Does 2 Thessalonians 2 prophesy Apostasy or the Rapture?
Nathan Jones: The Bible prophesies that in the last days there’s going to be a mass falling away from the Christian faith. Or, is this prophecy actually prophesying the Rapture of the Church? There’s a particular passage in 2 Thessalonians that we’re going to look at to help us understand if the Bible is prophesying a falling away, the Rapture, or both. And, to help us discern this passage, we’ve invited Lee Brainard, the author of the excellent book Apostasia in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 – Rapture or Apostasy?.
Lee, most of the people who are looking at the end times we are living in are trying to recognize the signs that Jesus gave us that would point to His soon return. One of the end times signs, of the many signs that Jesus gave which points to the last days, would be that we would witness much heresy and apostasy in the Church. As terrible as that is, we know that condition leads up to the Rapture of the Church — the event where God takes all of those who have placed their faith in Jesus up to Heaven before He pours out His wrath upon the world in the Tribulation.
They look to 2 Thessalonians 2:3 which reads, “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.” and they claim that’s where we can find the great falling away from sound doctrine prophecy. But, other theologians point to 2 Thessalonians 2:3 as being a prophecy about the Rapture. Is this verse presenting two possible signs?
Tim Moore: The New American Standard version of the Bible says “unless the apostasy comes first,” so that’s where we get this “falling away” as meaning apostasy.
Lee Brainard: In the Authorized Version and the King James Version the passage is also interpreted as a falling away.
I went and collated the points in both of these arguments and I organized them so that I could know what I was looking at. We’re going to investigate the English Bible versions. We’re going to investigate the Latin versions. I’m going to throw in the German version, just for fun, because I study Scriptures in German as well. I’m also going to look at all of the Greek references. In doing this, we’re going to ask: “Is this true that this passage is about the Rapture, or is it false that this is about the Rapture? Is it true that this is about an Apostasy or is it false?” Maybe neither of these conclusions is correct.
So, I wanted to get it from the “horse’s mouth.” I always like to do my own original research as I don’t like to lean on names. One of the biggest problems we face as Christians seeking the truth is we need to learn to weigh arguments and not names. When we start weighing names you can take dozens of theological issues that are important in our day, but if you weigh names, you will likely end up on the wrong side of the issue.
Nathan Jones: Like the Jewish people do in quoting rabbis all of the time instead of Scripture?
Lee Brainard: Yes. If you were living in Martin Luther’s day and you were weighing names it would be like: “Wow! Martin Luther — one man against a thousand. Really, who does this guy think he is?”
Nathan Jones: So, you just went right to Scripture and let Scripture speak for itself?
Lee Brainard: Yes. I started with Greek and did an exhaustive study on apostasia. I went and looked up every reference on the TLG website for the word “apostasia.” Some people had claimed that apostasia was a classical Greek word. I discovered it is not. Its first appearance was in 250 BC by Archimedes in a work called “The Sand Reckoner.”
From there I followed every reference all the way up to 500 AD. So, I’ve got 750 years of references for a total of 283. I probably had to translate about 40% of these into English because they were in works that hadn’t yet been translated into English. So, I had to translate some Classical, some Koine, some Patristic, and some early Byzantine. These are all listed in the appendices of my book so that nobody has to go and reinvent the wheel. If they want to go look at all of these 283 passages, they are in the back in the appendices. I include English translations with technical research information so that you can find it in Greek and find any other information you may need about the translations.
The bottom line is, when I looked at these Greek references, 90% of the non-technical uses concerned spiritual apostasy, and 10% of the non-technical uses were political apostasy, which we translate as rebellion. There was only a tiny handful of technical uses that have nothing to do with the controversy. There were some used for medical issues, and there were some used for apostasies concerning divorce. Just a few random things like that.
So, what it comes down to is physical or spatial departure was never a meaning of apostasia in the Koine or in the Patristic Greek.
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Tim Moore: Well, in spite of you giving us the bottom line, I would still encourage viewers who have an interest to get your book because it goes into great depth.
I’m going to dig into one other point that you made in your book. Obviously, you have the ability to pull these ancient texts and translate them into English. For those of us who don’t read Greek and Hebrew, how can I possibly understand some of these more mysterious passages in Scripture? What would you give us as a tool or a word of encouragement?
Lee Brainard: One bit of advice I like to tell people is, first of all, to use two or three literal translations. I use the New King James for my primary. Right behind it, I use the King James. I also use the NASB. I also use the ESV. And, don’t tell anyone, but I also use the NIV.
Tim Moore: I’m a NASB guy, but I like the King James for its beauty and the New King James as well.
Lee Brainard: I also like to encourage people to use one or two, I don’t know whether you’d want to call them unique or independent translations, but I like Rotherhams and Young’s Literal Translation. These sources are useful because sometimes they’ll put a little different twist on a translation that will jog your mind and cause you to think.
Tim Moore: The Holy Spirit sometimes gives us insight from a different perspective.
Lee Brainard: Absolutely! And so, the first step then is to utilize a plurality of literal translations, but don’t be afraid to use paraphrases, too. I don’t like a paraphrase for a purely doctrinal study, but sometimes paraphrases will help your mind wrap itself around a passage to help you get the gist of the literal translation. It can be a good crutch.
The second step is to cross-reference the Bible with a concordance.
Tim Moore: Yes, my favorite commentary is a concordance because all it does is jog my memory on where this passage relates to other passages in Scripture. So, I have a concordance at hand at all times in my Bible studies.
Lee Brainard: Two things — a plurality of literal translations with some paraphrases, along with a concordance — and you’re off to the races for understanding the Bible.
Tim Moore: We can do that without even purchasing a stack of Bibles and translations by going online. You’ll find many Bible study tools there. Use the Blue Letter Bible. You mentioned the TLG. There are ways that you can view a large number of parallel passages from multiple translations right before your very eyes, and for free!
Nathan Jones: To conclude then, according to Lee Brainard, 2 Thessalonians 2:3 is prophesying a falling away from the faith in the last days, which we’re certainly seeing in this day and age, and that the passage isn’t prophesying the Rapture of the Church. Though that does not negate that there will be a Rapture, just not from that passage, right?
Lee Brainard: That’s right.
Nathan Jones: The Bible offers many references to the Rapture such as 1 Thessalonians 4, 1 Corinthians 15, and other passages that teach about the Rapture of the Church. We’re living today in that time when a great falling away from sound doctrine is occurring.
Knowing that we are now living in this apostasy, we have to ask ourselves, “Have I given my life to Jesus Christ?” Have you accepted Jesus as the Lord and Savior of your life? Be ready, for the Rapture will come and you do not want to be left behind because you did not turn to Jesus Christ in faith and repentance and so be saved (Acts 3:19).