Are we already in the Tribulation… the great global apocalypse? Not only are many today asking that question, but a growing chorus of voices is declaring with increasing frequency and intensity that the answer is yes—the four horsemen of the apocalypse have already begun their run of death and destruction. Interestingly, this was the very same question that a group of Christians were asking the Apostle Paul way back in the first century. I’d like share Paul’s response with you because I believe it not only provides a definitive answer to the million-dollar question but, more importantly, reveals the only true hope we have as the world imploding around us!
While the world is clearly deteriorating around us and there are prophetic signs popping off everywhere for those with eyes to see, we always want to ensure that we are maintaining a doctrinally-sound faith that is securely constructed on the foundation of God’s word—not an experientially-based one that is built on the shifting sands of feelings or emotions.
Failure to do so is a perfect recipe for falling victim to the most repeated warning in the New Testament… do not be deceived!
To help his readers avoid being deceived, Paul laid out his logical and unambiguous response regarding the timing of the Tribulation—or Day of the Lord—in his second epistle to the believers in Thessalonica (2 Thessalonians 2).
In this passage of Scripture, Paul lays out two prerequisite events that must take place before the seven-year tribulation period can begin.
If these two distinct and unambiguous proceedings have not transpired (and, as of the writing of this article, they still haven’t), then Paul—under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit—expressly declares that we cannot be in the Tribulation yet.
No matter what you may have previously heard about this passage of scripture—and it is certainly one that has unfortunately been shrouded in a fog of unnecessary confusion and controversy, I highly encourage you to take a few moments to read this article… it may just provide you with some much-needed clarity regarding where we are on God’s prophetic timeline, the timing of the Tribulation, and the veracity of a pre-tribulation rapture.
We’ll start by examining the all-important background (context), and then tackle Paul’s case, including his thesis (claim about the topic), his proof (argument establishing the truth of his thesis), and his confirmation (additional support for his proof).
With that said, let’s get into this…
The Critical Background to Second Thessalonians—Are We in the Tribulation?
Because context is always king when it comes to properly interpreting Scripture, we need to start our analysis of Paul’s response to the timing of the Tribulation by examining the critical background regarding both of his epistles to the church at Thessalonica.
Paul’s First Letter to the Church at Thessalonica—The Rapture Is Imminent
Today, we have a completed New Testament that we can easily access in both print and digital formats. However, there was a transition period in the early days of the church during which there were no New Testament texts to study and properly understand the orthodoxy and orthopraxy for the church. Thus, the missionary work of the Apostles was critical.
The Apostle Paul visited Thessalonica during his second missionary journey. Prior to this, the only New Testament books or letters (epistles) that had been completed were James (44-45 AD), Matthew (40s AD), and Galatians (49 AD)—Paul’s first epistle.
It was in the early days of this second missionary journey that Paul found himself in Thessalonica. He began, as was his modus operandi, by preaching in the synagogue to Jews. However, after being rejected and forced out, he spent a good amount of time teaching to the gentiles there—with tremendous success.
Eventually, he departed and headed to Corinth—which would be the epicenter of this missionary trip. Relatively soon after arriving in Corinth, Paul penned (51 AD) his first letter (epistle) to the church he had planted in Thessalonica—summarizing much of what he had taught them.
The theme of Paul’s first letter to them was the need for holiness in the light of Christ’s imminent return for His church. In fact, it is in this very letter that Paul provides one of the seminal passages of Scripture regarding the Rapture:
But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
As well as providing additional wisdom regarding this prophetic event in the following chapter:
But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11)
Paul’s Second Letter to the Church at Thessalonica—Why Did He Write It?
Now, you would think the Thessalonians would be securely anchored to the solid foundation the Apostle Paul had laid for them—both in person and through his first letter. However, that didn’t prove to be the case!
Unfortunately, shortly after his first letter, Paul began to receive distressing reports in Corinth about the church in Thessalonica—including their false belief that they were now living in the dreadful Day of the Lord… the apocalyptic period we know as the Tribulation period.
