APOSTASY: DEPARTURE FROM THE FAITH
Monday, October 17, 2022
Thomas Ice wrote:
I believe that there is a strong possibility that 2 Thessalonians 2:3 is
speaking of the rapture.
What do I mean? Some pretribulationists, like myself, think that the Greek
noun apostasia, usually translated ” apostasy,” is a reference to the
rapture and should be translated ” departure.” Thus, this passage would be
saying that the day of the Lord will not come until the rapture comes before
it. If apostasia is a reference to a physical departure, then 2
Thessalonians 2:3 is strong evidence for pretribulationism.
He then attempts to prove the validity of interpreting apostasia as a
reference to the rapture by examining the etymological data concerning the
word group. His attempt is an example of grasping at straws as it comes far
short of validating his conclusion.
Although a valid and accurate TRANSLATION of apostasia is "departure," the
issue is whether this noun refers to a physical departure or an ideological
departure from some established belief system; whether it be political or
My study of 2 Thessalonians 2 provides a rebuttal
to his position.
At 2Thes 2:1-3 Paul mentioned three events that will all take place at the
same point in time.
The coming of the Lord.
Our gathering together to Him.
The day of the Lord.
The gathering will occur AT the coming of the Lord. Mt. 24:30-31.
The day of the Lord will occur AT the coming of the Lord. 1Cor. 1:8; 2Cor.
1:14; 1Thes. 5:1-11
These three events will not occur until after THE apostasy comes and the man
of lawlessness is revealed.
The exhortation not to be deceived is an aorist active subjunctive plus the
negative, of exapataō.
The 3rd person singular is the basis for "let no one deceive," and indicates
that the threat of deception comes primarily from those who are teaching
things contrary to what has been previously taught to them by the apostles.
Jesus said specifically, that there would be deceivers both BEFORE (Matthew
24:4) and DURING the tribulation (Matthew 24:11, "many false prophets will
arise and will mislead many"). Because of this, "many will fall away,
(Matthew 24:10), and "the love (for God) of many will grow cold," (Matthew
24:12) and Paul wrote that, "in the latter times, some will fall away from
THE faith," (1 Timothy 4:1). Accordingly, the warning to be on your guard is
urgent in order to avoid a very real and potential danger.
Paul had to address this same false teaching later (c. 68 AD) when he wrote
to Timothy about those "who have gone astray from the truth, saying that the
resurrection has already taken place," (2 Timothy 2:18).
But the day of the Lord, at which time the resurrection will occur through
the translation of the saints, will not take place until after THE apostasy
comes and the man of lawlessness is revealed. There will be many attempts at
deception as with Hymenaeus and Philetus above, but the informed believer
will not heed such strange doctrines, knowing that certain things must take
place first just as they had been taught as per verse 5, "Do you not
remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?"
Jesus Himself taught that the coming of the Son of Man would not occur until
after the tribulation, which would begin with the abomination of desolation
standing in the Holy Place (Matthew 24:15-31). This is the same thing taught
here by Paul about the "man of lawlessness" who "takes his seat in the
temple of God, displaying himself as being God."
The words, "it will not come," or "that day will not come" are an added
elipsis based on the context
and the use of BECAUSE (hoti).
"Unless comes" is a negative conditional/temporal clause to indicate what
must occur BEFORE the day of the Lord can arrive.
Literally, without any added words, the conditional clause reads, "unless
comes the apostasy first."
1. because: hoti, goes back to the immediate previous thought in the
context; the coming of the day
of the Lord. And it does not need to be repeated again.
It gives the reason you should not be deceived into thinking that the day of
the Lord has come.
2. ean: temporal conjunction. When it occurs with the subjunctive mood of
the verb it indicates WHEN something will happen without knowing EXACTLY
when it will happen.
3. mā: this is the negative particle. When this occurs with ean, it
indicates a CONDITIONAL factor as well as a temporal factor. In other words,
the TIME factor now has a conditional factor associated with it. Thus,
Other examples of ean mā with prōtos:
John 7:51: NASB
“Our law doesn’t judge a man unless (ean mā) it first (prōton) hears from
him and knows what he is doing, does it?”
It should be clear that the action of judging" must be preceded by the two
factors mentioned next; hearing and knowing (learning).
Mark 3:27; Mat. 12:29: NASB
“But no one can enter the strong man’s house and plunder his property unless
(ean mā) he first (prōton) binds the strong man, and then [tote] he will
plunder his house."
Likewise, the thief must FIRST neutralize any obstacles (strong man) BEFORE
he can accomplish his thievery.
Some examples of ean mā without prōtos that mean exactly the same thing.
Mat. 18:3, Unless you are converted . . . you shall not enter the kingdom of
Mark 7:4, they don't eat unless they cleanse themselves.
John 3:3, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.
1 Cor. 15:36, that which you sow does not come to life unless it dies
4. comes: Aorist subjunctive of erchomai. The subjunctive mood pairs with "ean
mā" to indicate that the subject in view has a conditional/temporal factor
associated with it.
The subject is understood from the use of BECAUSE; ie. the day of the Lord.
It does not need any "will" or "shall" help, just simply COMES.
4. the apostasy (NASB): Details about the falling away are given below.
5. first: prōtos: This is the order in the Greek. But "first" is not
describing an ORDER to the two things mentioned, but simply the time
precedent between the arrival of the DOL and the apostasy.
UNLESS COMES THE APOSTASY FIRST
6. and: this adds something more to the temporal condition of "unless."
7. the man of lawlessness is revealed: The verb here is also an aorist
subjunctive. This PAIRS two things to "comes" and does not necessarily
indicate the ORDER of those two things. The following context seems to
indicate that the man is revealed (vs. 6-9) and the apostasy comes after the
revealing (vs. 10-11). And this is also the order given by Jesus at Mat.
The construction assumes an understanding that the event just mentioned is
in view and thus means that this three-pronged event mentioned in verses 1-2
will not occur until there is a time of apostasy and the man of lawlessness
is on the scene.
