The insidious debate (whether Jesus catches up Christians to heaven before, in the middle or at the end of a seven year period of tribulation) is the most discussed and dissected prophecy fare on the dinner plates of American evangelicals. The Internet is inundated with chat rooms, web sites and blogs where ersatz prophets cast eschatological volleys at each other at a pace (and with the vehemence) that would qualify it as one of the top events at the next Summer Olympics scheduled in London, England in the year 2012. By the way, that’s the same year that has been predicted by Mayan devotees and others who believe the world will end on December 12, 2012. Prophecy frenzy today is higher than it’s ever been, probably not since the days in 1844 when evangelist Bill Miller predicted the world was going to end that year.
Now, while to many people the world and society in general appear to be living in more precarious times than in the past (as we witness wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes in diverse places and man’s hearts growing colder toward one another), much of this same hue and cry was prevalent during the Civil War and World Wars 1 and 11. After things cooled down after these great and alarming events, and as the nation began to prosper again, people forgot about Armageddon and settled down to raise families and earn a living. Not today!
In order to get a better handle on this mass confusion and chicken little alarmist fervor that is permeating not only what remains of the organized church, but also jumped onto by the mainstream media because it sells copy, we have to be able to point our fingers at an absolute fact that we can trust as to what really happens to those that believe in Christ. The end of days could occur tomorrow or not until the year 2095. Who truly knows? The Bible repeatedly tells us that only the Father (God) knows the day and the hour and not even Jesus Christ is privy to this information. But one thing we can tell you today is the answer to the question as to who is taken and who is left behind.
And after we clarify this issue, we also toss the gauntlet at the feet of people like Hal Lindsey, Chuck Missler, John Hagee, Mike Evans and a slew of other “Pre-Tribulation Rapture supporter, to admit that their theories are just that (theories), especially Tim LaHaye’s contention that sinners will be “Left Behind” which is sheer folly and nonsense to the highest level of theological speculation, and much less any hermeneutical academic foundation he believes he has presented with the utmost integrity.
First and foremost, the phrase “Left Behind” is not to be found in the Bible whatsoever! In attempts to validate their left behind schemes, implying Christians will be taken to heaven while the unjust will remain on earth to suffer God’s wrath, theorists primarily quote Luke 17, verses 30 through 35:
It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. 31 On that day no one who is on the roof of his house, with his goods inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. 32 Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. 34 I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed, one will be taken and the other left. 35 Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left, (Luke 17:30-35, NIV). [Bold and underline is by the author, solely for emphasis]
If theorists insist on using these verses to describe who is left and who is taken at the so-called Rapture, isn’t it interesting to note verse 30 (above) states this happens on the day the Son of Man is revealed. So much for the “secret” aspect of the Rapture! But even more importantly, you will notice that the word “behind” is nowhere to be found in any Bible version in existence after the word left in verses 34 and 35. It merely states one taken and the other left!
Now, here is the danger about this aspect, which may appear to be a minor issue to most folks who preach, teach and believe in the whole Left Behind notions being propagated by thousands upon thousands of church leaders throughout the world. From the outset, Jesus Christ has warned (as did the prophets in the Old Testament) that to change, alter, adjust or modify the gospel in any manner whatsoever comes with grave consequences:
I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book. (Revelation 22:18-19
When I first began writing my books, this verse screamed out at me daily! If I had any doubt about the veracity of a particular word, sentence, phrase, noun, pronoun, adjective or any portion of any verse, I would scrutinize it until I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that what I present in my two books was not only true, but would stand the test of time under the most voracious scrutiny by any theologian, academic or linguistics expert. But, yet, these theorists who have written these books and have profited millions and millions of dollars never respond to any one person who challenges their theories. The fact remains is that they (especially Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins) are wrong about their Left Behind premise and I fear for their eternal salvation. They may care less (they already have millions in their bank accounts) or they may seriously believe they have interpreted God’s word correctly. If that be so, why won’t they respond to the many challenges that have been cast at them?
