Rapture? A Denominational Football!

Rapture Verse Proves Pre-Trib Position?

The Denominational Football Game played by “End-Times Experts” is all too often about the anger and disgust Christians are openly expressing for each other and the desire to glean credibility i.e. donations from their fans.. or perhaps is this football game something deeper and more insidious? Is it about, Futurists, Historicists’, Preterists, Dispensationalists, Supersessionists, Reformers, Catholics, Jews or the hated “Christian Zionists.” It is depressing and frankly full of Sin. What everyone needs to bring to the table is a serious dose of HUMILITY! To quote Dr. Michael Heiser, “What you know may not be so.”

So to add a little fuel to this fire we offer the following:

The “Rapture” or the “Apostasy” Verse?

For decades we were confused by a statement in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4:

Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God” (NASB).

Confusing Interpretations

Post Trib Rapture – For many of us, the above verse seems to say that the tribulation (or day of the Lord), including the appearance of the antichrist (man of lawlessness), will appear first, prior to the rapture event (or our “gathering together to Him”).

Pre Trib Rapture – Yet, many pastors have also used the same verse above to teach that the “rapture” of the church, or the evacuation of Christians off planet Earth prior to severe political, earthly and cosmic disasters (see Matthew 24, Luke 21 and Revelation chapters 6-19), will take place before the tribulation period begins (called the “day of the Lord”). We suspect that these particular teachers must read the verse with a presuppositional meaning already understood in their minds, not by what the verse actually says grammatically. (Read the verse again if necessary).

Greek Word “Apostasy” Translated Before and After King James Version

Part of the problem has to do with the translation of the word “apostasy:” Let no one deceive you for the day of the Lord will not come unless the “apostasy” comes first (v.3). It turns out that the word “apostasy” translated from the Greek may not be accurate. Let’s look at some reasons why.

Surprisingly, the first seven English bible translations of “apostasia” prior to the King James Version, rendered the word as “departure,” (as in the “rapture” or “gathering together to Him”). Also, Jerome’s Latin bible known as the “Vulgate” from 400 A.D., used the word “discessio,” meaning “departure” as well. This historical fact is meaningful. While noting that spellings and English have changed over the centuries, let’s look at some of the pre-KJV English translations: (Note: The spelling of the Ancients).

Wycliffe New Testament (1384): That no man deceyue you in any maner/ for no but departynge aweye (or dissencon) schal come firste and the man of synne shall be schewid the sone of perdicioune.

Tyndale N.T. (1534): Let no ma deceave you by eny meanes for the lorde commeth not except ether come a departynge first and that synfnll man be opened ye sonne of perdicion

Coverdale Bible (1535): Let no man disceaue you by eny meanes. For the LORDE commeth not, excepte the departynge come first, and that Man of Synne be opened, even the sonne of perdicion.

Cranmer Great Bible (1539): Let no man deceaue you by any meanes, for the Lorde shall not come excepte there come a departinge fyrst, and that that synfull man be opened, the sonne of perdicion.

Matthew’s Bible (1549): Let no man decide you by any meanes, for the Lord comnmeth not, except there come a departyng first, and that, that sinful man be opened, the sonne of perdicyon

Beza Bible (1565): Let no man deceiue you by any meanes: for [that day shall not come] except there come a departing first, and that man of sinne be disclosed, [even] the son of perdition.

Geneva Bible (1575): Let no man deceiue you by any meanes for that day shal not come, except there come a departing first, and that man of sinne be disclosed, even the sonne of perdition.

Rheims Bible (1576): The Protestant “Revolt.” (Roman Catholic).

(House 1995, 270).

Making Sense from 8 Pre KJV Historical Bible Versions

Simply put, if our modern English translations rendered the verse historically, matching at least eight pre-KJV versions, it would read something like this: “Let no one in any way deceive you, for the day of the Lord (tribulation) will not come unless the departure (rapture) comes first and the antichrist appears” (2 Thess. 2:3).

In other words, once unbelievers begin to witness the tribulation and identify the antichrist who declares himself to be “god’ in the rebuilt Jewish temple, then they know that the rapture has already occurred. Millions of Christians will have disappeared worldwide (2 Thess. 2:3-4; Dan. 7:25; 1 Thess. 4:17). It will be evident.

Swiss Reformer Creates New Word

No historian knows exactly why, but the Swiss reformer, Theodore Beza, was the first one to transliterate the word “apostasia” to “apostasy.” In other words, rather than translate the Greek word “apostasia” he “transliterated” or created a new word, “apostasy.” Thus, the King James Version translators rendered “apostasia” to mean “falling away” rather than a physical “departure.” Ever since, Protestant and Catholic translators have used the word “apostasy” or “rebellion.” It changes a once strong rapture verse which spoke of believers evacuated off the planet to be with Christ in the air, into a verse meaning defection from church teachings, morality and doctrine, i.e. a “spiritual” rather than a “physical” departure.

