Question / Comment - Questions on the rapture, departure and apostacy in 2 Thessalonians
Hi, hope you are well. I wanted to ask if you can please help me out.
Are there any other events that must occur on the prophetic calendar before Jesus gathers (raptures) His bride to heaven? I'm trying to determine if it's true that Jesus can suddenly return/rapture His bride (at any time - at any moment - it's imminent). Or are there in fact 2 specific events (apostacy/man of sin revealed) that must be fulfilled before Jesus will gather/rapture His bride.
I need help to understand what each one of the below 4 Scripture Verses are speaking of. There can only be three options for each specific reference in these Scripture Verses...
1- The Rapture
2- The Day of the Lord (Daniels 70th week, Judgement/Wrath of God, 7 Year Tribulation)
3- Jesus' 2nd Coming
2 Thessalonians 1:10 AMP when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day [that is, glorified through the changed lives of those who have accepted Him as Savior and have been set apart for His purpose], and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed and trusted [and confirmed in your lives].
Is this speaking of the Rapture OR Jesus' 2nd Coming?
2 Thessalonians 2:1 AMP Now in regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to meet Him, we ask you,
This Verse mentions both "the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" as well as "our gathering together to meet Him". Are these two separate events? Meaning... "the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" is speaking of Jesus' 2nd coming? And "our gathering together to meet Him" is speaking of the Rapture? Or is this one event said two different ways? If so, what single event is this speaking of (the Rapture OR Jesus' 2nd Coming)?
2 Thessalonians 2:2 AMP not to be quickly unsettled or alarmed either by a [so-called prophetic revelation of a] spirit or a message or a letter [alleged to be] from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has [already] come.
Is this speaking of the Rapture OR the Day of the Lord?
2 Thessalonians 2:3 AMP Let no one in any way deceive or entrap you, for that day will not come unless the apostasy comes first [that is, the great rebellion, the abandonment of the faith by professed Christians], and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction [the Antichrist, the one who is destined to be destroyed],
Is this speaking of the Rapture OR the Day of the Lord OR Jesus' 2nd Coming?
Father please lead us in Your Truth in Jesus.
that is quite a few questions! : ) But they are good questions as there is disagreement and discussion on all of them. People have written large scholarly papers on many of these topics in 2 Thes 1 and 2... so I'll just add a few thoughts on how I see it and why. Some of these questions I have written on before, so I will not repeat myself (too much at least) on these but will provide a link to where you can read more. I'll add your questions in blue and then respond. So....
"Are there any other events that must occur on the prophetic calendar before Jesus gathers (raptures) His bride to heaven? I'm trying to determine if it's true that Jesus can suddenly return/rapture His bride (at any time - at any moment - it's imminent). Or are there in fact 2 specific events (apostacy/man of sin revealed) that must be fulfilled before Jesus will gather/rapture His bride."
I don't know of any scriptures that state events which HAVE to occur before Jesus returns for His bride at the rapture. The rapture is a sign-less event even though there are general signs for the days in which we live. We have seen things occur (like Israel becoming a nation again), but there is nothing in scripture that HAS to occur before the rapture. It is good that you recognise that the rapture is Jesus coming back for His bride because it is all buily around the Jewish wedding system. When the Jewish groom went back to his father's home to prepare a place for his bride, the groom would return for his bride when the father said things were ready. The bride didn't know the day that this would be, so her role was to be watching and ready when he did come. It is the same with the church. Jesus said that He will come and take us to the place He has prepared (John 14:1-3) and that none know the day nor the hour. In fact in keeping with the Jewish wedding symbolism, Jesus said that only the Father knows that day. Our response, like the Jewish brides waiting for their groom, is to be watchful and not sleeping:
Mar 13:32-37 No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. (33) Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. (34) It's like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. (35) Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back--whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. (36) If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. (37) What I say to you, I say to everyone: 'Watch!' "
I'll talk more about the apostacy/man of sin revealed below when discussing 2 Thes 2:3. And I have written more about imminency here with more scriptures if interested.
The Rest and glory at the 2nd coming
2Th 1:6-10 God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you (7) and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. (8) He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. (9) They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power (10) on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.
2 Thessalonians 1:10 - Is this speaking of the Rapture OR Jesus' 2nd Coming?
This verse, and the wider context of 2 Thes 1:5-12 is speaking of the 'rest and retribution' at the 2nd coming when Jesus comes as judge and is seen in glory by the world. There is rest for all believers, and creation, then but there is retribution and judgement for His enemies. While church age saints are glorified and receive their new bodies at the rapture, it is not till the 2nd coming that we are openly revealed, along with Christ, in glory. Tribulation and Old Testament saints will be resurrected at this same time (Dan 12:1, Rev 20:4) and being together everyone will marvel at the prefect image of Christ in the saints! It is this glorious 'revealing' that even creation longs for because it wants to be free and at rest as well!
