thank you for refuting almost two centuries of false teaching. The thought of believers being rescued from tribulation by a “rapture” is in direct opposition to the teachings of Jesus.

  26. I will have to study this. I have always believed the opposite view but I will definitely re-read these passages and study them thoroughly with the Thessalonians Scriptures.

  27. Wow ! I have always believed as a Christian, that as a saint I would join him as part of army of saints that are with him as avengers of evil.I will definitely go over that passage again !

  28. Noah was the one taken away into the ark of safety.while the left behind were judged. Apostle Paul explained in 2Thes. 4: 16+,& 2Corint 15. Jude quotes/ aludes to Noah’s Jesus return with the raptured. Pls, study well.

  29. Wow! Dr. Schaser, I never really understood this passage! Thank you for clearing this up. I wish I could learn to read and speak Hebrew so I could read the Bible as it is written. I have been confused by conflicting teachings.

  30. After years of reading the Scripture I tend to agree with you totally. Coming from a church background that preached The Rapture as I studied and went through the Bible I do not take that stand anymore. There is only one Great and Awsome Day of the Lord .

  31. Yes, it is definitely a head spinner for me. I have never heard this view before. I have gone back and forth on rapture of the saints being pre-trib, or mid-trib. With a growing conviction we will go through at least part of the tribulation. Christians need to be prepared.

  32. If only believers would read the Bible in context and study history, there would not be such confusion as to what the scriptures really are saying to us.Thanks for your help!

  33. Does ‭‭1 Thessalonians‬ ‭4:15-17‬ kind of paint a picture of a Rapture event where believers are taken off the earth? I’ve heard both versions of what being “taken” means and I’m certain that believers are definitely separate from those who are not. Thanks.

  34. This is a totally mind blowing way of looking at it than we have ever been told. If this is the literal interpretation, we have been looking at all wrong all of these years. I am totally blown away!

    • Yes, Terri. It’s a wonder how our conclusions can change when we actually read a passage in context 🙂

  35. But they, the righteous , are taken up briefly to meet the bridegroom before they return back ? 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 ?

  36. Mat. 24 shows Noah taken (removed) into the ark before the flood (judgement) took the people.
    Lk 17: 20-37 The flood, destruction of Sodom, God’s people were removed from the impending judgement.
    Could you break it down for me and reference your conclusion?
    Respectfully,
    Cheryl

    • Cheryl, Noah isn’t “taken” into the ark; he goes into the ark willingly because God tells him to do so. In Luke, Jesus refers to those who were destroyed in Sodom, rather than those who were saved from destruction. In a similar way, when the Son of Man returns, some people will be “taken” in judgment, just like people were judged in Sodom.

  37. Very clarifying teaching. Thank you. I fear the pre-trib rapture teaching has led us on many such unhelpful (to say the least) trails.

  38. Dr Eli. Exactly what I believe the bible teaches.I find so much wrong teaching on this subject that its ridiculous.I hope many people read this comment.

  39. Noah’s family was not “left behind” but rather “lifted up” in the ark, which illustrates Salvation in Christ: “This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day” (John 6:39).

    • Yes, Genesis states that the ark was “lifted” (nisa; Gen 7:17), but try not to read “rapture” into this, since the ark “rests” (Gen 8:4) on the earth after it is lifted by the floodwaters. That is, as with believers in 1 Thess 4:16-17, Noah and his family come back down to earth after being “lifted up” in the ark. When Jesus says that people will be “raised up” on the last day in John, he means raised up in bodily resurrection from the grave, not raised up in a rapture to heaven.

  40. Brilliant and if this message only could reach the wider public it would dispel a lot of unnecessary fear and worry. Once again thank you!

  41. Reading the biblical texts for what they are and not twisting them to say what we really want! What an odd idea? LOL.

    • Prof. Pinchas.
      I totally agree. I think with a lot of this intellectual pride is involved not to mention the almighty dollar.

  42. Finally! An article that helps me understand the phenomenon of ‘The Rapture’. It caused me great confusion when I was taught this by a fellow Christian as it didn’t FIT to me. Thank you, Dr. Schaser! My husband enjoyed the article, too.

