“Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition…”
for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first,
The Rapture is a signless, immanent event; it could occur without any preceding indication of its occurrence. The Day of the Lord has a number of signs indicating its coming. We find two signs in this verse and one in verses 6 and 7.
The first sign of the Day of the Lord is a worldwide, general apostasy of the church from its biblical moorings.
The words “falling away” come from the Greek for apostasy. It means defection, revolt, apostasy. The New Testament always uses this term for some form of religious defection. The idea is to openly defy God’s authority and act in complete opposition to His plan. One day a general apostasy will occur in the professing church.
The definite article “the” before “falling away” indicates that this is not just any apostasy but “the apostasy.”
Paul’s proof in this verse that the Thessalonians are not in the Day of the Lord is that 1) a general apostasy has not occurred yet, and 2) the man of sin has not yet been revealed.
Though Paul does not refer to the Rapture per se, he argues for the time of the Rapture (“the coming of the Lord,” verse 1). The Rapture must begin by the beginning of the Day of the Lord. The idea that the Thessalonians had missed the Rapture shook them to the core.
The word “first” says something about the order of events in this chapter. The apostasy of Christendom must occur either just before the Day of the Lord or at its beginning.
One day Christendom will move into acute apostasy.
Some people believe prophetically that the world is going to get better and better. When it gets good enough, then Jesus will come back. The Bible teaches the opposite. The church will get worse and worse until finally, she goes into profound apostasy.
The apostate church will become a worldwide movement. People will jump on the bandwagon because of the massiveness of the movement.
Question: is the apostasy a rejection of their Christianity by believers or a rejection of Christianity by people "calling themselves believers"? Your suggestion that this would be of the church would seem to signify the former. If so, will they be walking away from a previously true Christian conversion?
Peter, this passage is not explicit on whether this apostasy involves true believers or not. It does indicate that this will be a wholesale abandonment by those who align themselves with Christianity in some sense, possibly professing Christians. The specific event is the massive rejection of Christianity during the Tribulation period.
If the apostasy is going to take place shortly after a pre-tribulation rapture, how does that happen since all the believers on earth would have been removed during the rapture. Those left behind on earth would be the unbelievers. An unbeliever cannot undergo apostasy since one cannot fall away or defect from something he was never part of. Only a genuine Christian can fall away from the faith, but no genuine Christian is expected to be on earth at least at the beginning of the day of the Lord, just immediately after the rapture (although lots of people would get saved later during the Tribulation period).
As I study the book of Revelation, I don’t see anything indicative of any apostasy involving the Tribulation saints. Instead, what I see is the picture of Tribulation saints willing to die for their faith and many of them get martyred during the Tribulation. A great multitude that no one could count are martyred (Rev. 7).
Therefore, the interpretation of the Greek word “apostasia” in 2 Thess. 2:3 as apostasy (falling away from the faith) may not be accurate. It is noteworthy that the Greek word “apostasia” translated “falling away” in modern Bibles was actually first translated in this way in 1611 by the King James Version. Prior to this time, all the early English translators of the Bible translated this word as “departure”.
Jerome translated the Greek New Testament into Latin in the 4th century (the Latin Vulgate). He used the Latin word discessio, meaning “departure”, for the Greek word apostasia. Furthermore, the first seven English translations of the Bible rendered the noun apostasia as either “departure” or “departing.” They include the Wycliffe Bible (1384), the Tyndale Bible (1526), the Coverdale Bible (1535), the Cranmer Bible (1539), the Great Bible (1540), the Beeches Bible (1576) and the Geneva Bible (1608). So, all of the above early English translations of the Bible rendered this word as “departure” or “departing” in 2 Thessalonians 2:3. There are online versions of these Bibles that you can easily look up to confirm this. For example, the 1587 Geneva Bible renders this 2 Thess. 2:3 as follows (with archaic English): “Let no man deceiue you by any meanes: for that day shall not come, except there come a departing first, and that that man of sinne be disclosed, euen the sonne of perdition…”
The Tyndale’s Bible in the early 1500’s (with archaic English) translated this verse as follows: “Let no ma deceave you by eny meanes for the lorde commeth not excepte ther come a departynge fyrst and that that synfnll man be opened ye sonne of perdicion.”