There are two possibilities for identification of this apostasy.
THE FIRST POSSIBILITY
The apostasy could refer to the Jews accepting the 7-year covenant
experiment. It appears that this covenant could require some significant
compromise on the part of the Jews in order to fulfill the conditions of the
covenant - providing for peace and religious toleration, especially between
the Jews and the Muslims.
It would be a specific historical event that would mark the beginning of the
week and portend the arrival of the Day of the Lord at the proper time. Marv
Rosenthal gives detailed support for this view in The Prewrath Rapture of
the Church, chapter 15. He summarizes it on pages 206-207 as follows.
"The apostasy, then, to which Paul referred (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4), will
involve Israel, not the church. It will commence when many within the nation
sign a covenant with the Antichrist (unknown to them, a covenant with death)
at the beginning of that seventieth week. The apostasy will encompass a
total abandonment of falling away from renewed covenant relationship (the
seventieth week) and from the God of their forefathers and the promised
Messiah. They will embrace a counterfeit religion (humanism) and a
counterfeit Messiah (the Antichrist) who offers a counterfeit peace and
solution to the Middle East dilemma."
In this case, acceptance of the covenant experiment would fulfill the
"little help" of Daniel 11:34, which is there described as "hypocrisy."
"And when they (Israel) fall (world-wide dispersion)
they will be given a little help,
and many will join with them in hypocrisy."
However, I don't think that such compromise, although it can be viewed as
hypocrisy, will amount to THE APOSTASY.
The Jewish people as a whole accept the covenant which brings a time of
peace and religious toleration, allowing them to build a sanctuary and offer
animal sacrifices. Although the covenant involves some areas of compromise,
it does not appear to me as any significant departure from their desire to
worship God. It is not until the covenant is broken that many of the Jews
and the world accept the beast as the "god" to be worshipped, that the
attitude and actions of the world can be considered THE apostasy.
In regard to this possibility: The Jews are dispersed (under the
disciplinary wrath of Luke 21:23) to this very day.
There has been no help given to them, and even the success of zionism and
the "pro-Jewish" mind-set of most Western nations (America and Great
Britain) does not fulfill the idea of a "little help." The context indicates
that this "little help" is actually a national "hypocrisy." Zionism and
pro-Jewish sentiment does not involve any kind of compromise or hypocrisy on
the part of the Jews.
In her fallen condition, since the Roman dispersion, the Jewish people have
come under many and varied attacks without much reprieve. But there will
come a time when she shall be given a little help.
It seems there is no situation in history that could fulfill this idea of "a
little help" except the covenant that is made by the world ruler of the
ten-nation confederacy which will give Israel the religious freedom she
needs to build a temple (or at least, a functional sanctuary) and
reinstitute its sacrificial system.
This is the covenant of Daniel 9:27, "and he will establish a covenant with
the many for 7 years (one week)."
This acceptance of "a little help" is described as hypocrisy. "and many will
join with them in hypocrisy."
For Israel to enter into such a covenant will amount to serious compromise
on her part and should be viewed as "hypocrisy" since it seems to involve a
"partnership" of sorts with the Muslims.
It is called "a little help" because the Middle East Peace and Tolerance
Accord (MEPTA) of Dan. 9:27 is only a temporary covenant that provides only
a temporary peace and security, since it will be broken just 3 1/2 years
after its confirmation. The reason this can be identified with the "peace"
covenant mentioned at Daniel 9:27 is because of the phrase, "and many will
join with them in hypocrisy." In order for their to be religious toleration
in the Middle East, all parties involved must compromise and share "the Holy
Place" of Mount Moriah where presently rests the Muslim temple, the Mosque
of Omar, and where the Jewish temple must reside. The compromise will
consist of allowing the two structures to exist side by side and worship to
be expressed without interference or censor.
However, the Jewish people as a whole will still be in unbelief that Jesus
is the Messiah and Savior. They will still be in rejection of the age-old
Messianic promise taught by the values and traditions of the Old Testament.
And this joining of "many" (national Israel) in the hypocrisy of the
covenant compromises those values and traditions in order to have what they
think to be God's will for them.
For them to recover from this national apostasy, they need to return to the
old values and traditions of looking for the Messianic promise. It will be
the ministry of the church and of the two witnesses that will "return the
hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to the
fathers" (Mal. 4:6).
Once the covenant is broken and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the
severity of their compromise will be exposed. The beast will take his stand
in the sanctuary and institute "beast worship." He will forbid the
sacrifices permitted by MEPTA. and set himself up as God (2 Thes. 2:4). This
begins the GREAT TRIBULATION period (Mat. 24:9-21) and it is at this time
that those of the nation who are faithful to "orthodox Judaism" will flee
Jerusalem and be protected in the wilderness from the great oppression by
the beast that takes place at this time (Revelation 12:14-16). But there
will still be many Jews who will associate with the beast and perpetuate the
national hypocrisy further by acknowledging him as God, and it will become
It has been claimed that the "covenant with death" at Isaiah 28:15 and 18
refers to this acceptance of the Covenant Experiment at the beginning of the
However, the covenant with death refers specifically to the Jews making a
deal with Egypt for protection from Assyria 713 BCE. Is. 30:1-5
At verse 15, the prophet uses sarcasm. "Because you have said, 'we have made
a covenant with death.'"
And at verse 18, some "reverse" sarcasm, "your covenant with death will be
In other words, Egypt will not help because Assyria will defeat Egypt first.
The whole context (chapters 28-33 - the book of woes) is the historical
invasion of Assyria except for the Messianic promise at verse 16, and until
33:13ff, which does in fact look forward to the day of the Lord.
THE CORRECT INTERPRETATION
THE apostasy is not a general time of apostasy, but it is a SPECIFIC time
and condition of moral and spiritual decline.
The word itself means a falling away or departure FROM something.
It is prefaced with the definite article, THE, to indicate not only
something that is SPECIFIC, but also something that
was KNOWN and understood by the readers as having been previously taught.
"Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you
THESE THINGS?" 2Thes. 2:5.