  43. The Left Behind series is a fictional novel, not doctrine, so shouldn’t be referred to as doctrine. In the Deluge the righteous were lifted off the earth protected by God as He judged the wicked, then the righteous returned to the earth. A perfect picture of the coming Rapture.

  44. Thank you. I’ll be passing your message onto a Christian friend who firmly believes she will be raptured up, and wants to take me with her! She doesn’t want me to be left behind, and I’ve tried to tell her she certainly doesn’t want to be raptured up!

  45. I came to the same conclusion over forty years ago. Trust me on this one, you don’t want to teach or preach that in an evangelical protestant church! When I discovered the scriptures in the original text and meaning it really had an affect on my teaching.

  46. I differ with your comment because the Bible states that those are asleep in Christ will be the first to meet with Jesus in the clouds then the rest who are alive will follow.

  47. Noah and his family were saved from the wrath of God and God’s judgement. They were not left behind. They were taken from the wrath God poured out and judgement of God on the earth. They were protected.

    • Yes, Bev. Noah and his family were protected, but they were also “left behind” on earth when everyone else was “taken” by the floodwaters. Jesus states this explicitly in the passage under discussion.

  48. This is how I have read this for the past forty years. Those taken will face judgment without the loving support of our Advocate. This is a subject most people do not study for themselves. This site confirms truths that were revealed to me long ago. Praise His Name!

  49. Great explanation btw, but I am curious how you view Mt 24:31, just before this, with Jesus saying He will send out His angels to gather His Elect?

    • Good question, Brett. Gathering the elect doesn’t mean “gathering the church to heaven in the rapture,” but rather gathering those Jews who have been scattered in exile (i.e., the lost 10 tribes) as well as Gentiles who populate the nations outside of Israel.

  50. The person being taken is part of Jesus coming after the 7 yrs after the rapture…Mt 24:31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. This

  51. All one has to do is read the passage in context. Look at v.39, “The flood came and swept them away”. This is the same idea as one being taken away in v. 40.

  52. This is totally contrary to anything I’ve been taught. What does scripture mean in 1Thess.4 about being taken up with Him in the air?

  53. So what does that parable of the 10 virgins mean? And how does Revelation play into all of this? The trumpets? The bowls? The 3 1/2 years of peace and then 3 1/2 years of tribulation? My world is being rocked! Is there a class on this????

  54. So Dr. what you state is that there is going to be a rapture before Yeshua is coming, and it will be the wicked and not the christians?
    I also teach this in our Bible school, I feel that christians have to know all, even the false view’s(pre,mid&after rapture theories)

  55. First the reference for the Left Behind Series does not come from Luke so lets start there it comes from the Word From in the Sixth Church the Church at Philadelphia Jesus promises the faithful I will keep you from the hour of trial coming on the world, not through.

  56. Next the Writings of Paul who wrote two thirds of the New Testament. The Word is Harpozo Snatched From in Matt. 24: 31, “and HE will send HIS angels… and they will gather… HIS elect from the four corners of heavens to the other.”

  57. The writer of the article is doing the something read all the Prophecies, and the Rapture was accepted in the earliest Church with the Writings of Policarp 90 a. d. He was one if John’s Disciples but not the only proponent of the rapture of the church.

  58. I am enjoying your series. I downloaded the one about Ruth, but it was lost before I could read it. She is one of my favorite Bible Characters. Could I get another download? Thank you.

  59. Right on brother ! My only “complaint/observation,etc.” is that those who need to come to this realization the most will never read this. Keep up the good work

  60. Interesting, but how does that fit with 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17?
    Perhaps being “left behind” for the flood and being left behind in the NT have different connotations. Meeting the Lord in the air doesn’t sound like being left on the earth.

  61. This is a real eyeopener. Thank you for revealing this. Here I was thinking I wanted to be raptured, but not so, I want to be left behind if it means sharing in the eternal kingdom of God and worshipping the LORD forever. Amen.

  62. WOW!!! I would of never have seen this meaning at all. It makes since when compared to Noah’s account. Thank you for more thought on this.

