Apostasy Watch
11-05-11 The Falling Away

Rapture or Apostasy, Which Shall It Be?

 

2Thess 2:3
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;

Recently I came across a video from a man who was promoting a particular interpretation of this scripture in which he claimed there was no such thing as an end times apostasy. The man was a dispensationalist and a believer in the pre-tribulation rapture of the church so I could see from the beginning that his views would be shaped by that filter. After watching the video I realized I had heard this interpretation during my days as a pre-trib adherent and even then it didn’t quite work for me.

The gist of the presentation was that the falling away referred to in 2Thessalonians 2:3 was not a reference to apostasy or a departure from the faith but rather a reference to the rapture itself. This is why most pre-tribber’s believe they will not know the identity of the anti-christ, first comes the rapture then the man of sin, the son of perdition (aka the anti-christ) will be revealed.

In the video, the presenter asserted that the Greek word (apostasia) translated as falling away literally means departure. On that basis he insisted that the departure must be a literal departure from the earth, ie; the rapture. He went on to declare that the whole idea of a latter days falling away from the faith was a complete misunderstanding. There would be no apostasy at all but rather a great outpouring of Gods Spirit based on Joel 2:28

And it shall come to pass afterward, [that] I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:

Claiming that there cannot be a falling away and an outpouring of Gods spirit at the same time he encouraged his listeners not to worry about deception. Rather they should rejoice and get ready because the rapture is sure to happen any time now.

Normally when I hear stuff like this I just shake my head, say wow, and set it aside. Unless I am specifically asked to respond to the teaching I generally let it go. I have found that it is often frustrating and unfruitful to hack through this Gordian knot of false teaching, all based on the faulty foundation of dispensationalism. But in this case I found it necessary to respond because a few days later I got a private email from the man in the video asking for permission to post it on our FaceBook page.

I politely declined, telling him I was familiar with the video and I felt he was completely wrong in his exegesis. He wrote back saying that he was willing to change his doctrine if I could show him chapter and verse where he was wrong. Well, OK, here we go.

2Thessalonians 2:1-3
Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for [that Day will not come] unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition,

The word translated falling away is the Greek word apostasia. I have no problem with rendering the meaning as a departure. It can also be understood as a defection or a forsaking. If you want to insist on departure as the only valid meaning, that’s fine but you still must answer the question, a departure from what. Those who hold to the pre-tribulation rapture view answer that question by saying it is a departure from the earth. But if one looks at the overall context, that cannot be the correct understanding because the events of verse three (falling away and revelation of the man of sin) refer to the subject spoken of in verse one. That subject is the coming of the Lord and our gathering together to Him. 

Our gathering together to the Lord is itself a sort of departure from the earth. We know this from other scriptures that speak of the same event.

Mat 24:31
And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

Here we see that all the elect, both living and dead will be gathered together to him at his coming.

1Thess 4:17
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.

Again we see a gathering together in the air to be with the Lord. There should be no doubt that all three of these accounts refer to the same event, the return of the Lord and our gathering together to him. So if the gathering in 2Thess 2:1 is a departure from the earth, the falling away must refer to something else otherwise the verse makes no sense. In essence it would be saying our gathering together to the Lord cannot happen until it happens. Or it would be like me saying I cannot depart for my vacation until I depart.

One of the basic principles of bible interpretation is to allow the context to confirm the meaning. If a word has several shades of meaning or if it can be taken in either a literal or a metaphorical way, the context should tell you which shade is correct. This is one of those cases. Apostasia must be understood to be a forsaking, a defection or a departure from the faith, not from the earth.  Taken this way, not only does the verse make perfect sense, it can be confirmed by many other scriptures.

Mat 24:4-5
And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.

Mat 24:11
And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.

Acts 20:29-30
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.

2Peter 2:1-2
But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.

2Tim 4:3-4
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away [their] ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

1Tim 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;

These are just a few of the many warnings we are given throughout scripture revealing an increasingly apostate religious culture during the latter days. When we look around at the state of Christendom today with it’s plethora of heresies being taught as truth, can there be any doubt that the great falling away is upon us? How blind must one be to believe and teach that the idea of apostasy is false?

In a series of email exchanges, this gentleman told me that apostasy in this age was utterly impossible. He said today is the time spoken of by Joel in which God would pour out of His Spirit upon all flesh.

Joel 2:28
And it shall come to pass afterward, [that] I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:

He insisted that apostasy and outpouring could not occur together. He believes we are in a great end time revival and 30-40 thousand people per day are coming to the Lord. There are several problems with this view, not the least of which is where in the world did you get those numbers. Who's keeping that salvation scorecard? How can anyone know how many people are truly being saved daily in the world? Sounds to me like a number conjured out of whole cloth by some self promoting evangelist. But setting that aside, the scriptural answer to this is simple. The prophecy of Joel 2:28 was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost.

Acts 2:16-17
But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:

Peter says specifically that Joel’s prophecy was fulfilled on that day yet all the authors of the New testament, even Peter, warned about a latter days falling away. Even if you believe that the prophecy of Joel is continuing to be fulfilled in our day, you must admit that outpouring and apostasy will surely exist side by side in the earth. To say it must be one or the other flies in the face of scripture and presents a danger to all who hear and believe that lie.

2Thessalonians 2:1-3
Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for [that Day will not come] unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition,

This is really very simple to understand. Paul is telling the people at Corinth not to worry, they had not missed the coming of the Lord. The day would come but there were certain conditions that must first be met. Those conditions were a great falling away from the faith and the revelation of the man of sin aka the anti-christ. Furthermore he said that anyone who claims these conditions aren’t applicable is trying to deceive you.

2Thess 2:6-12
And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth [will let], until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: [Even him], whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

In part two of this article we will examine 2 Thessalonians 2:6-11 to see what is being withheld and who or what is restraining.

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