The Rapture (Not) in 2 Thessalonians 2:3
Arlen L. Chitwood
Let no one deceive you by any means for that Day will not come unless the falling away (Greek: apostasia, apostasy) comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition. (2 Thessalonians 2:3)
Second Thessalonians 1:5-2:1 has to do with events surrounding Christís return at the end of the Tribulation, extending into the Day of the Lord (the Messianic Era), which is referred to in chapter two, verse two. These verses have to do with Christians, both faithful and unfaithful, not with the unsaved. The last verse in this section (2:1) is often seen as a reference to the rapture. Thatís what you will find, for example, if you read The Bible Knowledge Commentary, from the Dallas Theological Seminary. John Walvoord, in his book The Rapture Question, took it a step further and said that this is one of only three undisputed verses in the New Testament referring to the rapture (John 14:3 and 1 Thessalonians 4:17 were the other two he cited).
But this verse, contextually, continues from the preceding verses and introduces thoughts surrounding the Day of the Lord (events which occur during time at the end of and following the Tribulation on both sides of the verse). How can the verse possibly be a reference to the rapture? That wouldnít make any sense. But saying that the verse has to do with faithful Christians ďgathering together to HimĒ at His coming (His parousia [Greek word used here], his presence at His coming), at the end of the Tribulation, with the subsequent Day of the Lord in view, would make perfect sense contextually.
Actually, Iím not sure why that even needs to be said, for that is what the verse plainly says if understood within context. And this would be drawn from a proper understanding of the rapture and that which follows relative to faithful and unfaithful Christians caught into the Day of the Lord in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:9, which Paul had previously written to the Thessalonians about. However, in 2 Thessalonians, Paul moves beyond that dealt with in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and begins with that dealt with 1 Thessalonians 5:1ff.
With that in mind, it would appear to be completely out of place to backtrack and mention the rapture immediately after this, particularly in connection with both the use of the word apostasia and the revelation of the man of sin. Verse two is somewhat of a transitional verse, and verse three begins a presentation of events surrounding the man of sin that precede the Day of the Lord existing on earth.
Contextually, the only thing that seems to fit in verse three is to associate apostasia with the man of sin. And note that Scripture interprets itself, which is the case here if we keep on reading. The apostasia is explained in verses seven and eight as ďthe mystery of iniquity,Ē which is already working but will not reach full fruition until seen in the activities surrounding the man of sin.
But, though the mystery of iniquity is already working, there is something holding the full fruition in connection with the man of sin back, seen in verses six and seven. That which holds this back could only have to do with something Paul had previously spoken to them about (or to material that they had in their possession relative to Paulís ministry among other churches). And, again, ascertaining what this is can be derived through comparing Scripture with Scripture.
In the Greek text, a neuter word is used in verse six (ďwhatĒ) and a masculine word in verse seven (ďheĒ) relative to that being referenced which is holding all of this back. Neither the Church nor the Spirit can be ruled out on the basis of both masculine and neuter being used. Note that the Church is feminine but looked upon in the sense of not only a bride but as a son and one new man. And Spirit, though neuter, is referred to at times in a masculine respect.
The overall thought of the mystery revealed to Paul has to do with Godís purpose for the present dispensation. And the only thing standing in the way of the full manifestation of the mystery of iniquity and the revelation of the man of sin is God completing His purpose for the present dispensation, which is when the Church will be removed. From a Scriptural standpoint, relative to verses six and seven, there is really nothing else to consider aside from part or all of this overall thought.
Godís overall purpose for the present dispensation (completion of the work of the Spirit, acquiring a bride for Godís Son) would fit the neuter, and the removal of the one new man would fit the masculine. Thus, if a person is going to see any reference in verses 3-8 to the removal of Christians preceding the Day of the Lord being present on earth (which could only be a somewhat indirect reference [see previous paragraph]), it would have to be at the end of verse seven, not back in verse three.
Trying to see the rapture in verse three is ignoring the context to press an issue that doesnít need to be pressed. Scripture elsewhere, where questions surrounding the matter such as exist here do not exist, plainly shows that all Christians will be removed at the end of the dispensation, preceding the Tribulation.