Who or what comes first?
I find it necessary to expand the article on 2 Thessalonians 2:3 because of what I’m now hearing as explanations (as of September 2020)
II Thess. 2:1-6 2 “ Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. “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, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things?”
Paul in v.1 is explaining about “our gathering together to Him” the Lord Jesus Christ and “the day of Christ,” or the day of the Lord.” Paul is saying, if anyone tells you it has occurred you are being deceived. As he wrote to them not to be shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come.
Second Thessalonians 2:1–12 discusses some of the events that take place in the ''day of the Lord.'' As Some Thessalonica believers were troubled, thinking they had entered this time of judgment. Apparently rumors were circulating among them that confused them and they were thinking it was from Paul. They were concerned they were in that day.
Paul tells them to not accept what they were hearing. He assures them the day of the Lord will not come until a departure comes first. Then the man of sin is revealed because the mystery of lawlessness which has been at work and the restrainer no longer restrains him. He will exalt himself above God in the temple and at His coming Jesus Christ will destroy. Empowered by Satan, the man of lawlessness will deceive those who had rejected the truth by performing signs and wonders. God will send a strong deception for them to believe the lie because they had pleasure in unrighteousness, rejecting the truth.
Prior to the coming of that day, “the day of the Lord.” A departure takes place. The controversy is over the word departure being a physical removal of the saints (the rapture) or a spiritual removal – a revolt, rebellion, a ''falling away'' from the faith.
V.3 for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first”
For immediate reference, these main translations say KJV, NASB, NIV say, “for that Day”
ASV (it will not be)
NAS for it will not come
This is going to be presented in portions as we carefully distinguish whether this is a physical departure from earth (rapture) or a spiritual departure (from the faith).
Paul begins with “ The coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him ” which is the rapture and resurrection, for the living and the dead are the same event according to the Scriptures in 1 Cor. 5:52; 1 Thess. 4:16.
Day of Christ or day of the Lord?
Throughout Paul’s epistles he mentions this day of Christ, some say it is the Tribulation, others say it is the rapture by Christ. Paul uses the day of the Lord, which is the Old Testament term of the Tribulation period “that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night” (1Thess. 5:2).
2 Thess 2:2 kuriou: of Christ 2962 κύριος (Interlinear Transliterated Bible)
Meaning the Lord, (the owner and possessor) The day of the Lord is used for the Tribulation, as Paul explains in his first letter chapt.5.
Day of Christ is found in the RSV and KJV. Throughout Paul’s other teachings he used the day of the Lord Jesus Christ:
1 Cor. 5:5 “day of the Lord Jesus”; 2 Cor. 1:14 “day of the Lord Jesus”; Phil 1:6 “until the day of Jesus Christ”; Phil. 1:10 “till the day of Christ”; 1 Cor. 1:8 “ that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ”; Phil. 2:16 “that I may rejoice in the day of Christ.”
Either way this does not change the overall point he is making of our gathering together to him and what is to take prior.
II Thess. 2:2 KJV he says “ as though the day of Christ (the Lord) had come.” In v.1 Paul is explaining on what will take place BEFORE it. Paul gives the warning, “Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first” (2 Thessalonians 2:3).
He is explaining the conditions leading up it. With God timing is everything. It should seem obvious that Paul was writing about “ that Day” v.3 will not come without something happening prior to that. The departure , is the falling away would come first, and then the man of sin would be revealed. Why?
Paul in V.1-2 is talking about two different matters: our gathering together to Him (v.1) and the day, being the tribulation (which was what the confusion was about among the Thessalonian believers). v.2 the day of Christ would be the day of the Lord. Why? For that day will not come unless the falling away comes first.
He then introduces “a departure,” a falling away (v.3) which the majority of modern Bibles based on the KJV say. (We will look at in detail on this as we go deeper into the text)
Others say this departure IS the rapture. Which is what we will also address as we go along.
Some claim that nowhere does the Bible refer to an apostasy in the end, that this apostasy has been going on from the beginning; nothing has changed.
Later on in 1 Timothy 4 Paul added what they would depart from by the words “depart from the faith,” instead of “depart” by itself. This qualifies the phrase of depart in 2 Thess. 2:3. He also speaks of “the when,” in the latter times, qualifying the phrase. Therefore it is made clear what he meant and when this will occur. Not a departure when it was written, but later. Latter times means Paul is not focused on it being early in his ministry when he and others are planting churches.
