The “left behind” theory misses completely the parallel with Noah. Jesus’ point is that the place one wants to be when the judgment comes is in the ark. One does not want to be “taken.” Read his words carefully. The flood waters came and “took” the unbelieving away. Two are working. One is “taken” and the other left. To be taken is to be destroyed in the judgment. His point here is that believers will be spared. They will be left behind.
“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. Then there will be two men 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 be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will (Matt 24:36–44.; NASB95).
It is Harold Camping all over again. Once again someone has gained notoriety for predicting the return of Jesus. This time it is a fellow named Gary Ray. On August 21, Julie Zausmer wrote in the Washington Post on August 21,
In certain religious communities, the talk surrounding the eclipse has to do with a different sort of preparation. Gary Ray isn’t worried about just travel plans and adequate eye protection. He’s focused on the Rapture.
Ray, a writer for the evangelical Christian publication Unsealed, views this eclipse as one of several astronomical signs that the day when Christians will be whisked away from the Earth is fast approaching.
“The Bible says a number of times that there’s going to be signs in the heavens before Jesus Christ returns to Earth. We see this as possibly one of those,” Ray said about the eclipse.
He is even more interested in another astronomical event that will occur 33 days after the eclipse, on Sept. 23, 2017.
The Book of Revelation, which is full of extraordinary imagery, describes a woman “clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head” who gives birth to a boy who will “rule all the nations with an iron scepter” while she is threatened by a red, seven-headed dragon. The woman then grows the wings of an eagle and is swallowed up by the earth.
Ray says that image will be created in the sky on Sept. 23. The constellation Virgo — representing the woman — will be clothed in sunlight, in a position that is over the moon and under nine stars and three planets. The planet Jupiter, which will have been inside Virgo — in her womb, in Ray’s interpretation — will move out of Virgo, as if she is giving birth.
Astronomers don’t see this as a particularly unusual event. But to Ray and others, it could be the sign that the Rapture is ready to happen: “We think it’s God signaling to us that he’s about to make his next move.”
And Ray thinks the two eclipses that are slated to travel across the United States in 2017 and 2024, together marking an X across the nation, could be the starting and ending signs bookmarking a seven-year period of awful tribulations that Revelations says waits in store for nonbelievers who are left behind on Earth when the Rapture occurs.
“That time frame is speculative, 2017 to 2024. But it makes a lot of sense. There are a lot of things that really point us to that,” he said.
To be sure, Ray hedges his claim but he is nonetheless predicting the return of Jesus and in so doing ignoring our Lord’s explicit teaching in Matthew 24. Further, this entire approach to the return of Christ misses the mark because it misses the parallel that our Lord drew between his future bodily return and the days of Noah. Indeed, missing the connection between Noah and Jesus has been the cornerstone of the entire “Left Behind” phenomenon and has been since the beginning of the modern “secret rapture” craze since 1972.
That was the year a film swept through American Evangelical culture: “A Thief in the Night.” It came complete with Larry Norman’s haunting theme song,”I Wish We’d All Been Ready.”