A Pre-Tribulation Rapture?


For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.  - Matthew 24:27




Does “taken away” mean raptured?

by Bill Wong





Much is made of what Matthew 24 says about how people suddenly disappear before tribulation. This is interpreted by believers of a pre-tribulation rapture to mean the Lord Jesus will return briefly or secretly to take away or “rapture” His saints before tribulation begins so these saints will be spared the trials such a tribulation will surely have.


But is this what God is really trying to tell us?


Let us look at what the Bible really tells us about those who will be gone when the Lord returns.

This is how Matthew 24:37-44 reads below.


Matthew 24:

37   But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.

38   For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage,

     until the day that Noah entered the ark,

39   and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.

40   Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left.

41   Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left.

42   Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.

43   But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come,

     he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into.

44   Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.   (NKJV)



The context of verses 37-42 clearly indicates a comparison with what happened to the people (not Noah and his family) during the days of the great flood. And what happened to them? We know they all perished. The Lord tells us they were completely oblivious to impending doom. They lived with reckless abandon and were suddenly taken away. What took them away? It was the flood: destruction and death.   The Lord is drawing a parallel about how those in Noah’s day were unprepared and taken away – killed, by the “sudden” coming of the flood. The Lord describes it in verses 40-41 as one out of every two people will be taken in such a manner – taken by surprise and destroyed. It is NOT a disappearance due to a rapture as popularized in the “Left Behind” series, where pilotless planes and driverless cars careen out of control from a sudden “rapture”, but one out of two people will be taken – perish, at the Lord’s return.


Reading further in Matthew 24, the Lord again uses a parable with a thief theme. Verses 43-44 are telling us we must be prepared before the Lord returns, otherwise something bad will happen to us if we are not prepared: “if the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.”


Therefore, the Bible makes it clear that to be unprepared is to expect to be taken away, and the term “taken away or took away” has a negative connotation – NOT a positive one.


Otherwise, why would there be a need for this warning if the Lord will supposedly come to rapture His saints before tribulation?


However, a pre-tribulation rapture doctrine uses the term “taken away” as a positive term – to avoid the tribulation. This is not what the Bible says. Not only this, but instead of what the Bible says, that to be unprepared is to be taken away (negative), this doctrine distorts the entire context of Matthew 24 to say what is exactly opposite: to be prepared is to be taken away (positive).


According to believers in a pre-tribulation rapture, it means the suddenness of His appearance and their disappearance in being “taken away” or “raptured” to Him before the tribulation begins. But this is not what the Scriptures are saying. Pre-tribulation rapture believers are reinterpreting for themselves what being taken away means. However, the Bible’s parallel examples indicate that being suddenly taken away is actually associated with sudden destruction – that is just simply what it says.




The context of Matthew 24 tells us something bad will happen to us if we are not prepared (taken away/destroyed) and something good will happen if we are prepared (not taken away/not destroyed); see below.  




The Bible’s equation tells us:


Not be prepared = you will be taken away (negative; destroyed suddenly like a flood taking you away)


And therefore:


To be prepared = you will not be taken away (destroyed)




The pre-tribulation rapture’s equation tells us:


Be prepared = you will be taken away (positive; raptured from tribulation)


And therefore:


To not be prepared = you will not be taken away (raptured)




One should immediately note two things:


1. The equations used by a pre-tribulation rapture are NOT found in the Bible,

     but the Bible equations are both attested to in Scripture and in Matthew 24 specifically.


2. We can see that the Bible just simply does not say and makes it impossible to have “taken away”

    mean something “good” (raptured) if we are unprepared. Rather, God says if we are unprepared

    something “bad” (taken away = destruction) will happen to us. There is no way around this.




After all, should we not wonder why the Lord Jesus would use the flood as an example of Himself and His coming if being “taken away” was supposed to be a rapture when the Bible says the flood came suddenly and destroyed all who were disobedient?   The Lord knows what of He speaks and He is likening his 2nd appearance to the flood because He will likewise bring sudden destruction upon the unprepared. The Lord’s warning cry for us to not be caught unprepared is attested to everywhere in the New Testament and the Christian cannot avoid this truth.


To highlight the fact that being taken away at the Lord’s coming is NOT a rapture to spare believers from tribulation, but rather destruction for the unprepared, God caps off Matthew 24 with another parable that should shock readers due to its bold and indisputable meaning:


Matthew 24:

45   "Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season?

46   Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing.

47   Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods.

48   But if that evil servant says in his heart, 'My master is delaying his coming,'

49   and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards,

50   the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of,

51   and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (NKJV)



So in Matthew 24:37-51, the Lord Jesus makes three comparisons about Himself where He will come with sudden destruction to the unprepared:


1.      He comes like Noah’s flood which will suddenly take away all who are unprepared.


2.      He comes like a thief in the night and breaks in the house at an hour the owner does not know.


3.      He returns as a master who will cut His unprepared servant into pieces as He would hypocrites.




How much more clear does God’s word need to be in Matthew 24 to make us understand that God is telling us that to be taken away means to be suddenly destroyed?


Maybe Luke’s recording of the Lord’s words can help support what is in the Gospel of Matthew:


Luke 17:

20   Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said,

     "The kingdom of God does not come with observation;

21   nor will they say, 'See here!' or 'See there!' For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you."

22   Then He said to the disciples, "The days will come when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man,

     and you will not see it.

23   And they will say to you, 'Look here!' or 'Look there!' Do not go after them or follow them.

24   For as the lightning that flashes out of one part under heaven shines to the other part under heaven,

     so also the Son of Man will be in His day.