Paul did believe in the latter days departure of the faith, an apostasy would occur, so any argument contrary fails in the light of the many supportive Scriptures in the Word of God.
The question is not whether Paul spoke of an apostasy would occur in the last days because he did. It’s whether he is speaking of the apostasy in 2 Thess.2:3.
Furthermore, this chapter begins with “But the Spirit expressly says that in later times” which carries the meaning of explicitly. In other words this statement is coming directly from the Spirit of God as an important component of teaching in the end. How many times do you read “the Spirit speaks expressly”, only this once and has to do with the apostasy. The only other expression with similarity is when Jesus addresses the 7 churches, and 7 times says, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches, beginning in Rv. 2:7.
1 Timothy 4:1
In 1 Timothy Paul added the words "depart from the faith" instead of "depart" by itself, qualifying the phrase (which is used in 2 Thess.2:3).
Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament interprets this as 1 Tim 4:1 In later times en (NT:1697) husterois (NT:5244) kairois (NT:2505). An old adjective (Matt 21:31) usually as adverb, husteron (NT:5243) (Matt 4:2). Relative time from the prediction, now coming true (a present danger).
Some shall fall away aposteesontai (NT:862 a) tines (NT:5043). Future middle of afisteemi (NT:862 a), intransitive use, shall stand off from, to fall away, apostatize (2 Cor 12:8).
From the faith tees (NT:3543) pisteoos (NT:4051). Ablative case (separation). Not creed, but faith in God through Christ.
Paul wrote of the latter times “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come ” (2 Timothy 3:1). Meaning in the later time period, not early on in the Church we will be facing something very different, much like Jesus said.
Not early on but later
Paul also stated in Acts 20:27-29 “ I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.” “ Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers,… v. 29 For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.”
Is this referring to a wide scale spiritual departure in the church right after Paul leaves? I don’t think so, because he says it is about the flock they are elders to, and he specifically warns them of those coming inamong them. As Paul also says I have fought with beasts at Ephesus” (1 Cor. 15:32).
We know later Jesus addresses the Ephesian church and commends them for the things they upheld what Paul warned of, they fought against evil, tested those who claimed apostleship. However he does rebuke them, for they have left their first love Rev. 2:4. It is not about a large departure of the faith, though it has serious consequences.
The warning of Jude 3-4 “ I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed”
Yes, the early church was under attack from those coming in to be part of their fellowship. But is nothing in scale to what it will be like near the end, in the latter times.
The main point is when this will occur. Jeremiah writes of how this will all culminate in the end in 23: 20-22: “ The anger of the LORD will not turn back against these false prophets until he has performed and carried out the purposes of His heart. In the latter days you will understand it perfectly.”
There is a large amount of Scripture that refers to the condition in the latter days. Certain Scriptures on this topic clarify it. All these need to be brought alongside Paul’s statement in 2 Thess.2:3.
This same Paul wrote “ But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:13). Things grow worse by those deceived.
In Matthew 24:11-12: Jesus answers the question what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age , he speaks of the future to them. His first words are Take heed that no one deceives you ( the same as Paul writes in 2 Thess.2:3)
Jesus explains all of what is to transpire (much of what we are seeing today) -- “Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.” They have the ability to deceive many in the church because they are operating from within? They will even claim to be the Christ!' v.24 “ For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive , even the elect ” (same as Paul writes in 2 Thess.2:9).
As Peter also states in 2 Peter 2:1-2 “ false prophets, false teachers will be among us” v. 2 “ And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.”
Peter also writes “ Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation. ” (2 Peter 3:3-4)
Has nothing has changed as they say, Peter says it will be different in the last days, Knowing this first, that there shall come: which obviously means not then, but LATER, not the beginning, not the middle but in the last days. Obviously meaning the last days of the age before the gathering of the saints. They will mock; specifically of a promise - his coming. Meaning the rapture is not believed. This mocking, scoffing is part of the apostasy that will occur before the event.
All these warnings of the last days along with other scriptures put alongside 2 Thess. 2 show that this is not something that has continued the same way from the churches beginning. It is something very different at the end, it escalates and affects “many”, not a few. To suggest this apostasy spoken of is taking place from the inception of the church does not fit what Paul said in 1 Tim.4:1.
Contrast this with what is said of the Church early on in the book of Acts.
Acts 2:47 And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”
Acts 6:7 then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith .”
Acts 9:31 And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.
Acts 16:5 “ So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily .”
