Recently, I have been prompted to revisit 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 and investigate this passage a little deeper. It should be noted that I have, through this study, developed an alternative nuanced interpretive view that I would like to present to the reader.
My previous position on this passage is not much different than presented here, except that the defining of the “day of Christ” has been enlarged and amended, and our survey of the Greek word ‘apostasia‘ has been expanded.
We will begin by reading the passage as presented in the King James Version, and then we will break down each verse, offer insights, dissect the original Greek, and conclude with what I really believe is worthy of consideration in the prophetic community regarding this difficult and intensely debatable section of Scripture.
“Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;” – 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3.
“Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,” – 2 Thessalonians 2:1.
In verse one, we see the rapture in full view by the phrase, “by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto Him.”
Note: Some would say that “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” refers to the Second Coming of Christ, and “by our gathering together unto Him” is referring to the rapture. The Greek word for “coming” is 3952 παρουσία “parousia” and can apply to either the Second Coming (i.e., Matthew 24:27 and 2 Thessalonians 2:8) or the rapture (i.e., Matthew 24:39 and 1 John 2:28). I, personally, see both references to the same event, the rapture, but the Second Coming could very well be in view as there are two phases of “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” – or “the day of Christ” – which we will explore in more detail as we move along.
“That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand” – 2 Thessalonians 2:2.
In verse two, we note that the focus is now on “the day of Christ.” But what exactly is “the day of Christ”?
Usually, “the day of Christ” refers to the rapture of the church. We find this reality in the following passages.
“For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” – Philippians 1:5-6. (emphasis mine)
“And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ” – Philippians 1:9-10. (emphasis mine)
“That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain” – Philippians 2:15-16.(emphasis mine)
In verse two – our study verse above – is “the day of Christ” referring to the rapture as the other passages do, or is this something else?
When taken in whole, “the day of Christ” really comes in two phases. Jesus comes for His bride in the rapture, as noted in verse one, and seven-plus years later, in verse two, will come back to earth with His redeemed at His Second Coming. Both events are the two phases of “the day of Christ.”
So, within this study, I would like to offer the interpretation that regards Paul’s use of “the day of Christ” as referring to the Lord’s Second Coming, the second phase of “the day of Christ.” This would be the only time that Paul used this phrase – “the day of Christ” – in reference to the second phase of His coming, apart from the rapture.
Within this interpretive view, there were some in the church at Thessalonica who were being told that the second phase of Christ’s return was at hand. That is, Jesus was ready to come back at His Second Coming. But if this was so, then that would mean the Thessalonians had somehow missed the rapture which Paul had already preached on in person and in his first letter to the Saints in Thessalonica.
“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;” – 2 Thessalonians 2:3.
This is the verse that has challenged Bible students and teachers through the years. How are we to assess what Paul is teaching here, and how are we to understand his overall message?
2 Thessalonians 2:3 Text Evaluation
In my recent study of this verse, I came across the fact that the phrase “that day” is not in the original. Here is the verse with the translators’ addition of [that day shall not come] within the text.
“Let no man deceive you by any means: for [that day shall not come], except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;” – 2 Thessalonians 2:3.
2 Thessalonians 2:3 Text Analysis
As we often do, it is very helpful to investigate the Text Analysis, which shows the word order in the original language, which in turn is translated into English for a side-by-side comparison. Here is the Text Analysis of 2 Thessalonians 2:3 with the definite articles noted.
“No one you should deceive in not one way because [“it is” or, better, “it will not be”] if not [until] shall have come the [“the” Hebrew 3588 ἡ “hē” the definite article] apostasy first and shall have been revealed the [“the” Hebrew 3588 τῆς “tēs” the definite article] man of lawlessness the [“the” Hebrew 3588 τῆς “tēs” the definite article] son of destruction.”
Here is the Text Analysis with my own suggested punctuation, adjustments, and adding the definite articles within the text.
“No one you should deceive in not one way, because if not shall have come the apostasy first, and shall have been revealed the man of lawlessness the son the of destruction.” (the definite article)
Granted, this would not be considered proper English, but we can see that the phrase “that day” is not in the original, but the phrase “if not shall have come” is. “If not shall have come” could be translated into modern-day English as “it will not be,” “it shall not be,” “it shall not come,” or “it will not be if this doesn’t come.” I personally prefer the “it shall not be” rendition.
Here is my suggested translation into modern-day English with what we have in the King James Version:
“Let no man deceive you by any means: for it shall not be, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.” (translation emphasis mine)
I investigated other translations, and here are some that reflect both truths; that of the alternate wording that reflects the original language and the omission of the phrase “that day.”
“Let no one deceive you in any way. For it will not be, unless the departure comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of destruction,” – World English Bible.