  63. Interesting. But how do you relate your thoughts to St Paul’s writing in 1Th 4: 13-17, which in my mind explains the rapture in clearer details that those taken will be with Jesus, and spared the judgment?
    Thanks.

  64. Speaking of the “Left Behind” series: it also implies some “left behind” can still be saved. I believe those left behind in the “rapture” cannot be saved>

  65. You must read the entire scripture pertaining to Noah. The Lord tells Noah “come inside”, not go inside. Then when they are safely inside, the door is closed by God, and the wrath of God comes upon the earth. Those inside escape (Rapture).

  66. You have clearly twisted the interpretation. The harpazo will snatch up the true believers to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Leaving the non-believing through the 7 years of tribulation and suffering, just as the wicked were left behind to the turmoil of the flooding waters. Repent

  67. When you read/sing the Psalms you get the picture that the wicked are cut off or carried away and the righteous inherit the earth. Like Psalm 37.

  68. I see a great confusion here. Are you mixing the Second Coming with the Rapture. The word Rapture is in the Latin Vulgate and in the greek “harpadzo.” Then see Rev. 3:10 and other scriptures. The Great White Throne Judgement is the gathering and judgement of those found without Christ.

  69. Then those who are LEFT should meet Jesus in the clouds as Noah was LEFT in the Ark safely while those who are TAKEN should face tribulation in this world…so I guess the word CAUGHT UP is the same as LEFT. Just reversed the implications of the words. Thank you.

  70. You mention dispensationalism. Traditional Christianity teaches the church age, ending with second coming then segues into the 1000 reign of Messiah on earth and then the new heaven and earth will come. Being that there will be no Rapture, do you hold to this sequence of prophetical events?
    J.

    • Thanks for your question, Jerry. While I wouldn’t use terminology like “the church age,” and I consciously go out of my way to avoid a systematic eschatology in which every bit of chronology is neatly compartmentalized, I affirm the second coming, an ensuing messianic reign, and the new heaven/new earth.

  71. Shalom. Thank you for an accurate interpretation. I have never embraced the “Rapture” theory. My cousin wih the PHD thought the “Left Behind Series” was exactly how it would happen. I think one reason so many people believe in the “Rapture” is because of wishful thinking. Believers would not be told what to watch for if they are not going to be here.

  72. I think many evangelicals would take a more critical look at dispensationalism if they knew it originated with a Jesuit priest, Francisco Ribera, who wrote of it in 1590 in his commentary on Revelation. I’m no historian; as far as I’ve read he was the first to say these things.

  73. Hot topic! And too vast to discuss in a single article. Very true, most rapture passages we read out of context but luckily there’s plenty others left in context. I’ve learnt about the discourses from Dr Andy Woods. Mind shift!

  74. Would it not still make more sense to say that the ones who are taken are believers to meet Jesus in the air and the ones left being left to destruction at his appearing?Are you saying the ones taken are taken to destruction and the ones left meet him?

    • Yes, according to Jesus the ones who are “taken” are taken to destruction, and the ones who are “left behind” are the ones who meet him in his Father’s kingdom, which will be on a new earth in which the disciples sit as judges over the 12 tribes of Israel (Matt 19:28), along with the righteous of other nations (cf. Matt 8:11; 25:31-46).

  75. I see in OT THE day of the Lord, One day, not 2. I don’t see in scripture Jesus saying he was coming twice otherwise why should we hold fast, run the race and persevere to the end which we will clearly be in tribulation at some point. Faith.

  76. Have a Rabbi read you Gen 3:15. Every word is too vital to risk translation error. But effectively, the serpent wins bringing the curse of death Hashem warned of, so he gets crushed at psalm 22, by the woman’s seed. The first coming.

  77. Dr. Schaser obviously believes that when a saint dies, they don’t go directly to heaven? Zech.14:5; Jude 1:14, both refute this claim. Thes. 1:4 informs us that those saints who had died, return with Christ and those who remain and alive, are caught up (snatched) into the CLOUDS to (cont.)