At the time of writing, about 56 AD, there was no other written revelation
from God except the first letter to the Thessalonians and perhaps the
gospels of Matthew and Mark. The primary teaching content was what Jesus
taught; the words of Jesus as preserved in the book of Matthew and what was
brought to memory through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26;
Paul had received personal teaching from Jesus (Gal. 1:12), and with a copy
of Matthew, put emphasis on "the words of our Lord Jesus Christ" as he
taught those who had believed. 1Tim. 6:3.
"If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound
words, THOSE OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, and with the doctrine conforming to
Here at 2Thes 2:3, Paul wrote that the day of the Lord would not arrive
UNTIL there would first occur TWO THINGS.
These two things are two sides of the same coin.
That is, the apostasy is what will occur AT THE TIME that the man of
lawlessness is revealed, and in fact, as a result of that man's actions.
In many places the bible indicates that the apostasy will involve both Jews
and Christians and
will occur in connection with the great persecution from the man of
lawlessness (the beast). Accordingly, there is no specific order to the
apostasy and the revealing of the man indicated in the passage. Thus I use
the idiom, "two sides of the same coin." This ONE unique and SPECIFIC
in human history will occur BEFORE the coming of the Lord, the gathering of
and the start of the Day of the Lord.
The man of lawlessness will be revealed at the midpoint of Daniel's 70th
week BEFORE the massive spiritual decline that Jesus taught about will
occur. Jesus taught that the massive spiritual and moral decline will occur
within the time frame of the tribulation (Matthew 24:9-21) and that it will
not occur until the abomination event occurs. The abomination event is
directly connected to 2Thes. 2:4 as the man of lawlessness will "take his
seat in the temple of God displaying himself that he is God."
THE apostasy, then, is the attitude and action of the earth dwellers AFTER
the man is revealed.
There is no SPECIFIC apostasy or falling away taught in the Bible other than
what will occur through the influence from the beast.
Until then, it is all general as described BY Jesus at Mat 24:5-8 as what
will occur BEFORE the tribulation of verse 9.
Later the apostles amplified this GENERAL apostasy as seen at 1Tim. 4:1 and
2Peter 2:1-3 and Acts 20:29-30 and others.
THE apostasy is what will occur when the earth dwellers embrace the beast
during the tribulation
which will begin at the midpoint of the 70th week of Daniel. Jesus described
it at Mat. 24:9-12.
And the context indicates that it will happen as a result of the abomination
event of verse 15.
1. THEN: This is the Greek word, tote, and indicates chronological
progression. It refers to what will occur AFTER the events of the “beginning
of birth pangs.”
2. they will deliver you: The verb is paradidomi in the aorist tense. It
refers to an historical point of time when a “new” societal environment will
exist for the believers in Jesus – the elect. The subject, THEY, refers to
the people of the world under the influence and guidance of the man of
of 2 Thess. 2:3-4. This man is the beast out of the sea of Revelation
13:1-8, who is often referred
to as the antichrist.
In context it refers to the what will happen AFTER the abomination event as
indicated by the words, "THEREFORE when you see . . . for then there will be
a great tribulation" in verses 15-21.
3. YOU: The YOU refers to the disciples AS representatives of the first
advent saints (or the church), who will, in a future generation, witness the
rise of the antichrist. The words of Jesus are directed TO and FOR His
disciples as those who will lay the foundation for the church that Jesus
will build upon Himself (Mat. 16:18; 1Cor. 3:11; 1Peter 2:4-9; Eph.
THE apostasy could happen in the first generation after the resurrection of
Jesus, as Paul indicated in 2Thes. 1:6-10, or it could happen in any
subsequent generation, as long as the conditions that Jesus will explain are
4. to tribulation: The KJV translation, “to be afflicted,” is quite wrong.
This is the noun, thlipsis, without a definite article. It should be
translated either as “a tribulation” or simply, “tribulation.” But it should
not be translated as an infinitive of a verb, “to be afflicted.”
The terms "the tribulation" (Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:19) and "the great
tribulation," (Matthew 24:21; Revelation 7:14) both refer to a period of
intense persecution that will begin in the future, at the midpoint of
Daniel's 70th week (Matthew 24:15-21; Revelation 13:3-7; Daniel 9:27; 12:1).
This will occur NOT as an expression of God's wrath, but as an expression of
Satan's wrath (Revelation 12:12) and man's hatred (Matthew 24:9) toward God
and His people on the earth, both Christians and the nation of Israel.
Although there have been times of tribulation and persecution throughout
history (Acts 14:22; 1Peter 4:12-14), the Tribulation will be of greater
intensity than any other time before or after (Matt. 24:21; Dan. 12:1). This
persecution is so horrific that, unless it is cut short, "no [persecuted]
flesh would be saved" (Matt. 24:22), that is preserved alive. It is taught
in the Old Testament at Jeremiah 30:4-7, Daniel 11:36-39, and 12:1.
This period of time will not only be a time of great persecution but also a
time of great moral and spiritual decline.
This is described by Jesus at Matthew 24:9-14.
After describing a little bit about the tribulation, Jesus then told the
disciples, “THEREFORE” when you see the abomination (verse 15). This becomes
another chronological trigger that helps pull the passage together. The
“therefore” tells US what to look for as the starting point for the
tribulation described in verses 9-14.
4. And they will kill you. And you will be hated by all nations: This does
not refer to the persecution within the early church that resulted in the
death of many Christians, as described by Luke and discussed above. Nor does
it refer to the various periods of persecution that will occur in subsequent
history. It refers to the killing of Christians that will occur ONLY after
the antichrist sets up the abomination of desolation in the Holy Place of
the Jewish temple in Jerusalem.
According to Revelation 13:7, “it was given to him (the beast) to make war
with the saints and to overcome them.” And since according to verse 8, “all
who dwell on the earth will worship him,” these will be the tools of the
beast to carry out his persecution agenda. Of course, this "all" is a
generic all and does not refer to absolutely everyone. At 2Thes. 1:6, it is
“those who afflict you” who will be visited with their own affliction when
Jesus arrives in the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.