What was going on?
How had they so quickly strayed from all that Paul had labored to teach them while present with them… and had reiterated for them in his epistle to them just six to nine months earlier?
In Second Thessalonians, Paul reveals the answer: A false (counterfeit) letter had begun circulating in the city after his first letter—one that was spreading confusion and fear through false teachings (doctrine).
That you be not quickly shaken in mind nor be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as if from us…” (2 Thessalonians 2:2).
This bogus document being passed off as being from the Apostles was causing the young believers there to errantly and fearfully believe that they were already in the Tribulation—prompting Paul to pen his second letter in order to provide them with clarification and reassurance that (as he had already made clear to them) they were NOT in the Tribulation (Day of the Lord).
It is upon this contextual background that we will now examine Paul’s response and, by so doing, put to rest today (as Paul did for the first-century believers in Thessalonica) the false teaching that we are already in the Tribulation.
Paul’s Case for Why We are NOT in the Tribulation
To reveal Paul’s case (answer) for why we are not in the Tribulation, we will divide his argument into three parts: (1) Paul’s Thesis, (2) Paul’s Proof, and (3) Paul’s Confirmation.
Paul’s Thesis: Relax—You’re NOT in the Tribulation… Yet! (2 Thess. 2:1-2)
In the second chapter of Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians, he begins by declaring his thesis—the central point or idea that will control or guide the entire content of the passage: You’re not—despite the false teaching (doctrine) you have received to the contrary—in the Tribulation.
Now we beseech you, brethren [fellow believers]… That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled… as that the day of the Lord is at hand” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2).
Not only does Paul make it crystal clear that they were not in the apocalyptic tribulation period prophesied in Scripture as the Day of the Lord, but he also declares why this is an absolute fact: Because the rapture has not occurred.
Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him…” (2 Thessalonians 2:1).
Here, we find Paul expressly referring to the rapture of the church—the gathering together of believers that Paul had taught his readers about in person and reiterated in his first letter to them (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; see above).
In the original Greek, Paul uses the phrase hēmōn episynagōgēs ep’ auton.
First, in the original language, adding the “epi” prefix to the root synágō (to bring, collect, group, gather together) renders this as a specific, complete, and ultimate collecting (or gathering) together in one place (with Him) that fulfills (builds upon) the specific purpose of the assembling.
Thus, this is neither an ongoing nor “spiritual” gathering (e.g., as believers individually die, and their spirit goes to be with the Lord). Rather, it is a one-time, unique, complete, and physical (bodily) gathering of the body of Christ (both the dead and living) to Christ!
Second, Paul’s use of the term episynagōgēs is very noteworthy in that it is the very same term Christ used when speaking of the children of Israel as He cursed the nation for its national rejection of Him as their Messiah and King (just prior to His Olivet Discourse):
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered together (episynagagein) thy children, even as a hen gathereth (episynagei) her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” (Matthew 23:37-39)
Christ came to be their King and would have ushered in the kingdom had the national leadership accepted God the Father’s offer—at which point Jesus would have physically gathered them together to him. While, due to unbelief, this offer was postponed… Christ will return at His second coming to do just this—gather the remnant of Israel together to Him when they call out to Him (i.e., recognize and accept Him as their Messiah), delivering them from the Antichrist and bringing them into the promised kingdom.
Now, as we noted earlier, the Gospel of Matthew was one of the few New Testament books that had been written by this time. Thus, Paul would have most certainly read it in Jerusalem with Matthew himself and been well aware of this terminology (not to mention he was also writing his own letter under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit).
In other words, Paul was declaring that—just as Christ will physically gather the Jewish remnant to Himself at his second coming (end of the Tribulation) to usher in the promised earthly kingdom—Christ will physically gather the church to Himself in the clouds as he ushers His bride into the spiritual kingdom of heaven prior to the Tribulation.