  78. be forever with Christ. During the tribulation, many saints, Jews and Gentiles turn to Christ for salvation. These are the tribulation saints, Christ comes to save with His army of saints Zech.14:5 who were previously dead or still alive. God does not allow the tribulation saints to go through (Cont.)

  79. When I read this scripture I said Noah wasn’t taken out of the flood, he was saved/protected in the flood. So, if this were the only scripture used, i would say that we are not taken out of the tribulation, but protected while going through the tribulation. I hadn’t noticed that the evil ones were taken .

  80. Why does Isaiah 11:2 say the Branch will have the fear of the Lord? Would my brother Jesus have that? Why does verse 4 match Rev 11:5 soo well? How does my brother, the only begotten Son of God, stay seated WHILE His enemies are made His footstool psalm110:1

    • “Fear” (יִרְאָה; yirah) in biblical Hebrew connotes “reverence,” not being “afraid.” Isa 11:2 states that the branch has reverence for God. While Isa 11:4 and Rev 11:5 are far from exact parallels, the verses are similar because the writer of Revelation knew Isaiah. The reference to enemies becoming a “footstool” in Ps 110 is metaphorical; since the text doesn’t describe making enemies into literal furniture, it’s best not to overanalyze the postural mechanics.

  81. Deuteronomy 18:16 shares an example of fear, and hell is one that needs little discussion. If fear means reverence, how do we describe these?

  82. I can not think of a greater time for Jacob’s trouble than the seven years of tribulation from 66-73 AD. Those that crucified their Messiah DID see their own judgement on their and their children’s heads when HE came in the clouds just as He said He would.

    • Doris, I would suggest that the blood-cry (Matt 27:25) does not constitute “judgment” on the people, but rather marks the moment at which the people call upon themselves Jesus’ “blood for the forgiveness of sins” (26:28), which shows how Matthew’s Jesus will “save his people from their sins” (1:21).

  83. Thank you for your comment but isn’t it possible that there are two meanings. One that Yeshua died BECAUSE man was sinful and the other that He was willing to die for us? No greater gift can a man give than he lay down his life for his fellowmen?

    • Thanks, Doris. Yes, it is certainly possible that there are multiple meanings — Matt 27:25, in particular, has been a locus of much scholarly debate, and you’re right to note that there are multiple levels of meaning at play here. In the case of the blood-cry, it’s important to note Matthew’s distinction between the sinful leaders of Israel (scribes, Pharisees, elders, and chief priests) and the common “people” of Israel whom Jesus comes to “save” from their own sins (1:21; cf. 2:6; 10:6; 15:24). The scribes and Pharisees shed the “righteous blood” of the prophets and wise men, both past and present (23:34-35), which is what makes the Temple “desolate” (23:38) and, ultimately, destroyed (24:1-2). In response to the scribes and Pharisees’ destructive sins, Jesus’ forgiving blood (26:28) goes on “all the people” (27:25) in order to save them from the sins for which they will no longer be able to offer sacrifices after the Temple is destroyed. In this way, Jesus’ blood stands in for that of the animal sacrifices as a proleptic “ransom for many” that will atone for his peoples’ sin even after the Temple is gone (20:28).

  84. Thank you Dr Nicholas. Although I hadn’t connected these verses in the way you have revealed, I have often struggled with the issue of the ‘rapture’ of believers and the fact of today’s Christians being daily murdered/tortured for their faith. My question has frequently been, ‘why would God allow this to happen now, but take away believers during the tribulation period?’ Nothing like being on the ‘outer’ when saying this to other Christians, especially mature (nothing to with age of) Christians. Much easier to teach new Christians, or teachable mature Christians than ‘old hands’.
    As a student of IBC I always enjoy your lectures. Always some challenging, as was as enlightening, moments.

  85. It is clear from some of the comments that dispensationalism(D) has blinded many to the truth found in scripture. Your teaching here is one that I too have believed for a long time. D also rends apart the seventy weeks of Daniel concerning the Messiah by ripping a week out

  86. In connection with this passage, Jesus’ answer in Luke 17:37 has always puzzled me. I’ve never been able to understand what Jesus meant by His answer. If you could shed some light on this, I’d appreciate it. Thanks!

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