Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Rapture: Who's Really Left Behind?

As a young Jesus freak, I worked alongside Larry Norman at the Hollywood Free Paper. While he was singing "I Wish We'd All Been Ready" to throngs of young believers, I was drawing cartoons for the HFP where I depicted Christians being caught up in the air with Jesus. Those days are long gone, and Larry Norman is now with Jesus.Years later over dinner in a Toronto restaurant, Larry remarked to everyone else at our table that "we survived the Jesus movement." By that, he meant that our faith remained INTACT. We did not fall away or lose faith in our Lord.  But where is our blessed hope today? Does it reside in a pre-trib rapture, or in His Second Coming?

Dale Yancy in radio studio 1973
In perhaps the best-known teaching about the end times and the inspiration for Larry Norman's song (I Wish We'd All Been Ready),  in Matthew 24:37-44, Jesus describes his second coming: "...two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left." There is one key which unlocks our understanding of this passage and it is found in Matthew 24:37-39:

As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also shall the coming of the Son of Man be.

Twice in this passage, Jesus says the coming of the Son of Man will be "as it was in the days of Noah" (v. 37) and again, in case we missed it in v. 39. Anytime Jesus repeats himself, it's worth cleaning out your ears to listen carefully to what he is saying. Jesus here is talking about two groups of people: One is righteous Noah and by implication, his family; they are saved and they are not caught by surprise. The other is the unrighteous, who are described in Genesis 6:5 as wicked with every intent of their heart set upon doing evil. This group was caught by surprise. It was their wickedness that prompted the flood which came upon them and took them all away. The key to understanding this passage is "taken away." Who was taken away? The evil and wicked. Who was left behind? Righteous Noah and his family. We are told twice that the Second Coming of Jesus will happen just like this: Two men will be in the field; One will be taken and one will be left behind. Who is taken up? The wicked man. Who is left behind? The righteous man. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left behind. Who is taken? The wicked woman. Who is left behind? The righteous woman. This is the rapture as described by Jesus in Matthew 24. The wicked are taken away with no chance to experience the triumphant reign of Jesus here on earth at his Second Coming. Question to all those who teach the pre-trib rapture: Haven't you thought it strange that according to your belief system, unrighteous are here on the earth to greet Jesus at his second coming? Doesn't that seem strange? Do they all of a sudden get religion, or get a pass, and get to sit at the banqueting table with Jesus upon His return? Whereas, the rapture that is described in Matt. 24 removes the wicked from the earth prior to Christ's return.

In Luke 17:26-36, we have a different version of this teaching where Jesus twice speaks of two persons, only one of whom will be taken. Here Jesus refers not only to the flood but also to the story of Lot and the destruction of Sodom. In the story of Lot, the righteous are taken away from Sodom while only the ones left behind are destroyed. The important differences between Noah and Lot resides in the last day judgment referenced to in Matthew 24 in the account of Noah is a judgment on the whole earth. The Lot story is not about global judgment but only the judgment of two cities.

In my next post, I will finish this teaching with a look at 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and how it is used as a proof text for the rapture. Does it really teach the disappearance of all the saints?

In closing, I have started reading a book by John Piper, "God is the Gospel." The Good News is NOT the rapture; it's not even that God loves me or you. The Good News is God Himself. That you and I can know Him and be known by Him. Our pursuit and blessed hope should not be the rapture, but God Himself. Knowing the Father as revealed by His Son, Jesus. That we could say along with David in Psalm 73:26, "God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." Or as Paul writes in Philippians 3:8 (ESV) 
8"Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ."

This is why we have been bought with a price. We have been called out of darkness into the light so that we might have a relationship with the Lord God Almighty. He is the Good News. Knowing Him and having Him is enough. What else is there?


  1. Mark NarankeviciusJune 19, 2011 at 1:57 PM

    Good article Dale! I believe you and I are at the same understanding about the rapture. Ruth and I have been Calvary Chapel for quite some time now and probably will be for years to come, but that is the only major bone I have to pick with CC. They are steadfast in their belief about the pre-trib rapture and I don't believe in it at all. I've spent hours debating this issue with people, but I know I'm not going to change CC, so since it's an in house argument I've decided to let it sit. It really is the only major qualm I have with them, so I'm content in that. It always gives me joy though to see others who actually read the Scripture for what it's saying and not forcing their own little doctrines onto the text. Well written and explained - I look forward to the next one!

  2. Well-said. There is so much confusion being circulated about "the end", with so many people sharing a message tending more towards fear than anything else. Yet, as you point out: "The Good News is God Himself."

  3. Dale, here is the link to the Hollywood Free Paper I told you about.

    Check it out!

  4. Very interesting link Renee...Thanks!