By Brannon Howse
The Scripture: Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. 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. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
The Twist: Some teach that the “thief in the night” and “one will be taken and the other left” refer to the rapture of the Church.
In brief: Matthew 24:40-44 is talking about the second coming of Jesus Christ, not the rapture. The people Jesus refers to as being taken are not believers. They are unbelievers being taken to judgment. The ones who are “left behind” are believers who go into Christ’s millennial kingdom.
At least part of this misunderstanding traces back to—of all things—a 1972 movie called A Thief in the Night. In the trailer for the film, a radio newscaster declares that the occurrence of people who have vanished may be the fulfillment of Matthew 24 and the rapture. The producers of this movie used Matthew 24 to describe the rapture even though Matthew 24 is not about the rapture but the Second Coming of Christ. Did the people who produced this film not study Scripture before they produced the film and used Matthew 24 as their proof text? I guess not. Let me share with you a transcript from a portion of the film’s trailer:
Radio news reporter:
Reports keep coming in from all over the globe, confirming it as true. To say that the world is in a state of shock this morning would be to understate the situation. The event seems to have taken place at the same time all over the world, just about 25 minutes ago. Suddenly and without warning literally thousands, perhaps millions, of people just disappeared. New eye witness accounts of these disappearances have not been clear, but one thing is certainly sure, millions who were living on this earth last night are not here this morning. Speculation is running high that some alien force from outside our system has declared war on our planet. And some feel it to be a spectacular judgment of God…The chairman of the Church Confederation has reported that this might actually be the rapture spoken of in some areas of theology. He says, and I quote, “Of course, even if it is something like the rapture, we need not panic. The very fact that we are here and able to discuss it is sign enough that it is not all-inclusive.” End of quotation. The events spoken of in the Hebrew-Christian Scriptures is described somewhat in the Gospel of Saint Matthew, Chapter 24, verses 36 and on, and Jesus Christ is reported to be the speaker. And he says, and I quote, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels in Heaven, but my Father only.”
So that we don’t make the same mistake as the producers of A Thief in the Night, let’s do what we always do, and use Scripture to interpret Scripture. For instance, 2 Peter 3:10 also speaks of the Day of the Lord. (You’ll recall that The Day of the Lord is any time God intervenes in the affairs of men to bring judgment.) First we have to ask, “Which Day of the Lord are we talking about?” One Day of the Lord will be the second coming of Christ at which time Christ defeats Satan, the Antichrist, and all those who follow him. Another Day of the Lord is the one discussed here in 2 Peter 3:10:
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.
At the end of the thousand-year millennial reign, this Earth will be destroyed. People these days worry that we’re all going to die because of global warming, but we’re not—at least not from man-made global warming. Why? Because 2 Peter 3:7 tells us that the earth will be preserved until the Day the Lord destroys it:
But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
What people better worry about is God-made global warming. At the end of the thousand-year millennial reign, this world will be destroyed, and God will create a new heaven and a new earth. That’s what 2 Peter 3:10 is talking about.
We also see that 1 Thessalonians 5:2-5 speaks of the Day of the Lord:
For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness.
And which Day of the Lord is this referring to? This one is a reference to the second coming of Christ.
To properly understand Scripture and God’s ultimate plan for history, it’s important to keep our Days of the Lord straight. The next time you hear Matthew 24 used to talk about the rapture, you’ll be able to untwist the misunderstanding and explain which Day of the Lord the passage really refers to.
Copyright 2014 ©Brannon Howse. This content is for Situation Room members and is not to be duplicated in any form or uploaded to other websites without the express written permission of Brannon Howse or his legally authorized representative.