25   But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.

26   And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man:

27   They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark,

     and the flood came and destroyed them all.     (NKJV)




This time, the unprepared in Matthew 24 who are taken away like Noah’s flood at the Lord’s return, where one is taken and the other is left, are now described as “the flood came and destroyed them all” in Luke 17:27.   There can be no doubt that the term “taken/took away” means “to be destroyed”. And as the Lord says here in Luke 17:26: “as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man”.


Again, when the Lord Jesus returns, the unprepared will be taken, which is to say, destroyed.


Luke goes on and records yet another example/parable the Lord spoke of regarding His return:


Luke 27:

28   Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built;

29   but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all.

30   Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.

31   "In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away.

     And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back.

32   Remember Lot's wife.

33   Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.

34   I tell you, in that night there will be two men in one bed: the one will be taken and the other will be left.

35   Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left.

36   Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left."

37   And they answered and said to Him, "Where, Lord?" So He said to them,

     "Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together."   (NKJV)




As if the examples in Matthew 24 were not graphic enough and Noah’s flood not “major” or “catastrophic” enough, the Lord Jesus uses another well-known case of God’s punishment upon the wicked as an example of how His coming will be like. This time, He likens His coming to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.


And some detail is given about the circumstances which surround how many who are unprepared will suddenly perish. In using the example of Sodom and Gomorrah, those who perish are compared to Lot’s wife who perished when she looked back which is generally understood as she looked back in doubt and longing for the old worldly life (but we are called out of this world).


What we see in the examples of Noah and Lot is the correct Biblical context and meaning: sinners are destroyed or taken away, while the righteous are left remaining – believers are not “raptured” away to avoid tribulation, but the wicked are taken away in judgment. This is consistent with the testimony of the Bible, because God’s Word speaks often of the wicked being destroyed while the righteous are left/remain:


Proverbs 2:

20   So you may walk in the way of goodness, And keep to the paths of righteousness.

21   For the upright will dwell in the land, And the blameless will remain in it;

22   But the wicked will be cut off from the earth, And the unfaithful will be uprooted from it.    (NKJV)


Zechariah 13:

8    And it shall come to pass in all the land," Says the LORD, " That two-thirds in it shall be cut off and die, But one-third shall be left in it:

9    I will bring the one-third through the fire, Will refine them as silver is refined, And test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, And I will answer them. I will say, 'This is My people'; And each one will say, 'The LORD is my God.' "     (NKJV) 


Zephaniah 3:

11   "In that day you will feel no shame Because of all your deeds By which you have rebelled against Me; For then I will remove from your midst Your proud, exulting ones, And you will never again be haughty On My holy mountain.

12   "But I will leave among you A humble and lowly people, And they will take refuge in the name of the LORD.

13   "The remnant of Israel will do no wrong And tell no lies, Nor will a deceitful tongue Be found in their mouths; For they will feed and lie down With no one to make them tremble."

14   Shout for joy, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem!

15   The LORD has taken away His judgments against you, He has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; You will fear disaster no more.    (NASB)



And again, we clearly see this truth that to be taken away as in the days of Noah’s flood means to be destroyed in judgment while the righteous will be left, when we compare Matthew 24 with the flood account itself in Genesis:


Matthew 24:

37   But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.

38   For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark,

39   and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.

40   Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left.

41   Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left.    (NKJV)


Genesis 7:

23   So He destroyed all living things which were on the face of the ground: both man and cattle, creeping thing and bird of the air. They were destroyed from the earth. Only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive.    (NKJV)



Sinners are those taken away first – they “did not know until the flood came and took them all away”; while the righteous, such as Noah and his family, are the remnant who are left and remain. The Lord Jesus speaks plainly that the end times will be a time of judgment just like the days of Noah: the wicked will be taken away and the good remain.




We must be on guard and not be deceived by a pre-tribulation rapture doctrine:


Mark 13:

20   "Unless the Lord had shortened those days, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect,

       whom He chose, He shortened the days.

21   "And then if anyone says to you, 'Behold, here is the Christ'; or, 'Behold, He is there'; do not believe him;

22    for false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order to lead astray, if possible, the elect.

23   "But take heed; behold, I have told you everything in advance.   (NASB)


Matthew 24:

21   For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.

22   And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened.

23   "Then if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'There!' do not believe it.

24   For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.

25   See, I have told you beforehand.

26   "Therefore if they say to you, 'Look, He is in the desert!' do not go out; or 'Look, He is in the inner rooms!' do not believe it. 





We must never forget the Bible truth in Mark 13 and Matthew 24 above.  The very fact that the Lord Jesus must return for the elect’s sake and we are warned to not be deceived by false Christs and false prophets who show signs and wonders, and teach that Christ has already returned in secret (this is God telling us directly to NOT believe in a pre-tribulation rapture doctrine who teaches exactly that Christ will return in secret); means that the elect are on earth during the tribulation period.


Jesus says He comes after tribulation to be seen by all:

Matthew 24:

29   "Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

30   Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

31   And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.    (NKJV)



The pre-tribulation rapture doctrine teaches the direct OPPOSITE of what the Bible and the Lord Jesus teaches, and says Christ will come before tribulation and in secret.


Either Jesus is a liar or the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine is a lie.


The Bible makes the truth quite evident:  the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine is a lie from the enemy – do not be deceived by people telling you Christ will return in secret.





Also see the articles: 'The Wheat and the Tares' and 'Jesus in Matthew 24 disproves a Pre-Tribulation Rapture'. 

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