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.
THE APOSTASY of 2 Thessalonians 2:3
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
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.
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
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 PROBABLE POSSIBILITY
Many places in the bible indicate 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). In that case, there is no specific order
to the apostasy and the revealing of the man indicated in the passage. It is
possible that the two ideas are equated as one. Thus this ONE situation of
human history will occur BEFORE the coming of the Lord, the gathering of the
saints, and the Day of the Lord. In that case, the man of lawlessness will
be revealed at the inception of the tribulation (at the midpoint of Daniel's
70th week) BEFORE the apostasy that Jesus taught about will occur, because
He said that the apostasy will occur within the time frame of the
tribulation (Matthew 24:9ff).
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.
Then the apostles amplified it 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.
Verse 10, "many will all away."
This does not use aphistāmi, but skandalidzomai - to be intimidated and thus
reject or fall away from what you believe.
"and they will BETRAY one another and HATE one another."
Amplified at Mark 13:12, "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" (and Mat. 10:21-23).
Mat. 24:11 And many false prophets will rise up and MISLEAD MANY people. 12
And because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will become cold.
Lawlessness is increased: anomia
The restraint on "the mystery of LAWLESSNESS" will be removed.
LOVE: basic love for fellow man. Seeking what is good or beneficial for your
When lawlessness increases, this kind of love goes by the wayside.
Lawlessness favors the natural tendencies of the sin nature to be
self-absorbed; self-centered; self-promoting, and self protecting.
This is exactly the kind of thinking that causes people to accept beast
So involved with THE apostasy is -
1. Professing Christians totally deserting their claims and becoming beast
worshippers. They will betray friends and family into the hands of the
beast's "storm troopers."
2. Other unbelievers becoming totally lawless and only interested in
self-preservation. Thus, taking the mark and hating and turning others in to
the beast's "storm troopers."
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.
2Thes. 2:9-12 describe the apostasy.
Mat. 24:9-12 describes the apostasy.
Mat. 24:23-26 further describes the apostasy.
At verse 24, Jesus indicates that the deception of the elect
will occur, just as He indicated in verses 10-12.
"For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will
show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, since it is possible, even
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."
This is the frame of reference of the readers. That is, they may not have
had the written text of the gospels, but they 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.
THE BREAKING OF THE COVENANT EXPERIMENT
The man of lawlessness is revealed when he breaks the covenant of Daniel
9:27a, 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.
2 Thes. 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 of Jesus").
THE APOSTASY after the tribulation begins
This is referring to something that is specific rather than general (THE
apostasy). It is certainly something that the recipients of the letter knew
about (verse 2:5), and would be known by the church in general as well, by
understanding what had been taught orally and in writing (verse 2:15).
The apostles teach of a general decline in moral and spiritual standards
that would occur in the latter days, but they are quick to point out that it
is already taking place at the time of writing. Furthermore, it is not
referring to a general "condition" of spiritual apathy in the world, but the
actual falling away from an established standard. It speaks of Christians
turning away from true Christianity.
Jesus taught that during a specific time of tribulation (Mat. 24:9), there
would be a great falling away from the truths of Christianity because of an
intensity of hatred and persecution unparalleled in history (Mat. 24:9-12).
"Then they will deliver you up to tribulation, and will kill you and you
will be hated by all the nations because of My name.
And then many will be caused to stumble (fall away)
and will deliver up one another and hate one another.
And many false prophets will arise and will deceive many.
And because the lawlessness (via the man of lawlessness)is increased, the
love of many will grow cold."
According to verse 9, and the "therefore" of verse 15, this will occur after
the abomination of desolation is set up in the Jewish Holy Place by the man
of lawlessness. This "beast" will mount a massive attack on Christians as
described at Revelation 12:17 and 13:7. Furthermore, based on Matthew 24:10,
many professing Christians will reject their claim to Christianity and
actually betray others into the hands of the beast (Mat. 24:23-26).
It could be this 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).
"I tell you that He will bring about justice for them speedily. However,
when the Son of Man comes, will He find the faith on the earth?"
Here, He applies the promise of justice according to divine wisdom and
timing to His elect who are afflicted on the earth.
The promise of justice will be kept when Jesus returns at the Day of the
Lord which Paul applies to his generation at 2 Thessalonians 1:6-7.
"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."
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.
But He observes by way of a rhetorical question, "will He find THE faith on
the earth?" 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).
This is also what Paul had in mind at 1 Timothy 4:1, where he uses the verb
form of apostasy to indicate a departure from those spiritual standards
which characterize true Christianity ("some will fall away from the faith").
Those who fall away will be "professing" Christians and not true believers.
It is very possible that THE apostasy refers to BOTH Jews and professing
Christians who apostatize from the truth and accept beast worship.
It is the acceptance of beast worship that defines THE apostasy.
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
In about 58 AD, Paul said at Acts 20:29, "I know that after my DEPARTURE
savage wolves 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
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
difference between 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 understanding of 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
ideological departure (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 24:9-26.
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
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