Apostasy or Rapture

By Steven R. LoVullo

There is some debate as to whether 2nd Thessalonians 2:3 refers to a "falling away" as in doctrinal apostasy, or a "falling away" as in a physical departure, i.e., the rapture. The critical word in this passage is the Greek word "apostasia"

http://www.rapturenotes.com/mp3sermons_files/apostasy_or_rapture.mp3 elaborates on the 'physical departure' position, whilst the article below elaborates on the 'doctrinal apostasy' point of view.

Which is correct?

Well, I honestly don't know. I have researched both positions, but I am not a scholar in the various early manuscripts and versions of the Bible, nor am I fluent in Greek or Latin. Truthfully, I don't lose any sleep over this debate, but I do take an interest in it, hence its discussion here.

Let each one make up their own mind and do their own research, if so inclined ... Keygar

There are many good reasons for not taking APOSTASIA as a simple movement from Point A to Point B.

First, when you ask us to "check the uses of APOSTASIA elsewhere in the New Testament, most notably Acts," and state, "APOSTASIA is always modified in the context to give it its 'religious departure' meaning," you seem to imply that APOSTASIA is used numerous times. It isn't. It is only used twice in all the NT, once in 2 Thess 2:3, and one other time in Acts 21:21.

In the passage in Acts it clearly refers to religious apostasy, for what is in view is the forsaking of the Law of Moses by Jews. And it is no accident that APOSTASIA is the word used in Acts 21:21 for religious apostasy, for in every one of its appearances in the LXX (4 times) we find it used in exactly that sense (see Jos 22:22; 2 Chron 29:19; 1 Mac 2:15; Jer 2:19).

Also, every occurrence of the related noun APOSTASIS has the meaning "religious apostasy" or "political rebellion" (cf. 2 Chron 28:19; 2 Chron 33:19; 1 Esdras 2:21; Ezra 4:19). Similarly, the noun of agency APOSTATHS describes a "deserter," "rebel," or "apostate" in a religious or political sense (see Num 14:9; Jos 22:16, 19; 1 Esdras 2:17; 2 Mac 5:8; 3 Mac 7:3; Odes 7:32; Job 26:13; Isa 30:1; Dan 3:32).

Admittedly, there is not a huge pool of data for APOSTASIA, but as far as the Greek Bible is concerned, APOSTASIA unanimously refers to religious rebellion, unless 2 Thess 2:3 is the only exception. And as another contributor to the list pointed out, this word has a long history in Greek literature of describing rebellion.

Second, there is conversely a total lack of evidence for APOSTASIA in the sense of a "catching away" associated with the PAROUSIA, unless 2 Thess 2:3 is the only known occurrence. Instead, Paul uses the verb hARPAZW to describe this event in 1 Thess 4:17. If we leave out 2 Thess 2:3, the scoreboard reads: RELIGIOUS APOSTASY: 5, CATCHING AWAY: 0.

Third, and related to the last two points, it seems highly unlikely that Paul would use a word with such a negative connotation to describe what he elsewhere refers to as "the blessed hope" (Tit 2:13). In light of its unanimous use in the Bible to describe rebellion against God (point 1), it should not surprise us that it is not used with respect to the PAROUSIA (point 2).

Fourth, I am frankly amazed at the insistence that 2 Thess 3 has no "religious apostasy" context. I would urge you to note that the dark personage depicted in this passage is called hO ANQRWPOS THS ANOMIAS ("the man of lawlessness," v. 3). Verse 4 calls him hO ANTIKEIMENOS KAI hUPERAIROMENOS EPI PANTA LEGOMENON QEON H SEBASMA, hWSTE AUTON EIS TON NAON TOU QEOU KAQISAI APODEIKNUNTA hEAUTON hOTI ESTIN QEOS ("the one 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").

Not exactly Yahweh's little helper! Nor is he alone in his insolent rebellion against God. We also read of the MUSTHRION ... THS ANOMIAS ("mystery ... of lawlessness") which is at work even before he comes on the scene, and which breaks out in earnest once he is revealed (v. 7). Finally, he is able to deceive by false miracles those who "did not receive the love of the truth" (vv. 9, 10). Indeed, God hardens them in their rebellion against him by sending upon them a "deluding influence, so that they will believe what is false" (v. 11). The implication of v. 4 is that they will actually worship the "man of lawlessness." So not only does the man of lawlessness rebel against God, he persuades many more to do the same.

Finally, even scholars who believe in Pretribulationism recognize that APOSTASIA does not refer to a "catching away." For example, Thomas L. Constable in his commentary on 2 Thessalonians in _The Bible Knowledge Commentary_ writes: "One major event is the rebellion.... This is a revolt, a departure, an abandoning of a position once held. This rebellion, which will take place within the professing church, will be a departure from the truth that God has revealed in His Word. True, apostasy has characterized the church almost from its inception, but Paul referred to a specific distinguishable apostasy that will come in the future (cf. 1 Tim. 4:1-3; 2 Tim. 3:1-5; 4:3-4; James 5:1-8; 2 Peter 2; 3:3-6; Jude). He had already told his readers about it (2 Thes. 2:5).

Some interpreters have taken this 'departure' as a reference to the Rapture of the church (e.g., E. Schuyler English, Rethinking the Rapture, New York: Loizeaux Brothers, 1954, pp. 67-71), but this is not too probable. D. Edmond Hiebert refutes this view that apostasia here refers to the Rapture (The Thessalonian Epistles, p. 306). Some scholars believe that this apostasy (called by Paul 'the' apostasy) will consist of people turning from God's truth to worship the Antichrist, who will set himself up in God's temple and claim to be God (2 Thess 2:4)



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