Rom 8:19-21 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. (20) For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope (21) that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
Concerning the wider passage I have written more here.
2 Thes 2:1-2 - 1 event or 2? Day of Lord or Christ?
2Th 2:1-2 Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, (2) that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.
2 Thessalonians 2:1- This Verse mentions both "the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" as well as "our gathering together to meet Him". Are these two separate events? Meaning... "the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" is speaking of Jesus' 2nd coming? And "our gathering together to meet Him" is speaking of the Rapture? Or is this one event said two different ways? If so, what single event is this speaking of (the Rapture OR Jesus' 2nd Coming)?
I believe that Paul is describing the one event, and is defining/clarifying what coming he speaks of by adding 'and our gathering together to meet Him' - which is the rapture. Most commentators that I have read see it this way as well.
2 Thessalonians 2:2 - Is this speaking of the Rapture OR the Day of the Lord?
This has caused confusion because the KJV/NKJV say 'the day of Christ' - which is a reference to the rapture. But most manuscripts say 'the day of the Lord' - which is a well know phrase in both Testaments about the coming tribulation / wrath of God.
It should be clear that the Rapture is not the same as the Day of the Lord. The Thessalonians were not worried that the Lord had come; they knew that He had not. But they were worried that the Day of the Lord had begun. The intense persecution they were enduring made them think they were in the Tribulation, the first phase of the Day of the Lord. Rumors had been circulating that Paul himself had said that the Day of the Lord had arrived.
William MacDonald, Believers Bible Commentary
This verse speaks about the day of the Lord (the Tribulation period) but this is obviously related to the rapture because of what the Thessalonians were experiencing and had been previously taught by Paul. The context is important here. The Thessalonian believers were experiencing persecution and difficulties (2 Thes 1:4,6). On top of that they had received a message through either a false prophecy/word or letter, supposedly by Paul himself, that the day of the Lord had come. That is, they were being told that the tribulation had begun. This completely shook them up. They were frightened. They didn't understand this because Paul had previously told them that Jesus would rescue them from this period (1 Thes 1:10), and had described the hope of the rapture (1 Thes 4:13-17) and clearly said that the day of the Lord is for 'them/unbelievers' and not the Church (1 Thes 5:1-5). So part of why Paul wrote 2nd Thessalonians was to tell them these reports they heard are not true, that the day of the Lord had not come yet, and that there were two events that will take place before the day of the Lord.
2 Thes 2:3 - Rapture or Second Coming? Departure or Apostacy or both?
2Th 2:3 Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,
2 Thessalonians 2:3 - Is this speaking of the Rapture OR the Day of the Lord OR Jesus' 2nd Coming?
2 Thes 2:3, when speaking about 'it' or 'that day' as some other translations have it, is referring to what Paul just mentioned in 2 Thes 2:2 - the day of the Lord. Again, they were worried that the day of the Lord. the tribulation period. had begun. Paul says that two things happen before the day of the Lord. Firstly there is THE 'departure' or 'falling away/apostacy' and secondly the man of lawlessness is revealed. Now this again is a controversial and debated passage. Some within the the Pre-tribulation rapture community believe that the word 'apostasia' should simply be translated 'departure' and the context should define what type of departure that is. Others within this community say that it should just be translated 'apostacy' or 'falling away' and always refers to a spiritual defection.
The Complete Word Study Dictionary states 'apostasía; gen. apostasías, fem. noun from aphístēmi (G868), to depart. Departure, apostasy. Occurs in Act 21:21 translated "forsake" and in 2Th 2:3, "a falling away"'
The Liddell and Scott Greek Lexicon has the meaning as '1. defection, revolt, esp. in religious sense, rebellion against God, apostasy, 2. departure, disappearance'
Dr Thomas Ice writes: "The first seven English translations of apostasia all rendered the noun as either “departure” or “departing.” They are as follows: Wycliffe Bible (1384); Tyndale Bible (1526); Coverdale Bible (1535); Cranmer Bible (1539); Breeches Bible (1576); Beza Bible (1583); Geneva Bible (1608).5 This supports the notion that the word truly means “departure.” In fact, Jerome’s Latin translation known as the Vulgate from around the time of A.D. 400 renders apostasia with the “word discessio, meaning ‘departure.’”