At Daniel 7:25, it is described as “he will wear down the saints of the
At Revelation 12:17, “And the dragon was enraged with the woman (national
Israel) and went off to make war with the rest of her offspring (the
brethren of Jesus) who keep the commandments of God and hold to the
testimony of Jesus.”
6. On account of My name: This hatred and killing is ON Christians BECAUSE
they are Christians.
It is because they are called by the name of Christ and represent Him in
their witness and testimony during the time of the tribulation.
This is not talking about national Israel or Jews in general, for they will
not be persecuted FOR CHRIST. They are not “saints” (believers in Jesus),
Nor is this talking about the Jews who flee Judea and are protected in the
mountains as per Rev. 12:6, 13-16. These likewise are not believers in
Jesus, but are orthodox Jews who resist beast worship
based on RELIGIOUS standards, not Christian standards.
However, as seen in Revelation 12, these Jewish people will also come under
direct persecution from the beast. Revelation 12:6, 13-16.
1. And then many will fall away: The TIME word, tote (then, at that time),
occurs again. The verb is skandalidzomai, and it means to be intimidated,
ashamed and “scandalized” through their association with Christ, and thus,
to stumble and fall. It occurs as a future passive indicative. The passive
voice shows us that these people will RECEIVE an influence or effect in
their life that causes them to stumble over the things of Jesus Christ and
to turn away from those things. Thus, they will FALL AWAY from their
attitude toward Christ. This can refer to Christians or professing
In the context of the abomination event of verse 15, it is the beast's war
against the saints of Rev. 13:7 (Rev. 12:17), that will cause this massive
withdraw from Judeo-Christian standards.
It is true that the history of the church from its inception in 30 AD to the
present, has known many examples of such a falling away or apostasy.
In fact the very same kind of STUMBLING (skandalizdomai) happened to the
disciples at the time of
the crucifixion (Mat. 26:31).
The principle is seen at Mark 4:16-17 in the case of a believer who does not
have good teaching and preparation for persecution pressure.
"And in a similar way these are the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky
when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; and they have no
firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or
persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away (stumble
Even the emotionally zealous believer needs to be careful; to WATCH OUT
(Mat. 24:4), lest he also fall away as did Peter at Mark 14:29, “But Peter
said to Him, though all may fall away, yet I will not.” And at verse 31, 'If
I have to die with You, I will not deny You! And they all were saying the
same thing too." And of course, we know what happened to him (Mark 14:30),
and to the others (Mark 14:50, "and they all left Him and fled").
Warnings by Paul are sobering. "Let him who thinks he stands WATCH OUT (blepō)
lest he fall" (1 Cor. 10:12).
And the writer of Hebrews warns us, "But encourage one another day after
day, as long as it is
called 'today,' lest any one of you become hardened by the deceitfulness of
the sin nature,"
(Heb. 3:13, BFT).
And at verse 4:11, "Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest
anyone fall through
following the same example of disobedience."
And then because of the massive acceptance of beast worship as per Rev.
13:3-8, those who fall away will betray those who have not fallen away –
both family and friends.
But this GENERAL withdraw from moral and spiritual standards is not what
Jesus was talking about.
2. And will deliver up one another and hate one another: close associations
with family and friends will be rejected as the beast worshippers seek
approval from the beast.
Again, Jesus is talking about a SPECIFIC period of time when this betrayal
activity will occur.
THE FALSE TEACHER INFLUENCE
The strong influence of false doctrine; especially the false teaching, signs
and miracles from the antichrist and his associate The false prophet, will
most certainly deceive EVEN THE ELECT
(Mat. 24:24; 2Thes. 2:9).
Mat. 24:11 (Mark 13:12-13)
"And many false prophets will arise, and will mislead (planaō) many."
"For false christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs
and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect," (Mat. 24:24)
The significance of "mislead, if possible, even the elect" at Mat. 24:24
does not mean that
the elect will NOT be deceived, but it means it will be with difficulty and
it is a hard thing to imagine.
The IF clause in this verse is a first class condition. That means that the
"condition" is seen as either ASSUMED to be true, or UNDERSTOOD to be true.
The point here is that the deception of the elect
is a very real potential, just as Jesus indicated at verse 4, "See to it
that no one misleads you."
From the beginning of the church, believers have been attacked by numerous
and varied false teachers.
In about 59 AD, Paul warned the leaders of the church that "after my
departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and
from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things to draw
away the disciples after them."
And in about 65 AD, Paul prophesied that such a falling away would be
prevalent as the history of the church progresses. “But the Spirit
specifically says that in later times some will fall away from the
faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons,” (1
Timothy 4:1). Here, Paul
used a stronger verb, aphistāmi, to indicate a departure from the standards
of Christian truth.
And Peter, well aware of the dangers, gave similar warnings. After telling
us that there will be false teachers who distort the scriptures, he wrote,
“You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand,
be on your guard lest, being carried away by the error of unprincipled men,
you fall from your own steadfastness," (2 Peter 3:16-17; 2:1-3).
Later, John and Jude likewise warned of the dangers from the false teacher
influence. 1John 2:18-19; Jude 4.
But this GENERAL rise of false teachers and the attendant falling away is
not what Jesus was talking about.
He was talking about a SPECIFIC period of moral and spiritual decline that
will occur in direct connection with the abomination event He mentioned at
“And because lawlessness is increased, the love of many will grow cold.”
The word, lawlessness, is anomia and refers to the general rejection of the
divine laws of morality
that have been established by God for the proper and orderly function of the
Lawlessness is anarchy, which can be described from Judges 21:25, “In those
days there was
no king in Israel; EVERY MAN DID WHAT WAS RIGHT IN HIS OWN EYES.”
And this is why the beast of Rev. 13, is called “the man of lawlessness,” (anomia)
at 2Thes. 2:3.
The love of many will grow cold: The partner of anarchy is the absence of
“love” for others.
