Antichrist, and the falling away of 2 Thes. chp 2
by Patrick Heron
I would like to take an in-depth look at the second chapter of the second epistle of Paul to the saints at Thessalonica. This is very important in assessing the timing of the emergence of the Beast from the Abyss into the world and when the gathering together of the Church will happen. I could spend a lot of time presenting definitions of Greek words and quoting from learned scholars who have done much research on this section. But too much technical information can overburden the reader. So I shall distil the research and provide enough evidence to prove our conclusions are accurate and true. I will dissect this chapter verse by verse and then tie it all together in a conclusion at the end, with the help of God. We begin at 2 Thessalonians 2:1
“Now we beseech you brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him.”
Paul is addressing two issues here in this first sentence. First, ‘the coming of our Lord,’ and secondly, ‘our gathering together unto Him.’ These are two separate events and must be distinguished as such. The coming of Jesus Christ back to earth to rule is going to occur at the end of the Apocalypse, which culminates at Armageddon. After this, Jesus will establish His millennial Kingdom where He will rule this earth for one thousand years.
The gathering together, on the other hand, will occur before the events of the Great Tribulation begin and this will become clearer as we advance through this chapter.
Paul uses the word ‘beseech’ in his opening line. This is a very strong word in the Greek and means to ‘earnestly beg’ or ‘to implore.’ It is an extreme use of ‘beg.’ So what is Paul earnestly begging of the believers in Thessalonica?
“That ye be not soon shaken in mind or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter, as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.”
Here Paul explains what he is referring to. He is talking about ‘the Day of Christ.’ As was explained at the beginning of this opus, the ‘Day of Christ’ is another phrase meaning the ‘Day of Wrath’ or the ‘Day of Judgement’ or the ‘Day of the Lord.’ In other words, it is talking about the Great Tribulation and the incidents, which are to occur during this awful time.
Paul says they are not to be shaken in mind or troubled. Again these are very extreme words, which illustrate that the believers were terrified and their minds and hearts were under extreme pressure as a result of something they had heard. What it was that had them in this frightened state of mind which caused them undue pressure was that, ‘the the day of Christ is at hand.’ In the Greek, ‘at hand’ means, ‘present.’ That is, they were terrified because they thought the time of the Apocalypse was present or had begun, and they were to go through it.
Scholars agree that the NASB has the most accurate translation of this verse:
“That you may not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or by a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the Day of the Lord has come.”
Paul is earnestly beseeching them, begging them, not to be upset or worried that the Day of Wrath had begun. He said they were not to be troubled either by a spirit, nor by word, nor by letter from anyone, that this Day of Christ had begun. He continues:
“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.”
It is interesting that Paul tells them, ‘let no man deceive you..,’ for there is so much deception going on in evangelical circles regarding this topic. But here we will ignore what man says and adhere only to the Word of truth and allow it speak on its own behalf as we have from page one of this book. For if we stay on the narrow path of the Word, then our passage will be sure and true.
We are not to allow ourselves to be deceived by any man or by a spirit (an evil spirit of deception), working through man; ‘for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first.’ ‘That day’ is again referring to the Day of Wrath or the Great Tribulation. And that day cannot begin ‘except there come a falling away first.’ So after this falling away, then the Day of Wrath can commence and when it does, then shall ‘that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.’
Paul is telling us not to allow ourselves to be tricked by any man into believing that the Day of Wrath has begun, for it cannot start until after a falling away. Then when it does start, the man of sin, the son of perdition or Antichrist, will be revealed. But not until AFTER the ‘falling away.’ So what is this ‘falling away’? For this is the key phrase which points to the commencement of the Apocalypse and the revealing of the Beast from the Abyss.
