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
The Church, as Christ’s bride, was promised He will return to get her, and they live happily ever after. How long will He take? We’re not told that. Are we given clues as to the conditions when He returns? Is the sign of His return a major spiritual falling away of the church?
In order to take apart this verse and understand ‘The Apostasy‘ let’s look at the context of this verse. Paul, Silvanus and Timothy are writing to the Thessalonian believers who are undergoing difficult trials (2 Thess 1:4). These trials are such that they find themselves discouraged and even thinking that God is judging the earth. The answer given them provided great comfort and confident expectation of promised future things. We will find great benefit in understanding the order and timing explained here regarding things to come. Actually Paul had already told them these things but he wants them to be clear.
Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, 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. 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, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.2 Thessalonians 2:1-4
Here these believers were going through such a difficult time they were certain the tribulation was taking place. Paul assures them that according to the order of things, that is impossible. Two things we must distinguish here; the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ from the day of the Lord. Two different events and two different times. One event has to do with our gathering to Him, the other event is associated with the present tribulation they were experiencing (has come – present tense not come and gone).
The day of the lord
This is a Old Testament phrase starting with the coming judgment (The Tribulation) upon the nations then going to a glorious day (Millennial Kingdom) and finally ending with war (Gog and Magog) and the Great White Throne judgment.
“For the day is near, Even the day of the LORD is near; It will be a day of clouds, A time of doom for the nations. “A sword will come upon Egypt, And anguish will be in Ethiopia; When the slain fall in Egypt, They take away her wealth, And her foundations are torn down.Ezekiel 30:3-4
Alas for the day! For the day of the LORD is near, And it will come as destruction from the Almighty.Joel 1:5
However, the coming of the Lord Jesus and our gathering to Him refers to a totally different event. It is explained in the previous letter to the Thessalonians (1 Thess 4:13-18). This is referring to the Rapture of the church when it will be harpooned out.
This helps us to understand The Apostasy better.
The word apostasy in the Greek is ἀποστασία (APOSTASIA) which means rebellion; abandonment (Lexham) or departure.
Generally speaking, The Apostasy is always interpreted as a spiritual departure. Many times that is true but not always. My understanding of the usage of The Apostasy in this verse is that it is the physical departure of the church, The Rapture. I say this because it fits the context and flow of what is being taught. Besides The Apostasy, according to the verse, is an recognizable event that must take place before the day of the Lord. How were these saints supposed to recognize The apostasy when there has always been spiritual apostasy in the church, even from the beginning. Even though Timothy tells us that in the end times (now) there will be a falling away, it doesn’t say the falling away. No explanation is given as to how they would know the spiritual departure.
I cannot make sense of this verse unless I am to understand the departure here is a literal, physical, undeniable event. This is talking about when the church will be departed out to meet the Lord in the air at the Rapture. The rapture is one of those doctrines like the Trinity. They are clearly seen in the Bible but you won’t find the word rapture just like you won’t find the word trinity.
You may not agree with me that The Apostasy in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 is the physical departure of the church to meet the Lord in the air. That is ok just make sure that whatever your conclusion, the purpose for writing is to provide comfort and hope to these suffering believers not scare them out of hell. To know that this had to occur first and that it clearly hadn’t was of relief to these persecuted believers.
What about today? Do you live in tribulation? Perhaps not like these did but there certainly is tribulation in our lives. Where do you go for hope? To know God is in control and has already revealed to us the order of events gives security. We are not living under God’s judgment (that is the Day of the Lord) and to know that the Rapture (The Apostasy as seen in this verse) will occur before that happens, gives tremendous comfort and a confident expectation of His imminent return! Amen, come Lord Jesus! (Rev 22:20).