LOVE: The word here is agape and refers to basic love for fellow man.
Seeking what is good or beneficial for your fellow man.
When lawlessness increases, this kind of love goes by the wayside.
Lawlessness favors the natural tendencies of the sin nature to be
self-promoting, and self-protecting.
At Mark 7:21-22, Jesus described this moral lovelessness and lawlessness by
a long list of attitudes
and actions that basically come from the sin nature.
“For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual
immorality, theft, murder,
adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and
This is exactly the kind of thinking that causes people to accept beast
worship.The lawless one will do anything and everything to promote his own
interests and comforts and security, no matter what the cost to other people
within his society. This is not talking about Christians losing their “first
as at Rev. 2:4, or the absence of the “love of God” in general, as at John
This refers to the absence of common love for humanity and one’s fellow
citizen within his society.
That is, a kind of love that basically "cares for" and wants what is
beneficial for my fellow citizens.
However, since these moral laws are divinely designed, it is also the
absence of love FOR God that encourages lawlessness. This is seen at 1 John
3:17, “But whoever (a believer) has this world’s goods and beholds his
brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God
abide in him?”
In other words, whether with a believer or an unbeliever, the absence of the
love of God as an influence in the life will allow the sin nature to
influence the soul toward LOVELESSNESS and lawlessness.
The influence from the false teachers will direct everyone to accept beast
worship, as that is the only way to preserve one's social and economic peace
and security (Rev. 13:17). It is in fact those who reside under the umbrella
of beast worship who will be rejoicing in the experience of peace and
security, during the months before Christ's second coming. 1 Thes. 5:2-3.
And through their allegiance to the beast, they will seek to promote his
persecution agenda against Jews and Christians, and against ANYONE who has
not accepted the mark of the beast.
Thus, as Jesus stated, "and they will BETRAY one another and HATE one
This is amplified by Mark's account of Christ's words. "And brother will
DELIVER brother to death,
and a father his child; and children will RISE UP AGAINST parents and have
them put to death"
So involved with THE apostasy is -
1. Professing Christians totally deserting their claims and becoming beast
They will betray friends and family into the hands of the beast's "storm
2. Other unbelievers becoming totally lawless and only interested in
Thus, taking the mark and hating and turning others in to the beast's "storm
3. Real Christians losing their faith and living lawlessly. (Of course, they
cannot take the mark
because God won't allow it via divine discipline as in physical removal from
the earth before they
can actually take the mark). But they might try and even try to win approval
or favor from the
beast by betraying friends and family.
At 2Thes. 2 Paul describes it in the verses AFTER the revealing of the man.
Verses 9-12 describe the satanic influence and the apostasy.
INFLUENCE: "the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan,
with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all the deception of
wickedness for those who perish, because they
did not accept the love of the truth so as to be saved."
APOSTASY: "For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so
that they will believe what is false, . . . who did not believe the truth,
but took pleasure in wickedness."
Mat. 24:9-12 describes the apostasy.
Mat. 24:23-24 further describes the apostasy.
This is the frame of reference of the readers. They may have had the written
text of Matthew's book, but they most certainly had the oral teachings that
had been passed down by the apostles.
They did not have the context of the book of Revelation. But Revelation also
indicates that the apostasy will follow the rise of the beast.
Rev. 13:3 describes the apostasy.
Rev. 13:8 describes the apostasy.
Rev. 13:12-16 describes the apostasy.
It is this THE apostasy that Paul has in mind at 2 Thessalonians 2:3.
The word in the Greek is "apostasia," and means basically the act and/or the
condition of standing away from something; a departure from or rejection of
something. Paul even suggests for us what
this apostasy is at verse 3, by exhorting the believers to "stand firm and
hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether orally or by letter
from us (2 Thes. 2:15).
The extent of this apostasy is such that Jesus suggests there will be very
little practice of true Christianity on the earth when He comes back to take
the elect to Himself (Luke 18:7-8).
"Now, will God not bring about justice for His elect who cry out to Him day
and will He delay long for them?
"I tell you that He will bring about justice for them speedily."
This first part states a general promise of God's concern for His elect who
encounter various troubles throughout their life.
Deliverance in the face of crisis is described as occuring "speedily" (tachos).
The issue of "speedily" is determined according to God's wisdom and timing.
The trusting believer will be patient and accept whatever deliverance God's
character and plan determines. (1Peter 4:19).
Jesus then makes a specific application to the time period just prior to His
"However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find the faith on the earth?"
Jesus queries by way of a rhetorical question, "will He find THE faith on
Faith refers to the function of faith by believers who are relaxed and
confident through trusting in the character and plan of God and adhering to
the standards of the faith. The issue is not the presence of believers ON
the earth, but the presence of believers functioning "in fellowship" with
God ("abiding in Him," 1 John 2:28), and actively trusting Him in the midst
of the tribulation-persecution from Satan and the beast.
This question indicates what the condition on the earth will be like after
the beast begins his great persecution of Christians.
By way of comparison, there will be very few who have not accepted beast
That condition is stated hyperbolically at Rev. 13.
13:3-4, "the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast and
worshipped the dragon."
13:7, "authority over every tribe and people and language and nation was
given to him."
13:8, "those who dwell on the earth will worship him."
13:14, "he deceives those who dwell on the earth."
13:16, "and he causes all, the small and the great, the rich and the poor,
free men and slaves to be given a mark."
At Luke 18, with that DIRECT application to the second-coming, Jesus
indicates that it is at that time that He will bring justice to His elect.
This will occur in two steps.
FIRST will be the physical deliverance of the persecuted believers on the
This is described by Paul at 2Thess. 1:6-7 and applies it to the believers
who will be alive when Jesus returns.
"For after all, it is only just for God to repay with affliction
those who afflict you, and to give relief to you, and to us as well,
at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of
His power in flaming fire."
When Jesus arrives in the clouds of the sky with power and great glory, He
will gather together His elect OUR FROM the earth and INTO heaven.
John 14:3, "I will come again and take you to My side so that where I am
there you will be also."
