By Ed Hindson
Q. Please elaborate on the “falling away” mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:3. Who falls away – the true Church or the world? Or is this a reference to the Rapture?
A. The verse in question defines several of the precursors of the “day of the Lord” mentioned in the previous verse:
“Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day shall not come, except there come the falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition,” 2 Thessalonians 2:3.The Thessalonian believers were concerned that the “day of the Lord,” the Tribulation, was at hand. The Apostle Paul was assuring them that this would not occur until two other things happened first: the “falling away” and the revelation and rise to power of the Antichrist.
Several views have been advanced to define this “falling away.” One is that it refers to the Antichrist mentioned later in the verse. Another is that it is a religious defection (or apostasy) by the professing church. A third is that it represents open rebellion against God. Finally, some people believe it refers to the Rapture. The three latter explanations have the greatest support among theologians.
The term “falling away” is apostasia in the Greek, “to stand away from.” They are standing away from a statement, a truth, or a profession that they once held. We indeed are experiencing this today among the professing church, so we see that as the main interpretation of this apostasy. The true, believing Church of Jesus Christ – those who still hold to the Book, the Blood, and the Blessed Hope, regardless of their denominational affiliation – will never, by definition, fall away. Those who have not made a genuine commitment to Jesus Christ are another matter. As they are not secure in Christ, they are subject to drift away from the truth of the Gospel.
We are also seeing an open rebellion against God such as we have not seen in earlier years. Some of the best-selling books of our day are written by professing atheists, boasting of their non-belief in God. In earlier times, nonbelievers were more ambivalent. Today, they are very upfront and often hostile about their opposition to God.
Finally, there is also some merit to the argument that the “falling away” (“departing” in early English translations) may refer to the Rapture. That sentiment is certainly expressed later in the chapter, when we are told that the Restrainer – the Holy Spirit-indwelt Church – must be removed from the world scene before the Antichrist is revealed (2 Thessalonians 2:6-10). This will be accomplished by means of the Rapture of the Church. Thus, the Bible predicts the following sequence of events: apostasy, Rapture, rise of Antichrist, and the beginning of the Tribulation.
The Rapture in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 - Pre-Trib Research Center (Thomas Ice)
Book of 2 Thessalonians - Bible Survey - GotQuestons.org
What is an apostate? - Grace to You (John MacArthur)
King James Version Bible Commentary - Dr. Ed Hindson
Antichrist Rising - Ed Hindson (Book)