[Note: This author is a pre-Tribulation rapture believer, and this article reflects that view.]
I wanted to address this seemingly controversial passage of Scripture, with a strong desire to avoid any contention it may cause. How successful I’ll be able to attain to this goal will be totally dependent upon the reader.
I truly want loving fellowship with all brothers and sisters in Christ, despite any differences we may have with any interpretation or views regarding Scripture and the non-essentials of the faith. (I never even knew this was a controversy, until fairly recently.) I only want to offer my take for the reader’s consideration and allow them to make up their own mind as to what they may deem the appropriate view.
We most certainly should have unity in all doctrine revealed to us in the Word of God, but there are those situations – and this would be one of them – where it can be considered “open for debate.”
Let us not lose sight of the importance of the essentials and at the same time consider, with love and grace, those things that have been left open for us to investigate and are free to come to our own conclusions, with no animosities of others who may disagree.
The Passage and a Breakdown
“That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition” (2 Thessalonians 2:2-3).
I see, in these two verses, two false teachings that Paul is attempting to put to rest. We can decipher this from how Paul is addressing his response to them in these two verses alone. By dissecting the two verses, we see the two errors that have been taught to the struggling Thessalonians, in the name of Paul, by the false teachers.
The first is found in verse 2 which reads: “That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.”
The error is that some were being taught that “the day of Christ [was] at hand.” That is, the rapture wasn’t only imminent, it was about to happen right then, right there.
How many times have we heard this in our own day and age? How many times have we seen segments of the body of Christ quit their jobs, sell their material goods, and wait for the Lord at a certain time appointed by false teachers?
We just went through this as recently as September 17-23, 2020.
I had received emails and newsletters from those claiming they knew, for a fact, that the rapture was going to happen during this time frame. One such ministry (a ministry I recently came across, enjoy, and have much in agreement with) made the astonishing claim, that if “this theory falls apart… we’ll have to recalibrate.” So, you’re just going to go back to the drawing board and recalibrate and recalculate, after your first failed date setting attempt?
Stop it! Please, just STOP IT!!! Keep preaching Christ and edifying the church with valuable insights, but please, discontinue the date-setting of the rapture. We know we are in the last of the last days, and we can almost hear that shofar blast now. That should be good enough. Nobody wants our “blessed hope” more than I do. But I refuse to get caught up in date-setting, something that was never commanded of us by the Apostles or our Lord.
Verse 2 clarified and remedied this false teaching and comforted those that were deceived. The rapture wasn’t going to happen then and there, and they needed to understand that truth and continue to abide. They most certainly were to live life as if the rapture could happen at any time – and indeed it could have – but they were not to be persuaded that that day was “at hand” and absolute.
The second error being taught by false teachers is found in verse 3, which reads: “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.”
That is, the second error the church at Thessalonica was being taught was that they were already living in the Tribulation.
“That day” is none other than the “day of the Lord” which commences with the “day of Christ.” (My article, An Examination of the ‘Day of the Lord’ discusses this in great detail, and can be found here: https://www.raptureready.com/2020/08/11/an-examination-of-the-day-of-the-lord-by-mark-a-becker/ or https://www.faithwriters.com/article-details.php?id=205363 )
We know this because Paul goes on to describe what the Tribulation will look like under the Antichrist. He also elaborates on this “falling away” (which we will be discussing below) with the following details: “And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming” (2 Thessalonians 2:6-8).
Virtually all agree that the “He” that will be “taken out of the way” is none other than the indwelling Holy Spirit within every truly born-again believer, being removed in the rapture of the church.
So Paul, in just two verses, destroyed two false teachings that were distressing the Thessalonians. Verse 2 assured them that the rapture of the church wasn’t about to happen (although they, and we, should always live as if it could), and in verse 3 he reassured them they were not living in the Tribulation, as the rapture of the church had to happen first.
The reader should find it just as fascinating as I do that these two errors are the very errors that have been plaguing the church for 2,000 years and are so prevalent in our day and age.
In regard to the position I hold, I will not outright say that, “I am right, and you are wrong.” And, honestly, I respect everyone’s right to whatever perspective they may hold on this particular issue. But, as you will see later, there is a possibility both interpretations may be in view.
So, hang in there as we continue on.
