GIMMICK: “The Antichrist has to be revealed BEFORE the Rapture” GOTCHA!

Dr. Mike Johnston

Misinterpretation of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4. Nothing has to occur before the Rapture. The notion that the Antichrist must appear first was invented by PreTrib rapture opponents misinterpreting Second Thessalonians Two. Here’s the exact passage: “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and [by] our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken [1]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; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 KJV)

Let’s develop the context here. Dr. Myron J. Houghton [2] adds this [my comments in brackets]:

“Paul is writing to the Thessalonian believers about the rapture. The false teaching which these three sources [spirit, word, letter] presented and which disturbed the Thessalonians was that “the day of Christ” had come. [The Day of Christ begins with the Rapture of the church. I’ll explain the difference shortly shortly]. This “day” refers to the time when Christ will directly intervene in human affairs by bringing destruction upon the world. Furthermore, the verb that is translated “is at hand” is in the perfect tense and thus signifies completed past action with present results. Thus, the false teaching was that the day of Christ the Lord had arrived and was now present[3] We know from 2 Thessalonians 1:4 that these believers were already suffering persecution, so this conclusion was not farfetched. Paul’s purpose, then, in 2 Thessalonians 2:3–10 is to show these believers that they were not in the Tribulation. [To demonstrate this] in v. 3, he states that two things must occur before the Tribulation can begin: (1) the “falling away,” and (2) the revelation of the man of sin.”

Tribulation Activities of the Man of sin, the Antichrist

Antichrist gains notoriety by brokering a 7-year peace treaty between Israel and her enemies (Dan. 9:27; see Rev. 6:2), perhaps involving Temple construction and restarting the Judaic sacrificial system.

[SIDE NOTE: Jews are overwhelmingly convinced Messiah will return to personally construct the Temple. Juxtapose this to Antichrist and you’ll be startled by the possible delusion he’ll present]

In the midst of Daniel’s 70th week, Antichrist will end the sacrificial worship system and commit an abominable act causing the desolation of Jerusalem (Dan. 9:27; 11:22, 28, 30) by entering the Temple and demanding to be worshiped (Dan. 9:27; Matt. 24:15; 2 Thess. 2:4).

The Falling Away

Christians generally believe the falling away is a departure from the faith in the last days. While I believe this is true (1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Pet. 2:1-2), I also believe this verse may contain a double entendre [4] I’ll tie together in a moment. Dr. Thomas Ice, prolific author, speaker, apologist, and President of the Pre-Trib Research Center, [5] challenged conventional wisdom by suggesting that the falling away Paul disclosed in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 may be a reference to a departing we call the rapture rather than a defection from the faith. The following Bible scholars have presented the same findings: E. Schuyler English[i]; Pastor Chuck Smith [ii]; Dr. David Hocking [iii] and Dr. Myron Houghton who offers the following:

“Two possible solutions have been presented as to the identity of the “falling away.” The first solution is the one traditionally given and is still the most popular view today. It understands the “falling away” as a great apostasy or departure from the faith. Almost any standard commentary will defend this position. For a detailed defense of this view see The Thessalonian Epistles by D. Edmond Hiebert. Basically the argument is that the Greek word translated “falling away” means a religious apostasy. The second solution which is possible understands the “falling away” as a reference to the rapture of the church. This view is defended by E. Schuyler English in his book, Re-Thinking the Rapture.

There are four reasons which, when taken together, seem to indicate that Paul was referring to the rapture when he mentioned this term.

Reason # 1: The word which is translated “falling away” can refer to a physical departure. Note that this argument does not say that the word always or even normally has this meaning. “Departure, disappearance” is the second meaning given for this Greek word in A Greek-English Lexicon, by Liddell & Scott, I, 218. Part of the problem here is that this word is used only twice in the New Testament——here and also in Acts 21:21, where Paul is told that some accuse him of teaching a departure from Moses. In this latter passage, this word is used in the sense of a religious apostasy. In the LXX (the Greek translation of the Old Testament), this word or an older form is found in Joshua 22:22, 1 Kings 21:13, 2 Chronicles 29:19, 33:19, Isaiah 30:1, and Jeremiah 2:19. In these cases, the word also has the idea of religious departure. However, either the context or a descriptive phrase is used to indicate that a religious apostasy is meant. Therefore it might be argued that the word itself was more general.

[Editor’s note: most King James advocates believe in a 7-fold refinement of the Bible (Psa. 12:6). Interestingly, apostasia was translated departure the first five refinements: the Tyndale Bible (1526); Coverdale Bible (1535); Matthews Bible (1537); The Great Bible (1538); and the Geneva Bible (1560)]

In the New Testament, the verb form of this word is used sixteen times (Luke 2:37; 4:13; 8:13; 13:27; 22:29; Acts 5:37,38; 12:10; 15:38; 19:9; 22:29; 2 Corinthians 12:8; 1 Timothy 4:1; 6:5; 2 Timothy 2:19; and Hebrews 3:12). Of the sixteen references, only three have reference to a religious departure, and these three are qualified by context (Luke 8:13) or by a descriptive phrase (1 Timothy 4:1—”from the faith” and Hebrews 3:12—”from the living God”). It is clear from some of the remaining references that a physical departure is meant (the angel who delivered Peter from prison departed from him—Acts 12:10, and Paul prayed that a thorn in the flesh might depart from him—2 Corinthians 12:8.) This word is translated departynge by William Tyndale (c. 1526), by Cranmer (1539), and by the Geneva Bible (1557). Beza (1565) translated it departing.