It is worth noting that there are a couple of points in the text which indicate that 2 Thes 2:3 may be speaking of the rapture/departure of the saints and not just a falling away from the faith:
- In the Greek it is THE apostacy or THE departure. It has the definite article meaning that Paul had a clear specific event in mind. If he was speaking only of apostacy in general how would anyone know whether that event has occurred? Every generation since the time of Paul himself has experienced apostacy so what event would one look for? There is something very specific about this 'departure or apostacy' in 2 Thes 2:3 and it is something that the Thessalonians were aware of (2 Thes 2:5). They hadn't been taught about an apostacy before the day of the Lord (as far as we know) but they had been taught about the rapture before the day of the Lord (1 Thes 1:10, 1 Thes 4:13 - 5:6).
- There is a parallel in the text between verse 3 and verse 7. Paul introduces a thought in verse 3 that is further clarified in verse 7.
|2 Th 2:3 Let no one in any way deceive you, for it (the day of the Lord) will not come unless the apostasy (or departure) comes first
||and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,
|2 Th 2:7 ...he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way.
||Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth
In others words it seems that the departure of verse 3 is also tied to 'he who now restrains' in verse 7 being taken out of the way. I believe it is the Holy Spirit who now retrains lawlessness through His presence and work in the Church and also through His own restraining role (as written about here).
Now it is possible that Paul had a double meaning in mind when he chose to use the word 'apostasía' here in verse 3. As we have seen in the Liddell and Scott Greek Lexicon the first meaning of this word is 'defection, revolt, esp. in religious sense, rebellion against God, apostasy' and the second is 'departure, disappearance'. Paul could have chosen this word because both apply here. It is interesting that when Paul speaks about people falling away or departing from the faith in latter letters, he uses different Greek words. He doesn't use 'apostasía'. So why use it here? It could be that the 'departure' is both physical and spiritual. In other words, the physical departure (the rapture) is linked to the spiritual departure (apostacy). We know that during the Tribulation there will be a false religious system in force (as seen by the 'harlot' in Revelation 17). With the departure of the Church at the rapture there will be a vacuum in which a false world religious system will quickly arise. J. Vernon McGee suspects this, writing about the departure/apostacy of 2 Thes 2:3:
Many have interpreted this to mean the apostasy, and I agree that it does refer to that. But I think it means more than that, as a careful examination of the word will reveal. The Greek word that is here translated as "falling away" is apostasia. The root word actually means "departure or removal from." Paul says that before the Day of the Lord begins there must first come a removing. There are two kinds of removing that are going to take place. First, the organized church will depart from the faith—that is what we call apostasy. But there will be total apostasy when the Lord comes, and that cannot take place until the true church is removed...
There will be total apostasy because of two things: (1) the organization of the church has departed from the faith—it has apostatized and (2) there has been another departure, the departure of the true church from the earth. The departure of the true church leads into the total apostatizing of the organized church. The Day of the Lord cannot begin—nor the Great Tribulation period—until the departure of the true church has taken place. Paul is not going into detail about the rapture of the church because he has already written about that in his first epistle: "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord" (1Th_4:16-17). That is the departure, the removal, of the church. The organized church which is left down here will totally depart from the faith. We see it pictured as the great harlot in Revelation 17. The Laodicean church, which is the seventh and last church described in the Book of Revelation, is in sad condition. I think that is the period we are in right now. When the true believers are gone, it will get even worse. It will finally end in total apostasy.
I believe what Paul is essentially saying in the first few verses of 2 Thes 2 is this: "Now concerning the Lord's coming for you at the rapture, don't be frightened or disturbed thinking that it hasn't happened and you are now in the tribulation/day of the Lord. We didn't say or write that. The report that you have heard is not from us and is false. Remember what I told you when I was with you. I told you that the tribulation and day of the Lord cannot happen until the departure happens first. And then the man of sin, the Antichrist, will be revealed."
Jewish Messianic scholar, Dr Arnold Fructenbaum writes:
"Paul is comforting the Thessalonian believers in that they do not need to be disturbed by any reports that claim the “day of the Lord” (i.e., the tribulation) has come. He says that cannot happen until other things happen first. One of these things is in verse 3 and translated in many English versions as the falling away. However, the Greek word simply means “departure.” This could refer to a moral departure, but it can also refer to a physical departure. From the overall context of this passage, we identify this “departure” as the physical departure of the church from the earth. Further evidence of this identification is based upon the fact that Paul earlier wrote First Thessalonians to the same group of believers and told them that while the body of Messiah (the church) will participate in the rapture (I Thess. 4:13-18), it will not participate in the “day of the Lord” (I Thess. 5:1-11). Therefore, we believe that the best way to interpret 2 Thessalonians 2:2 is that it refers to the “day of the Lord,” that is, the tribulation."
Hope this helps. There are several points in 2 Thes 1 and 2 that have long been debated and will likely be debated right up to the point of the rapture! But "hopefully" not afterwards! : )
PS, if interested to read more on 'the departure or apostacy' these is a scholarly paper here.
Or, here for one easier to read that gives a good overview.