I’ll start with quoting from my above-mentioned article, An Examination of the ‘Day of the Lord’:
While there certainly is a “falling away” happening within the church in regard to pure doctrine and the infiltration of demonic teachings (1 Timothy 4:1), this, unfortunately, has always been a problem within the church. Paul’s epistles often battled blatant false doctrines infecting the church on numerous occasions. But this is not the primary meaning behind the phrase, as rendered, in this verse.
Dr. Andy Woods has written a powerful book called, The Falling Away: Spiritual Departure or Physical Rapture? explaining that the Greek word translated “falling away” is “apostasia” and means “departure” or “departing,” translated as such in seven previous English translations, including the Wycliffe, the Coverdale, the Tyndale, and the Geneva Bibles. This is most definitely the proper translation, and I highly recommend Dr. Wood’s book for further information regarding this subject.
The 1599 Geneva Bible translates 2 Thessalonians 2:3, “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a departing first, and that man of sin be disclosed, even the son of perdition.” This departing is the rapture of the church.
In addition to my quote from my article above, I’d like to offer the following.
“Apostasia” is derived from the Greek root word 868/“aphístēmi” meaning “leave, depart,” which is derived from 575/apó, “away from” and 2476/histémi, “stand”) – properly, departure (implying desertion); apostasy – literally, “a leaving, from a previous standing.” (Biblehub.com)
What Do I Make of This?
Not that my opinion matters much, but I really see a possible trifecta here. That is, it may be possible that Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, was using the Greek word “apostasia” to cover three different aspects of his teaching of what will come before the Tribulation.
Before I reveal them, I wanted to make this point that I made in my article, Allusions to the Rapture in the Tanakh, found here https://www.raptureready.com/2020/09/17/allusions-to-the-rapture-in-the-tanakh-by-mark-a-becker/ or https://www.faithwriters.com/article-details.php?id=205722.
“One of the many things I have learned from my Scripture study is that the Word of God is layer upon layer of remarkable multiplicity. That is, when one digs deep beneath the surface, there is an insurmountable amount of treasure to be found. So much so, that this is the reason I truly believe we will be studying the Scriptures in eternity with The Word, Jesus Christ, teaching us things we never would have been able to see without His insight.”
An example of this is in Daniel:
“But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased” (Daniel 12:4).
This “running to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased,” isn’t only about the increased transportation and scientific knowledge we see in today’s world, it is also a reference to how we study the Scriptures “to and fro” throughout the books of the Bible and how our knowledge of the Word of God has increased exponentially in these last days.
So, in regard to an alternative, uniting interpretation, Paul’s possible trifecta would be as follows: #1 is the bride of Christ’s “departure and falling away” from the earth at the rapture; #2 is the “departure and falling away” of sound doctrine within the professing church; and #3 is the “departure and falling away” of modern society from Biblical, moral, and governmental law.
I offer this possible alternative as an “olive branch” to the other side of the issue, but I truly take the position of “apostasia” as that of describing the rapture of the church.
The Controversy’s End Result
I have done my own study on this topic and have shared the results in this article. For me, this is how I see this issue and hold no ill-will against anyone who doesn’t see this as I do.
For those who desire to debate this issue, I’m not your man. If the reader has issues with this topic, I suggest their grievance is with the following:
Dr. Andy Woods, and other scholars who also hold this view, and the early English translators, mentioned above, who translated their Bible versions hundreds of years ago; hundreds of years closer to the original Greek language, and hundreds of years closer to the Apostles and the first-century church.
This is not an essential issue for the body of Christ, and it should be treated as such.
When it comes to the interpretation of this passage of Scripture, we should be treating each other with respect and not allow this issue to progress into division within the church.
It reminds me, to a certain degree, of the differing views on the timing of the rapture of the church which, in its own right, has caused division and schism that never should have been. Where someone sits on the rapture fence will in no way jeopardize their chances of being “caught up” at the pre-Tribulation rapture of the church.
Do you like what I did there? Come on, we’ve got to have some humor in this messed-up and fallen world!
With all that said, I pray we would all go along to get along, and to agree to disagree. I think this is our reasonable service to the Lord in such matters.
Love, grace, mercy, and shalom in Messiah Yeshua, and Maranatha!
[Author’s note: This article was written in its entirety August 25th through August 27th, 2020, but wasn’t released to the public until late September/early October 2020 due to the rapture of the church predictions of September 17-23, 2020, by certain ministries. I really did hope that they were right but, as we now know, they were not. My prayer for them is that they refuse the temptation to date-set the rapture in the future.]