Our Master Yeshua compared the generation of Noah to the generation that will witness the day of the LORD and the coming of the Son of Man. When the Messiah returns, He will usher in a day of judgment. In that day, some will be taken away in judgment and others will be left behind:
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. (Matthew 24:40-41)
I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other will be left. There will be two women grinding at the same place; one will be taken and the other will be left. (Luke 17:34-35)
A husband and wife will be in the same bed. One will be taken, the other left behind. Two men will be at work together in the same field. One will be taken the other left behind. Two women will be turning the stone mill to grind flour. One will be taken the other left behind. Surprisingly, Christians today often interpret these words to mean that when Jesus comes, the one taken will be whisked away to meet Him in the sky. Since the spouse left lying in bed is not a believer, he (or she) will be left behind. Likewise, the one left working in the field is not a Christian, so he is left behind. The one left grinding at the mill, also not a believer, is left behind.
Contrary to the popular teaching, however, the one “taken” in the Matthew 24 and Luke 17 is not raptured to join Jesus in the air. Just as the flood came and took people away in the days of Noah (and just as fire and brimstone fell upon the people of Sodom in the days of Lot), being “taken away” in Matthew 24:40-41 refers to people taken in judgment.
The disciples asked Him, “Where [will they be taken], Master?” He answered, “Where the body is, there also the vultures will be gathered” (Luke 17:37). In other words, the corpses of those taken away will be food for the birds. With these words, our Master invoked the dire apocalyptic predictions of the prophets Ezekiel and Jeremiah.
The horrific massacres of the war with Rome that engulfed the Jewish people of Yeshua’s generation fulfilled His prophecies: “They left the dead bodies to rot under the sun, and they bestowed the same punishment to anyone who buried a body … anyone that granted the mercy of a grave to another quickly needed a grave himself.” The people of the generation became food for the vultures. Our holy Master Yeshua foresaw it all.
The Hebrew word nesher (נשר) can mean a “vulture” or an “eagle.” The Romans used the eagle as the symbol of their empire. In that sense, Yeshua might have used the word “eagles” as a cryptic reference to Roman legions:
The LORD will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as the eagle swoops down. (Deuteronomy 28:49)
Those “left behind” in Matthew 24 and Luke 17 are the righteous, not the wicked. Those “left behind” can be compared to Noah and his seven family members who survived the flood, as Peter says, “The Lord knows how to rescue the godly” (2 Peter 2:9).
The thrust of the passage calls upon disciples to remain vigilant as they await the coming of the days of the Son of Man. Yeshua’s disciples must not be like the complacent generations of Noah and Lot that were caught unawares, for the Messiah will come suddenly, like a flash of lightning, like a thief in the night. “Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:42).