“do not let anyone deceive you in any way, because if the departure may not come first, the man of lawlessness may [not] be revealed—the son of destruction,” – Literal Standard Version.
“let no man beguile you in any wise: for it will not be, except the falling away come first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition,” – American Standard Version.
“No one should deceive you in any way, because it is not until the apostasy shall have come first, and the man of lawlessness shall have been revealed–the son of destruction,” – Berean Literal Bible.
“Let no one deceive you in any way, because it will not be unless the apostasy has first come and the man of lawlessness, the son of perdition shall have been revealed;” – Literal Emphasis Translation.
“let no man beguile you in any wise: for it will not be, except the falling away come first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition,” – English Revised Version.
“Let no man disceaue you by eny meanes. For the LORDE commeth not, excepte the departynge come first, and that that Man of synne be opened, euen the sonne of perdicion,” – Coverdale Bible of 1535.
“Let no ma deceave you by eny meanes for the lorde commeth not excepte ther come a departynge fyrst and that that synfnll man be opened ye sonne of perdicion” – Tyndale Bible of 1526.
After looking into the original language, a little more closely than I have before, it really does appear that in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, Paul is speaking expressly about Christ’s Second Coming. That is, Paul is stating that no one should deceive us because Christ’s Second Coming cannot occur until the “apostasia” happens first, and then the son of perdition [Antichrist] is revealed. These two major events must take place before our Lord comes back to earth to take vengeance upon His enemies and set up His Millennial Kingdom.
When taken together with 2 Thessalonians 2:2, we see the fluidity of Paul’s theme.
So, what exactly is the “apostasia“?
“Apostasia” is derived from the Greek root word 868/”aphístēmi” meaning “leave, depart,” which is derived from 575/apó, “away from” and 2476/histémi, “stand”) – properly, departure (implying desertion); apostasy – literally, “a leaving, from a previous standing.” (Biblehub.com)
Therefore, as noted above, “apostasia” is derived from “aphestemi” which literally means to “stand (“histemi”) away (“apo”).” Apostasy, as derived from “aphestemi,” is literally, “a leaving, from a previous standing.”
The above information can be found under “HELPS Word-studies” here: Strong’s Greek: 646. ἀποστασία (apostasia) — defection, revolt (biblehub.com)
“Aphestemi” – it should be noted – is used by Paul in 1 Timothy 4:1.
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;” – 1 Timothy 4:1. (“aphestemi“)
This is one reason that “apostasy” has come to mean “a leaving, or a defection from the truth, forsake, or falling away” as it has been handed down to us and is most often popularly translated.
It is not my intention, nor my field, to go into the etymology of how “apostasia” became known as a “falling away” from the faith, but another reason for this linguistic progression seems to be the Catholic vs. Protestant divide. Both Catholics and Protestants desired to shoot spiritual arrows at the other by using this word in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 – and how they desired the word to be defined – as they accused the other of “apostasy” or of “falling away” from the faith they each claimed to hold.
There is no doubt that “apostasia” can be used in this manner – that of a “falling away” from the faith – but this is not the only definition available, as any given word in any given language will inevitably entertain multiple definitions at the word’s disposal.
“Apostasia” is also the feminine of “apostasion,” which is rendered “divorce or certificate of divorce,” as when the Jews tested Jesus about divorce and the law of Moses. Among this word’s definitions – that goes well with divorce – is “something separative” or “separate.” You can see this information here: Strong’s Greek: 647. ἀποστάσιον (apostasion) — a forsaking, spec. (bill of) divorce (biblehub.com)
Some will put much stock into how “apostasia” is used in Acts 21:21, which is translated “forsake Moses” in the KJV. This is the only other place in the New Testament where “apostasia” is used. Therefore, Acts 21:21 could read, when considering the masculine of “apostasia” – “apostasion” – as “a separation from Moses.”
“And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to separate from Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs” – Acts 21:21. (emphasis and alternative translation mine)
We can apply this same method in substituting “separate from” to “aphestemi” in 1 Timothy 4:1.
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall separate from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;” – 1 Timothy 4:1. (“aphestemi“)
If all of this is considered in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, this verse could very well be rendered:
“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a separation first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;” – 2 Thessalonians 2:3. (emphasis and alternative translation mine)
Our suggested phrase, “there come a separation first,” is more than intriguing.
A “falling away” is a “separation”; a “stand[ing] away” is a “separation”; and a “departure” is a “separation.” These three most-used translations of “apostasia” are literally a “separation.”
And from the context of this passage, this “separation” can be nothing other than the rapture of the church. (More on this below.)
When it comes to the rapture, we have both a “separation” from the earth and those left behind, as well as a “separation” from our sinful, earthly flesh as we receive our new, glorified bodies.
