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Left Behind
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Who’s going to be left behind when Jesus comes?

Pastor Steve Answers:

The wording of your question makes me wonder if you've seen the Left Behind movie or read the Left Behind book series. Both the movie and books were quite popular a few years ago, and they've shaped the way a lot of people think about what will happen when Jesus returns.

The basic idea in the movie and books is that Jesus will come back to earth and secretly 'rapture' those who are true to Him. If you don't make it to heaven that time, you'll have seven years of 'tribulation.' Then, if you were true to Jesus, you can catch Him the next time He returns, which won't be a secret. There's also an emphasis on Jewish people accepting Christ as the Messiah during this time of trouble.

I believe Jesus will return, but not the way just described. I don't believe there's a secret coming of Christ, or that He'll come again seven years later.

Here's the passage that mentions 'left behind.' It's Matthew 24:40, 41: "Two men will be working together in the field; one will be taken, the other left. Two women will be grinding flour at the mill; one will be taken, the other left."

By planting the idea that some people will be 'left behind' when Jesus comes, there are Christians who interpret those verses as proof that one person will be 'taken' to heaven, and the other one will be 'left' for seven years of tribulation.

But if you read the three verses before verses 40 and 41, you end up with the opposite meaning. Notice who's 'taken': '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" (Matthew 24:37-39).

Did you notice who got 'taken'? The ones who were 'taken' were the ones outside the ark. In other words, the ones 'taken' didn't make it; they died. The ones 'left behind' are the ones in the ark, which is where I'd rather be. How about you? See how opposite that is of what a lot of people have been led to believe?

Your question also brings up the basic question about who will go to heaven, and who won't. Answers usually have something to do with salvation instead of sin, of grace rather than works, of Jesus and not ourselves. If you'd like to look up a few verses on these themes, check out Acts 4:12; Romans 6:23; 1 John 5:11-13; and Ephesians 2:8-10.

Before Jesus left earth to go to heaven He told His disciples that He was going to His Father's house to prepare a place for them (John14:1-3). Later in the same conversation Jesus told the disciples that those who love Him will be the ones who obey Him. And both He and the Father will make their home with them (see John 14:23).

So if you're not feeling at home with Jesus now, you won't want to be with Him when He returns. But if Jesus is at home with you now, you'll be at home with Him when He returns-you won't be 'left behind.'

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By Steve Case. Reprinted with permission from Insight Magazine Online. Copyright © 2009 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.
Scripture taken from the NEW LIVING TRANSLATION © 1996.

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