Matthew 24:40-41

by Travis Bookout

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“Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left.  Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left” (Matthew 24:40-41).

This passage is one of the most important for those who believe in the Rapture.  This post isn’t meant to go into much detail about Rapture theology, just to look at what we can learn from these two verses.  These verses vividly depict the separation of believer and nonbeliever at the coming of Christ.  Matthew 24 begins with a discussion of the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in AD 70 (Matthew 24:1-35), then concludes with a discussion of the 2nd coming of Jesus at the end of time (Matthew 24:36-26:1).

This passage looks a lot like what will probably be depicted in the upcoming movie “Left Behind.”  One day there will be masses of people who disappear, vanish, and are taken, caught up, or raptured to be with God in heaven.  Everyone else will be left behind.  At least, that is a common view of the beginning of the end.  Is that the picture that this verse is really painting?

Let’s look at a few of the words used and try to figure this thing out.  The most important words to consider are probably “taken” and “left.”  The word for “taken” is also often translated as “received” (John 1:11; 14:3; 1 Corinthians 11:23; 15:1, 3; Galatians 1:9, 12; Colossians 2:6).  The word for “left” is translated numerous ways: “send away, divorce, forgive,” etc.  It has the idea of removal; whether removing sins, removing a spouse, or removing certain people.

A legitimate way to translate Matthew 24:40-41 could be, “Then two men will be in the field; one will be received and one sent away.  Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be received and one sent away.”  I think this is a preferable translation because it really gets at the heart of what the passage is teaching: there will be a swift separation that takes place at judgment with the coming of the Son of Man.

This is illustrated well in the parables that follow in Matthew 25.  Notice Matthew 25:32-33, “Before Him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.”  To those on His right He will say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom” (25:34).  But to those on the left, He will say, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (25:41).  Some will “come” and some must “depart.”  That sounds a lot like being “received” and being “sent away.”  Jesus ends the discussion by mentioning eternal separation, “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

When Jesus comes, whether you are working in the field, grinding at the mill, living your everyday life and minding your own business, you will be judged.  Some will be received by the Lord and some will be sent away from Him.  No Rapture theology is needed to understand these verses.  But more important than simply understanding what will happen, is being prepared for it.  Make sure that you are prepared for the coming of the Lord.