One theory as to why Theodore Beza may have changed the word “apostasia” to mean a spiritual departure rather than physical removal, may have some merit. Dr. Andrew Woods postulates that in the 250 years prior to the King James translation, there was a growing schism between traditional Catholics and the newly emerging “protestant” faction. Each group may have looked to the other as “apostates.” Thus, translating 2 Thess. 2:3 as “apostasy” might have been their way of indicting those who strayed from their own position. They forgot to do good exegesis and turned the bible text into a polemic to support their own position (Woods, 2017).

Context Should Always Determine Meaning

The careful Bible student may wish to refer to The Liddell and Scott Greek Lexicon which defines “apostasia” first as “defection, revolt;” then secondly as “departure, disappearance.” The context of First and Second Thessalonians suggests that “departure” or “disappearance” is the correct usage – just as the 8 translations before the King James Version had declared.

We need to remember that in his two letters to the Thessalonians, Paul used good writing skills by using synonyms to describe the rapture in several references. In 1 Thessalonians he wrote of the “harpazo” which referred to a catching-up of believers into the clouds to join Jesus Christ (1 Thess. 4:17). In 2 Thessalonians he referred to the same event as our “gathering together to Him” (2 Thess. 2:1). So, it makes sense that Paul used the word “apostasia” or “departure” to again refer to the rapture in 2 Thess. 2:3. (Good writers do the same thing today to avoid redundancies).

Recent theologians and historians who have understood this and held to “apostasy” as meaning “departure” rather than church “defection” include: Kenneth Wuest, E. Schuyler English, Dwight Pentecost, H. Wayne House, Stanley Ellison, Allen McRae, Gordon Lewis, Tim LaHaye, Andrew Woods and Thomas Ice. There are others, but this is an impressive list of scholars. Although in the minority, their translation of “apostasy” as meaning “departure” in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, is well supported historically.

Thessalonica Believers Not Left Behind

After all, why shouldn’t theologians consider “apostasia” in 2 Thess. 2:3 to mean “departure” (or the rapture)? Context should always determine meaning. Think about it. Here in his two letters, Paul was comforting the church against false teachers or a fraudulent letter that had frightened Thessalonica believers into thinking that the Day of the Lord had already come. Paul was assuring them that they had not been physically “left behind” to suffer through God’s wrath.

In fact, the apostle Paul had already clearly told believers that they were not subject to God’s wrath (1 Thess. 5:9). Therefore, the common-sense interpretation of this passage reassures believers that they would be gone before the “great tribulation” (Matt. 24:21) and appearance of the antichrist. The “Day of the Lord” would not come until two events occurred:

The gathering of Christians to the Lord in the air (1 Thess.4:17, called the “rapture”).

Then, the appearance of the “man of sin” (2 Thess. 2:3, the antichrist).

Looking for Jesus Christ – not for the Antichrist

Best of all, we can look forward to the soon return of our loving Savior, Jesus Christ – not the antichrist! “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep…For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord (1 Thess. 4:14-17, ESV).



Gulan, Gary. 1986. “Departure” (Greek “apostasia”): Rapture or leaving the faith? 2 Thessalonians 2:3. PDF online.

House, Wayne. 1995. When the trumpet sounds. Eugene, OR: Harvest House.

… Is the rapture found in 2 Thessalonians 2:3? PDF online.

Ice, Thomas. 2009. The rapture in 2 Thessalonians 2:3. Liberty University. DigitalCommons@LibertyUniversity.

…The “Departure” in 2 Thessalonians 2:3. PDF. Tom’s Perspectives.

H.G. Liddell and R. Scott. 1982 [1843]. A Greek-English Lexicon. UK: Oxford University Press.

Woods, Andrew. 2015. 2 Thess. 2 – Apostasy or rapture. (DVD). Steeling the Mind Conference. Coeur d’Alene, ID: Compass Intl. compass.org.

…2014. 10 truths about the rapture. (DVD). Steeling the Mind Conference. Coeur d’Alene, ID: Compass Intl. compass.org.

…2015. 7 irrefutable reasons you can trust the pre trib rapture position. Steeling the Mind Conference. Coeur d’Alene, ID: Compass Intl. compass.org.

…2017. One verse proves a pre-tribulation rapture. (DVD). Prophecy Watchers. DVD 372. Studio 2. ProphecyWatchers.com.

Valorie Emilio holds an M.A. in History from UCLA focusing upon Christian Origins. Her husband, Ken, holds a B.S. from UCLB and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Louisiana Baptist University.