Mark 13:27, "And then He will send forth the angels, and will gather
together His elect from the four winds, OUT FROM the farthest end of the
earth UNTO the farthest end of heaven."
At 1Thes. 4:13-17, Paul describes it as "we who are alive and remain shall
be caught up together with them in the clouds for a meeting with the Lord in
At 2Thes. 2:1, Paul calls it "our gathering together to Him." He used the
Jesus used the verb, sunagō.
Theologically is is called the rapture.
SECOND will be the pouring out of justice on the persecutors. 2Thes. 1:6-10.
This will be administered by the symbolic trumpet and bowl judgments of Rev.
8-9 and 16.
2Thes. 1:8, "dealing out retribution to those who do not know God even to
those who do not obey the gospel."
Rev. 6:17, "for the great day of Their wrath has come."
Thus, "those who endure to the end will be delivered (Mat. 10:22 and 24:13).
That is, those who are able to endure the persecution pressure and remain
alive throughout it, will be physically delivered when Jesus comes back.
THE BREAKING OF THE COVENANT EXPERIMENT
The man of lawlessness is revealed when he breaks the covenant of Daniel
that was made for a designated period of seven years.
"And he will cut a covenant with the many for one week (7 years)."
His true nature and intentions are not revealed at this time, and in fact,
may not even be present
until Satan empowers him later. He can thus be viewed as a benevolent world
ruler who is able to convince the respective parties involved in the Middle
East crisis to come to terms of peace and tolerance and agree to a specific
7-year Covenant Experiment.
The Covenant Experiment will allow the Jews to worship through animal
sacrifices in a restored temple, or at least a sanctuary. This will require
an agreement of religious toleration with the
Muslims, as well as an arrangement for political peace. I like to designate
it as MEPTA - The Middle east and European Peace and Tolerance Accord.
But 3 1/2 years into the covenant, the man of lawlessness will become more
powerful in world politics, and will begin to implement his own religious
and political agenda through the influence of Satan.
As such, he is designated as the beast out of the SEA at Revelation 13:1-8.
Several things will take place at this time.
1. He will appoint a Jew as dictator over Palestine and will make him a
prophet to carry out his religious program.
A. The beast out of the LAND: Revelation 13:11-17
B. Dan the serpent: Genesis 49:16-17
C. The worthless shepherd: Zechariah 11:15-17
D. The false prophet: Revelation 19:20; 20:10; 16:13
E. From Revelation 13:11f we see that he looks like a lamb and speaks
like a dragon, which communicates the idea of a false benevolence.
2. He will proclaim himself to be God: 2 Thessalonians 2:4
3. Through the false prophet he will institute beast worship.
2Thes. 2:4; Rev. 13:14-15; Dan. 9:27; 8:23-26; Rev. 11.1-2
4. This then will begin the attack on Israel (Rev. 12:10) which will
officially initiate the great tribulation (Mt. 24:15, 21).
It is also at this time, when MEPTA. is broken, that the beast will mount
his massive persecution against the church, which will result in the falling
away that Jesus described at Matthew 24:10-12
("And at that time many will fall away and will deliver up one another and
hate one another"), and Rev. 12:17 ("and the dragon went off to wage war
with those . . . who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony
THE GREEK WORD GROUP
The verb, aphistāmi translated as "fall away," means to take a stand away
from something. It can refer to a physical departure from a location or a
person; or it can refer to an ideological departure from political or
religious viewpoint. In fact, the primary use of the verb is to indicate a
"physical" removal from something. It is for this reason that sometimes the
argument is made that "apostasy"
at 2 Thessalonians 2:3, means "departure" and has in view a physical
departure of the saints from the earth via the rapture. However, the meaning
and use of a verb is not always the determinative factor for establishing
the meaning of a noun that derives from it. Many times a noun develops a
specialized meaning based on usage. It seems that just such a case has
occurred concerning the noun, apostasia, which occurs only at 1
Thessalonians 2:3 and Acts 21:21 in the New Testament.
In about 58 AD, Paul said at Acts 20:29, "I know that after my DEPARTURE
will come in among you not sparing the flock."
Since Paul was very proficient in Greek, he used the EXACT word which would
clearly describe his PHYSICAL departure from the group of believers.
(Perhaps he had in mind his physical departure
from the world through his death).
He used the word aphixis.
About 2 years earlier he wrote to the Thessalonians REMINDING them that
there would be a falling away (departure) from the faith, and he used the
Now, given that he had a pretty good vocabulary and surely knew the exact
aphixis and apostasia; and given that he probably knew apostasia was used in
the LXX for a falling away from a previously held belief about something
(political or religious), he chose rightly to use
that word group in his letter INSTEAD of aphixis. Let me suggest that if
Paul had intended to
describe a physical removal of the church from the earth, given his PRECISE
Greek, he most certainly would have used aphixis. IE. "the day of the Lord
will not come unless
THE APHIXIS (physical departure) comes first."
Furthermore, since Paul knew exactly what the apostasia word group meant, he
used the verb
form of that very word (aphistāmi) in his letter to Timothy, "some will fall
away from the faith."
(1 Tim. 4:1).
