The Amazing Angelic Rescue of Tribulation Believers
The Beginning of the Last Day Harvest
Luke 17 is a “watershed” passage on some key timing puzzles in prophecy. Though it is rarely appealed to as a clarifying passage, it is the key to breaking the timing deadlock on the perennial problem of the mysterious “floating” prophecies — that is, the “days of Noah” (Mat. 24:37-39) and “one will be taken, and one will be left” (Mat. 24:40,41) — two passages which drift between placement in either a pre-Tribulation Rapture context or a post-Tribulation Second Coming context.
But in a proper context, which is surprisingly clear, Luke 17 answers the question of exactly how God delivers saints [Tribulation survivors] from the climactic Day of the Lord and “the wrath to come” (1 The. 1:10; 5:9) at the Return of Christ. In fact, Luke 17 should settle any doubt regarding the issue of the timing of the Rapture itself, as we shall shortly see.
On the Day that Jesus Returns
Something marvelous will happen to tribulation believers on the day that Jesus returns. When the nations are ravaging Jerusalem and all Israel into apparent extinction, and when the whole world is preoccupied with the “resurgence” of the Assyrian Antichrist after his “apparent” victory over the two witnesses, his worldwide empire will unravel rapidly in the face of global and cosmic calamity (Day of the Lord, Bowls 1 through 6), and a mysterious mass evacuation will occur.
The people of the Antichrist will look right and left, confounded by the scene of ostracized believers, who have managed to remain among them, suddenly getting up, and leaving in haste with strangers who seemingly just “show up” from nowhere. They will evacuate cities, towns, and even villages — everywhere — be it day or night! These are the people with “insight” (Dan. 12:10), and they understand they are being separated out in the harvest at the end of the age (Mat. 13:36-43). They go quickly, for they are destined to “shine forth as the sun” forever (13:43).
Luke 17 reveals the scene and clarifies the timing.
The Scene—Luke 17:22-37
22 And He said to the disciples, "The days shall come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it.
23 "And they will say to you, 'Look there! Look here!' Do not go away, and do not run after them.
24 "For just as the lightning, when it flashes out of one part of the sky, shines to the other part of the sky, so will the Son of Man be in His day.
25 "But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.
26 "And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it shall be also in the days of the Son of Man:
27 they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.
28 "It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building;
29 but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all.
30 "It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed.
31 "On that day, let not the one who is on the housetop and whose goods are in the house go down to take them away; and likewise let not the one who is in the field turn back.
32 "Remember Lot's wife.
33 "Whoever seeks to keep his life shall lose it, and whoever loses his life shall preserve it.
34 "I tell you, on that night there will be two men in one bed; one will be taken, and the other will be left.
35 "There will be two women grinding at the same place; one will be taken, and the other will be left.
36 "Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other will be left."
37 And answering they *said to Him, "Where, Lord?" And He said to them, "Where the body is, there also will the vultures be gathered." (Luke 17:22-37)
MORE—On the Day that Jesus Returns
Jesus tells the disciples that the days will come when Christians will long to see His return, but they will not see it (v22). Instead there will be false Christs and false prophets appearing at this site and at that place (cmp. Mat. 24:26). Christians should not be fooled (v23). Why? Because the Return of Christ will be a once-and-for-all happening. It will be a striking and spectacular event, seen universally in the skies (Rev. 1:7). It will be as obvious as “the lightning, when it flashes out of one part of the sky [and] shines to the other part of the sky...(v24). This clearly pictures the Return of Christ to the earth, an event which occurs after the end of the Great Tribulation, as the identical language of Matthew 24:26-30 verifies.
The “Day of the Lord” and the Return of Jesus
The Second Coming of Jesus at the end of the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord are essentially the same event. Here is the evidence:
1. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament speak of a time when the Sun and Moon will grow dark and the Stars will fall and the Sky will be rolled up like a scroll. Zechariah 14:6 refers to that ‘sky scene’ and calls it “a unique day,” or one of a kind in history.
2. Joel 2:31 declares this sky scene happens “before” the Day of the Lord.
3. Matthew 24:29-30 says this sky scene occurs “immediately after the tribulation,” and signals the Second Coming of Christ. These passages pinpoint the time of the event the Bible calls the “Day of the Lord” as the same time of the events of God’s wrath surrounding the Return of Christ at the close of the Great Tribulation.
