Not Apostasy, But Rapture!

Paul’s second epistle to the Thessalonians was written as a response to a query that church had sent to the Apostle. The Thessalonians were troubled by a letter they had received, purportedly from Paul (but actually a forgery), alleging that they had entered into “the day of the LORD” (2Thess2:2). They were troubled by this since Paul had previously taught them that the rapture of the Church would happen before the outpouring of God’s wrath during the Tribulation period (1Thess4:13-5:9); if this allegation were true, and the day of the LORD had indeed begun, that meant the believers in Thessalonica had been left behind! It should be noted that the believers in Thessalonica were undergoing intense (albeit local) persecution (1Thess3:2-4), so that it was no doubt tempting for them to believe that the Tribulation had begun.

Paul’s reply was to immediately remind them of what he had previously taught them (2Thess2:5); namely, that the Antichrist cannot even be “revealed”, which begins the Tribulation (Dan9:27), until after an event he calls “the falling away” (2Thess2:3). The Greek noun translated “falling away” is apostasia, transliterated as ‘apostasy’ in some English versions. The correct translation of apostasia is ‘departure’; exactly what kind of departure is in view depends upon context, and can just as likely mean a physical departure as it does a departure from the faith (i.e., apostasy). It is interesting that all English translations before the KJV rendered apostasia in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 as “departure”, whereas the KJV and most subsequent translations render it “falling away” or something which similarly implies the ‘departure’ is religious in nature. There is nothing in the context of 2 Thessalonians 2, however, that demands (or even suggests) that the departure to which Paul refers be non-physical.

Furthermore, in the Greek text there is the definite article in conjunction with apostasia, so that the best translation is not “a falling away”, but “the departure”. The use of the definite article means that Paul is referring to a specific event that he expects is already known to the Thessalonians. Since Paul’s first epistle to them included the most detailed revelation of the rapture of the Church in the N.T., and in fact mentions the rapture in every chapter (1Thess1:9-10; 2:19; 3:13; 4:13-17; 5:1-11), while not one reference to a religious apostasy or departure from the faith occurs, context demands that the specific departure to which Paul refers is the rapture. The context of 2 Thessalonians 2 also supports this, since the rapture, referred to as “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto him”, introduces the chapter (2Thess2:1). Thus, the evidence is overwhelming that the departure Paul holds out as necessarily taking place before “the day of the LORD” and the revealing of the Antichrist is the rapture of the Church. Thus, 2 Thessalonians 2:3 is the most explicit teaching of the Pre-Trib rapture in the Bible.

About The Paleofundamentalist

The Paleofundamentalist holds graduate degrees in engineering, Bible and theology, with formal training in classical Latin and Koine Greek. He teaches the Bible and Biblical subjects weekly at his local church. View all posts by The Paleofundamentalist

7 responses to “Not Apostasy, But Rapture!

  • Kire

    This verse is in reference to the same thing that 1st Tim 1: 1 was talking about. “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” You can use the words abandon, depart or apostasy. The reference is to those who leave the faith in the last days. Here we have two witness who both are saying the same thing.

    • The Paleofundamentalist

      Kire, thanks for the helpful comment. The verse you quote is 1 Timothy 4:1, just a typo on your part I’m sure. It is significant because the same Greek word is used, and can very legitimately be translated “depart”. That this Greek word does not intrinsically carry the idea of a religious departure or apostasy is seen in the fact that Paul included “from the faith” here, where he definitely had apostasy in mind, whereas he did not in 1 Thessalonians 2:3.

  • Kire

    Yes, it was a typo thanks for understanding.

    The verses that I am looking at are 1 Tim 4:1-2 and 2 Thess 2:3.
    In 1 Tim 4:1-2 the word “aphistemi” is translated as “depart” in some bibles. In 2 Th 2:3 the word “falling away” is a translation of the word “apostaasia”. In the NIV and ESV it is translated as “rebellion” but this word is related to “aphistemi” which means “to depart” as I said above.

    I do not have an issue with the Greek words or their translations in English. My larger concern is the overall context of two verses. They seem to be pointing to a departure, but from what? Let’s unpack this!

    1. Timeframe:
    a. We are talking about a specific timeframe which is the latter days, the end times or the Day of the Lord

    2. Event
    a. We are talking about a specific event
    b. We are looking at a departure
    i. But from what? In 1 Tim 4:1-2 it is clear that it is from the faith
    ii. In 2 Thess 2:3, faith is not mentioned hence the confusion. Your interpretation is that it is a departure from the physical realm to the spiritual realm. However, if a departure from the faith is unclear then your understanding of a rapture is also unclear. Neither one of us can be dogmatic in this case. We need to search the bible for more understanding

    3. Other Verses:
    a. Luckily we have even a third verse that points to the same timeframe.
    i. Matthew 24:10. “It says “at that time many will turn away from the faith.” What time would that be? It happens to be the same timeframe, the end of the age and the return of Jesus.
    ii. In addition, it is pointing to a similar event which is people turning away from the faith.
    iii. So we have three verses that appear to be pointing in the same direction. Which means that the correlation of “apostaasia” with faith in 2 Th 2:3 is most likely correct.

    Having said this, I expect that you will not be able to accept this. I am familiar with your position. However, I am certain that others will benefit from this conversation and the agreement of scriptures across three witnesses who say that in the last days some will leave the faith.

    Having said this, I believe in the rapture. This is just not a verse that references the rapture. My issue is a very narrow issue with your interpretation of 2Thess2:3.

    Thanks for being kind!

    Kire

    • The Paleofundamentalist

      Kire, the difficulty is that a great apostasy is clearly prophesied to occur in the final days of the Church Age (e.g., 1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Tim. 3:1-5), I just don’t believe 2 Thessalonians 2:3 is a reference to it. You have to read meaning into the Greek word apostasia that just isn’t inherent in it, and such a reading does violence to the context of the passage in which it occurs.

  • Kire

    Great conversation….. You get the last word….

    Thanks,

    Kire

  • Toby Kholodivker

    The rapture is never presented as reward for special devotedness, but is preliminary to the judgment seat of Christ, where we shall all stand to receive our rewards. We will be in a glorified body when we appear at that great tribunal. This could not be true if only a special group were raptured before the tribulation.

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