Furthermore, the coming of the Lord that Paul references here is NOT his second coming at the end of the tribulation because it must be referring to the same event as the gathering according to the Greek construction Paul uses.
This is known as the Granville Sharp rule of grammar, which states that “when the copulative kai connects two nouns of the same case, if the article ho, or any of its cases [here, the article tēs], precedes the first of the said nouns or participles, and is not repeated before the second noun or participle, the latter always relates to the same person [place, or thing] that is expressed or described by the first noun or participle.”
In other words, based on the clear and undeniable construction of the Greek, the (a) appearing (parousias) of the Lord and (b) the gathering (episynagōgēs) that Paul refers to here must represent the same prophetic event—the rapture of the church.
Finally, these two introductory verses draw a clear distinction between (a) His appearing in the clouds to gather believers to Him (the Rapture) and (b) His return to the earth (viz., the Mount of Olives) to save the believing Jewish remnant at the end of the Day of the Lord (His Second Coming) and establish His promised earthly kingdom.
Thus, in his unique and consistent Pauline style, he succinctly and unambiguously declares his thesis: Do not be shaken or troubled that you are in the tribulation period—you can’t be because the Rapture (harpazō, episynagōgēs, hē apostasia, etc.) has not yet taken place.
Stated differently, Paul begins this passage by clearly defining (as was his modus operandi) what his intended subject matter for the remainder of the passage would be.
In this case, he is declaring that he’s going to be addressing the rapture and its position (or timing) in relation to the tribulation period (Day of the Lord)—refuting the patently false teaching circulating at that time (as it still is in our time) that the Day of the Lord had already arrived and that these believers were in the Tribulation.
Paul’s Proof: Rapture and Unveiling of the Antichrist Have Not Occurred (2 Thess. 2:3)
Having established his thesis or theme for the matter to be discussed, Paul now immediately provides the reason or “proof” behind it—that they are NOT in the Tribulation.
He begins by stating that they should not allow themselves to be deceived (by false teachings or counterfeit letters) in any way that it had already arrived.
Let no man deceive you by any means: for it shall not come until…” (2 Thessalonians 2:3a).
What is “it”?
“It” is the day he just referred to in his declarative thesis (verse 2)—the Day of the Lord (hē hēmera tou Kyriou). Thus, most versions translate “it” as the “Day of the Lord”.
In other words, the seven-year tribulation period (also referred to as the Day of the Lord, Daniel’s 70th Week, and the time of Jacob’s Trouble) prophesied in Scripture will not come (arrive)—meaning it had not already come (arrived)—until something takes place first.
Again, as we discussed earlier, it is important to distinguish this day (the tribulation period that culminates with the Second Coming of Christ) from the gathering of believers to Christ by Christ (hēmōn episynagōgēs ep’auton) at His appearing (tēs parousias tou Kyriou hēmōn Iēsou Christou) in the clouds to the Church—the Rapture.
So, what must take place before the Tribulation (Day of the Lord) can begin, come, or arrive?
Paul tells his audience as he continues:
…until the departure [hē apostasia] comes first, and the man of sin [lawlessness] is revealed, the son of perdition [destruction]” (2 Thessalonians 2:3b).
Now… this is where nearly all of today’s confusion and controversy enters the picture.
To clear things up, I’m going to address this key phrase in two parts: (1) the translation and (2) the interpretation.
Departure, Revolt or Falling Away—Translating 2 Thessalonians 2:3
Much of—if not nearly all—the confusion and controversy over the meaning of apostasia can be largely placed at the foot of a really, really bad translation that was the product of an eisegetical interpretation.
In the 4th century, Jerome translated the original Greek manuscripts into Latin—creating the Latin Vulgate bible. As there was no Latin word for apostasia, he transliterated it as apostasie in Latin. It was then later transliterated into English as apostasy.
This word was historically and consistently translated into English as “departure” or “departing” until 1582.
What happened in 1582?