The Greek for ‘falling away’ is apostasia. This word has been transliterated into the English as ‘apostasy’, which means an abandonment of one’s religious faith. Thus the vast majority of Biblical teachers and students believe that in these Last Days, Christians and believers of all hues will turn away from God and from the truths of the Bible and fall by the wayside. Almost every evangelical teacher believes there will be a ‘falling away’ from God in the End Times, and you can read this in books and periodicals and on websites everywhere. They point to the hedonistic ways of the world and to the downward spiral of depravity into which the secular world is going, and they use this to prove that the apostasy is occurring. But this is not the original meaning of the word apostasia in early Greek literature.
Firstly, in the text it reads ‘THE’ falling away and not, ‘a’ falling away as it reads in the KJV. This is a crucial difference. This marks out ‘the falling away’ as a specific event.
Apostasia is made up of two words, apo and stasia. In appendix 104 of The Companion Bible, EW Bullinger defines the various Greek prepositions and what they mean, as Greek is a mathematical language and is very precise. He defines apo thus:
“ Apo governs only one case, the genitive, and denotes motion from the surface of an object, as a line drawn from the circumference of an object…Hence it is used of motion away from a place. Apo may consequently be used of deliverance or, passing away from a state or condition.”
In Greek, apo can be represented as a line drawn starting from the circumference of a circle and going away in an outward direction. Stasia literally means a ‘standing away,’ or ‘to draw out,’ or ‘to separate.’ So the whole word means, ‘a standing away from,’ or ‘a drawing out from,’ or ‘a separation away from,’ or ‘a going out from among.’ The original meaning of this word, which is agreed by many Greek scholars familiar with the ancient texts is, ‘the departure.’ This agrees with the definition of ‘away’ in Greek which suggests ‘a motion from the surface’ or ‘a motion away from a place as a line drawn from the circumference of an object.’
The Geneva Bible, the Cranmer Bible, first published in 1537, the Tyndale Bible published in 1539, preceding the King James Version, all translate this verse, ‘before the Day of the Lord comes, there must come a departure first.’ That is, before the Day of the Lord begins, there must first be a departure of the born-again believers from this world to be with Christ.
Paul Tan, a scholar, did an extensive study on the phrase, ‘falling away’, and had this to say:
“What precisely does Paul mean when he says that the falling away must happen before the Tribulation? The definite article ‘the’ denotes that this is a definite event, an event distinct from the appearance of the man of sin. The Greek word for ‘the falling away’ taken by itself does not mean apostasy or defection. Neither does it mean ‘to fall’ as the Greeks have another word for that (pipto: I fall). The best translation of the word is ‘to depart.’ The apostle Paul here refers to a definite event, which he calls ‘the departure’ which will occur just before the start of the Tribulation. This departure is the gathering together of the Church otherwise called by some, the Rapture of the Church.”
Remember the context of this whole chapter:
1 The coming of the Lord Jesus
2 Our gathering together unto Him.
So ‘the departure’ is referring to the gathering together of the Church of God. Paul had elaborated on this in length in his first epistle to the Thessalonians when he described how Jesus would come briefly and all Christian believers would be caught up or gathered to meet Him in the air. So what Paul is doing here is allaying their worst fears. For some people were teaching that the Day of the Lord, or Tribulation, had already begun and that they were to suffer through it. This is why their minds were shaken and they were greatly troubled and terrified. But Paul reiterates and reminds them that this time of Wrath cannot begin until first there is ‘the departure.’ And only after that will the man of sin, the Antichrist, be revealed. This is why Paul says in verse 5:
“Remember ye not that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?”
He is reminding them that he already spelled out in great detail in his first letter that the Lord would return briefly to gather them together and he finished his passage in 1 Thessalonians 4:18 regarding the Rapture with the phrase:
“Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”
For there is no comfort in telling Christians that they are to suffer the horrible torture and persecution and death at the hands of the Devil’s angels in the Great Tribulation. Jesus also stated this truth in John 14:1-4 when He promised His disciples that He was going to His Father’s house but would return for them:
“Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me.
In my Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also.”