Therefore, the following information, which took years and years of study, examining the information over and over again to ensure it was correct, accurate and biblically verifiable, very succinctly challenges the entirety of the Left Behind notions put forth by LaHaye, et al. Please, follow me closely here.
According to renowned Greek scholar W. E. Vine, the word taken (or receive) is the Greek verb paralambano, which means to “receive, to take to (or with) oneself.” (W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Pages 926 and 1117). Vine states that paralambano is used in Matthew 27:27, as we see Jesus being taken into the Praetorium where He was beaten immediately prior to His crucifixion. It is interesting to see that the Greek word paralambano is not used for the word taken in Acts 1:2, where it speaks about Jesus will be taken up to heaven. The word there is analambano (Gr. ana, up, lambano, take). Nor is paralambano used in Acts 1:9 to describe Him being taken up to heaven in Acts 1:9. The Greek word used to describe Jesus being taken up to heaven in Acts 1:9 is epairo (to lift, raise). The word paralambano describes more so a forceful action of taking and receiving unto oneself without asking. Also, paralambano obviously does not convey the rapid manner the Greek word harpazo (catch or snatch) used in the famous verse (1 Thessalonians 4:17) from where theorists’ base most of their secret Pre-Tribulation escape theory.
We also see the word paralambano used in John 19:16 where it speaks about Jesus Christ, when Pilate delivered him over to the Jews: And they took Jesus and led Him away, (John 19:16, KJV). We see paralambano again in Acts 15:39, when Barnabas, after having a sharp disagreement with Paul, took Mark and sailed for Cyprus. We see paralambano again in Acts 16:33, where Silas and Paul’s jailer took them and washed their wounds after the earthquake incident. In Acts 21:24, we again see paralambano used for the word take in the scene where Paul exhorts James and the elders to take the four men among them and join in their purification rites so as not to start rumors that Paul is encouraging Jews to turn away from the Law. In verse 32, the word is again used to describe the Roman commander who took some officers and soldiers to rescue Paul from the aroused crowd in Jerusalem. In Acts 23:18, we also see paralambano used to describe the incident where Paul commanded one of the centurions to take the young man to his commander to relay the message that the Jews were contemplating a plot to kill Paul.
These have been but a few examples where paralambano means to take, took or taken. This Greek word is also used to describe the word receive, or to receive from another. We see the usage in Mark 7:4, where the Pharisees received (from tradition) certain edicts pertaining to the cleansing of cups, pots, pitchers and themselves prior to eating. We see this word in John 1:11, where it speaks about Jesus coming to His own (the Jews) who did not receive Him. In John 14:3, the word is used to describe how Jesus will receive those who are His when He returns at The Second Advent. Some would say this describes the process used at the so-called Rapture; however, the receiving here is not the being caught (harpazo) to have a meeting with the Lord in the air we see in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, but rather, what we see is the receiving unto Himself (or to His side) when He sets up His earthly kingdom. The word in this verse (John 14:3) is not analambano (to take up), but paralambano (to take or grasp to Himself). This verse, as we will see later on, is not describing the so-called Rapture-to-heaven scenario.
We see the word again in 1 Corinthians 11:23, where Paul, speaking about the manner in which the Lord’s Supper is to be partaken, states that he received instruction from the Lord not to partake the Lord’s Supper unworthily. Moreover, what Paul received was the realization that Jesus died for our sins (1 Corinthians. 15:1, 3) and that the Lord’s Supper was to be an honored memorial of this fact, not to be desecrated by orgiastic ribaldry, as had become the communion ritual in the Corinthian church. In Galatians 1:9, we see paralambano again as Paul exhorts that specific church to accurse the man who preaches a gospel contrary to the one they had received. This was the true gospel Paul spoke about, because he neither was taught nor received it from man, but through a revelation of Jesus Christ (vs. 12). In Philippians 4:19, Paul once again reiterates the need for Christians to practice the things we have learned, heard, seen and received from Him, another example where paralambano is used.
There are many other instances too numerous to mention where the word paralambano is used and, in each case, like the ones we have examined, none are ever used to describe or picture the catching up of any individual or group to heaven. In other words, paralambano describes a taking unto oneself or receiving unto oneself, as one would forcefully seize hold of something for further action.
