2 Thessalonians 2:3
ESV - 3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction.
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II Thessalonians 2:3 says “that day will not come, unless…” In many translations, this is followed by “rebellion,” “revolt,” “falling away,” or “apostasy.” In a few versions, such as the early English translations, the word is given as “departure.” The Greek word is “apostasia” which was transliterated rather than translated into the English as “apostasy.” However, the meaning is “from-standing” “standing away from” or “departure.” But, with the translation “departure” in these English translations, it is not clear if it means the “departure from the faith” or the “departure of the faithful,” or, to put it another way, “spiritual departure” or “physical departure.” Spiritual departure is a valid translation as Luke 8:13, I Timothy 4:1 and Hebrews 3:12 indicate. But most of the time it refers to physical leaving as Luke 2:37, 4:13, 13:27, Acts 5:38, 12:10, 13:13, 15:38, 19:9, and II Corinthians 12:8. An example of the physical departing definition is Acts 21:21 where Jews are falsely accused of being taught “to forsake Moses.” It means to “depart from Moses’ teachings.” A similar word “apostasion,” Matthew 5:31, 19:7, Mark 10:4, refers to a certificate of divorce permitting one to go away. Concerning II Thessalonians 2:3, there are reasons to go with the “departure of the faithful” or the physical departure called the rapture. The article “the” in II Thessalonians 2:3 makes it a discernible, instantaneous and specific event, not a trend. To say that there will be apostasy means there was none before this, which makes this view impossible. There have been spiritual departures from the truth since the beginning of time and throughout every generation. The problem is how one can discern if it is the apostasy if it has been happening all along. It is strange that Paul never mentioned apostasy in his first epistle to them. So, the word “the” makes the word distinct and refers to the previous mention in II Thessalonians 2:1. The context is about the Day of the Lord which Paul said had not begun. One event associated with it, the appearing of the man of sin, has not happened. Paul said something must first happen. The departure of believers is the first event with the Lord coming for His own people. The two epistles to the Thessalonians cover the return of Jesus, and in the first letter, each chapter ends with a reference to it, I Thessalonians 1:10, 2:19, 3:13, 4:13-18, 5:23. The interpretation that fits best is the pretribulational rapture. After the rapture, the Day of the Lord, the tribulation, begins. The mystery of iniquity or lawlessness which has been at work restraining the truth, will see one individual come who will oppose God and set himself up as God in the temple, II Thessalonians 2:5-12. The great apostasy or falling away has been going on for ages and will continue through the end times. But the moment Paul is referring to in II Thessalonians 2:3 is not the apostasy but the rapture, the departure of believers from the earth.
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