The word “apostasia” is a noun that is derived from the verb “aphistemi”. The noun form derived from a verb cannot have a specific meaning that excludes the primary meaning of it’s root verb. Whether it is apostasia or aphistemi, it ALWAYS has qualifying words in the context so that you know what the departure, which is the literal meaning of the word, is from. If you include all the usages of this word, in both noun and verb form, using the context as the guide, several of them can only have a meaning relating to spatial departure – a physical leaving. Therefore, we must include that as a possible interpretation of the apostasia in 2 Thess. 2:3.
There is something else as well concerning the “apostasia” in that Paul says “…don’t you remember I taught you about this?” What departure, whether from the faith or from anything at all, do you find that Paul had already taught the Thessalonian Church about? We know Paul had previously taught them about the rapture.
In summary, pre-1600’s English translations did translate this word as “departure”. Theodore Beza, the Swiss reformer, was the first to transliterate apostasia and create a new word, rather than translate it as others had previously done. The translators of the King James Version were the first to introduce the new rendering of apostasia as “falling away.” Most English translators have followed the KJV and Beza in departing from translating apostasia as “departure.” No good reason was ever given.
But I think it is perfectly okay to translate apostasia as “departure” in 2 Thessalonians 2:3. What is not clear in this passage, however, is whether the word “apostasia” is a reference to a religious departure from the faith (apostasy) or a physical departure (Rapture). The noun “apostasia” and its related verb are used in other parts of the Bible. The related verb is used, in most cases, to refer to a physical departure. The point I am making here is, we should not completely rule out the possibility that the “apostasia” used in 2 Thess. 2:3 is a reference to a physical departure. It could very well be, although it is not clearly stated. It wouldn’t be out of context at all for this apostasia to mean a physical departure, especially given the fact that the theme of Paul’s message is all about “the coming of the Lord and our gathering together to Him”.
One more point: In verse 3, Paul says the apostasia (departure) has to happen before the Antichrist is revealed. Then in verses 6-8 again, he says the restrainer has to be removed before the Antichrist can be revealed. In verse 3, the condition that needs to be fulfilled for the Antichrist to be revealed is the “departure” whereas in verse 6-8, the condition that needs to be fulfilled for the Antichrist to be revealed is the “removal of the restrainer”. So it seems to me that the “departure” and “the removal of the restrainer” both refer to the same thing – the rapture of the Church. This rapture is what needs to take place before the Antichrist can be revealed. In verse 3, it is referred to as the “departure” while in verses 6-8, it is described as “the removal of the restrainer”. The Holy Spirit in the life of the believers is the restraining force, restraining evil in the world today. And as soon as the church is taken out of this world, there will be no more restraining forces against evil. The restraining force of the church will be removed and once the church is removed, this man of sin will take over using his powers that will be given to him by Satan. And the world will be plunged into darkness such as the world has never seen before.
If the restrainer is not the Church or the Holy Spirit, who else/what else can it be? What force is present in the world today, helping to restrain evil? It can only be either the Church or the Holy Spirit. It is most likely the Church filled with the Holy Spirit. This is the restraining force that will need to be taken out of the way before full-blown evil can be unleashed on the word. The removal of this restraining force is the Rapture.
Carl, Here is my statement about your point: “The word “first” says something about the order of events in this chapter. The apostasy of Christendom must occur either just before the Day of the Lord or at its beginning.”
I basically agree with you that apostasy does not occur during the Tribulation but just shortly before it begins. Apostasy takes a long time to develop, however, there will be a cataclysmic apostasy that will manifest itself toward the end of the economy of grace. No doubt apostate churches will continue into the Tribulation for they consist of non-believers. In other words, there is an overlap of apostasy from the church age to the Tribulation.
I support that it is departure for the same or similar reasons of Carl. I add this question: which falling away do you suppose it to be?
Since the likes of Martin Luthur, John Wesley etc brought great “revivals” to us then let us step back. Tell me what is a world wide revival such as these? So the generations went from good to backsliden to fall into these great revivals So wasnt those falling aways enough to convince you it must be more than a cyclical backsliding! It takes a departure of the restrainer which is embodied in the believer.
Marion, this passage is dealing with a final and full falling away from the truth or apostasy and does not relate to what happens before then.
I agree with Carl that it’s the departure of the church and not the faith. There has always been a falling away of the faith since the apostles starting preaching the Gospel. There have been so many false doctrines and religions since the beginning of time, we should have left a long time ago. That it’s getting worse, yes! Weather it’s the departure of faith or the church, one thing I’m sure of, and that is we are leaving real soon!
Grant: I love your commentaries and do a lot of my studies using your website. I’m just not with you on this one.
Katherine, thank you for your post. Carl does make a strong point.