Does 2 Thessalonians 2:7 Teach A Rapture Or A Great Apostasy?
Posted by Job on March 30, 2011
This is in response to a most excellent comment. As the reply was getting lengthy, I decided to throw it out as a post.
2 Thessalonians 2:7 is cryptic, and likely purposefully so. My first opinion, based on this website, was that the King James Version’s rendering of “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth [will let], until he be taken out of the way” was wrong, and I favored some of the other translations that had a softer, more passive rendering of ginomai ek (he be taken out of), including the New Living Translation (“steps out of the way”), the English Standard Version (“until he is out of the way”) and the International Standard Version (“gets out of the way”). Then I saw that the Geneva Bible favored the King James Version’s rendering, and for that matter so does the NASB. Also, some of the Bibles that had alternate renderings, especially the International Standard Version, had problems, including being far too strong in their translating “arti“, translated to be “he who now”, as “the person who now.”
So, as, I am not a Greek expert, and moreover those who are Greek experts would have fits with coming to a precise meaning of this text because of the ambiguous nature of it in the original language. A major problem is that there does not appear to be other Bible texts that deal with this precise topic, the one who restrains being removed from the way, that would aid us in coming to a more definite interpretation.
The solution is to try to interpret 2 Thessalonians 2:7 with other texts, including 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, and 1 John 2:18, 1 John 2:22, 1 John 4:3 and 2 John 1:7.
“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; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.””Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.”
“Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.”
“And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that [spirit] of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.”
“For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.”
More texts in this general area would be helpful, but other than the references to the abomination of desolation that are more helpful to 2 Thessalonians 2:4 than to this text, I do not know these at this particular time. So, at this time I know of are the Johannine texts, which can be used to say that the mystery of iniquity of 2 Thessalonians 2:7 is the spirit of anti-Christ is that which denies Jesus Christ as He is pretended to us in the Bible. So, put 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 with the anti-Christ passages of 1 and 2 John, and you have a heretical movement that denies necessary doctrines concerning Jesus Christ taking over the church, and the anti-Christ appearing soon after.
Regarding said heretical movements, combating those was a major concern of the New Testament epistles, including Jesus Christ’s warning to His church in Revelation 2 and 3, and as the current climate in Protestant Christianity tends to denigrate those who stand for orthodoxy (see here and here, although this is not exactly a totally new problem, as Charles Spurgeon was heavily criticized for taking on heretical movements in his day) and the increasing tendency of Christians to choose “science” over the Bible (not just evolution, but pseudo-science such as the “critical scholarship” that is applied to – and used to attempt to discredit – nearly every New Testament verse that is used as the basis for core doctrines) as well as the willingness of a great many Christians to allow worldly concerns (i.e. politics) to distract them from evangelizing and discipleship, it is not difficult to imagine – from a human perspective anyhow – a wave of heresy sweeping through the church.
Incidentally, the “taken out of the way” of 2 Thessalonians 2:7 does not necessarily mean “removed from the face of the earth”, and it especially does not necessarily mean “taken from the face of the earth immediately and dramatically.” Those seeking to find support for a rapture in the Bible will say that it does, and then apply that text to 1 Corinthians 15:51-52’s “we shall all not sleep but shall be changed.” The irony is that the context of 1 Corinthians 15 is not the endtimes at all, but rather Paul’s rebuking the false doctrine in the Corinthian church that there would be no resurrection of the dead, and that there was no resurrection of Jesus Christ. Now if you juxtapose those texts and their context, it would then 1 Corinthians 15, 2 Thessalonians 2 and 1 John 2 and 4 refer to false teachings concerning Jesus Christ that could cause the great apostasy, after which the anti-Christ appears.
