I Want to Be “Left Behind”

Benjamin L. Merkle, “Who Will Be Left Behind? Rethinking the Meaning of Matthew 24:40-41 and Luke 17:34-35,” WTJ 72 (2010): 169-79.

Here’s his thesis, in essence: “Although many assume that those taken in Matt 24:40-41and Luke 17:34-35 are taken to be with Jesus and those left behind are left for judgment, this inter­pretation should be rejected.”

His conclusion summarizes his arguments:

Throughout the context of these passages Jesus uses judgment language reminiscent of the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem and the subsequent exile of its inhabitants. Those who were taken away were the ones judged by God whereas those left behind were the remnant who received grace.

Furthermore, the teaching of Jesus confirms this thesis. In the Parable of the Weeds the Son of Man sends his angels to gather out the children of the devil and throw them in the fiery furnace whereas the wheat is left behind (Matt 13:36-43).

The context of Matt 24 and Luke 17 also suggests Jesus is intentionally using judgment and remnant language. Such language naturally brings up images of the former destruction of Jerusalem where the enemy came and “took away” (i.e., killed) those in the city.

Finally, the parallel with Noah and the flood in the preceding verses strongly confirms our thesis. Just as in the days of Noah the people were taken away by the great flood, so those who are not prepared will be taken away when the Son of Man returns.

You can read his arguments in more detail here.

(HT: Justin Taylor)

Peter serves as a pastor-teacher, at home and abroad, resourcing gospel-centred communities.

One thought on “I Want to Be “Left Behind”

  1. Jeremiah 24 identifies those left in Jerusalem as the “bad Figs” and those taken away in exile as the remnant.

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