When I was taught New Testament it was still the rage to think Jesus was an apocalyptist. And not just that he was an apocalyptist, but that his expectation was that he would be returning shortly in apocalyptic style. Clearly he didn't, so therefore he got that wrong. And the church, perhaps out of out of embarrassment, or maybe to fool everyone for 'its' own self -interest, changed the preaching and expectation of the apocalyptic Jesus into something more palatable for a church that would ride out the storms of history. Sort of like the whole debate about the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith. (You know how it goes; Jesus preached the kingdom, the church preached Jesus, etc.) This kind of false duality with its interpretation that saw Jesus as getting it terribly wrong and the church altering his memory to suit itself, is over mostly. Jesus wasn't an apocalyptist, and although he used the language of apocalyptic style at times, his teaching and expectation runs counter to the usual dualities of apocalyptic and subverted it within. More of that later in the week.
Matthew 24:36-44 hasn't figured large in my head for quite a while. Probably the last time I looked at it seriously I thought it was part of the apocalyptic expectation of Jesus that he got wrong. "One will be taken, one will be left." (vv. 40-41) Taken into heaven, right? The fundamentalists love this kind of stuff. But look at the whole passage again. The analogy for the meaning of "taken" and "left" is Noah. (vv. 36-39) Noah was left, not taken. Contrary to the escapist theologies so prevalent amongst us and in us, Jesus in vv. 40-42 is saying the faithful disciple is left, not taken. This raises all sorts of questions like, "Taken where?" Sure. But notice how the usual interpretation of the passage makes it say exactly its opposite! Jesus was not an escapist, and not an apocalyptist.
I, like just about everyone, thought that Matt 24:40-42 meant that people were plucked from earth into heaven.