That puts the abomination of desolation predictions of the Bible in a spiritual context. If “the holy place” refers not to a Jewish temple (the first and second temples having been destroyed, and Judaism is now a false religion for a host of reasons that are beyond the scope of this topic, which would make claiming the third temple as “a holy place” – as opposed to a tower of Babel erected in rejection of and defiance against Jesus Christ – very theologically difficult!) but rather than the hearts of Christians which are in this era of grace the temple of the Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 6:19-20) then perhaps this abomination of desolation refers to the church’s embrace of a false postmodernist Jesus Christ as opposed to the real One of the Bible?
Suppose that the abomination of desolation – the visible church’s embrace of a false Christ – causes a great apostasy among this same visible church. Further, suppose that this occurs after the Great Commission has been fulfilled, or when it is down to its final stretches, when or immediately before right before the fullness of the Gentiles has been reached according to Romans 11:25 (after which the spiritual blindness of the Jews is lifted). Then, it is possible to use those Bible texts to propose that it is then when the anti-Christ will appear. Of course, the visible church will follow the anti-Christ that they have already erected and worshiped in their own hearts just as Old Testament Israel in the time of their apostasy and fall to Babylon during the ministry of the prophet Jeremiah worshiped Baal in her heart. So, the apostate church would then join the anti-Christ in persecuting the remnant, the legitimate church. That would be the time of Jacob’s trouble as prophesied by Jeremiah 30:7 and fulfilled in Revelation 4-19.
But back to the original topic, “he that restrains being taken away”; that cannot refer to either the Holy Spirit or the church. Jesus Christ makes it clear that the church will persevere until He returns for it, and that the Holy Spirit will do the same as the church’s minister and comforter. (There are bigger issues with the Holy Spirit’s being removed from the earth, as the Holy Spirit is the presence of God, and it is the presence of God that sustains creation … without the presence of God, the universe would disintegrate immediately … see Colossians 1.)
So, perhaps instead of “taken away” as in “removed completely”, how about what the translation actually says, which is “taken out of the way”? Think of a dam that holds water breaking, or chains that is holding a prisoner being broken, or a box kept closed by lock and key (or seal!) having the key turned or the seal broken coming open, and its contents allowed to escape. Consider the apocalyptic language of Revelation, where demons and such that are bound in the pit or the river Euphrates (including Satan being bound in the bottomless pit for 1000 years during the millennium) being set free.
So, this passage could refer to one of the seals being broken of Revelation 6. After the 7th seal is broken, then the trumpets sound. The fifth trumpet sounds in Revelation 9 (which unleashes the locusts), the sixth also (which releases the demons bound in Euphrates), and it is between the sounding of the 6th and the 7th trumpet that the anti-Christ and the false prophet appear in Revelation 13.
Again, this is assuming that the KJV and the Geneva Bible (on which the KJV was largely based) are correct in their rendering of 2 Thessalonians 2:7. This website does in fact argue that the plain, literal Greek states that this verse should read “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he comes forth out of the midst” (or my preference, until he comes forth from among the nations.) It is difficult to assert how ginomai was translated “to be taken away” instead of the usual “to be come, to be made or be finished.” 2 Thessalonians 2:7, then, could well read
“For the mystery of iniquity is already at work and will work until it is finished and he (the anti-Christ” comes forth from among the nations.”
Again, I am no Greek expert, just a guy with access to Strong’s Concordance! However, this translation does appear to square with 2 Thessalonians 2:3 regarding “the son of man being revealed” and Revelation 13:1’s “the beast rising out of the sea” (and the sea allegorically is a reference to the nations and peoples of the earth). So, basically, people will deny Jesus Christ until the anti-Christ basically appears, particularly when the visible church denies Jesus Christ and becomes apostate.
Sorry for the jumbled mess that is this effort, as it was written on the fly in response to a user comment, and I did not organize, outline or edit it first, and it deals with two separate issues: the possibility that both the KJV and the Geneva Bible did damage to 2 Thessalonians 2:7, and also the meaning of that text when it is interpreted with scripture. I will say that the rapture teaching requires the KJV/Geneva interpretation, but that applying this text to the great apostasy makes good use of both the KJV/Geneva translation and one that more strictly follows the literal meaning of the Greek words.