Let’s now examine the more important word left as is used in Luke 17:34, 35. The Greek word for left is aphiemi and, much to many peoples’ surprise, the word means, to forgive! W. E. Vine states that aphiemi has three chief meanings, but it primarily means to send forth, send away (apo, from, hiemi, to send), besides its other meanings, to remit or forgive (a) debts, Matt. 6:12, 18:27, 32, these being completely canceled; (b) sins, e.g., Matt. 9:2, 5, 6; 12:31, 32; Acts 8:22 (“the thought of thine heart”) Romans 4:7; James 5:15; 1 John 1:9, 1:12. Vine goes on to state that aphiemi, like its corresponding noun (aphesis, a dismissal, release), it “firstly signifies the remission of the punishment due to sinful conduct, the deliverance of the sinner from the penalty divinely, and therefore righteously, imposed; secondly, it involves the complete removal of the cause of offense; such remission is based upon the vicarious and propitiatory sacrifice of Christ.” Obviously, those who are left are the forgiven ones, and those taken are the ones who are bound for punishment.
Those saints are obviously the same ones spoken of in 1 Thessalonians 4:15 and 17 who will be alive and awaiting the return of Christ. Vine, speaking about those called out ones who remain (alive) on earth before the Lord returns, also defines the word remain with another Greek word, perileipo He states perileipo means “to leave over,” is used in the Passive Voice in 1Thessalonians 4:15 an 17. He says the RV translates perileipo as they “that are left,” and the King James Version translate perileipo as they “that remain,” literally, “left over,” i.e., “the living believers at the Lord’s return.” (W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, Thomas Nelson Publishers, pages 452, 655, 656, 661, 1103).
It is interesting to note, and extremely important to mention, that the word aphiemi, in Luke 17:34, 35, is the same word used in the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:12; Luke 11:4) where it states: “And forgive (aphiemi) us our debts, as we also have forgiven (aphiemi) our debtors.” [Parenthesis and bold by the author, solely for emphasis]
If Luke wanted the disciples to understand that verses 34 and 35 (where the word left (aphiemi) supposedly means to be left behind, stranded, or abandoned, he would have used the more precise Greek word kataleipo. If the reader will examine many other verses where the word kataleipo is used to clearly state someone will be left behind, he or she will realize that kataleipo more precisely means to leave a person stranded, abandoned or left behind (during the Rapture) as opposed to left (aphiemi) alone, which means to forgive, or leave them alone, do not touch them, bypass them. Here are a few verses where the Greek word kataleipo clearly means to leave behind, abandon or forsake:
A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left (kataleipo) them, and departed. (Matthew 16:4) And said, for this cause shall a man leave (kataleipo) father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? (Matthew 19:5) And he left (kataleipo) them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there. (Matthew 21:17); For this cause shall a man leave (kataleipo) his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; (Mark 10:7); Master, Moses wrote unto us, If a man's brother die, and leave (kataleipo) [his] wife [behind him], and leave no children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother (Mark 12:19): And he left (kataleipo) the linen cloth, and fled from them naked (Mark 14:52); And after these things he went forth, and saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said unto him, follow me. And he left (kataleipo) all, rose up, and followed him. (Luke 5:27-28); And they which heard [it], being convicted by [their own] conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, [even] unto the last: and Jesus was left (kataleipo) alone, and the woman standing in the midst (John 8:9). What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, doth not leave (kataleipo) the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he finds it? (Luke 15:4). [Bold and parenthesis (kataleipo) by the author, solely for emphasis]
There are many other verses that use the word kataleipo to expressly mean to leave something or someone behind, including Acts 2:31; 18:19; 24:27; 25:14; 1 Thessalonians 3:1 and 2 Peter 2:15. This last verse (2 Peter 2:15) uses the word “forsaken” to define kataleipo, which clearly demonstrates the profound meaning that theorists would infer in the verse (Luke 17:34-35) they quote so often in their Left Behind scheme. But kataleipo is not used to define the phrase left in Luke 17:34-35; the Greek word aphiemi is used, and it means to forgive, to pass over, to leave alone, and it’s never used to convey forsaken, stranded, abandoned or Left Behind!