Reason # 2: The use of the definite article (“the”) lends support to the view that the falling away is the rapture. The basic function of the article “is to point out an object or to draw attention to it. Its use with a word makes the word stand out distinctly,” (Dana and Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, 137). Paul is not speaking of A falling away but THE falling away. In all probability, Paul is referring to some subject he has previously discussed with the Thessalonians. Robertson agrees with this use of the article in this verse. He states: “And the use of the definite article (the) seems to mean that Paul had spoken to the Thessalonians about it.” (Word Pictures in the New Testament, IV, 49). Now, if this is the use of the article in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, one would expect to find a place, either in 1 or 2 Thessalonians, where Paul previously referred to a departure from the faith. This writer knows of no such reference. However, there is previous reference to the rapture of the church in 1 Thessalonians 4:13–17 and 2 Thessalonians 2:1.

Reason # 3: Paul’s style of writing in this chapter also lends support to the idea that the “falling away” is the rapture. In verse 3, Paul states that two events must occur before the day of the Lord can come, namely (1) the “falling away,” and (2) the revealing of the man of sin. Paul’s reference to this second event seems to be more fully described in verses 8–9. If, indeed, this is Paul’s style, then verses 6 and 7, which describe the removal of the Holy Spirit and the church, would be a more detailed explanation of the first event in verse 3 (the “falling away”).

Reason # 4: Paul’s purpose in writing lends support to the view that the “falling away” is the rapture. Remember the setting. The Thessalonian believers were being persecuted for their faith, and they thought they were in the Tribulation. Paul writes to tell them that they can’t possibly be in the Tribulation because two things have to occur before the Tribulation can begin: the “falling away” and the revelation of the man of sin. If religious apostasy is a means by which Paul expects the Thessalonians to know whether or not they are in the Tribulation, then he has failed to prove his point because there has always been religious apostasy, even in the time of the apostle Paul, and the Thessalonians were not in a position to distinguish any present apostasy from “THE apostasy.” However, if Paul was referring to the rapture of the church, then the Thessalonians could know with certainty that they could not yet be in the Tribulation.”[6]

Dr. Ice quotes the experts parsing apostasia in the following excerpt:

“The Greek noun apostasia is only used twice in the New Testament. In addition to 2 Thessalonians 2:3, it occurs in Acts 21:21 where, speaking of Paul, it is said, “that you are teaching all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake (apostasia) Moses.” The word is a Greek compound of apo “from” and istemi “stand.” Thus, it has the core meaning of “away from” or “departure.” The Liddell and Scott Greek Lexicon defines apostasia first as “defection, revolt;” then secondly as “departure, disappearance.”

Gordon Lewis explains how the verb from which the noun apostasia is derived supports the basic meaning of departure in the following: The verb may mean to remove spatially. There is little reason, then, to deny that the noun can mean such a spatial removal or departure. Since the noun is used only one other time in the New Testament of apostasy from Moses (Acts 21:21), we can hardly conclude that its Biblical meaning is necessarily determined. The verb is used sixteen times in the New Testament. Of these sixteen only three have anything to do with a departure from the faith (Luke 8;13; 1 Tim. 4:1; Heb. 3:12).

The word is used for departing from iniquity (2 Tim. 2:19), from ungodly men (1 Tim. 6:5), from the temple (Luke 2:27), from the body (2 Cor. 12:8), and from persons (Acts 12:10; Luke 4:13).

It is with full assurance of proper exegetical study and with complete confidence in the original languages,” concludes Daniel Davey, [7] ‘that the word meaning of apostasia is defined as departure.’

Paul Lee Tan adds the following: “What precisely does Paul mean when he says that “the falling away” (2:3) must come before the tribulation? The definite article “the” denotes that this will be a definite event, an event distinct from the appearance of the Man of Sin. The Greek word for “falling away”, taken by itself, does not mean religious apostasy or defection. Neither does the word mean “to fall,” as the Greeks have another word for that- [pipto, I fall; TDI]. The best translation of the word is “to depart.” The apostle Paul refers here to a definite event which he calls “the departure,” and which will occur just before the start of the tribulation. This is the rapture of the church.”[8]

The Departing Entendre

We’ve just studied two positions held by scholars that seem distinct and yet I believe they are simultaneously and inextricably linked together. When church departs from earth in the Rapture we leaven being “church” buildings attended by apostate “Christians” that aren’t saved and have spent their lives in Satan’s work.