(for more evidence, see my book The Sequence Of End Time Events)
The entire passage, then, is set in the context of the return of Christ to the earth. It begins after the close of the Tribulation, with a series of sky-shaking events, accompanied by divine judgments rained down on the earth. These continue until Christ personally touches down on the earth (Mat. 24:29,30; Zec. 14:4). As noted elsewhere, this scene is known as the Day of the Lord!
Next, Jesus compares the days of His return to the days of Noah and Lot (vv 26-29). The people of those times were involved in their normal, routine run of daily life (How can this be in the midst of the Great Tribulation? MORE BELOW). Suddenly, without warning, the wrath of God rained on their gross sin and they were destroyed. The entire globe was warped in the flood of Noah’s day and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were divinely vaporized in Lot’s time.
On That Day, Don’t Turn Back!
Now, here we see some key time words. Note carefully that on “the day that Noah entered the ark.. .the flood came and destroyed them all” (v27), and “On the day that Lot went out... it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all” (v29). A reading of the actual historical records of these events confirms what Luke 17 says: Each of these individuals (and their families) escaped on a literal, single day, which was then followed by divine wrath (Gen. 7: 6,7,11; 19:15,23,24). And here, that day is compared to a day on which Christ will return! We read, “It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed” (v30). Therefore, on a particular day, after the end of the Tribulation, there will be a removal of Christians from the scene of the outpouring of judgment which accompanies the Return of Christ!
Lest we miss this point, the text goes on to say, “On that day”, that is, “the day that the Son of Man is revealed” (v30) — let Christians leave their locales without turning back (v31), just as ‘on the day that Lot went out from Sodom” there was to be no turning back (v29,32,33).
Not only that, but on that same day, twelve hours around the earth on the dark side of the planet, we see that “on that night” — that is, again, “on the day that the Son of Man is revealed” (v30) — Christians will also be leaving with no turning back (v34).
But here (v34) the Christians who are leaving are taken, which, as we shall see, is a point of great significance. But the point here is, we are dealing with a literal day—a day when Christians will escape the great and terrible Day of the Lord.
One Will Be Taken
All three of these comparable events, then — when Noah left his scene and entered the ark, when Lot left Sodom, and when the Tribulation saints will evacuate their locales — occur in the same fashion and on a particular day. Thus, the surviving Tribulation saints will be taken on the day which begins the judgments accompanying the personal Return of Christ. As we have seen, this day caps a short, climactic period at the close of the Tribulation, a period called the Day of the Lord.
Both Noah and Lot escaped the wrath of God. Noah’s “safety zone” was the ark, and Lot’s was the protected city of Zoar. The Israelites had a “safety zone” in the land of Goshen, amid the outpouring of God’s wrath on Egypt, at the time of the Exodus (Exo. 9:24-26). Modern Jordan will probably be the site of the safety zone for a Jewish Remnant during the Tribulation (Dan. 11:41). And so it will be in the Day of the Lord, when Christians are admonished to be ready to leave with no thought to ‘turn back” (Luke 17:31). They too will be provided safety zones.
Matthew 24:31—”And He will send forth His Angels”
But how do they escape? When Lot “went out” (v29), he was escorted, or taken, by two angels (Gen. 19:1; Noah was sealed in the ark by God Himself, Gen. 7:16). Again, we are told, “It will be just the same” on the day that Christ comes again to the earth, for “On that day” let no one “turn back” (v31), for “one will be taken, and the other will be left” (v34,35), just as happened in Lot’s day!
Are we certain of who is taken? Yes. For our answer — and it is a crucial one — we simply return to our comparable event in verse 29, and see who it was who “went out,” or was taken out, of Sodom, and who it was who was warned not to “turn back.” It was the righteous man, Lot (v27; the same holds true in the other analogous event; Noah, again a righteous man, who “entered the ark” and was taken from the scene of God’s wrath). And again, by whom was Lot taken out of the doomed city to a zone of safety?
He was escorted by two angels sent from God.
Taken by Angels to Safety
Therefore we conclude that the surviving Tribulation saints are escorted, or taken, by delivering angels, away from the worldwide scene of God’s wrath at the Return of Christ, and are removed to, and protected in, safety zones (for Noah, the ark, for Lot, the refuge city of Zoar, for the Jews during the plagues, the Egyptian land of Goshen, & there will be a protected safety zone for the Jews during the tribulation, Mat. 24:16; Dan. 11:41).