Every time the noun is used in the LXX, it carries the meaning of
(Josh. 22:22; 2 Chron. 29:19; 33:19; Ezra 4:19; Jer. 2:19). Its only other
use in the New Testament (Acts 21:21) indicates an ideological departure. It
is therefore, determined by this writer, that the contemporary use of the
noun in connection with an immediate context, that certainly recognizes the
dangers of "apostasy" for believers (verse 15), that the word, apostasia,
was used by Paul to speak
of that specific "end times" apostasy which will occur in connection with
the revealing of the man of lawlessness and the placement of his image
(abomination of desolation) in the Holy Place at the beginning of the
tribulation (midpoint of the 70th week) just as Jesus taught at Matthew
Furthermore, as already mentioned, 10 years later, Paul used the verb
aphistāmi at 1 Timothy 4:1
to refer to the very same apostasy of the tribulation that he referenced in
2 Thessalonians and that Jesus taught about at Matthew 24.
THE APOSTASIA/RAPTURE THEORY
Dr. John Feinberg, while being a pretrib rapture advocate presents a very
good argument against interpreting the noun apostasia at 2Thes. 2:3, as a
reference to the rapture. He presents this interpretation in the appendix of
his article in the Pre-Trib Study Group, in 1992, entitled, Arguing About
the Rapture: Who Must Prove What and How
While the majority of commentators on 2 Thessalonians 2:3 take apostasla to
refer to apostasy or religious defection, some argue that it is reference to
the rapture.  If this claim is defensible, then Paul does use his
teaching about a pretribulational rapture to instruct the Thessalonian
believers about the Day of the Lord. The accuracy and defensibility of this
claim rests on the etymology and usage of the Greek verb aphistemi and its
Aphistemi and its cognates are found widely in Greek literature. The verb is
first thought to have been found in the writings of Thucydides (Thuc., 1,
122). In the period from second century B.C. to first century A.D. there are
at least 355 occurrences of this word group,making these rather common
words in the Greek language. Aphistāmi is a compound verb from apo (from)
and histāmi (to stand).
It is both a transitive verb, meaning "to cause to revolt, mislead," and an
intransitive verb, meaning "to go away, withdraw, depart, fall away." From
this verb are derived two nouns, apostasion and apostasla. Apostasion comes
to have a fixed meaning, "a bill of divorce," while apostasy (a means
"rebellion, abandonment, state of apostasy" or "defection." It is the latter
noun that is found in our text.
The question that we are now ready to answer is whether the noun apostasia
ever refers to a physical departure, allowing Paul to make a reference to
the rapture of the church by using this word. Let us take how the words are
used in the biblical Greek (the LXX and the New Testament) as the context
for establishing how these words are used. These would be the primary
contexts for setting the usage of any biblical term, although at least in
this case what is true in biblical Greek is true more generally. The first
thing that we can say is that the verb aphistāmi is clearly used of physical
departure in both testaments. In the Old Testament (the LXX) the verb is
used in Genesis 12:8 of Abram's departure from Shechem toward the hills east
of Bethel. It is used of the physical separation of persons as in 1 Samuel
18:13, where it is used of David's departure from Saul, and in Psalm 6:8, of
the physical separation of the wicked from God's presence. In New Testament
Greek there are clear examples of the use of the verb to express physical
departure or separation. Forms of this verb appear 15 times. Luke uses this
word 10 times (Luke 2:37; 4:13; 8:13;13:27; Acts 5:37-38; 12:10; 15:38;
19:9; 22:29). It is found four times in Paul (2 Cor. 12:8; 1 Tim. 4:1; 6:5;
2 Tim. 2:19). It is used once by the writer of Hebrews (Heb. 3:12). All but
Acts 5:37 are intransitive uses. The idea of physical departure is prominent
in many of the occurrences. In Luke 2:37 Annais said to have never left the
temple. In Acts 19:9 Paul was teaching in the synagogue in Ephesus for three
months, but he left or departed when some obstinate hearers refused to
believe. Thus, there are clear examples where the verb means to physically
depart or leave in both the Greek Old Testament and New Testament.
There are fewer uses of the two related nouns in biblical literature, but
again both are found in the Greek Old Testament and New Testament.
Apostasion is found with a fixed meaning in both testaments. It is related
to the breaking of the marriage covenant (Mal. 2:14). And it means "a
certificate of divorce" (Deut. 24:1,3; Isa. 50:1; Jer. 3:8; Matt. 5:31;
19:7; Mark 10:4).
This leads us to the noun in 2Thessalonians 2:3, apostasia. It is found in
the Greek Old Testament and has the idea of rebellion (Joshua 22:22),
wickedness (Jeremiah2:19), and unfaithfulness (2 Chr. 28:19; 29:19; 33:19).
Apostasta is found twice in the New Testament, in our text and in Acts
21:21. In Acts, the noun is used in Paul's teaching that the Jews who lived
among the Gentiles that forsake the teaching of Moses about circumcision.
None of the uses of the noun in either testament indicate a physical
departure of any sort. The point can be made even more strongly.
If one searches for the uses of the noun "apostasy" in the 355 occurrences
over the 300-year period between the second century B.C. and the first
century A.D., one will not find a single instance where this word refers to
a physical departure. The uses outside biblical Greek are exactly
parallel to those in it.
Let me summarize my findings: 1) aphistemi and its cognates are found widely
in Greek literature; 2) the verb aphistemi has many and clear uses where a
physical departure can only be meant; 3) the noun apostasion has a clear and
fixed meaning that relates it to the marriage covenant, and it is the common
way of expressing the giving of a certificate of divorce; 4) the other noun,
apostasia, has a variety of meanings, but none of them relate to a physical
departure. It seems that any fair assessment of the data leads to the
conclusion that Paul does not refer to the rapture in 2 Thessalonians 2:3.
Before I conclude this appendix, let me state and respond to two possible
objections to the conclusions that I have argued for above. It might be
argued that though the derivative noun may never be used of a physical
departure, the idea is nonetheless justified because of the underlying verb
which has that etymology and usage. In other words, one rests the rapture
interpretation of this text not on apostasia but on the verb aphistmi. This
simply cannot be done. In most cases the meaning of the underlying verb
carries over to its derivative noun. But there are instances where this is
not the case, and to do so leads to false conclusions. This is even true
where the word is a compound. Anaginsko is a word in the New Testament. It
is a compound from the preposition ana which means "up, upwards" and ginosko
which means "to know." To base the meaning of the compound on the meaning of
its parts leaves one with a meaning for anaginosko of "to know up" or "to
know upwards, "when in fact the word means "to know certainly, recognize" or
"to read."There is at least another clear example of the difference
between a verb and its cognate noun. There is a verb eperotao which is found
a number of times in the New Testament, 53 times in the Gospels, and five
times in the epistles(e.g., Mart. 12:10; Luke 3:10; Rom. 10:20). The meaning
of the verb, invariably, is "to ask" or "consult." A derivative noun occurs
once in the New Testament, in 1 Pet. 3:21. The noun is eperotema. The idea
here is of a pledge, quite different from its cognate verb meaning.That
is, water baptism is "a pledge of a good conscience toward God. "Thus, the
meaning of derivative nouns must be established through their usage.
