Taken, or Left Behind?
New Movie Distorts Bible Teaching About Jesus'
Larry Kirkpatrick. Price Seventh-day Adventist Church. 10 February
It may sometimes seem to us as if we live in the great "interim"--some
strange in-between time between the great prophetic developments of the
past and those of the future. But this is not correct. Actually, we live
in the time when the population of our planet is being prepared for the
closing deception. In recent decades, we've seen more and more of the
futurist version of end-time events portrayed in books, videos, and
movies. Most recently we have nationwide theatrical release of the
production, "Left Behind." This movie is the latest vehicle to teach a
misguided version of what happens in the end-time. You need to know about
it. It is injecting afresh the secret rapture idea into the mainstream of
contemporary culture. You and I will be dealing with this. Our friends,
our relatives, those around us at work and on the street, will mention
this flick--the ideas it portrays. How will you answer them?
Listen, when you think of this well-known, giantly publicized end-time
scenario, what do you think of? Let me just ask you right now,
what do we immediately think we are speaking of? What does it mean to be
"taken"? If the popular view is true, what is it suggesting to us?
[Responses from congregation: "That those who are 'taken,' are taken to
heaven".] Yes. That's right. And now, who then are those, in this
teaching, who are "left"? [Congregation responses: "Those left behind live
through a seven year period of tribulation, many are converted, and they
preach the message".] Yes, that's right. So realize now, in this teaching,
it is said that two groups remain alive. One, those who are faithful at
the time when Jesus comes are "raptured out" and taken to heaven, while
those who are "left behind" have to go through the tribulation, but have
another chance to get into the kingdom. The implications of such a
teaching are many. So today, let's focus our attention carefully upon the
root passage from whence this movie acquires its name. Let's turn to the
pages of God's Word and see what it says, so that we can soundly share
with others what it teaches. In contact with others, you may be their
life-line against deception.
Let's look now at one of the main Scripture passages that this teaching
of a secret rapture is based upon. Turn with me to Luke
And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in
the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married
wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into
the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it
was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they
sold, they planted, they builded; but the same day that Lot went out of
Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.
Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. In
that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the
house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the
field, let him likewise not return back. Remember Lot's wife. Whosoever
shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his
life shall preserve it. I tell you, in that night there shall be two men
in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. Two
women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other
left. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the
I asked you to look and listen closely to that passage. Now tell me.
What do you see?
First, that we are here dealing with a prophecy; a prophecy pointed
exactly at the end-time. To aid us in understanding how it will be at the
end, two historical events are called to the front: the story of Noah and
the flood, and of Lot and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Noah and the Flood
What was it like in the days of Noah--the days just preceding the great
flood? They ate, they drank, they married, they led a life very much in
common with their times. Those times were a time of apparent prosperity,
of giddy progress, and of rejection of God. The human population of the
whole planet was, with scarce an exception, completely given over to false
worship. No, it was not a time of atheism; there was worship and to spare.
It was just false worship. Great edifices were built to conduct this false
worship at. Groves were grown, preened, teased, carefully landscaped,
engineered and designed to provide the optimal in "worship." No expense
was spared. We know by holy Scripture that God's Spirit had placed a limit
to His striving with those obdurate, wicked hearts (Genesis
6:3). We know that their hearts were filled with "violence." We
know that they "took for wives" whomever they chose; brute force
The whole of human society was polarized into two crisply separated
groups: the righteous and the unrighteous. Those who served God and those
who served themselves and in doing so served gods of their own making,
their own reduced spiritual design. Nor did God on His ark provide for a
gradation of accommodations, some for atheists, some for agnostics, some
for polytheists, some for monotheists. There were to be many animals on
board, but not many religious groupings of people. One group would go on
the ark, another group would remain outside to face the flood. One group
would be saved, one group would be lost. Genesis 6:17-18
outline this stark situation separating these two groups:
And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the
earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under
heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die. But with thee
will I establish My covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou,
and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons' wives with thee.
