On the Rapture

St. Ephrem the Syrian

On the Verse: There Will Be Two in the Field

«Τῷ δύο ἔσονται ἐν ἀγρῷ» (CPG 3985), ed. K.G. Phrantzoles, Ὁσίου Ἐφραίμ τοῦ Σύρου ἔργα 4 (Thessaloniki: To Perivole tes Panagias, 1992), 290-292. Cf. Assemani 6:23-24.

This text is reproduced in some later versions of St. Anastasios of Sinai’s Questions and Answers (see PG 89:697): “How should we understand the verse, There will be two in the field? The answer of Saint Ephrem, from his On Judgement…”

You have heard that there will be two in the field: one will be taken up while the other is left behind; two women grinding corn in the mill-house: one will be taken up and one left behind; two on the housetop (Mt 24:40-41), etc.

Those who are on the housetop are judges, leaders, kings, and rulers set up on high. For there are righteous judges and unrighteous judges. The righteous will be taken up from the fire, but the unrighteous will be left behind.

Those who are in the field—which clearly refers to this world—are the peasants, the unrefined, and the lowliest in birth and wealth. Some are noble and some are ignoble. Some are righteous and others are unrighteous. The righteous will be taken up, but the unrighteous will be left behind in the fire.

Those in the mill-house are the multitude of women, and, to an extent, the souls who take on the yoke of servitude and live out their lives in infirmity. For some women are righteous, while others are unrighteous; and some servants are righteous and others are unrighteous. Some of the infirm are righteous, like Job and Lazarus, while some are unrighteous, like Cain and Gehazi (2 Kgs 4-8). Whence it says, Two will be in bed (Lk 17:34), indicating their infirmity. The righteous are taken up and the unrighteous are left behind.

But let Paul tell us how it is that the righteous are taken up. Those who live in Christ will be snatched into the air on clouds and shall be always with the Lord (1 Thess 4:17). And how are the unrighteous left behind? The angels will gather the elects from the four winds (Mt 24:31), but they shall burn the impious with unquenchable fire (cf. Mt 3:12). Do not imagine, therefore, that the unquenchable fire of punishment will be kindled with wood, or that it will burn in the usual way, as the foolish multitudes think. Rather, look at Sodom, and behold a furnace without wood (Gen 19:24, 28). Think on the petrification of Lot’s wife (Gen 19:26) and marvel at the threat of the fire. For they were all together: Lot, his wife, and his two daughters. Yet Lot, together with his daughters, was not burned, while the woman did not escape the fire’s threat. Rather, justice gave to each what they deserved. And thus it shall also be in the Judgement. The righteous will be taken up, like Lot, while the unrighteous are left behind, like his wife.

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