Having now seen the precise definition of these two Greek words, can there be any doubt in the reader’s mind as to who is taken (paralambano, taken aside) and who is left (aphiemi, forgiven)? But yet, thousands of preachers and Bible teachers, dispensationalists and Rapture theorists daily use these verses (Luke 17, 34, 35) as depicting those taken as the ones who are secretly caught up to heaven, and those left as the ones who are left behind to suffer the wrath of God for a seven-year period of time.
The even sadder commentary on theorists who ignorantly interpret these verses in such a haphazard manner is the fact that the following verse, in Luke 17:37, specifically (and ever so clearly) informs us as to the destination of those who are taken. Verse 37 reads: “Where, Lord?” They asked. He replied: “Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.” In light of the proper interpretation of the word left (aphiemi, to forgive), it’s obvious that the disciples are asking where will those taken be sent to? They couldn’t be asking where those left would be taken. They would already be there!
No! My friends! Christians aren’t taken anywhere! They are left alone, passed over, forgiven. Unbelievers are the ones taken, as they are seized and bound, as the tares apart from God’s wheat spoken of in Matthew 13:30, NIV: Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn!
In Matthew 13:40, we see when they (tares) will be burned up: As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age, (Matthew 13:40, NIV). Here we see a perfect picture of Jesus instructing His angels to bind unbelievers in preparation to be burned, while at the same time providing his called out ones protection inside His End Times Passover barn (See Isaiah 26:20) while He pours out His wrath on the unbelievers. And He performs this at the end of the age, (Matthew 13:40, NIV). [Underline by the author, solely for emphasis]
Once again, as has been the case too often, exegesis of many theorists begins to crumble under extensive examination, due to their lack of knowledge of the precise and true meaning of key words and scriptural verses they use to pad their secret pre-tribulation escape theories.
Even more disconcerting is the pervasive and incessant promulgation of these left behind mythologies that permeate the Christian publishing and video markets of today, which are deluding millions of Christians into a false sense of security, motivated more so by profit and temporal fame. The author makes no apologies to these writers and preachers in regards to this matter. If they believe I am being to harsh on them for their errors (or dishonesty); open rebuke is better than hidden love.".
While there exists much love by the author for all those who claim to speak God’s gospel truth (about who is taken and who is left), claiming that those taken (up to heaven) are Christians and those left behind are the heathen, it is inexcusable to persist in this folly when the word of God clearly states His children of promise are left (Gr. aphiemi, forgiven) alone, passed over, when He returns with great wrath!
Now, why is this so important? The reason is that Christians will not be raptured to Heaven 3, 5 nor 7 years before Jesus return to rule the earth for eternity. They will be caught up to have a joint meeting with the returning Christ on his descent to earth. But, prior to that, earth and its citizens will be experiencing tribulation, turmoil and chaos like never witnessed by mankind since history began. This is why preachers, teachers, church leaders, parents and all mature and responsible people should be about not only warning humanity about its impending persecutions, but praying for the strength, wisdom and the knowledge to comfort and care for their fellow human beings right up to the very day of His return.
Unfortunately, as we look all around us, no one is sounding the clarion nor are they in the forefront of society’s masses, speaking with boldness, that mankind needs to turn to God or perish forever!
So? What are your plans for this weekend? The ball game? Disneyland? The beach? Back yard barbecue?
Me? I’ll be by my telephone waiting for Tim LaHaye to call me because he wants to check and compare his evidence with my evidence and, hopefully, either one of us should be prepared to or be willing to recant our respective doctrinal positions; and, to insure both of us will qualify to have a place among those who have been faithful to God’s word.
The above data can be found in the 2nd chapter of The End Times Passover by Joe Ortiz. Information concerning this blog and how to access the book and its sequel, Why Christians Will Suffer Great Tribulation, (both published by Author House), please click here Joe Ortiz