The purpose of the flood? "To destroy all flesh." The purpose
of the ark? "But with thee will I establish My covenant; and thou shalt
come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons' wives
with thee." All outside of the ark would be destroyed; all inside the ark
would be left alive, preserved. And what happened in the flood? Exactly
this. Everyone outside the ark was taken away by the flood. Everyone
inside was left alive on the earth to repopulate it, and through whom God
would establish His covenant.
Lot and the Destruction of Sodom
The second event granted us is the destruction of Sodom. But as in the
case of Noah, the righteous were saved at the time of the event, while the
wicked were obliterated. Consider briefly the case of Lot. Abraham gave
Lot the choice; which one would dwell in the mountains and hills, the
rugged country; and which would dwell in that enticing valley? Lot chose
the fertile green valley, and moved his family near-in; so near that the
Bible says that he "pitched his tent toward Sodom" (Genesis
13:12). All that happened between that fateful choice and
Scripture's next mention of Lot we know not. But when next we locate Lot,
he and his family are in Sodom.
"But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD
exceedingly" (Genesis 13:13). The situation was so poor, that
Sodom was about to become an object lesson. God would destroy the city.
Just one thing: He had people in that city: Lot. One day friends, when
we're in the kingdom, no doubt we'll hear the story from Lot's own lips.
The Bible says that the wickedness of that place vexed his "righteous"
soul every day, and calls him a "just" man (2 Peter 2:7).
Shame covered his name in the end, but as he dwelt in the midst of Sodom,
and God ordained destruction for the city, He sent His angels to save Lot
and his family out of Sodom. He sought to preserve Lot alive from the
destruction of Sodom. He sent His angels to get him out.
You see, In Genesis 18 we find that God Himself came to
Abraham, and coaxed him into interceding for Sodom. You'll recall the
story, how Abraham bargains downward until he has evoked from God the
promise that if ten righteous people can be found within the borders of
that city, He will not destroy it.
And you'll recall how the two angels venture into the town, only to be
set upon by a crowd ready to inflict grievous homosexual crimes upon them.
Holed-up in Lot's house as the crowd outside grows more and more violent,
they urge him and his family to withdraw from the city, for they admit
that God sent them to destroy it. In the end they and Lot and those whom
he can convince to leave flee into the desert night. The angels had had
finally even to take Lot by the hand and pull in order to start him on his
way. Along the fearsome trail, his wife looks back, violating the warnings
of the angel visitants, and her life ends. Soon the sky is filled with
fire and brimstone. In the growing light of dawn an acrid sulphur stench
wafts across the plain; an angry black column of smoke rises from where
once Sodom and Gomorrah prospered in the valley. They have been destroyed.
Lot escapes, but just barely. A lesson has been written for eternity.
Lot was left alive on the earth. The inhabitants of Sodom were taken in
their sins; caught in their guilt. Nevermore again would a righteous man
or angel sent from heaven walk its streets. The city is no more, her
inhabitants destroyed. Don't miss the lesson. Two groups. One group left
alive. One group caught in its high-handed guilt and destroyed. This is
the warning of Jesus Christ to we who live in the end-time. For He warned
us, "as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man
be" (Matthew 24:37). How was it in the days of Noah? Two
groups were formed. One was left alive on the earth. One was destroyed in
the flood. How was it in the days of Lot? One group was left alive out of
that sinful city, the rest of its inhabitants were destroyed, slain,
cut-down by brimstone and fire sent down out of the sky.
Right away we see a problem. Consider what they do in the "Left Behind
" movie. In the not one but two Bible stories given to us by
Jesus as a pattern for the events immediately before us, we find in each
case, two groups. One group remains alive, one group is slain. But in the
movie, we have two groups, one of which is "raptured out" and goes to
heaven alive, while another group remains on earth, "left behind" to go
through a seven year period of tribulation. Something is wrong here. For
the movie to be true to Scripture, one group should be left alive on the
earth, and another group should be slain on the earth. There is no way
around this. But the movie follows the conventional thinking of a
popularized Christianity, not the Bible. And how many people are today
being pitched this tremendous lie, this unfortunate twisting of the Words
of our Lord!
