By Rev. Roger Best
First let’s look at the passage: “I tell you, on that night there will be two men in one bed; one will be taken, and the other will be left. There will be two women grinding at the same place; one will be taken, the other will be left. [Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other will be left.”] And answering they said to Him, “Where, Lord?” And He said to them, “Where the body is, there also will the vultures be gathered.”
This passage is similar to the one in the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24:40-41) where Jesus uses a similar example. Both passages occur in the context of Christ teaching on his return to earth and the end of the age. In the Olivet Discourse the disciples ask the question, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matt. 24:3). In Luke 17:20 the Pharisees asked the question as to when the kingdom of God would come. Whereas His answers to the disciples’ questions were often right to the point, Jesus would frequently not answer the Pharisees directly but rather give them something to ponder over in their hearts.
In both passages Jesus connects the idea of “one taken and another left” with a sign. In Luke 17:24 and 37 the sign is more vague and difficult for the Pharisees to understand because they didn’t ask about a sign. In Matthew 24:27 Jesus is directly answering the disciples’ query as to the sign of His coming (24:3): “For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be.” A comparison of these passages with Revelation 6:12-17 and Joel 2:31 show that this sign appears at the end of the age when Christ comes for the elect (the Rapture).
A careful examination of the Greek words used in Matthew 24:40-41 and Luke 17:34-37 gives us additional information; a form of the Greek word paralambano is used. This word is made up of two words: para, which means “along side”, and lambano, which means “to take”. The word is used a number of times in the New Testament. For example, in Matthew 1:20 Joseph is told by an angel of the Lord, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife”, and in John 14:3 where Jesus said to His disciples, “I will come again and receive you to Myself.” It is plain to see that in these cases the word has the idea of intimacy where one is “received along side of” or “to ones self”.
Finally, it is also important to notice that in Matthew 24 and Luke 17 Jesus uses the stories of Noah and Lot to illustrate the scenario of His coming (Matt. 24:37-39 and Luke 17:26-29). Going back to Genesis 7 and 19 we find that both Noah and Lot were rescued by God out of harm to a place of safety. Noah and his family found safety in the ark before the devastation of the flood, and Lot was warned by angels to get out of Sodom and Gomorrah before judgment came upon the ungodly.
With all these factors in mind, it becomes clear that the “one taken” in Luke 17:34-37 is taken to safety before the “Day of the Lord” judgment is carried out on planet earth. The context of the passage, the Greek word, and the Old Testament illustrations all point to the fact that the one “that is taken” is taken in the rapture while the one “that is left” is left to experience the wrath of God.