Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Was Noah left behind?  

The most recent discussion on Disputations about the flood prompted me to look for references to Noah and the flood in the New Testament.

Here are the references to Noah (or Noe in the Douay-Rheims):All of these references to Noah are from very interesting passages in the New Testament. (Yes, even the genealogy reference is interesting.) One note is that most of these passages without question accept the existence of Noah and the reality of the flood. Although it would be interesting to comment on all of these, I will stick to the passage from our Lord's Olivet Discourse:
For as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. In (those) days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark. They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away. So will it be (also) at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left. Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come. (Matthew 24:36-44)
This is the passage from which the expression "left behind" comes. This passage is used by those who prescribe to a theology which anticipates a rapture to describe what will happen at the rapture. By their interpretation, all who believe in Christ prior to the tribulation at the end of the world will be taken away, while the ones who do not believe in Christ are left behind. However, this interpretation on its face is not supported by the passage.

Before mentioning those who are left behind, Jesus gives us the example of Noah and the flood. People conducted themselves as business as usual up until the day Noah entered the ark. Apparently, despite Noah's preaching, they must have thought that the whole ark business along with Noah and his family were completely crazy (Hb. 11:7, 2 Pt. 2:5). They paid no heed to his words or even the ark that sat in anticipation of a flood the likes of which had never been seen.

Then the flood comes and according to Jesus' words, "They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away." (Mt. 24:39) In other words, the ones not in the ark were swept or taken away. The ones in the ark were "left behind". Jesus then applies this example to His return by saying, "So will it be (also) at the coming of the Son of Man." (Mt. 24:39) He then illustrates this with two examples of a pair of people going about daily activities when one is suddenly taken away and the other is left behind.

Based on our Lord's own use of Noah and the flood, it becomes clear that to be left behind is to be spared, and to be taken away is to be condemned to death. Like Noah, should we live to see that day, we should hope to be left behind rather than be taken away.

Posted by David at 2:15 AM  |  Comments (3)  | Link


Excellent point!

By Anonymous BP, at July 23, 2005 2:37 AM  

Take a closer look at the Greek in verse 39: "...the flood came and took them all away, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be." In the Greek, the word for "taking away" used here is not the same word used in verses 40 and 41, so the same meaning should not be applied to both. In fact, a distinction is being made. In this verse it means put away. In the subsequent verses the term that’s used, paralambano (Strong’s #3880), means "to receive near, i.e. associated with oneself (in any familiar or intimate act or relation)… receive, take (unto, with)". This ought to remind us of the Messiah's promise to His disciples in the upper room, "I will come again and receive you unto Myself" (John 14:3).


David Weimer

By Anonymous Anonymous, at September 20, 2005 1:09 AM  

Thanks for your comment. I would like to give a more comprehensive response, but that will take some time in order to look into the use of the Greek words you noted. (Although I took three semesters of Biblical Greek, I am quite rusty to say the least.) Suffice to say, it might be some time before I am able to post on this.

However, for now, I would like to point out the following:

1. Simply because the same Greek word is not used in verses 40 and 41 as in verse 39 does not negate the parallel that our Lord is drawing.

2. A basic rule of interpretation is to see how the same word is used in the same book of the Bible before seeing how it is used in another book of the Bible, e.g., the wider context of the Testament (Old or New). Words often have multiple meanings, but some help in interpretation can be found by seeing how the same author (in this case Matthew) used the word. In other words, John might be using this word to bring out our Lord's words in a way that is different than Matthew's use of the word. This is acceptable because the word has multiple meanings. That is not to say that John and Matthew are not using the words in the same way, but the first principle would be to see how Matthew uses it before looking at how John uses it.

3. It is still very difficult to see how verses 40 and 41 could refer to the righteous being taken away or received by the Lord in some type of rapture while the unrighteous are left, given how our Lord sets up verses 40 and 41 with verse 39. The ones who are quickly taken away in verse 39 are those who perished in the Flood(the unrighteous). For verses 40 and 41 to refer now to the righteous being taken away or received quickly, there would have to be a disconnect between verse 39 and the following verses 40 and 41. Or Jesus would have to be indicating that when the Son of Man comes it will be different than when the Flood came. However, it is clear from verse 37 that He is drawing a parallel between the sudden cataclysmic destruction of the Flood and the coming of the Son of Man.

4. The parables about the Kingdom in Matthew 13 (24-30, 36-43, 47-50) give precedence for the idea that the wicked are gathered in at the end of the age. In other words, although it is not the same word as in 24:40,41, the idea of gathering the unrighteous is an idea that our Lord presents as part of His Kingdom. It is not simply the righteous who are collected.

By Anonymous David W., at September 21, 2005 6:44 AM  

Post a Comment