"Taken" and "Left" for Real
Remember when we began today, and we realized that if we take our
natural flow of thought, we'd think those taken are taken to heaven, and
those left are left behind (in this futurist prophetic scheme) to go
through the tribulation? Let's look again now at these things. See, we
only thought that way because we are thinking in the terms of popular,
contemporary thought--a mindset mind you, that has already been
infiltrated with the 'rapture' theology. We may not have invested much
thinking into the rapture teaching, because in His mercy God has granted
us a love for the sound Bible truth about the second coming. But even so,
we still know how to think in the terms of the culture around us, and that
culture says the taken are taken out and the left are left behind.
What does the Bible say?
For example, what does the word "taken" usually mean in the Bible?
Consider the case of Achan.
When Israel entered the promised land and took the city of Jericho,
Achan had disobeyed the Lord's directions (Joshua 6:18) about
the spoil of the city, taking some of those forbidden spoils. When the
Hebrews went up to take Jericho's much smaller neighboring city, Ai,
thousands were killed. Prayerful inquiry revealed that someone had
transgressed. God commanded that the accursed be removed from among the
tribes. His directions?
In the morning therefore ye shall be brought according to
your tribes: and it shall be, that the tribe which the LORD taketh shall
come according to the families thereof; and the family which the LORD
shall take shall come by households; and the household which the LORD
shall take shall come man by man. And it shall be, that he that is taken
with the accursed thing shall be burnt with fire, he and all that he
hath: because he hath transgressed the covenant of the LORD, and because
he hath wrought folly in Israel. So Joshua rose up early in the morning,
and brought Israel by their tribes; and the tribe of Judah was taken:
And he brought the family of Judah; and he took the family of the
Zarhites: and he brought the family of the Zarhites man by man; and
Zabdi was taken: And he brought his household man by man; and Achan, the
son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah,
was taken. And Joshua said unto Achan, My son, give, I pray thee, glory
to the LORD God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now
what thou hast done; hide it not from me. And Achan answered Joshua, and
said, Indeed I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and thus and
thus have I done: When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish
garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty
shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they
are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under
And you know the rest of the story. Achan and his family were killed.
In casting lots, a process of elimination was conducted, in which the
guilty party was eventually "taken," and then slain. Then there is another
new Testament case that comes immediately to mind too, isnŐt there. Do you
recall the woman who was "taken" in the act of adultery? Here's the
Scripture on it:
And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken
in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him,
Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. (John
These are not the only examples, but they are helpful. In the Bible,
the pattern laid down is that to be "taken" is usually to be captured or
caught. So now consider the warnings near the end of the passage: "I tell
you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be
taken, and the other shall be left. Two women shall be grinding together;
the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two men shall be in the field;
the one shall be taken, and the other left." If this warning standing
alone seems unclear, it ought not to. It is but one of three parallel
These other passages are located in Matthew 24:15-28, and
Mark 13:14-23. You'll notice in both of those passages, Jesus
warns His followers to flee to the mountains when they see Jerusalem
surrounded by armies (Matthew 24:16; Mark
13:14). History tells us that this is exactly what happened when
the Romans, having surrounded surrounded Jerusalem, mysteriously withdrew.
The Romans returned in A. D. 70 and destroyed Jerusalem and the temple.
But the Christians, recalling Christ's warning of a generation previous,
immediately fled to Pella. They survived.
Did you notice that before the description of the taken and left folk,
we have a warning? "In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and
his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that
is in the field, let him likewise not return back. Remember Lot's wife.
Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall
lose his life shall preserve it."
So why the sharp warning from Christ not even to pause to get any
cherished belonging out of your house, but immediately to flee? It seems
clear that those not expeditious enough, or who were indifferent to the
warning, would be caught off-guard and "taken" by the invading armies.
