Who Are the "Left Behind"?
Those who foster a rapture doctrine try to tie this passage to Matthew 24:
36 But of that day and hour knoweth no one, not even the angels of heaven, neither the Son, but the Father only. 37And as were the days of Noah, so shall be the coming of the Son of man. 38For as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, 39and they knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall be the coming of the Son of man. 40Then shall two man be in the field; one is taken, and one is left: 41two women shall be grinding at the mill; one is taken, and one is left.
The rapture doctrine has tried to give people spiritual heart attacks of unbiblical imagery by terribly misapplying this passage. It was common in biblical history that when an invading army came to attack and conquer a city, they would take the smartest, the artisans, the healthiest and the most valuable back to the originating country to use as slaves and workers. This is what happened when Babylon took men like Daniel into captivity.
Jesus was simply saying that the weak, the sickly and the powerless would be left behind in the land to either die or fend for themselves. In addition, the best would be taken captive to Rome. This is exactly what happened to the few who survived. Nearly 1.3 million died.
Are You Ready Enough?
How ready is ready enough? Is every generation supposed to be watching? If so why? How will watching for a rapture make me more "rapturable"? Does it mean achieving perfect holiness first? If so, then I'm saved by arriving at some indistinguishable level, instead of being saved by grace. Misapplying the watch and pray passages into our day doesn't make sense. If we were going to be raptured before a tribulation, then how does watching and praying help?
42 Watch therefore: for ye know not on what day your Lord cometh. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what watch THE THIEF was coming, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken through. 44 Therefore be ye also ready; for in an hour that ye think not the Son of man cometh.
There is a theme Paul repeats to the Thessalonians:
5 But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. 2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a THIEF IN THE NIGHT. 3 For when they (THE JEWS PERSECUTING THEM) say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon THEM, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. 4 BUT YOU, BRETHREN, ARE NOT IN DARKNESS, SO THAT THIS DAY SHOULD OVERTAKE YOU AS A THIEF. 5 You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. (1 Thes. 5)
WOW! Paul confirms Jesus words that to watch and pray had to do with the destruction in 70AD. Not only that, but even though they would not know the exact day or hour, if they were watching and paying attention to the signs (Matthew 24), it would not take them by surprise.
How different this is from the entire evangelical-charismatic end-time fear- based system that has developed around the false rapture doctrine that is selling movies and books while making millions. We are being driven into religious frenzies abandoning the mandate of advancing the kingdom and making disciples to change the nations. We have allowed an attack on our hearts that is striping us of a long term vision. Christians are waiting for a bail out, instead of learning to walk out our faith in every situation.
Paul said to those Thessalonians who were suffering persecution from the hands of the Jews that Jesus would relieve them of suffering soon.
Some were afraid that the Day of the Lord was past and yet they were still being persecuted.
Just as Jesus and Paul promised, relief came with Rome's siege of Jerusalem and armies sweeping surrounding areas. The Jews ability to persecute Christians was all but decimated. In addition, those Thessalonians were comforted spiritually that this same time confirmed the way for both all those martyrs and all the OT saints to be gathered out of Hades, and for those alive to have hope that the moment they died in the future they too would be gathered together into the great cloud of his temple glory.
Paul said to "comfort one another with these words". Though the fulfillment was in their future, it is both our past and future. The Great Tribulation has past, the temple has been destroyed, but the moment we leave our mortal bodies we will be snatched directly into the spiritual realm presence of the Lord himself. That is not an attack on the heart, but a hope for it instead.