Bible Question:

Does two men in the field, one taken and one left refer to the rapture?

Bible Answer:

Matthew 24:40-41 is a familiar passage of Scripture to many Christians. The passage has been quoted in movies and displayed on websites. Some believe it describes the rapture of Christians from the earth and others believe it describes events that occur at the Second Coming of Christ. Our question is to which does it refer, to the rapture or the Second Coming of Christ?

Then there will be two men 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. Matthew 24:40-41 (NASB)

Two Men In The Field

First Step – Examine The Context

The first important step we must take to determine the meaning of any verse is to examine the context, that is, the verses that came before and after. When we examine the verses preceding Matthew 24:40-41 we discover that these verses were part of Jesus description of the events that would occur at the Second Coming of Christ and not the rapture. There are two reasons for this conclusion.

The first reason that Matthew 24:40-41 refers to  the Second Coming of Christ is that the phrase “coming of the Son of Man” occurs three times in this chapter (verses 27, 37 and 39).  Jesus explains its meaning the first time it occurs. In verse 27,  Jesus told the disciples that at the coming of the Son of Man there will be lights in the sky.

For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be. Matthew 24:27 (NASB)

Then Jesus described the lights that would occur (v. 29-31).

But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.. Matthew 24:29-31 (NASB)

This passage describes the celestial events that will occur at the time of the Second Coming of Christ (Joel 2:10, 31; 3:15; Amos 8:9; Zechariah 14:7-8; Revelation 8:12). This reveals that the phrase “the coming of the Son of Man” refers to the Second Coming of Christ. That is how Jesus used the phrase in Matthew 24. For more information read “Is Matthew 24:30-31 about the rapture or second coming?” Therefore, this is the first reason that we know Matthew 24:40-41  describes an event that will occur at the Second Coming of Christ and not the rapture.

The second reason that Matthew 24:40-41 refers to what will happen at the Second Coming of Christ is that the phrase “will be taken” in verse 40 refers to “death.” Again, we will look at the preceding verses (v. 37-39).

For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. Matthew 24:37-39 (NASB)

We should mention that the phrase “the coming of the Son of Man” occurs two times in these three verses. Therefore, Jesus is continuing to describe events that would occur at the Second Coming of Christ.

Now notice that Jesus says that at “the coming of the Son of Man” people will be living for pleasure just as the people did at the time of Noah. Then when Noah entered the ark, the people were “unaware” or surprised. But they understood when the flood came. This reveals that Noah had been warning them of coming judgment and the flood. When the flood came, they were swept away by the water and drowned resulting in their deaths.

Carefully notice Jesus’ words in verse 39. He said those who were not inside the ark were taken away.  Noah and his family remained alive or were “left,” but everyone else was “taken away” or died. The flood “took them all away.” Then Jesus said,

Then there will be two men 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. Matthew 24:40-41 (NASB)

Now Jesus uses the same illustration of being taken away and being left. That is, those who are taken away will die and those who are left will remain and live. This is not a description of the rapture.

Second Step – Goat and Sheep Judgment

But who is taken and who is left? Jesus gives the answer in Matthew 25:31-46. This is called the Goat and Sheep Judgment. This judgment occurs after the Second Coming of Christ, after He victoriously wins the Battle of Armageddon (v. 31). Verse 32 states that all the nations will be gathered before Him and the goats and sheep will be separated. Then judgment follows and this judgment determines who will enter the millennial kingdom described in Revelation 20:4-6. Who will be left on the earth and enter the millennial kingdom? The answer is Christians.  Christians are are figuratively referred to as sheep who will enter the millennial kingdom (v. 33-34).

Non-Christians are figuratively referred to as goats who will be sent to hell (v. 41). The non-Christians are those Jesus said would be taken away in Matthew 24:40-41. They will die and be sent to hell. Only Christians will enter the millennial kingdom. For more information about the Goat and Sheep Judgment visit “When and where does the Goat and Sheep judgment occur?”

Conclusion:

Matthew 24:40-41 describes the Goat and Sheep judgment that will occur after the tribulation period is over. The Second Coming of Christ will have occurred and the world armies will have been defeated at the Battle of Armageddon. Matthew 24:40-41 does not describe the rapture.

Suggested Links:

When and where does the Goat and Sheep judgment occur?
Is Matthew 24:30-31 about the rapture or second coming?
The Millennial Kingdom
The King Reigns!
Second Coming of Christ
Second Coming of Christ, part 1
Second Coming of Christ, part 2
Does the rapture occur before the tribulation period?
Are the Old Testament saints resurrected at the rapture?
Can people become saved after the rapture?