[1] Quoting the Introduction to Second Thessalonians from the Scofield Study Bible: “The Thessalonian converts were “shaken in mind” and “troubled,” supposing, perhaps on the authority of a forged letter as from Paul, that the persecutions from which they were suffering were those of the “great and terrible day of the Lord,” from which they had been taught to expect deliverance by “the day of Christ, and out gathering together unto him” (2Th_2:1). The present letter, then, was written to instruct the Thessalonians concerning the day of Christ, “and our gathering together unto him” 1Th_4:14-17 and the relation of the “day of Christ” to the “day of the Lord.” First Thessalonians had more in view the “day of Christ”; the present Epistle the “day of the Lord.”

[2] Author, lecturer, and Theology professor at Faith Baptist Bible College, Ankeny, IA.

[3] This would also mean they had not only missed the rapture, but the judgement seat of Christ where rewards (crowns) are awarded in heaven (Rom. 14:10; 2 Cor. 5:10).

[4] A word or phrase having two meanings

[5] An organization he co-founded with the late Dr. Tim LaHaye. http://www.pre-trib.org/

[6] The Rapture in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-10 by Dr. Myron J. Houghton, Ph.D.

[7] [Professor Bible Exposition at Virginia Beach Theological Seminary]

[8] Apostasia: The Rapture in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 by Dr. Thomas Ice.

[i] E. Schuyler English

It is well established that E. Schuyler English is thought to be the first pretribulationist to propose that the departure in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 was a physical departure and thus a reference to the pre-trib rapture.  However, history records that at least a couple of men thought of this idea before English series of article in 1950. J. S. Mabie is said to have presented the view that the departure refers to the rapture as early as 1859 during a prophecy conference in Los Angeles.  He later wrote his view in an article published in November 1895 in a periodical called Morning Star.  Another pre-English proponent of the departure as the rapture was John R. Rice in a book in 1945.

Source: http://www.pre-trib.org/articles/view/the-departure-in-2-thessalonians-23#_ednref11

[ii] Pastor Chuck Smith

The “day” referred to here is the Day of Judgment. “Falling away” comes from the Greek word for “depart.” This may refer to the Rapture of the Church, for the Day of Judgment will come after the Rapture. It may be a reference to people departing from the faith, for Paul spoke of another departure (1 Timothy 4:1) and used the same Greek word. However, in 1 Timothy Paul added the words “depart from the faith” instead of “depart” alone.

Source: The Blue Letter Bible

[iii] Dr. David Hocking

Dr. Hocking’s commentary on the Day of Christ the Lord from 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3.

[I transcribed and slightly edited this from a teaching video on the Antichrist and Day of the Lord by Dr. Hocking]. Regarding the start of the Day of the Lord and the appearance of the Antichrist.

The departure of church age believers will come first v3. (1) “except there come a falling away first.” The emphasis is interesting; this is the big event; and then that man of sin will be revealed, the son of perdition. (2) The Greek word for “falling away” is apostasia. Stasia is from a verb histemi, meaning to stand, apo means away from. It is translated normally “to depart.” It is used only twice as a noun: once here, and once in Acts 21:21. It is used 16 times as a verb, aphistemi.. Out of those 16 times as a verb, it is translated “depart” in 11 places. Remember after the temptation of Christ when the angels came and ministered to Christ? It says he “departed.” This is the same word. Well it doesn’t mean He departed or defected from the faith or apostatized. It just means He left. Eleven out of the 16 times it clearly means that someone just left; they departed. Once in Luke 8:13 it’s translated “fall away.” In Acts 5:37 it describes people who “drew away.”  In Acts 5:38 it reads “refrain from these men” meaning leave them.  Now turn to 1 Timothy chapter 4, verse 1: “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;” (1 Timothy 4:1 KJV). Depart is from the same Greek apostasia, but here you have a qualifying clause – “from the faith”. So here it is; apostasy in the traditional sense of the word, a religious departure. The problem is that if that is the intention of 2 Thessalonians 2:3, it’s strange that the man who wrote 1 Timothy 4 wouldn’t have put “from the faith” there if he meant religious departure. In other words, the very qualifying words “from the faith” describes what kind of departure it is, but there’s nothing like this in our text. There’s another problem. In our text in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 the definite article “the” in the Greek text is in front of “falling away”. Literally “the” departure which implies a specific departure which had to be just mentioned in the context. And as we study the context, where is the specific departure? It’s in verse 1, the rapture which would certainly hearken back to his first epistle when he discussed the great departure at the rapture of the church (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Now if I’m correct, and good men disagree, the point here is that if this were a religious apostasy, it would not be a good indicator since we’ve had a religious departure from the faith ever since the time of the New Testament. First, are things worse today than they’ve ever been? Absolutely! The departure we’ve witnessed from the faith is incredible. But we said that 40 years ago, also. We said that also 100 years ago. We said that also 200 years ago. So, if this is the indicator, which departure would be serious enough to THE departure? Do you understand what I’m saying? In other words, the classic translation of apostasia is departure, and if you are translating literally, that day won’t come – the Day of the Lord – until the departure comes first, and then the man of sin is revealed. I think this is the only way to make sense out of this passage. Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VlCgFmQMsIg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published by

PMI Center for Biblical Studies
POB 177 – Battle Creek, MI 49016-0177
PmiMinistries.com

 

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