Monday, March 18, 2024

I WANT TO BE LEFT BEHIND!

When I first came to Christ, one of the basic beliefs that was instilled in me, was the idea that one of the worst things that could happen to me, was being left behind when Jesus came again. Even though I had a great hope in Christ, that my salvation was secure and my life was held securely in Christ, there was still this lingering fear that maybe, just maybe, I might be left behind.

 

Hal Lyndsey’s books were a staple among my Christian friends. I remember clearly being horrified watching a movie where the Christians during the tribulation were beheaded. Man, I did not want to be left behind.

 

Today there has been a slight resurgence of this Christian fear. With the Left Behind series of books and movies, a whole new generation of Christians also live in this subtle fear. 

 

“When Jesus comes again, what if I’m one of the ones left behind?”

 

It seems that much of this sort of theology is rooted in escapism, rather than solid, biblical understanding. So many of the young Christians that I talk to have been exposed to this; They have real fears and many won’t even crack open the Book of Revelation because they don’t want to know what’s in there. Though many correctly believe that their salvation is secure in Christ, because we have the Holy Spirit, guaranteeing our inheritance to come (Eph 1:14) still, there are doubts that maybe they might be left behind. So let me say it as clear as possible, I think, knowing what I know now, I want to be left behind. Let me explain.

 

The two main passages that are often referred to regarding this language of taken away and being left behind come from two passages: Matthew 24, and Luke 17.

 

 

Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.  Mt 24:40-41

“I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; 

one will be taken, the other left.  Luke 17:34

 

They seem straightforward…Right?  Until you understand the context of what Jesus is actually saying here. Let’s look at these verses again, with some context added.

 

 

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 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, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. Mt 24:36-41

 

I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.”  “Where, Lord?” they asked. He replied, “Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.” Luke 17:34-37

 

Did you catch the context? Many times, these passages are referred to in order to show proof that Jesus will take away believers in the rapture (Though most dispensationalist theologians would concede that they really don’t). Yet when we look at the textual context and examine the cultural context of the time, something important reveals itself.

 

In the Matthew pericope, Jesus uses the story of the flood as an example of being “taken.” Jesus’ point in the passage is that God saved Noah and his family. They are the ones left behind. Those who were “taken, are those who actually suffered the judgment of God. Noah and his family were left behind, everyone else was taken away by the flood.

The Luke passage even is more direct. The disciples actually asked “Where will they be taken Jesus?” Jesus replies to them “where there is a dead body, they are the vultures will gather.”That doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, nor does it sound like any description of being with Jesus elsewhere in the Scriptures. In fact, it sounds more like a place where the dead are piled up in stacks. It fits a place of judgment and death and curse. Not a place of blessing.

Maybe the reason for this misunderstanding is that many evangelicals, like myself, often assume we know what we know when we really don’t. Maybe it’s because we don’t read the Bible and see the way God has often dealt with people. The paradigms and the principles that are clear throughout the Scriptures should be easily understood because God does not change.

For example, even when you look through the Old Testament, you will see that this idea of God’s people being taken away is not something that people looked forward to. In fact, it was a curse.

When Solomon was dedicating the temple he had built, part of what he warned his people about was this: 

 

“If they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you are angry with them and give them to an enemy, so that they are carried away captive to the land of the enemy, far off or near, yet if they turn their heart in the land to which they have been carried captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captors, saying, ‘We have sinned and have acted perversely and wickedly, if they repent with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their enemies, who carried them captive, and pray to you toward their land, which you gave to their fathers, the city that you have chosen, and the house that I have built for your name, then hear in heaven your dwelling place their prayer and their plea, and maintain their cause and forgive your people who have sinned against you, and all their transgressions that they have committed against you, and grant them compassion in the sight of those who carried them captive, that they may have compassion on them. 1 Kings 8:46-50

                                                

Remember, Israel was given the promised land and a choice to follow the Lord and choose blessings, or curses. You know the history, Israel disobeyed God and often the punishment was to be taken away in judgment to a foreign land. Whenever Israel obeyed God, they prospered in the land that he gave them. 

 

So I want to be left behind because when Jesus comes again he will be taking away the unrighteous for judgment, and those who have their righteousness in Jesus through faith will reign with him – in glorious bodies, on the new heavens and earth, our real home.

 

My job and your job if you follow Jesus is to invite many to be left behind and avoid being taken away in judgment.

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I WANT TO BE LEFT BEHIND!

W hen I first came to Christ, one of the basic beliefs that was instilled in me, was the idea that one of the worst things that could happen...