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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.

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8 Responses to “Does 2 Thessalonians 2:7 Teach A Rapture Or A Great Apostasy?”

  1. Barnabas said

    Check out the possibility that the restrainer is Michael. Some who hold to prewrath believe that way and it is intriguing.

    • Job said

      Barnabas:

      It is intriguing. However, I consider things speculated concerning angels to be precisely that, and very difficult to confirm by making sound use of Biblical text. (Incidentally, if the restrainer is Michael, does that make the anti-Christ the prince of Persia – or of Greece – of Daniel 10? See … that is why I don’t get involved in discussing angels.)

  2. No rapture in 2 Thess.2:7, only in 2:1.

    “Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him.” 2:1, NASB Update

    • Job said

      2 Thessalonians 2:1 refers to Revelation 19, not to the “gap theory” (if I may use the theistic evolutionist/old earth creationist term) between Revelation 3 and Revelation 4 (when the rapture is commonly believed to occur, does it not?

      Also, I was hoping that you would provide me with a bit of help concerning the Greek; the issues with “ginomai ek”, “arti” and “ek mesos.” (Learning Greek is on my “to do” list.) However, my opinion is that arriving at a definitive translation of 2 Thessalonians 2:7 is unattainable. I emailed William Mounce (who sits on Bible translation committees and publishes Greek instruction textbooks for seminaries) and he basically punted in his response to me.

      I think that I will revisit this issue, and this time have my thoughts more organized!

  3. revelationunveiled said

    SEE: http://en.wordpress.com/tag/bible-truths-and-prophecy/ If you want to understand what is said you have to read all the posts from the first to the last. If you skip around it will become confusion.

  4. David said

    2 Thessalonnians 2;1-3 I just do not get it, your explanation seems to be off the wall. Take a look at some earlier Bible translations (then the KJB), and you will find ” 3.except there come a catching away first ” Which would tie in with 2 Thessalonians 2;1 Now we beseech you, brethern, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering unto him. Lets see Jesus is to return when there is a great apostosy going on? What to recieve the left overs unto himself? If you believe you are to remain when the antiChrist is revealed, and reins here on earth, all the more power to ya!

  5. Rom said

    WOW! I just have to respond. I have been considering lately, that there is a large, false, visible church. That some in it, happen to be part of the small, true invisible church. (whether that should be called ecklesia or bride, I’m not sure).

    If somehow, there is a deception in this end time scenario, would it not be, so close to the real, as to be hard to detect, even able to almost fool the elect?

    Would this thing not be of a different seed, a false church, assuming to represent God, yet not representing Him. These may be wonderful people, loving, kind, honest, and yet involved, unintentionally in a false church. Since intellect and flesh, even so-called religious/theology/doctrine/ can all be flesh, it leaves us asking “Why allow it God”…Would it not be for contrast? It would have its life in doctrines, and scripture, theology, rituals, ETC.

    It would not be like the ecklesia who, finds its life, in Spirit, and “the word” which is NOT always the same as the written scriptures. Meaning to say, what was spoken, gave life to those who heard it. Then it was written to others, for them to read, what was spoken to someone else.

    So this brings me to 2Thess 2:1…

    What if Christ appears, like you show up at your neighbors house unexpected for dinner. But instead of a huge mass of people, He gathers his elect to himself; possibly this is a small group in comparison, as seen throughout history, and the N.T… He gathers his own out of this larger group, those who say “Lord, Lord, didn’t we”….Yet He never knew them, they were not His own, they had never been drawn of The Spirit… A real church is in the midst of a false church. Good seed VS bad seed… Where and who did you think this seed would be, the church vs the world? No who would that fool, and why the surprise “Master did you not plant good seed”.

    For the secret of lawlessness is already operating. Only when the present detainer may be coming to be out of the midst,
    2Th 2:8 then will be unveiled the lawless one (whom the Lord Jesus will despatch with the spirit of His mouth and will discard by the advent of His presence),
    2Th 2:9 whose presence is in accord with the operation of Satan, with all power and signs and false miracles”
    2Th 2:10 and with every seduction of injustice among those who are perishing, because they do not receive the love of the truth for their salvation.”
    2Th 2:11 And therefore God will be sending them an operation of deception, for them to believe the falsehood,
    2Th 2:12 that all may be judged who do not believe the truth, but delight in injustice.”
    2Th 2:13 Now we ought to be thanking God always concerning you, brethren, beloved by the Lord, seeing that God prefers you from the beginning for salvation, in holiness of the spirit and faith in the truth,
    2Th 2:14 into which He also calls us through our evangel, for the procuring of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

    Could this NOT all pertain to the false church systems, that came into being since the end of the church we saw in Acts? What about TV preachers, and tel-evangelists. Better yet what of those who seemed to pervert each move of God, by elevating intellect, above experiencing God. This is the corruption from the beginning. Two trees, one of life, and one of knowledge.

    Take the Jesus movement for example, these kids, young, and sometimes foolish, had life. But then shortly thereafter people like Chuck Smith decided to introduce theology, as a teacher may introduce any subject that teaches “about” something, yet has no living experience. What happened to those kids? They became absorbed into the institution of Church, and became for the most part, involved in a lifeless system.

    Would this “Antichrist” system not vanish in a day at the appearing of Christ, in the midst of his people. Their church system would become ineffective overnight. At the revealing of Christ and His true church. Anyway I would be interested in you thoughts on this.

  6. jenny said

    That is a interesting take and quite close to the reference my bible gives for this verse which is Revelation 17:5-7 referring to mystery babylon. I will be praying for understanding on this commonly misused verse.

    Thanks for your insight Rom.

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