A second objection to what has been argued is that, in the history of the
interpretation of this text, there are some interpreters, important ones
too, who have suggested that a physical departure is at least a part of the
meaning of this word. That may be, but that does not settle the matter. If
they came to their conclusions on the basis of the etymology and usage of
aphistemi, they were wrong, at least in my judgment. If, on the other hand,
they reached their conclusions for some other reason, then we would have to
know what those reasons were, so that they could be evaluated. However, it
does seem that given what we presently know, there is no reason to
understand Paul's use of apostasia as a reference to the rapture.
Something else to consider in refuting the "departure" theory, is the fact
that the rapture is NOT a departure. It is a GATHERING to the Lord.
The emphasis is on a gathering to Him rather than a departure.
The word "taken" at Mat. 24:40-41 and John 14, paralambanō, means "to be
taken to the side of."
"I will TAKE YOU TO MYSELF that where I am there you may be also."
Or, "I will RECEIVE you to myself . . ."
"One will be TAKEN and one will be left."
And that describes what Jesus said at Mat. 24:31, the angels will "gather
His elect from the 4 winds."
At Mark 13:27, the Son of Man, "He will gather together His elect."
(episunagō is the verb).
Now, how about 1 Thes. 4:17,
"Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in
the clouds (to meet the Lord in the air - this is not correct) FOR A MEETING
WITH THE LORD in the air."
It is a noun - apantāsis - with the noun eis = FOR A MEETING.
There is no verb here and it should not be translated as an infinitive "to
The emphasis is on the MEETING not on the catching out.
At 2 Thes. 2:1, "our gathering together to Him," uses the noun episunagōgā.
Again the emphasis is on a gathering to him and not a departure.
So . . .
At verse 3, IF Paul wants to reference the rapture, he would use the noun
that properly focuses on the right emphasis - the GATHERING.
He would say, "unless the MEETING comes first."
And he would use the noun he used at 1 Thes. 4, apantāsis.
Or he would use a noun like at verse 1, "unless the GATHERING TOGETHER comes
Or as mentioned above in connection with Acts 20:29, he would use aphixis.
But of course, there is no logic to this idea in the context. The COMING of
the Lord, and the GATHERING, and the DAY of the Lord are all THE SAME EVENT.
In such a case, the result would be something like, "The coming of the Lord,
the gathering, the Day of the Lord - will not occur until the gathering
comes first . . ." That is, "the gathering will not occur until the
gathering occurs first."
When the day of the Lord arrives, that is when the rapture will occur.
That is when the GATHERING will occur.
It is not so much a departure as it is a gathering.
By the way, there are reputable translations that recognize the truth of
this and translate verse 3 as "unless the apostasy comes first," NASB.
Certainly, translations and commentaries are not inspired or absolute, but
this list in quite impressive.
ABBOTT'S ILLUSTRATED NEW TESTAMENT
ADAM CLARKE COMMENTARY
ARIEL MINISTRIES: ARNOLD FRUCHTENBAUM
BAKER'S BIBLE DICTIONARY APOSTASY.
THE BIBLE STUDY NEW TESTAMENT
CAMBRIDGE BIBLE FOR SCHOOLS AND COLLEGES
CHAFER THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY: GLOSSARY
CHARLES SPURGEON: Treasury of Scripture Knowledge
COFFMAN'S COMMENTARY ON THE BIBLE
CYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLICAL, THEOLOGICAL AND ECCLESIASTICAL LITERATURE
ELICOTT'S COMMENTARY FOR ENGLISH READERS
ENDURING WORD COMMENTARY: David Guzik
E.W. BULLINGER'S COMPANION BIBLE NOTES
THE EXPOSITOR'S GREEK NEW TESTAMENT
GENEVA STUDY BIBLE
GEORGE HAYDOCK'S CATHOLIC BIBLE COMMENTARY
GEORGE N. H. PETERS: THE THEOCRATIC KINGDOM
GILL'S EXPOSITION OF THE ENTIRE BIBLE
GREEK TESTAMENT CRITICAL EXEGETICAL COMMENTARY
HASTINGS' DICTIONARY OF THE BIBLE
HOLMAN BIBLE DICTIONARY
IRENAEUS, Against Heresies (Book V, Chapter 25)
J. VERNON McGEE
JAMIESON-FAUSSET-BROWN BIBLE COMMENTARY
JEWISH ENCYCLOPEDIA : By: K. Kohler, Richard Gottheil
JOHN CALVIN from commentary on 2 Thessalonians.
JOHN MCARTHUR: Audio: The Coming Man of Sin, Part 3 2
Thessalonians 2:3–5 March 8, 1992.
JOHN TRAPP COMPLETE COMMENTARY
JOHN F. WALVOORD
JOHN WESLEY'S EXPLANAORY NOTES
JUSTIN EDWARDS' FAMILY BIBLE NEW TESTAMENT
MARK DUNAGAN COMMENTARY ON THE BIBLE
MATTHEW POOLE'S COMMENTARY
MEYER'S NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARY
MORRISH BIBLE DICTIONARY
NAVE'S TOPICAL BIBLE
NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARY
PEOPLE'S NEW TESTAMENT
SCAFF'S POPULAR COMMENTARY ON THE NEW TESTAMENT
SCOFIELD'S REFERENCE NOTES
THEOLOGICAL DICTIONARY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
Hermann Cremer and Julius Kogel; Edited by Gerhard Kittel.
UNGER'S BIBLE DICTIONARY
VINCENT'S WORD STUDIES
WHEDON'S COMMENTARY ON THE BIBLE
WILLIAM BURKITT COMMENTARY