Those "left" alive and untaken would be gathered in the mountains.
But let's pause and make sure we are rightly dividing this Word.
Consider now the statement from Luke 17:27:
They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were
given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the
flood came, and destroyed them all.
After Noah had entered into the ark, the flood came and "destroyed them
all" (who were not on the ark). Now consider Jesus' same teaching in the
parallel verse in Matthew 24:38-39:
For as in the days that were before the flood they were
eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that
Noah entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took
them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be.
Did you catch the parallel? In Luke, "the flood came, and destroyed
them all." In Matthew, "the flood came, and took them all away." Who was
taken away? Those who "were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in
marriage." Those who were in opposition to God. The flood came and took
them all, that is, the flood came, and destroyed them all. It is crystal
clear. Those who were "taken," were "taken" like Achan was when he was
caught! Those who were taken were taken like the woman was when she was
caught in adultery. We've already seen that there are only two groups:
those remaining alive and those destroyed in the examples of Noah and of
Lot. Now we see it here all over again.
Plain as day.
Those "taken" are caught in the general destruction. Those "left," are
those saved or remaining alive. Do I want to be taken, or left? I want to
It is important to realize that many sincere people hold another view,
and it has some merit. They say that those "taken" are taken to heaven,
while those "left" are destroyed by the brightness of Jesus' second
coming. Notice that the outcome is the same: one group remains alive, one
group is destroyed. There is good evidence for this alternate view as
well. The Greek words underneath "taken" and "left" tend to support that
view. paralambano, "taken" tends to mean "to be taken to one's
side," although there are also cases that are not good. For example,
Christ is taken, led away to be crucified, in John 19:16.
The word translated "left" also can mean "to abandon," which would fit
a group being abandoned to destruction in the end time. However, in
John 16:28 Jesus says He is leaving the world and going to
His Father, but we know He didn't abandon the world--He came here to
destroy the works of the devil, to redeem it. The same word is translated
numerous times as "release" or "forgive," as in the case of forgiveness of
sins. By no means is the connotation of this word bad in any universal
Finally, Matthew 24:31 says that God sends His angels in
the end to gather the elect. This would appear to fit with
paralambano's "take to one' self" translation. But Notice in that
same verse that they are gathered from a scattered situation, "from the
four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." Realize also that the
same passage speaks of another gathering--a gathering of vultures. Where
do the vultures gather? Where the carcase is (Matthew 24:28).
There is a gathering in this event, a sorting. In the end there are two
groups: those dead and those alive. Thus, to the precise question of which
group is "taken" and which group is "left," we offer here no dogmatic
answer, although it is evident that my reading of the Scripture says that
those taken are destroyed, those left are saved.
One more interesting evidence is found in Matthew 24:39.
The word "took" there ("And knew not until the flood came and took them
all away"), is the Greek airo, meaning to lift up and carry off.
It is closely related to the word for the carrion-birds in this passage,
aetoi. aetoi is a plural noun, airo is a verb.
The words are linked by the Greek word for air. The figure is that of a
gathering of vultures to consume the dead who were caught in
The bottom line? Either way you understand the passage, our first point
is affirmed: Yes, two groups; yes one taken and the other left. But no,
not one group taken to heaven while another remains alive on earth.
The third point offered in this passage is as decisive as the first.
After Jesus told His hearers that there would be two groupings, one saved
and one destroyed, the disciples asked Him, "Where Lord?" Consider His
answer: "Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered
together" (Luke 17:37). Some have taken this to mean that
God's saints, having been "raptured out," are taken to heaven. Isaiah
speaks of God's people renewing their strength, mounting up with wings as
eagles (Isaiah 40:31. This has been connected with the saints
meeting Jesus in the air. In Exodus, the deliverance of the Hebrews is
also referred to as being led out by God (Exodus 19:4).
Sounds good, eh?
Well, hold on. There are some other evidences. For example, the birds
spoken of in Luke 17:37 aren't eagles. They are vultures.
Jesus is speaking of where the vultures--the carrion-birds are located.
