In Parables Is It Better to be Taken or Left?
There’s implications on this question. Those who hold to the Rapture often point to certain parables to promote their beliefs. Likewise those who don’t believe in a Rapture of the church vehemently disagree with their interpretation. Well I don’t particularly want to enter the theological battlefield of the “Rapture,” I don’t mind trying to be as objective as I can and simply interpret some commonly cited parables as to whether it’s better to be taken or left in the scenario presented by Jesus.
1) Parable of the Wheat and the Tares
Matt 13:24 Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. 26 But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. 27 The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28 And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves *said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ 29 But he *said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”
Analysis: The tares or weeds (i.e. the ungodly people) get gathered up first and burned. The wheat (i.e. the godly people) are left and brought into God’s barn.
Verdict: Bad to be Taken, Good to be Left
2) Parable of the Fig Tree
Matt 24:36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. 37 For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. 38 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,39 and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. 40 Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left.
Analysis: Well some say that Noah was taken away in the boat and the rest of mankind was left to die in the flood. However, it all comes down to how the word “they” is interpreted in verse 39. Did Noah and his fam not understand what was happening or is that better describing the people getting rained on? So it seems to be describing that Noah was left on earth and the rest of mankind was taken away by the floodwaters.
Verdict: Bad to be Taken, Good to be Left
In almost every way, it seems like the account in Luke 17 is describing the same teaching moment as was in Matthew 24. However, there seems to be some differences.
Luke 17:26 And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: 27 they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; 29 but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. 30 It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed. 31 On that day, the one who is on the housetop and whose goods are in the house must not go down to take them out; and likewise the one who is in the field must not turn back. 32 Remember Lot’s wife. 33 Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. 34 I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other will be left. 35 There will be two women grinding at the same place; one will be taken and the other will be left. 36 [Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other will be left.”]37 And answering they *said to Him, “Where, Lord?” And He said to them, “Where the body is, there also the vultures will be gathered.”
Analysis: This time the emphasis seems to be on those that are left experience the judgement. The flood destroyed those who were left on the earth. Those that were left in Sodom were destroyed as well; including Lot’s wife who was left staring back. Finally, the disciples seem to be asking where do people go that are taken? (It wouldn’t make sense to ask where do people go who are left?) Jesus’ answer seems to say that those who are taken are where vultures are (sounds bad.)
Verdict: At first, seems like Bad to be Left; but at the end Good to be Left
3) Parable of the Virgins
Matt 25:1 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them,4 but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. 5 Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. 6 But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’7 Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the prudent answered, ‘No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. 11 Later the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.
Analysis: This is like an early form of the rose ceremony on The Bachelor. If you aren’t there for the ceremony, you can’t get a rose.
Verdict: Good to be taken, Bad to be Left
4) Parable of the Talents
Matt 25:14 “For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey.16 Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. 17 In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more. 18 But he who received the one talentwent away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
19 “Now after a long time the master of those slaves *came and *settled accounts with them. 20 The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’22 “Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’24 “And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’26 “But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. 27 Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. 28 Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’29 “For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.30 Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Analysis: This one is actually kind of tough. Are the faithful slaves taken into the kingdom, or is the unfaithful slave taken into the outer darkness? To me it seems like the later. What they have is taken from them.
Verdict: Bad to be Taken, Good to be Left
Well, I don’t know if this helped or confused you, but really studying these passages helped me (and I think we can all agree that that is most important.) Even the early church fathers had their disagreements. St. Augustine, St. Origen and St. Ignatius believed that the righteous were left and the unrighteous were taken. Whereas, St. Ambrose and St. Hilary believed the opposite in that the righteous would be taken and the unrighteous left. The truth seems to be that just like all aspects of the End Times… it’s complicated.
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