Rapture in Hebrew Matthew
In the Greek Matthew reflected in the King James, NASB, NIV, etc., we read in Matthew 24:40-41:
40 Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left.41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left. (NASB)
Professor Howard in 1989 published The Hebrew Gospel of Matthew. This ground-breaking work proved that the Hebrew Shem Tob Matthew from the 1300s contains part of the original Hebrew substratum by apostle Matthew of what was translated into Greek in our current Matthew New Testament. Hence, a variant in the Shem Tob could always represent a possible original portion of the inspired Gospel that in copying was simply dropped out early on. In the Shem Tob Hebrew Matthw, we read in Matthew 24 the following addtional language in bold:
40 Then if there shall be two ploughing in a field, one righteous and the other evil, the one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding at a mill; one will be taken and the other left. This is because the angels at the end of the world will remove the stumbling blocks from the world and will separate the good from the evil.
The bolded portion is the portion omitted in the Greek translation with which we are familiar. What is the consequence?
As can be seen, in Shem Tob Jesus explains who is raptured. One is righteous, the other evil. The Greek text in verses 40-41 makes no such clear identification. The Greek text still provides support for the view in the Shem Tob because Jesus is drawing a parallel to the time of Noah when the evil are all swept away, leaving the earth to the righteous Noah and his family. Hence, the Shem Tob variant perfectly matches the Greek text's implication from mention of Noah's time that it is the evil who are taken away from the earth, and not the righteous.
In addition, we should also realize that if we look at the Greek-based King James in Matthew 13:41-43 and 49-50, we shall see these additional words in 40-41 in the Shem Tob match what Jesus two more times says in Matthew 13. Combined, these passages all make perfectly clear who is first raptured / seized away from earth: the unrighteous, not Christians.
41 The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom [a]all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness,42 andwill throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.43 Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, [b]let him hear. 49 So it will be at the [a]end of the age; the angels will come forth and [b]take out the wicked from among the righteous,50 and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (NASB)
Shem Tob Analysis
The Shem Tob is certainly clear who is taken away in Matthew 24, verse 41. It refers to "stumbling blocks": they are the evil people who will be removed, paralleling 'evil' identified in verse 40. Hence, it is not the good who will be "taken" to heaven when Christ returns, but instead the evil will be taken away, leaving the good to inherit the Earth. Notice the same words appear in Matthew 13:41 -- the "stumbling blocks" are removed first, highlighting the accuracy of the Shem Tob variant to Matthew 24:40.
Why would anyone resist this variant from the Shem Tob, given the corroborative evidence in other passages in the Greek-based Matthew?
A scholar explains this Shem-Tob variance reverses the common perception based upon Paul's statement in Thessalonians. This scholar is William L. Petersen of Pennsylvania State University, Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies. He comments about this in the following expert article on the Shem Tob Matthew: Some Observations on a Recent Edition of and Introduction to Shem-Tob's "Hebrew Matthew" (available at http://rosetta.reltech.org/TC/vol03/Petersen1998a.html)
Hence, the resistance is due to a preconceived notion that Paul -- the one difficult to understand per Second Peter in 2 Peter 3:17 -- trumps our Lord's words repeatedly spoken on the same topic.
What About John 17:15?
Yet, there is more corroboration than simply the Greek Matthew at 13:40-43, 49-50.
The Shem Tob Hebrew Matthew is also very much in accord with Apostle John's account in John 17:15:
I pray not that thou shouldest take (Gk. ares, lifting) them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.
Jesus' desire not to take out of the world the faithful Christians is, to repeat, explained clearly in the Greek-based version of Matthew 13:41 which reads that is the fate of the wicked:
The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall take / gather out (Gk. paralambano) of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;
The Shem Tob Hebrew Matthew is also compatible with the Greek in this passage. The word "taken" in the Greek of Matthew 13:41 is paralambano. Dr. John Walvoord points out this is the word to describe how Jesus was arrested. Thus, it can have bad connotations. However, it can also have neutral connotations, as when Jesus says he took with himself Peter and John to the transfiguration in Matthew 17:1.
Yet, in Matt. 13:41, it is clear "taken" has a bad connotation. They are taken up and away with a negative connotation, while Jesus says He would not pray his followers are "lifted away" from the world, but rather are strengthened to endure evil.
It appears Jesus' original words teach that the righteous inherit the earth as the New Jerusalem descends in multiple passages, including the Shem Tob of Matthew 24:40-41. It is the evil who are removed. There is no rapture of Christians. Only the evil and wicked are raptured. En route to Earth, Jesus will gather the elect from the four winds of heaven -- those who previously died but whose spirits, like the thief's, were "this day in Paradise -- and come to earth after reaping the earth of the evil ones, thereby removing via the angels all the wicked. Paul evidently heard the topic, but heard it the wrong way, and thus relayed incorrectly that it was the good who were removed first.
While researching all the controversy between the different Rapture theories, my sister and I who have read the verse many times where two will be in the field one will be taken the other left. At some point we realized that the wicked are taken first and Professor Howards' Hebrew Matthew confirmed that fact very clearly. Now the parable of the wheat and tares makes sense. The separation of the Sheep and the goats makes sense, and the only rapture is of the wicked, goats or tares. I have tried several times in the past to get to the bottom of those rapture beliefs, but gave up in frustration. I also believe this is part of Satan's deceivableness and lying wonders, and many of those who believe the deception will perish, I do believe. So I found confirmation from Howard's Shem Tob translaiton of a scripture which is weak in my KJV.
Have a GREAT!! day