“Separation” also conjures up imagery of our Lord’s “one shall be taken, and the other left” rapture passages of Matthew 24:40-41 and Luke 17:34-36. [The Paralambánō of Matthew24:40-41 & Luke 17:34-36, “The Eagles be Gathered Together,” and Jesus Was the First to Teach the Rapture!]
In my estimation, when considering the Greek word “apostasia” and all its derivatives, I believe that the English word “separation” is by far our best translation alternative, with “departure” being a close second.
The First through Fourth Century’ Church Fathers’
Some have observed how they believe the first through fourth century “Church Fathers” understood this word. But the more I know of these so-called “Church Fathers,” the more I could care less what they thought or taught! Almost every one of them, to a man, was a heretical false teacher. Most were majorly influential from their writings in the eventual doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, of which Augustine was the most prominent.
Here is a great article on the subject by David Cloud of Way of Life Literature: Church Fathers: A Door to Rome (wayoflife.org)
Therefore, I put no stock into what the “Church Fathers” have to say, really, about anything.
It is truly amazing how far these first through fourth century “Church Fathers” devolved and had “fallen away” (pun intended) from revealed truth and doctrine, as some were surely taught by the Apostles personally, and all were educated by the Apostle’s epistle writings that became our Scriptures.
Paul even addressed this spiritual corruption that was – and has always been – prevalent in the church with the elders at Ephesus:
“For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” – Acts 20:29-30.
And this heresy and falling away from the revealed truth and faith is what Paul and the other Apostles constantly fought against from the Church’s inception. The church has always had an internal problem with those who fall away from the faith they supposedly professed.
So, no. When it comes to relying on the so-called “Church Fathers” to help us in understanding what the proper definitions for the Greek word ‘apostasia‘ is in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, and how they understood the word, I have no faith in their ability to discern either.
The Context and the Definite Article of ‘Apostasia‘
As with all languages, there are many definitions to each word, and it is imperative that we understand as best as we can the message behind the words and how they are being used.
So, then, for me, it all comes down – as it always should – to context.
As we noted above, there is a definite article that introduces ‘apostasia.‘ Why do I point this out? Because this means that ‘apostasia‘ is something that is very important and should be obvious to those who see it when it happens, and not some nuanced, subjective, and/or relevant event that can never really be gauged or measured. Paul is stating that this ‘apostasia‘ will be so obvious that the reader will absolutely know that it has occurred when it happens.
This ‘apostasia‘ is so important, that it is the ‘apostasia.‘
Let me ask the reader a few questions.
If this is, indeed, a spiritual “falling away” from the faith, how is one to know this event when they see it? How is one to observe this so-called “apostasy” and know that the Antichrist is ready to be revealed? How is one to gauge or measure this event and know that it has undeniably occurred? Wouldn’t a “falling away” from the faith be entirely subjective?
Again, does it really make sense that the Antichrist will not be revealed until people start falling away from the faith? People have been “falling away” from the faith since the beginning. Not only that, but aren’t people that “fall away” from the faith they once professed false converts and never saved to begin with? Of course, they were, just as they are now, and just as they will be in the future.
And who would decide that this “falling away” has reached the point where it should be obvious to the people who will witness it that the Antichrist should finally be revealed?
When all things are considered, a “falling away from the faith” in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 defies logic and rational credibility.
When taking in all these considerations within our study, the rapture, in my humble assessment, is clearly in view with the Greek word ‘apostasia‘ in 2 Thessalonians 2:3.
Summary Conclusion of This Interpretive View
The following would be a summary of our newly proposed interpretive view as read through this portion of Scripture with [notations] and alternative translations as presented within this study.
“Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him [the rapture], That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand [the Second Coming]. Let no man deceive you by any means: for it shall not be [the Second Coming], except there come the separation first [the rapture], and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;” – 2 Thessalonians 2:3. (alternative translation)
This is not a separation; this is the separation; the rapture of the bride of Christ!
The proper order of events seems to me to be what Paul was revealing and reiterating to the Thessalonian believers in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 — the rapture of the bride of Christ, the Antichrist, and then Jesus Christ at His Second Coming!
Love, grace, mercy, and shalom in Messiah Yeshua, and Maranatha!
➢ Email: email@example.com – I would love to hear from you!
➢ If you have not given your life to Jesus Christ and are seeking answers about God, Jesus Christ, the gospel, and salvation, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for information.
➢ I am still taking questions for the Questions from the Body of Christ series. If you or someone you know has a question pertaining to the Word of God – theology, difficult passages, eschatology, etc. – I would really like to hear from you.
The post 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3: The Day of Christ and ‘Apostasia’:: By Mark A. Becker appeared first on Rapture Ready.