Jesus’s words in the Olivet Discourse (recorded in three of the four Gospels) are, to many “Pre-Trib” believers, strong evidence that there is a soon-coming Rapture of all true followers of Christ. Like many prophetic passages in the scriptures, there is an element of mystery in these verses, and that is precisely why not all Bible scholars agree on their true meaning. I believe, however, that in our day the Lord is making clear to those willing to delve into just what He was communicating regarding what would be going on just before His return for his bride, the Church.
Although there are always those who would disagree, it is apparent that Jesus was clearly discussing in this discourse two different appearances He would be making at the end of the age: the first being the Rapture of the Church, and the second being His return marking the end of the Tribulation. His discussion of the Rapture is highlighted beginning at the 36th verse of the 24th chapter of Matthew, where he discusses how no one will know the day or hour of his appearance, and the earth’s condition will be “business as usual,” just as it was in the days of Noah before the flood.
One area of confusion in this and other references to this discussion relates to His warnings (see Matthew, Chapter 24, verses 40-41 ) that, “Two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left,” and “Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left.” Another reference to this discussion is contained in Luke 17: verses 22 through 37. In this latter recording, Jesus states that, “Two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left. ‘Where Lord?’ they (the disciples) asked. He replied, ‘Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.’”
The reason many get confused about the above passages is that, if in this portion of the Olivet Discourse the Lord is clearly talking about the pre-tribulation rapture, why would the people that are “taken” apparently end up being left behind and vulnerable to becoming dead bodies at the feet of vultures? Isn’t the Rapture an event where the people taken are removed from earth to be “evermore with the Lord,” and the people left behind are forced to remain and endure the ravages of the Tribulation?
The clue to addressing this concern lies in Jesus’s words wherein he discusses the plight of those lost in Noah’s day. He explained that those not entering the ark did not know what was upon them “until the flood came and took them all away.” (Matthew 24, verse 39.)
Therefore, in the context of Jesus’s discussion of the parallel between our day and the days of Noah, He is clearly using the word-picture of being “taken” to describe being left out of God’s deliverance for those who know and serve Him – and not the departure of the Church from this planet to be with the Lord.
It is interesting that Jesus also mentions during this “Pre-Trib Rapture” portion of the discourse, “Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it” (Luke 17:33).
If during this time period when business is booming, people are marrying, and the planet is relatively at rest, why does He consider it important to emphasize a need we should have to preserve our lives? Is it possible He is not so much speaking about concerns we’d have regarding saving our physical lives from death, but rather cautioning us to be careful not to compromise our Christian faith and commitment in an effort to avoid missing out on living a life with abundant worldly rewards?
Think of brothers and sisters in Christ who at this very hour, in our own country, are losing their livelihoods, their positions in society, along with the fellowship and respect of friends and family members solely because they refuse to bow to the gods of political correctness and laws and regulations that are contrary to their Christian beliefs. Are not these, for whom we feel sympathy when we read about them in today’s news accounts, actually living in a manner worthy of preserving their lives despite the financial hardship and scorn they are willingly opening themselves up to?
Is a day perhaps approaching when many of the rest of us will also have to choose between living life to its fullest (in a worldly sense), or sacrificing the treasures and joys of this life in order to please the Lord?
Recognizing the reality that we are living in the very last of the last days before the Lord’s return to rapture his Church should encourage all of us to believe that there is nothing this present life offers that surpasses the reward we’ll receive if we choose to be totally committed and obedient to Him, regardless of the cost.