Well, the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) came out with its Rheims Bible—the first translation of the Latin Vulgate into English (albeit very Latinate in nature).
Now, the RCC denied the doctrine of the rapture and held to an amillennial (some would argue bordering on a post-millennial) eschatology—meaning that Christ rules the earth spiritually through his triumphant church. Stated differently, it is the “church” (i.e., the RCC) that will systematically perfect the world, build God’s earthly kingdom, and physically reign over it—not Christ.
This heretical system of eschatology was due in large part to the influence of Augustine (a contemporary of Jerome) and his City of God. In fact, it was during the Medieval period that the Roman Catholic Church finalized the construction of its system of eschatology—errantly built on the foundation of Augustinian amillennialism.
Today, this system of thought goes by a cornucopia of ever-changing names, such as kingdom now theology, dominionism, Christian reconstruction, seven-mountain mandate, Catholic integralism, latter rain, fivefold ministry, and New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) theology.
Furthermore, the Rheims Bible was developed during the Reformation period—a historical period that motivated the RCC translators to reject the “departure” translation and instead to inject the theological and ecclesiological supposition that Paul was referring to the heretical Protestants, who were revolting against the mother church.
Therefore, they translated apostasia as “revolt” (defection or rebellion) in their Rheims Bible—wholly departing from the historical translation of the original Greek for the first time.
Then, not to be outdone, the translators of the King James Bible said not so fast. The problem isn’t a revolt by us Protestants but, rather, a falling away from the true faith by you Catholics. As such, they also departed from the long-held translation tradition in order to impart a theological and ecclesiological point into their translation of apostasia—rendering it a “falling away” and interpreting it as an abstract falling away from the true faith.
Thus, a historically faithful, exegetical translation renders apostasia as “the departure” or “the departing,” and the confusion and controversy over properly interpreting this verse all ties back to an improper exegesis during the Catholic-Protestant schism of the Reformation.
Pre-Tribulation Rapture—Interpreting 2 Thessalonians 2:3
Having now established the proper translation for apostasía (viz., a departure or departing), we need to turn our attention to properly interpreting it within its context and grammatical structure.
The Greek word apostasía comes from the root word aphístēmi, meaning, as we established above, to leave or depart. Aphístēmi is derived from the prefix apó (“away from”) and the root histémi (“stand”).
The literal meaning of the word is a leaving or departure from either (a) a physical place or (b) an abstract standing.
Thus, the issue at hand is that, while we have properly translated it as a departure, we must determine if it is a physical departure or an abstract departure.
Apostasía is only used one other time in the New Testament— Acts 21:21, where Luke writes:
And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake [apostasian] Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs.”
In this usage, the term is translated as “forsake” and interpreted—based on context and grammatical structure—to mean an abstract departure. Here, the grammatical structure adds a defined qualifier— apo Mōuseōs (meaning not from Moses personally but, rather, from his Law… the Law of Moses).
Since you can’t physically depart from the Mosaic Law, we know the proper interpretation is an abstract departure.
However, that does NOT mean that apostasía in its only other use (2 Thessalonians 2:3) must also be interpreted in an abstract sense. Again, the word provides two options based on context and grammar.
In fact, we find that the root word aphístēmi is used 14 times in the New Testament—10 times as a physical departure and 4 times as an abstract departure.
That’s hardly a ringing endorsement for the “it has to mean an abstract departure” case.
To the contrary, it demonstrates that roughly 70% of the time this term was used in Scripture, it meant a physical departure—meaning, Paul’s use of apostasía to reference a physical departure is entirely normative from a linguistic perspective.
Furthermore, while this demonstrates that the term can sometimes refer to an abstract departure (e.g., from truth or the faith), this theological concept of apostasy or a falling away is not referenced in the New Testament epistles until much later—such as by Paul in First Timothy (62 AD) and Second Timothy (67 AD). In fact, the seven major passages dealing with a departure from faith (a “falling away” into apostasy) all occur in later writings and nowhere does Paul ever mention or address this issue in either of his letters to the Thessalonians.