Can anything be plainer? These are the words of Jesus Himself. He clearly states that He is going to prepare a place for us. He says this twice lest we are in any doubt. For why would He be preparing a place for us if we are to remain here on earth? By Jesus telling us that he is preparing a place for us in heaven, the inference is we are going to be spending some time there. When the time is right, he will return and take us to this house of many rooms. But listen to how the Lord begins this passage:
‘Let not your heart be troubled.’ This ties in with Paul’s statements in both 1 Thessalonians 4 and in 2 Thessalonians 2 where he says, when speaking about the gathering together, ‘Let not your hearts be troubled,’ and also when he earnestly begged them, ‘That ye be not soon shaken in mind or be troubled.’ Paul exhorted the Christians in his day not to be deceived by any man or by any spirit that may be operating through man. Or by letters or fine words from sincere people, even if they are Bible believing Christians. We are not going through the day of Wrath because the departure of the Christians MUST happen first, then and only then will the Tribulation begin and the man of sin, the Beast from the Abyss will be manifested.
“Who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God, sits in the Temple of God, showing himself that he is God.”
This is what the Beast will do in the latter part of the Apocalypse. Commentators take from this that a new Temple will be built in Jerusalem and at some time near the end of the Tribulation, the Antichrist will go into the Temple and proclaim that he indeed is the one and only true God. The epistle continues:
“And now ye know what witholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that wicked be revealed…”
‘Witholdeth’ and ‘letteth’ are both the same word in Greek, katecho, which means ‘hold fast; hold back; to restrain from going; keep secure; keep firm; that which hinders.’ This is speaking of the Antichrist. And Paul is literally saying, ‘now you know what is holding him fast.’ Or, ‘there is one who is holding him fast.’ Or ‘he who now restrains.’ This agrees with our study so far which has taught us that the Antichrist is in prison, or is being held fast, in an underground jail. And he will be held secure in this prison, ‘until he be taken out of the way.’ What must be taken out of the way before the man of sin can be revealed? According to this chapter so far, there can be only one answer; The Church of God or Body of Christ must depart or be taken out of the way first, before the Antichrist can be released from the place where he is presently being ‘held fast.’
The New International Version translates verse 6 so:
“And now you know what is holding him (Antichrist) back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time.”
It is not an apostasy that is holding the Antichrist back. If anything, an apostasy should hasten his arrival. It is the presence of the Age of Grace and the Holy Spirit indwelling the Church of God on this earth, which is preventing the Beast from ascending out of the Abyss at this present time. But when the Church departs, then the man of sin will no longer be held back and will be revealed.
Imagine you are in the departure lounge of an airport. Then you get into the plane and it takes off. The plane goes in a motion away from the circumference of the earth as it ascends up into the air. This is ‘the departure.’ This is the meaning of apostasia. It has nothing to do with people turning away from God. For God promised that in the Last Days, He would pour out His spirit on His people. This is evidenced by the fact that thousands are coming to Christ daily around the world and the Word is spreading rapidly, mostly in poorer countries such as Africa, South America and China as well as India.
Paul never mentions a rebellion or a falling away from truth in Thessalonians. The whole context of the epistle is the gathering together, the Day of the Lord and the second coming. So there is no need to worry. Comfort your family and friends with these words. Jesus has promised us that He will return to take us to the place He has been preparing for us for the past 2,000 years. We have little to be fearful of or troubled about for He has spoken; ‘Let not your hearts be troubled.’ Romans 5:9 (KJV) agrees with the thesis that the Church of God is not involved in the Tribulation:
“Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him.”
This truth is reiterated in 1 Thessalonians 1:10 (NIV):
“And to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead-Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.”
And again in 1 Thessalonians 5:9 (NIV):
“For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath, but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
How many times must we be told such comforting truths yet still so many refuse to accept and believe. The deceiving spirits that were operating to terrify Christians in Thessalonica are working hard in the Church today. You can believe these spirits if you so choose. But I believe the words of Jesus and of Paul.
( This is an excerpt from Patrick s new eBook "The Return of the Antichrist and the New World Order" which can be downloaded for $5 at www.neph.ie)