Jesus is continuing his private (Matt. 24:3) discussion with some of his disciples. As we've shown in the previous verses, he is describing two events simultaneously: 1) The Jewish-Roman wars to come in the next few decades (starting around 66 AD) - a time when most of his disciples would be slaughtered along with hundreds of thousands if not millions of Jews and early Christians; and 2) The moment of death, accompanied by Jesus' presence for those who followed him - to escort them back to the spiritual realm.
The end of time scenario makes no sense whatsoever with Jesus' discussion. Why would one person be taken and the other not taken if it were the end of the world? Some sectarian teachers have tried to fictionalize that the followers of their sect will "inherit the earth" while others will be tossed away.
They imagine that 'inheriting the earth' is some kind of reward? What kind of reward would this be? Today we find most of the rivers and skies polluted. Bacteria and viruses run rampant - infecting whatever they come into contact with. There are hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, freezing cold in some places and time of year and sweltering heat in other places and time of year. Who the heck would want to "inherit" this kind of world?
So what would we "inherit" here? A bunch of rotting carcasses of those who died in the cataclysm? Or are the ecclesiastical Christians saying that the bodies are "taken" away, leaving the earth nice and clean?
And how could a temporary physical body - which will get sick and die at some point - possibly inherit anything permanently? The earth is a temporary place of residence. It is not our home. Here, we reside in temporary bodies that will die and decompose.
Some of these ecclesiastical sectarian institutions like to pitch this "inheriting the earth" with their promotional literature. They draw pictures of people sitting around on lawn chairs sipping lemonade. This is their speculative picture of "inheriting the earth."
And where is God in this "inherit the earth" scenario? God is nowhere to be found in their drawings. They don't picture God because they don't want God. They just want to rule the earth without God.
This is precisely our disease: We are here in this physical world, inhabiting these temporary physical bodies because we wanted to ignore God. We wanted to be in charge, because we couldn't accept God being in charge. We wanted to get away from God, and play God.
So this is what many ecclesiastical sectarians have accomplished within their doctrines. A place where they can be in charge without God getting in the way.
But this is not what Jesus taught. Jesus didn't teach that we should "inherit the earth." Jesus wanted us to return to the spiritual world and return to our natural position as God's loving servants:
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Matt. 7:21)
"For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." (Matt. 12:50)
So if these ecclesiastical sectarians want to inherit the earth then they can have it. They can have the suffering of the body. They can have the pain, disease, old age and death found here. And those who want to really follow Jesus' teachings can return to God in the kingdom of heaven and inherit eternal life.
With this misinterpretation debunked, we can now interpret clearly what Jesus was discussing above.
Jesus is comparing the mass slaughter of millions of Jews in the first century to the days of the flood of Noah because in both instances, people died unprepared. In both cases, many died without having progressed in spiritual life. Jesus tells of the days before the flood, when people were "eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage."
And what is so wrong with "eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage"? There is nothing wrong with these activities. However, Jesus is talking about not being prepared for death. He is talking about the people being oblivious to the fact that their bodies will be killed at any minute.
This is, in fact, our situation in general. Any of us can die today. Or tomorrow.
But what does Jesus mean by "one will be taken and the other left", then? By Jesus' description of the massacre and the historical events, we know both men in the field and both women at the hand mill will be killed by the Romans in the coming years: Very few survived the slaughter. So it is not as if one will vanish and the other will still be working away as if nothing happened.
The "one will be taken" is the person who has utilized their lives to re-develop their love for God. They will be taken back to the spiritual realm at the time of death.
The "other" who will be "left" is the person who will remain in the physical realm after the death of their current physical body. They will not have prepared for the time of death. They will return to the physical world by taking on another physical body.
It is comical that the ecclesiastical sectarian teachers prefer being "left" rather than "taken". They want to remain in the physical realm, away from God. How could they describe themselves as Christians?
The phrase "the coming of the Son of Man" has been misinterpreted by these same people who want to stay here, away from God. They imagine that Christ will come galloping through the sky, whisking away all the baddies, and leaving the rest of the good folk to 'inherit the earth.'
Rather, Jesus is describing that he, the Servant of Humanity (υἱοῦ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου - see this verse for explanation of translation), will be present at the time of death to escort each person who followed his teachings back to the spiritual realm. "Coming" is being translated from the Greek παρουσία (parousia), which means to to be present or appear according to the lexicon.
"The coming" interpretation was developed by the politically-motivated Nicene council put together by the Roman emperor Constantine. The objective was to organize the Christian world by fear - so they misinterpreted statements by Jesus describing events that already took place (Romans massacring the Jewish people in the first and second century) to fictionalize an event that would keep people in line and coming into church - the Roman Catholic church.
Isn't it convenient that the Fourth century Roman Catholic church adopted an interpretation that essentially erased the Romans' holocaust of millions of Jews and Christians in the decades after Jesus' murder?
Rather, the spiritual teacher is our guide in life and our escort when we leave these bodies at the time of death. When he is physically present before us, he teaches us the tools to prepare for returning to our natural relationship with the Supreme Being: as God's loving servant. These are his teachings. The bonafide spiritual teacher does not make up his own teachings. He passes on the teachings of the previous bonafide teachers - which are ultimately coming from the Supreme Person. And this of course was why Jesus constantly quoted the teachings of the "prophets" of the Old Testament such as David, Moses, Isaiah and Samuel.
And for this reason, other teachers from the Old Testament were also described as servants of humanity - including Ezekiel, Job and David. Ezekiel was called "son of man" [servant of humanity] at least 60 times by God. This is because like Jesus, Job and David were sent by God to retrieve those who are ready to return to Him, just as Jesus admitted about himself:
" “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the One who sent me." (John 9:4)
"For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken." (John 12:49)
The second phase of the task of retrieval is escorting our return. By following Jesus' teachings, we find that we are not only introduced to God: But should we become ready to return by following those teachings, we are then escorted back to the spiritual realm by Jesus. Jesus describes this as παρουσία - he will be there for us.
As such, Jesus also uses soliloquy in describing the time of death as "what day your Lord will come." This sort of soliloquy is actually still in use today, as many describe dying as "meeting your Maker".
And it is true: At the time of death, we all, in one way or another, "meet our Maker," as we are faced with one of God's angels or representatives who show us the results of our lives and the spiritual progress we've made - if any - in this lifetime. This is also referred to as "Judgement Day."
This clarifies Jesus statement: "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come." Jesus is telling them to stay diligent, because they do not know what day their bodies will die.
But by also describing his appearance to them on their moment of death, Jesus is explaining that should we follow his teachings, he will be there to guide us through the process and escort us back to the spiritual realm.
And this has been confirmed in many clinical death histories, as some people - those who tried to follow Jesus' teachings - describe leaving their body and being in the presence of Jesus. They describe him telling them they aren't ready yet, whereupon they return to their revived physical bodies.
The spiritual world is all about relationships. There are so many relationships going on there. The central of which is our natural relationship of loving and caring for the Supreme Person. All other relationships in the spiritual world revolve around our relationship with God. This is why Jesus said (above) that by doing God's will, we will return to the spiritual world. 'Doing God's will' means serving Him. It means doing what pleases Him. This comes from love, and why love for God was Jesus' primary teaching:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matt. 22:37-40)
(For a translation of Jesus' statements from the Book of Matthew without institutional sectarian influence, see the Gospels of Jesus - translated from the original Greek texts.)