Thus, while it is true that there will be a “falling away” from and rejection of the true faith leading up to the Tribulation, that is not what Paul is referring to here.
In fact, to mistakenly interpret his use here of apostasía in an abstract sense is to be guilty of committing the linguistic/hermeneutical error (or fallacy) known as illegitimate totality transfer, whereby you take one possible meaning of a term used elsewhere in Scripture and errantly insert it into another place in Scripture where you find the same term, but where it has a totally different usage.
A perfect example of this is the use of the word ecclesia in Acts 7:38, where Stephen refers to Moses as “the one who was in the ἐκκλησίᾳ in the wilderness.”
One would be guilty of illegitimate totality transfer to translate or interpret Israel as the Old Testament church here. Yes, ecclesia can frequently refer to the church; however, in this case, the context clearly defines (restricts) the meaning to a “gathering” or “assembly” and NOT the church.
People often commit this error when they insert their theological understanding of “saved” or “salvation” into every use of the word. Sometimes, saved simply means rescued from a physical danger or threat and has nothing to do with acquiring eternal life through faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone.
Furthermore, in this case, Paul’s use of the term is preceded by the definite article hē (“the”), which adds even more emphasis and indicates that this is a specific, definitive physical departure—not a general, ongoing abstract departure. Grammatically, Paul is referring to “THE” physical departure—not “a” general, ongoing, abstract departure (i.e., a falling away from the faith).
Again, this grammatically eliminates the possibility of an abstract “falling away from the faith” interpretation. After all, the church cannot completely, permanently, and absolutely depart from the faith—God always has a believing remnant in the world and Jesus Himself declared that the gates of Hell will not prevail against, overpower, or overcome the church (cf. Matthew 16:18).
As such, Paul’s intended meaning can only be understood as a complete, permanent, absolute, and physical removal of the church—the Rapture.
Additionally, in this case, Paul gives no qualifier, such as “from the Mosaic Law” or “from the faith.” Thus, the immediate context and grammar do not support an abstract interpretation (e.g., a falling away from the faith) but, rather, a one-time, physical departure—the Rapture.
Moreover, Paul adds an important adverb to this event—prōton. It indicates priority in time, place, order, or importance—meaning this event must happen first in terms of the progression of events preceding or leading up to the start of the Tribulation (Day of the Lord).
Again, this points to the definitive nature of this event—it is a specific, singular, and complete event… not an ongoing process.
This, in and of itself, rules out interpreting this as a falling away from truth or the faith.
Furthermore, apostasy (an abstract departure from the faith) has always existed throughout the church age—from day one. Thus, this would be a pointless condition for Paul to give—it would have already occurred prior to the writing of even this early epistle. It would be akin to saying, first “water must be wet” or “the grass must be green”—it’s an ubiquitous condition.
Moreover, interpreting this as some final falling away from the faith would violate the doctrine of imminency regarding the Rapture. If a final falling away must occur first, then—even if one could identify and separate (set apart) some specific future apostasy—the Rapture would no longer be imminent. It would no longer be first in place, order, or importance.
Finally, getting back to the broader context, if this is not a physical departure (rapture), then Paul has failed to provide the proof for the very thesis he just asserted—the central point or idea that should control or guide the entire content of the passage.
That would be the most bizarre of situations for Paul, who is always the most focused, logical, methodical, and organized of writers.
To argue that he so quickly got lost going down an unrelated rabbit hole—suddenly addressing an abstract falling away from the faith (an issue he does address later in his ministry, but nowhere in his early writings, let alone in his letters to the Thessalonians)—is absurd on its face.
To argue otherwise—that this is an abstract falling away from the faith—is a blatant case of illegitimate totality transfer predicated on eisegesis—not sound hermeneutics based on exegesis.
Exegesis is a legitimate and objective interpretation which “reads out of” the text what the original author or authors meant to convey.
