Often, expressions are used referring to the rapture as though we Christians will be evacuated from this world and those left behind will be destroyed. Though it may be unintentional, this seems to be partially used to induce fear while giving those Christians who have been made to fear the world some comfort that they’ll eventually be taken away. This leaves us with a “hate the world” and “can’t wait to escape” mentality. Our Christian walk then becomes a waiting game to be taken away, excusing us from doing any good that we might be made for in this world since it is doomed anyway (Note: I’m not talking about obligation based “good”). My intent is that when we realize what the Kingdom is and that it is here with us—that we are citizens of it now—then our desire becomes to show that kingdom through ourselves to help others enter in. Yet, we’re caught in a conundrum, called to be the salt and light to a world we condemn to hell.
If the full context of the passages are considered, the solution to this contradiction can be a little more clear.
The first verse often misunderstood is Matthew 24:40-41:
Then 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.
Usually, this verse is taken to mean that some will be left behind for destruction during the rapture. The entire context of this chapter is explained through the era leading up to the Temple’s destruction. When the Romans would invade a territory that was being obstinate like Israel was, they would make examples by randomly taking one person and leaving the other behind. The one taken was usually executed. Those that were “left behind” were the ones not destroyed. Jesus was warning that if Israel persisted in rebellion, they would be destroyed by Rome and there would be a lot of needless death of even those who weren’t fighting and were trying to live their normal, everyday lives. Jesus was trying to show them how to truly live, now, in this world, by loving our neighbors and especially our enemies.
The next verse that is often tied to the above is 1 Thessalonian 4:17:
then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. So we will be with the Lord forever.
These two verses so far are speaking of two different instances. The first speaks of the Roman invasion to crush the Jewish rebellion. The second speaks of Jesus returning at the end of time. It’s understandable how these two can be amalgamated and confused, but context is very important. The context of this “caught up together with them in the clouds” is referencing how people of the time would welcome a returning king and his army. This wasn’t the inhabitants abandoning their current home to go off to some different place and leave everyone else behind for destruction. This was the king returning to once again rule over his kingdom. The area’s inhabitants would be “called out” from where they were to go out and meet the king, ushering him back into the city. When Jesus returns, we will be called up to usher our King into his rightful position as Ruler of the World! This would have been a very common concept at the time when these passages were written.
Verse three is John 14:2-3:
In my Father’s house are many homes. If it weren’t so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and will receive you to myself; that where I am, you may be there also.
Again, if we just try to take this verse away from the context of everything else Jesus was speaking about, we’re left with an egress statement. However, even within these same verses, Jesus talks about coming back for these specific disciples. I take this to mean his return through the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. But what about the “homes” in the Father’s house? Jesus often talked about the Kingdom as it being imminent (John 4:23-24, Matthew 3:2). The spiritual kingdom Jesus has already brought. It is now being built up by him and through us. The Kingdom of Heaven is among us (Luke 17:21). We continue to assume it is in some far-off place, but Jesus spoke as it being a reality that the disciples already knew how to enter in to (John 14:4).
There is much more to these concepts and many more passages that can be explored. I tried to be as direct and to the point as possible. The focus is, though—God’s plan isn’t to destroy what he created—it is to redeem all of creation through Jesus (Colossians 1:19-20)!
Disclaimer: Please note these are all my personal interpretations through Biblical study and putting trust in God that he really is love. I encourage anyone reading this to search the scriptures to find the truth relevant to your personal walk with God.