The Bible does not deal with a large apostasy early on but later. Which does make it among the signs to that generation that will see the prophecies and signs unfold.
Can the falling away be the same today as it was then, or more than it was before? We never had this many cults, false prophets and teachings in church history that are so pervasive and mislead throughout the world. Think of all the false doctrines and movements that are taking place today on an unprecedented scale. There are no parallels in Church history to point to and say this is like that. There were very small house churches then to what we have now with mega churches that can teach a variety of false doctrines.
There has been no time like the present day of enormous numbers of people departing from the faith, from what is written. This becomes a marker for the end of the latter days as Paul explains in 1 Tim.4.
Paul uses a word to qualify what he meant, latter times does not mean it is the same from the beginning.
“THE apostasy” (departure) is not applied to an individual’s apostasy, as individuals have been leaving the faith since the beginning of the Church. This is a reference to the end. There is no point in presenting “the apostasy” as taking place before the Lord’s return if it is a reference to some general condition of forsaking that has always been among us. Then it could not be identified as something to be taking place BEFORE his coming.
Nearly 2,000 years of church history, prophecy is coming to pass. It culminates in the end as the Bible speaks of the latter days and prophecies that pertain to it.
2 Thess. 2: 3 on the word departure. This passage does not have a dual meaning. Either the church experiences a falling away (apostasy) before Christ returns or the word refers to the rapture of the church. If the falling away (the departure) comes BEFORE the rapture than it cannot be the rapture.
From our vantage point we can look back over the centuries to see the exponential increase in the various types of falsehoods and the numerous people who follow it thinking they are practicing the Christianity the apostles wrote of. Fulfilling “ But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (2 Tim 3:13)
The context first
Words mean things based on their context, one should understand the overall context before they go into what single words mean. Sometimes we need to go outside the immediate text to bring alongside other scriptures on the topic to clarify it.
We must read and understand the context first. 1) Paul begins his letter by stating of our gathering together to Jesus, which is the rapture. 2) “ that day shall not come ” is added in the KJV to make it clear what he is talking about. V.2 not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come . The rapture.
That day, which is interpreted as the day of Christ, which is either the rapture, OR, the Tribulation (The day of the Lord).
The context is v.3 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day (the rapture) will not come unless the departure “the falling away comes first.” This is describing a spiritual apostasy, there is no other reading that makes sense when it is read through fully from v.1-12.
Does the departure (the rapture) happen before the Lord comes to gather the church (which is the rapture) that is how it reads to those who say the departure is physical – the rapture.
Paul is NOT saying that a departure will come before the same departure happens; that the departure IS the rapture. What he is saying that the falling away (departurefrom the faith) will happen before our gathering to Christ, the rapture, and before the Tribulation (the apostasy will begins and continues throughout it). There is no other way to understand these words without changing the context of this verse.
2 Thess. 2:3 for that Day will not come unless the (departure) falling away comes first”,
If the word “departure” means a physical departure, not spiritual, then it reads like this according to this view: the departure comes before the rapture!
Which means it is not the same. To say that this departure in v.3 is the same departure in v.1 is mismanaging Paul’s point.
To say that this departure in v.3 of 2 Thess. 2 is not the same departure in 1 Timothy 4 is missing Paul’s point.
Does a departure (rapture) come before the gathering?
Are we are raptured before we are taken by the Lord?
Do we depart to the Lord before we are brought up to the Lord?
The Lord comes to take the church before he gathers the church to him?
It cannot be interpreted as those who say this is a physical removal, be it, that the coming of the Lord precedes the coming of the Lord.
Any which way you translate/apply departure as a physical removal, it does not fit the meaning of what is being conveyed.
Furthermore, you cannot say the departure began in the beginning if you hold to it being the rapture. Neither is there justification to make it an apostasy early on in the church when Paul says it comes later (1 Tim.4:1).
In verse 3 Paul has written to not be deceived, The APOSTASY is to precede the coming of The Lord for the Church.
The Greek word for “apostasy” is “apostasia” is translated "departing" or "departure." Would Jesus take an apostasia church, or a faithful church without spot or blemish to be with him?
There comes a departure, a falling away first. This is not the only indicator of the timeline. It is foretold as something that would certainly take place BEFORE Jesus comes for His faithful church. Those mature in the Word would notice the time because of the signs of when it takes place; in our time period.
Let us not forget Jesus saying, “ You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times” (Matt 16:3)
Pt.2 Words and meanings