Eisegesis, to the contrary, reads into the text what the interpreter wishes to find or thinks he finds there.
Stated differently, eisegesis is the subjective process of interpreting text in such a way as to introduce one’s own presuppositions, agendas, or biases (illegitimate totality transfer). It is often done to “prove” a presupposition, and to provide confirmation bias corresponding with the errant interpretation and any agendas supported by it.
If this is not a reference to the rapture, then Paul has completely failed to provide a case for his thesis?
That would be the only place in Scripture where Paul would have done so. And, given that Paul is writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, it would necessarily implicate God Himself as being illogical and unfocused???
Thus, based on the entirety of the context (from broad to narrow) and the grammatical structure employed by Paul, the proper interpretation of apostasía is a physical departure—the Rapture of true believers.
In the next section, we will see that there was a profound reason why Paul used apostasía rather than the word harpazó that he used in his first letter to the believers in Thessalonica (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:17) to refer to the rapture.
Hence, in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, we have Paul presenting the proof or argument for his thesis—namely, his readers could not be in the Tribulation (Day of the Lord) because the physical departure (rapture) must occur first and then the revealing of the Antichrist.
Since neither of these two prerequisites had happened yet, they were not in the Tribulation… nor are we today as of the publishing of this article!
Paul’s Confirmation: Restrainer Must Be Removed First (2 Thess. 2:6-8)
While we have examined Paul’s thesis, Paul’s proof, and solidly established that we should interpret Paul’s use of the term apostasia as a physical, complete, permanent, and absolute departure (the rapture) that must occur first and prior to the start of the tribulation period, maybe you still find yourself thinking, “I don’t know… I’m still not sure it’s not a ‘falling away’ from the faith into ‘apostasy’.”
If that was the end of the story—the end of Paul’s case, then it might be understandable that some might still find themselves a bit unsure about apostasia being the rapture.
Well, thankfully, that’s not the end of the story!
God, in His omniscience, knew there would still be some believers that would struggle with properly interpreting this passage—especially in the later times, given all the false teachings based on errant interpretations circulating in our world today.
So, He had Paul immediately provides confirmation by reiterating (re-stating) the truth of the rapture from a different angle—thereby doubling-down on the doctrine in order to resolutely make manifest its unambiguous nature… just in case readers (past, present, and future) weren’t sure!
In 2 Thessalonians 2:6-8, Paul writes:
And you know what is now restraining him [the man of sin and son of destruction] in order that he will be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already working; only there is now one restraining it [holding it down], until he is taken out of the way [removed]. And then the lawless one [the Antichrist] will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will slay with the breath of His mouth and will abolish by the glorious display (manifestation) of His coming [cf. Revelation 19:17-21].”
Here, Paul provides more detail regarding the revealing of lawless one (Antichrist)—his second prerequisite for the start of the Tribulation.
Paul notes that the mystery of lawlessness (iniquity, wickedness, disobedience, sin) is already working in the world—it has been since the Fall. But it is currently being restrained by God. That is, Satan’s power and plans are being constrained (limited) according to God’s sovereign will… for man’s good and God’s glory.
However, Paul declares that there is coming a time when that restrainer will be taken out of the way—removed. And when that happens, Satan will be permitted to reveal (apokalyphthēnai & apokalyphthēsetai) his man—the Antichrist—to the world.
First, that’s a complete, permanent, and absolute departure of the restrainer—not a gradual removal.
Second, that’s a complete, permanent, and absolute revealing (from apokalypto, literally “away from cover” or to take away a veil, to uncover, or reveal) of the Antichrist (man of sin and son of destruction).
Third, regardless of who you identify as the restrainer (e.g., the Holy Spirit, the restraining ministry of the Holy Spirit, or the church through whom the Holy Spirit works to restrain), they all necessitate a physical, complete, permanent, and absolute departure of believers—the Rapture!
I’m personally not a fan of the first option—the Holy Spirit, as the third Member of the Godhead (Trinity), is omnipresent and will clearly still be ministering (albeit in different ways) during the Tribulation.