“One will be taken and the other will be left” will be the pattern worldwide as the Lord Himself appears in the sky and the ultimate cataclysms of the Day of the Lord crack forth upon a darkened and doomed civilization. The context in Luke 17 requires that in the final separation of tribulation believers from unbelievers, in an event called “the Harvest” (Mat. 13:39; Rev. 14:15-20) the earth is reaped, not “raptured.”
One Will Be Left
Those who “will be left” will receive the same fate as those who were “left” outside the ark, and those who were left within the walls of Sodom, where the wrath of God “destroyed them all” (vv 27, 29). Where will they be left, and where will this scene take place? The Lord answers, “Where the body [dead corpse] is, there also will the vultures be gathered” (v37; scene of carnage), which is a graphic description of the conclusive scenes at Armageddon (Mat. 24:27,28; Rev. 19.17-21) and worldwide (Luke 21:34-36), when Christ returns to destroy the world of the Assyrian Antichrist.
The entire passage in Luke 17, then, which considers a single subject in an unbroken discussion from verses 17-34, is concerned with the Second Coming of Christ to the earth as the culminating event of the Day of the Lord.
The analogies concerning the days of Noah and Lot are compared to the days of the Son of Man, or the time of His wrath accompanying His return to the earth. Why have we invested so much time and space in considering those who “escape” in the Luke 17 passage?...see below...
“One taken, one left”... Rapture or 2nd Coming Passage?
Just as the “flee Jerusalem” passages refer to different events depending on their context (Fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, Lk 21:20+; revelation of the Antichrist, Ma 24:15+; Armageddon, Lk 17:31), so too, “one taken, one left” refers to the Rapture in Ma 24:40+...but to the 2nd Coming in Lk 17.
“One will be Taken” but
None Will Be Raptured...
Luke 17 actually refutes any possibility of a post-tribulation Rapture. Why? Because a careful reading shows that there is even a possibility for those being “taken” to turn back! (v. 31) This would be impossible, of course, in the Rapture, since it is an instantaneous event (1 Cor 15:51-52, "in the twinkling of an eye"). The Rapture is a pre-tribulation event. This "one will be taken" event is a post-tribulation event.
How can “routine daily life” be happening during the Tribulation when “unless those days had been cut short, not life would have been left”?
Believe it or not, there is evidence in Scripture that routine life as described in Luke 17:27-28—”they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage...they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building”—will actually be occurring in some parts of the world of the Antichrist during the Great Tribulation! Take note of this:
1. The great city of Babylon will function as the greatest city in the world (Rev. 18) right up until her destruction in a single hour (Rev. 18:10, 17, 19).
2. That sudden destruction occurs as a result of the seventh and final bowl judgment which surrounds the Second Coming of Christ (Rev. 16:17-19).
3. Yet, until that one-hour destruction of Babylon occurs, she is still functioning, not only as a commercial giant, but as a place where musicians perform, where craftsmen create, where people work in the mills, where neon lights shine, where couples get married, where merchants conduct business and oil tycoons and financial barons operate, etc. Babylon functions with everyday routine activities until the great city is “thrown down with violence, and will not be found any longer.” (Rev. 18:21-23) MORE on BABYLON & ITS RISE &/or REVIVAL OVERNIGHT !
Grace At The Last Minute!
The amazing grace of God is magnified by the fact that people will be saved at the last minute as Christ returns in judgment at the end of the Great Tribulation. It is hard to imagine a greater love for people than this!
And the LORD utters His voice before His army;
Surely His camp is very great, For strong is he who carries out His word. The day of the LORD is indeed great and very awesome,
And who can endure it? "Yet even now," declares the LORD, "Return to Me with all your heart,
And with fasting, weeping, and mourning; And rend your heart and not your garments.
"Now return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and compassionate,
Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness, And relenting of evil. (Joel 2:11-13)
"And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the LORD Will be delivered;
For on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem There will be those who escape, (Joel 2:32)
"And it will come about in that day that I will set about to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.
"And I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem,
the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced;
and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son,
and they will weep bitterly over Him, like the bitter weeping over a first-born. (Zechariah 12:9-10)