"Two in the Field"
Question: I have been taught that the Rapture is not in Matthew 24 because Matthew 24 presents God's program for Israel, not for the church. But if that's true, what about verses 40 and 41 where Jesus says: "Then two shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left"?
Answer: You are correct. Matthew 24 does not present the Rapture, nor does it deal with God's program for the church. In the Rapture the "taking" is a taking away to Heaven. But that's not the "taking" that is described in Matthew 24. Verse 39 states: "And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away." This "taking" was a taking away to their doom. It came upon the unbelievers of Noah's day and must not be equated with the Rapture of believers of the Church Age.
At this point in Matthew 24 Israel is in the Tribulation period. Matthew 24:21 states: "For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be." Earlier in the chapter, in verse 15, our Lord speaks about "the abomination of desolation" and "stand in the holy place." In verse 20 He says: "But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day." None of this is Church Age language.
These considerations help us to answer the question about "the taking away" in Matthew 24. If Jesus is not speaking about the Rapture, of what, then, is He speaking?
Jesus says, "Two shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, the other left." In the context of Matthew 24 we must affirm that the one who is taken is taken to judgment. The one who remains, remains to enter the Millennial Kingdom.
Believing Jews who are in Jerusalem at the end of the Tribulation are right where they need to be. "And it shall come to pass in the last days," we read in Isaiah 2:2, "that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains . . . for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem" (Isaiah 2:3). This is referring to that future period of time in world history when the weapons of war shall be turned into implements of agriculture and "nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (Isaiah 2:4). Those Jews who remain and are not taken away in judgment will enjoy these wonderful blessings of the Kingdom Age.
The reference to Noah and the Ark in Matthew 24 gives some indication as to the approximate time of the return of Christ in relation to the other events of the Tribulation. Those who watched Noah build the Ark knew that the Flood was impending, but they did not know its precise time. And yet one thing was sure for believers in Noah's day: they knew that the Flood would not come until the Ark was completed.
When the Ark was finally completed and everyone had entered, those who were obedient to the Lord knew that the Flood could come at any time, but even then they did not know the exact hour or day. In the same way, the return of the Lord at the close of the Tribulation will not come until the "signs" of Matthew 24 have taken place, but even then no one will know the exact day or hour of Christ's return.