But again, whether you prefer option two or three, the church must depart (be removed) either simultaneously or just prior to this removal of the restrainer (prerequisite one) so that the Antichrist can be revealed (prerequisite two).
Once revealed, the tribulation period will commence with the now revealed Antichrist’s confirmation of a seven-year covenant (treaty) with many (cf., Daniel 9:24-27).
Thus, from a different perspective, Paul reiterates and confirms that the apostasia is the episynagōgēs, which is the harpazó—all analogous terms that he used in his two letters to the Thessalonians (and no doubt in person, cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:5) to describe the physical, complete, permanent, and absolute departure (rapture) of believers!
Before we wrap this up, these verses also provide an answer to another objection made by some—namely, that if Paul wanted to reference the rapture here, he would have used the same word (harpazó) that he used in his first letter to the Thessalonians.
Stated differently, why would Paul use such an odd and uncommon term to refer to the rapture?
This alone—despite all the massive weight of exegetical evidence we’ve discussed above—has proven to be quite a stumbling block to many.
However, this should not be surprising to us today, given that we invest an enormous amount of time, energy, and money into our education. One of the pillars of being highly-educated is the development of strong communication skills—namely, the mastery of language.
Thus, we manifest our level of education and intelligence (not to be confused with wisdom!) by being able to leverage a broad and deep vocabulary.
If I was going to write a paragraph or paper discussing a house, I would not want to use the word “house” repeatedly and exclusively. Rather, I would use as many synonyms as possible (e.g., home, homestead, habitation, residence, dwelling, abode, domicile, crib, etc.)—and a true mastery of the language would allow me to select specific words that paint a more detailed picture of that house.
This is precisely what Paul does in 2 Thessalonians 2.
Could he have simply repeated the same word he had previously used (harpazó)? Absolutely.
However, given his mastery of both Hebrew and Kione Greek, why would he do that?
That would not be who Paul was nor reflect the mind of God (Who was inspiring Paul). Thus, Paul—throughout his writings—uses a plethora of words to reveal, describe, and emphasize various aspects of the rapture, including harpazó, episynagōgēs, and apostasia.
Furthermore, why would we seek to limit or constrain him (and the Spirit) to that level of simplistic communication?
In fact, a careful examination of this passage reveals that Paul carefully selected and used apostasia for a very specific reason. He was utilizing his deep vocabulary to paint an important word picture for his readers—one they, as fluent Greek speakers, would have easily recognized and picked up on.
He was skillfully using the prefix apó to confirm his profound case regarding the tribulation and rapture through a word picture.
He intentionally uses apostasia (departure, v3), apokalyphthē (revealed, v3), apōleias (destruction, v3), apodeiknynta (setting forth or manifesting, v4), apokalyphthēnai (to be revealed, v6), apokalyphthēsetai (will be revealed, v8), and apollymenois (perishing, v10).
Again, the apó prefix adds force to the root—conveying a full, complete, and permanent quality.
Thus, Paul is making a brilliant play on words (an association) to paint a picture in the original Greek that beautifully reflects his overall point:
The complete, permanent, and absolute departure (apostasia) must occur first… and then the son of complete, permanent, and absolute destruction (apōleias) will be completely, permanently, and absolutely revealed (apokalyphthē/apokalyphthēnai)… after which he will completely and absolutely present himself (apodeiknynta) as a god (equal to God) to be worshipped in the rebuilt Jewish Temple at the midpoint of the Tribulation (v. 4; cf. Daniel 9:27)… and those who follow and worship him (thereby rejecting the true God) will be completely, permanently, and absolutely destroyed (apollymenois), perishing into eternal damnation.
Are we, as a growing chorus of voices is claiming, already in the Tribulation? Have the seals of Revelation begun to be opened? Have the four horsemen of the apocalypse begun their ride of death and destruction?
It turns out this is not a new question or claim… it was being asked by first century Christians.
