Jesus Christ said, “Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left” (Matthew 24:40).
Countless Christians apply this verse to the “Great Disappearance” when believers will suddenly vanish – leaving their clothes, shoes, necklaces, and wedding rings on earth. Such an interpretation is professionally illustrated in Left Behind: The Movie. In many prophecy books on this subject, unbelieving spouses are described as waking up in the morning only to discover that their believing husbands or wives have been “taken” or raptured to heaven. All who are “left behind” must then endure the “seven years of Tribulation” and the rise of the Antichrist. But they have a “second chance” to be saved.
Is such an interpretation, popular though it may be, really what Jesus meant in Matthew 24:40? Let’s look closely at the context to find out.
Matthew 24:27 – Jesus said, “For as the lightning comes out of the east, and shines even to the west, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.”
This verse is clearly describing Christ’s visible and ultra-glorious Second Coming. Few disagree here.
Matthew 24:30, 31 – Jesus continued, “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 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 another.”
Once again, the Second Coming of Jesus Christ is clearly described. This coming will be literal, visible, loud, and glorious. All the world will see it.
Matthew 24:36 – “But of that day [the day of the Second Coming] and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but My father only.” once again, the context is the Second Coming.
Matthew 24:37-39 – “But as the days of Noah 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 Noah 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.” Jesus clearly compares His Second Coming with Noah’s flood. This flood came suddenly upon the lost “and took them all away.”
In other words, they were lost – with no second chances. Christ said, “…so shall the coming of the Son of man be.”
Matthew 24:40 – “THEN [capitols added] shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken and the other left.”
The all-important question is: When is “then”? Does this verse describe the sudden disappearance of millions of Christians before a seven-year period of tribulation, as is taught in Left Behind? Or is it talking about the salvation of one and the destruction of another at the Second Coming of Jesus – at the end of the world? For those willing to closely examine the context, the answer is clear. According to the preceding verses of Matthew 24:27, 30, 31, 36, 37-39, the answer is – “one shall be taken” and “one shall be left” at the visible (vs. 27), audible (vs. 31), glorious (vs. 30) flood-like (verses 37-39) Second Coming of Jesus Christ! And just like in Noah’s day, when that time finally comes there will be no second chances.