And He says they will be "where the body is." Luke uses the Greek word
soma here, literally, "body." But in Luke's writings, a body is
not necessarily alive. Remember, Luke was a physician. He sometimes
referred to a corpse as a body. For example, when Paul raised Dorcas from
the dead. KJV translates Luke's use of soma in Acts
9:40 as "corpse." Furthermore, back in Luke again, we find Jesus'
dead body referred to by soma several times, in Luke 23:52,
55; 24:3, 23. So Luke's use of soma in contrast to
Matthew's use of the Greek ptoma in his parallel passage, means
Again, when we consider where the vultures show up through the
Scriptures, they are always in places of destruction or where there are a
multitude of dead bodies. In Revelation 19:17-18, at the end
of time, we have a figurative gathering for a great feast of
And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a
loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven,
Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God;
that ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the
flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on
them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and
Where are the carrion-birds to gather? Where the flesh of those has
fallen in their climactic final contest against God. In the Old testament,
where are the vultures gathered? In Isaiah 34:15 they are
prophesied as gathered in the destroyed land of Idumea (Edom). In
Genesis 15:11 Abraham tries to keep the carrion-birds off of
the carcasses of the animals he has sacrificed to God. Thus, all over the
Scriptures we find the vultures gathered where there is death and
judgment. But all of this is overkill. Turn to Matthew 24:28,
the parallel passage ot Luke 17:37:
For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be
In Luke we have "wheresoever the body is," but in Matthew, it is
"wheresoever the carcase is." As mentioned, when Matthew Levi wrote this
out, he used the Greek word ptoma, here translated "carcase."
Looking at that word, we find that literally it means, "the fallen," and
is translated "corpse" in Mark 6:29 of John the Baptist's
beheaded body, and in Revelation 11:8-9 of the dead bodies of
the two witnesses slain in the streets. Friends, this is conclusive. Where
the eagles are gathered, where actually the vultures are gathered, is
where the dead bodies, the corpses or carcases are, of those that are
"taken," caught in the destruction, the "brightness of His coming"
(2 Thessalonians 2:8).
Strike three. The secret rapture is out.
We have not explored every passage used to support the rapture
teaching; the space for a single sermon is not enough to cover the whole
topic in depth. But we have looked at two of the key Bible passages used
to teach this. And the result seems plain.
We conclude that while in the movie scenario . . .
- Those TAKEN are taken alive to heaven.
- Those LEFT are left alive to have another chance at salvation and to
The "Left Behind" Bible Scenario has . . .
- Those TAKEN caught in the flaming fire accompanying the second
coming of Jesus.
- Those LEFT delivered, instantly to rise and meet Jesus in the air.
So. There are only two groups when Jesus comes: one group that remains
alive, and one group that is cut down in instant destruction. There are
two groups: those taken in unpreparation, destroyed on the spot, and those
left alive immediately to rise and meet Jesus in the sky. The
carrion-birds gather where the dead bodies of the destroyed group are. How
sad then, that many sincere Christians are being taught a scenario so
different from the real teaching of the Bible as to be almost
indistinguishable as based on the same texts. And the truth is so obvious
when we take a closer look at it. Ah friends, why don't more people take
the Bible serously when it says, "study to shew thyself approved unto God,
a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of
truth" (2 Timothy 2:15).
If an opportunity should come to you to share with someone on this
teaching, you now have three main points for them, simple. Show them by
the stories of Noah and of Lot that the two groups are the saved and the
lost, not those supposedly taken to heaven and those left behind to get a
second chance at salvation. You don't need to wrangle with the Greek or
anything either. Just show them the parallel passages we've just shared.
Study this. Ask God to grant you opportunities for sharing it. And then do
so. Jesus calls us to present the truth on this point, that if possible,
few be taken in this deception.
Let's stand and sing our closing hymn. Immediately following the sermon
we'll have a Bible study so anyone who has missed the texts can write them
down, and we can discuss what we have found. God bless you