And, as we’ve seen, the Apostle Paul provided his readers with a definitive answer: No, we are not… at least not yet!
Paul provided this answer to the believers at Thessalonica through a logical and unambiguous case that affirms the Tribulation (Day of the Lord) can not begin until the church is first raptured and then the Antichrist is revealed.
So, what’s the application for us today?
Well, from Paul’s teaching, we can extract two lessons that can be applied to our own lives.
First, we can find peace in knowing—despite the world’s downward spiral—that we are not in the apocalypse yet! The beast has not been revealed and his global beast system—including his mark—has not yet begun.
Second, while we are not in the Tribulation yet… we are really, really close.
Those with eyes to see and ears to hear what the Spirit is saying can clearly see the things prophesied in Scripture regarding the Tribulation period casting their prophetic shadow on us today.
Everything is now ready. The stage has been set. The players have taken their place. The structures have been built. The wiring has been run. The power has been turned on. All that remains is for the Antichrist to be revealed and flip the switch.
To learn more about this, we encourage you to read our articles WEF Great Reset—A Glimpse into the New World Order Psyche and New World Order Emerging: Not Such a Crazy Conspiracy Theory After All!
But first—before that can happen—the physical departure of believers must take place.
It is imminent and it is guaranteed.
You can take it to the bank… the rapture is going to happen.
God has foretold it and He cannot lie. We can see and feel the birth pangs increasing in frequency and intensity all around us as the world groans and the Day of the Lord nears. And God has declared:
‘Shall I bring to the time of birth, and not cause delivery?’ says the Lord. ‘Shall I who cause delivery shut up the womb?’ says your God.” (Isaiah 66:9)
What He has started… He will finish… exactly as He said He would.
For believers in Christ, Paul is providing assurance that we are NOT appointed to wrath of God and we will NOT go through the Tribulation.
You do NOT want to miss that physical departure. You do NOT want to be left behind to face the Antichrist—the man of sin and son of destruction—nor the wrath of God that will be poured out on mankind.
It will happen in an instant and, once it does, it will be too late for those left behind to escape the apocalypse.
How do you ensure that you are part of that complete, permanent, absolute, and physical departure of the church—the Blessed Hope (Titus 2:13) that is the Rapture?
You must be saved through faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone!
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men… Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience… Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him… For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ… and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (Romans 1:18; Colossians 3:6; Romans 5:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:9; 1 Thessalonians 1:10).
Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:4-9)
If you haven’t already, we highly encourage you to read our articles The Ship IS Sinking… What Are YOU Going to Do as It Goes Under? and Are You Prepping to Survive or to Escape the Coming Fiery Furnace?
While our world is only going to continue to get worse, the good news is that those who place their faith in Christ will not have to face the wicked and totalitarian nightmare of the Antichrist and False Prophet.
Do not be deceived… The world is on a collision course with the apocalypse—it has been since the Fall in the Garden.
Humanity is not on verge of ushering in a glorious new golden age. Rather, its utterly wicked, depraved, and rebellious spirit is about to be judged by God… just as it was in Noah’s day.
We are in the final moments… this is how it ends for a tragically deceived world.
To learn more, we recommend you checkout our article We’re Never Going Back to Pre-Covid World—This Is How It Ends.
Thank God for the two greatest words in all the bible… “BUT GOD!”
Things may be looking really bad… but God!
But God has a plan for His children.
Jesus Christ will remove His church—His body of true believers—in advance of God unleashing His righteous wrath and judgment on this wicked world.
As God declared through Paul, prior to the appearance of the Antichrist and the commencement of the beast system, Christ will return in the clouds to call His true followers (His ambassadors) home to heaven—the Blessed Hope (Titus 2:13) that is the Rapture.
Make sure you have your boarding pass my friend!
How do you get onboard Titus 213 Airlines Flight #777?
Again, you punch your ticket to board the escape flight out of here by placing your faith in Christ and receiving eternal life today!