What did Jesus mean by his analogy comparing the time of his coming with the days of Noah and Lot and who are those taken and who are those left behind?
I received this email this week about "the days of Noah" rapture text:
Hello once again, Tim,
Have read your e-book..extremely interesting. I certainly hadn't viewed Revelation as being literally interpreted..you have encouraged me to search the Word more frequently and considering some of those more difficult scripture in that light.
My question is in regard to Matthew 24:36-44. Could you please tell me where you would place this event in the time-line of things, and how does it relate to the place of safety, and the 144,000. I have also heard it explained that the wicked would be taken, and the righteous "kept" or left behind as in the Days of Noah. How do you view this?
Thanks for your time on this question.
Thank you for your feedback. I love hearing how the plain literal interpretations I teach have encouraged someone to study God's words more than ever because they feel they can understand things.
The Days of Noah'...
Now, you asked about this passage:
Matthew 24:36-44 —
36 "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.
37 "But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
38 "For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark,
39 "and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
40 "Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left.
41 "Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left.
42 "Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.
43 "But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into.
44 "Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
The question of who is taken and who is left here is one of my favorite Bible prophecy questions. Talk about "the difficult words of Jesus", this one had me confused for many years. Taken where, to a good place or bad? Why is only "one" left and "one" taken? Is a 50% "rapture-rate" the point of the message? But this is typical with the high difficulty level of the Bible.
Exactly What Will Be 'Just like the Days of Noah'?
To understand this, first we need to be clear just what day and event Jesus is specifically speaking about as being "just like in the days of Noah." He mentions this is about the "coming of the Son of Man." Let's back up to the subject in verses 29-31 (skipping verses 32-35 about the Parable of the Fig Tree) to make no mistake about which day this is.
Matthew 24:29-31 —
29 "Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
30 "Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
31 "And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.
So this is the rapture right after Satan's 3½ year/42 month/1260 day Great Tribulation of wrath is completed. Jesus comes to gather his elect with the help of his angels into the sky on the last trumpet, the very Day of Trumpets or the "last trump" that Paul spoke of (1Cor 15:52).
This correlates to the seventh trumpet of Revelation which of course precedes the seven bowls of God's actual wrath, now that Satan's short time is done (Rev 12:12). That ten-day wrath of God ends with the Second Coming of Jesus for the Battle of Armageddon as Rev 19 depicts.
Please note that the "wrath of God and the Lamb" pronounced at the 6th seal is a red herring or misdirection. It is important to notice who is giving it that label: the masses of the world, not God, Messiah, John or an angel. The panicked masses assume "It's Judgment Day!!" because of how terrible the global Wormwood cataclysm that start at the 6th seal is.
But besides the two apparent wraths of God, there are other obstacles to understanding this. If you read this account alone where it says "the flood took them all away" you can come away with the idea that "one shall be taken" is referring to dying as those outside Noah's Ark did. It helps greatly to read the parallel account in Luke which tells us it will be just like in the days of Noah and just like in the days of Lot. So it's up to us to consider them both and understand what both times had in common in order to draw the proper lesson from Jesus' analogies for the day of the rapture:
Luke's Account Clears the Bad Connotation to "Taken"
Luke 17:26-37 —
26 "And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man:
27 "They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.
28 "Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built;
29 "but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all.
30 "Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.
31 "In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back.
32 "Remember Lot's wife.
33 "Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.
34 "I tell you, in that night there will be two men in one bed: the one will be taken and the other will be left.
35 "Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left.
36 "Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left."
37 And they answered and said to Him, "Where, Lord?" So He said to them, "Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together."
Did you notice from what I highlighted how this account differs? Luke says that the flood "destroyed them all" not "took them"...on the very day Noah entered the safety of the ark. Now we're getting somewhere. Further, he says about the days of Lot that those left behind after Lot left for safety were also "destroyed"...also on the very same day. Hopefully now the question of whether you want to be left or taken is clear. Jesus is telling us that God is consistent and that just as with the rescue of the righteous before past judgements, also in our time on the very same day that we are gathered to the sky in the "rapture" the judgement of God will fall on the Earth. Which judgement is that? The seven bowls are identified in Revelation as the wrath of God following the 7th trumpet (whereas in contrast, the seals and trumpets are not God's judgements, although the group of all 21 events are often incorrectly collectively labeled as such).
The lesson of this passage is this: "be ready" because you will "not know" in advance exactly when the rapture will happen, and there will be no time to get ready once it starts because (the first bowl of) God's Judgement will follow immediately after-just as in the days of Noah and just as in the days of Lot! If you want to be among those "taken" to heaven before judgement rains on earth you had better start now.
If Everyone Is Gathered, Why are Some Working and Some Sleeping?
This passage and others seem to contradict the single "place of safety" view that Revelation 12 teaches, or that God's servants will be gathered in one place. The problem is in how Jesus mentions that some will be working in the fields and at baking and some will be sleeping. This makes no sense unless those taken are scattered on different sides of the world. Another problematic passage is Mark 13:27 which says, "He will send out the angels and gather His elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky." Again, why would there be such language unless those raptured were not scattered everywhere?
This is where understanding the 144,000 and their mission comes to the rescue. My book demonstrates that the 144,000 are the ones who receive and broadcast the three angel messages (Rev 14:6-13) which fulfills the end time return of the preaching of Jesus' Gospel of the Kingdom message that Jesus predicted (Mt 24:14). If you ever wondered why the 144,000 alone have the mobile protection from Satan's attacks (Rev 7;9:4), that is why. They alone will need it because they will be out delivering the witness to the world before the end comes. The rest of God's servants will be in a single safe place for the duration of the Great Tribulation as Revelation 12 describes.
Therefore, when the rapture happens, God will have some living servants in every part of the world. In this way, those taken will come from nearly every time zone or from parts of the world where it is morning, noon and night just as this parable depicts through the two women baking bread, two men working in the field and two sleeping in the same bed, respectively. If it was not for the protected 144,000 still being out providing the witness up until the end of the Great Tribulation, Jesus could not have described the three parts of day scenarios affected by the rapture!
Other Misunderstandings Resolved
By the way, this passage highlights a grave misunderstanding about the "Great Tribulation". Who is it a "trouble" to? Everyone? No. Only God's people (and those few nonconformists who reject the mark). According to Jesus it's going to be a time of great prosperity full of expectation and planning for a bright future for the majority who took the mark. The reward for taking the Mark of the Beast will be no empty promise. The Beast will rebuild the world devastated by Wormwood as the 6th seal through 4th trumpet graphically record. But sudden destruction will come upon everyone after 1260 days of this utopia, right after angels are visibly seen taking God's people to safety (and it will culminate nine days later with the 7th bowl on Tishrei 10, Yom Kippur, the Day of the Lord when Jesus returns as Rev 19=Lev 16 describes).
Finally, I hope this helps you see what "just in the days of Noah" really means...and what it does not mean as Jesus used it. It's not talking about giants coming back, or a flood, or something else from Noah's day being seen again as many mistake it. The specific point Jesus was drawing from the analogy to Noah's time was that God's judgment always falls right after he takes his people out, as Lot's time also demonstrates.