FIRST THE DEPARTURE
AN APPEAL TO THE FALTERING
"Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and by our gathering together unto Him,
"That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor
by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. 47
"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."
II Thes. 2:1-3
LET NO MAN DECEIVE YOU BY ANY MEANS
The Apostle's appeal to the Thessalonian saints not to be "shaken," or
“troubled," or "deceived. . . by any means," is based upon the truth of the Rapture.
It was “by" or on the basis of “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and48 our
gathering together unto Him," that he begged them not to falter.
This was their "blessed hope," and he besought them not to let any man take it
from them either “by spirit" (i.e., the supposed gift of prophecy), or “by word" (i.e.,
argument) or “by letter as from us”49 (Ver. 2).
Of all the strong evidences in the Thessalonian epistles that the rapture of
believers to be with Christ will precede the Tribulation, the opening verses of II
Thes. 2 are certainly the strongest.
NOT ONE SCRIPTURE?
One Bible teacher has declared that "there is not one verse of Scripture which
explicitly affirms the rapture of the Church before the Tribulation.50
47 Or "of the Lord is present."
48 Note: In KJV the second “by" is printed in italics, indicating that it was supplied by the translators. The
Apostle refers to one event, not two.
49 It appears that a letter, or letters, had actually been forged to make it appear that he believed that the
Rapture would follow the Tribulation.
50 Henry T. Hudson, in Re-examination of Pretribulationism, P. 2.
But why need there be? There is "not one verse of Scripture which explicitly
affirms" that our Lord was baptized before His temptation by the devil, or that He
was crowned with thorns before He was crucified, or that baptism with water is no
longer included in God's program for believers, or that God is a Trinity. Yet there is
abundant Scriptural proof for all these, and the brother referred to above accepts
them all as the truth of the Word of God.
Some time ago one of the author's "post-trib." friends wrote to him:
"The great tribulation is not pleasant to anticipate -- this is a fact (Dan. 12:1;
Matt. 24:21,22). But in the light of [a series of Scripture passages] I know by
God's grace and strength I can endure the greatest torture or the most
gruesome death. Perhaps, brother, I will be called upon one day to prove my
word. God only knows. I can rest only in Him (II Tim. 1:7). Paul went through
much, as did many first-century Christians. To those individuals, tortured and
killed, the pain they suffered could not be any worse than the saints will suffer
as individuals in the great tribulation. Praise God for our great and glorious
hope, I Tim. 1:1."
How sad this is in view of the following three facts:
1. Paul, in speaking of the Rapture never says one word to prepare the saints
for the horrors of the Tribulation. We may be certain that he would have done so if
they were to endure its terrors before being caught up to be with Christ.
2. Our Lord, in speaking to His "kingdom" followers did say much to them about
the coming Tribulation, but not one word about their being "caught up" to meet Him
in the air.
3. Thus, the rapture of believers to be with Christ, is distinctively the hope of the
Body of Christ, for which Paul repeatedly urges us to be "looking" and "waiting,"
encouraging one another in the anticipation of this “blessed hope" (Tit. 2:13).
But wait! There is indeed one blessed passage of Scripture which "explicitly
affirms" that the Rapture will precede the Tribulation. It is II Thes. 2:3.
Our respect and admiration for the King James Version grows more profound
each year. We believe that KJV stands head and shoulders above all other English
translations, and perhaps above all other translations in any language. It is in the
truest sense a faithful translation. Also, we believe that God has graciously
preserved the Greek Scriptures for us in Textus Receptus, the Received Text of
the New Testament, rightly called the Majority Text, the text upon which KJV is
Yet here is a case where the KJV translators departed from Textus Receptus,
for TR does not contain the words "a falling away" in II Thes. 2:3, but the words
"the departure," Gr., hee apostasia. Thus the verse actually reads:
"Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day shall not come
except the departure come first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of
There is abundant evidence for this rendering, as we shall now proceed to
APOSTASIA AND APOSTASY
First, our English word apostasy, is not an exact equivalent of the Greek
apostasia. The English word apostasy means rebellion, or revolt, against a faith
once embraced, but the Greek apostasia means departure, nothing more.
Actually the Greek noun apostasia occurs only once more in the New
Testament, namely in Acts 21:21, where Paul is informed of the report that he has
taught "all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses."
We suggest that even here the word "depart" would be a closer synonym to the
rendering "forsake" than would the word "apostatize." To forsake is not exactly to
revolt or rebel against, and this is what our English word apostasy means.
Furthermore, in this case we are told that it was reported that Paul urged these
Jews to "forsake," or "depart from" Moses, and surely Paul did not urge them to
any revolt against Moses or his writings. He merely pointed out that now, by grace,
they were free from the Law, that the Law had been fulfilled for them by Christ.
In any case, the Record does not say that Paul had taught the Jews who lived
among the Gentiles to "forsake" Moses. It says only that the Jews in Judaea had
been "informed" that this was the case. This rumor was probably an exaggeration
of what he actually had done in teaching that the Law had now been fulfilled by
Christ and that believers are delivered from its curse (Gal. 3:13).
But while the noun apostasia occurs only twice in the New Testament, the root
verb from which the noun is derived occurs 15 times, and its meaning is easy to
determine. We refer to the verb aphisteemi. So that there may be no mistake, we
present here a list of every New Testament use of this verb.
Luke 2:37: "departed not from the temple."
Luke 4:13: "the devil…departed from Him."
Luke 8:13: "in time of temptation fall away."
Luke 13:27: "Depart from Me, all ye workers of iniquity."
Acts 5:37: "drew away much people after him."
Acts 5:38: "refrain from these men."
Acts 12:10: "the angel departed from him."
Acts 15:38: "who departed from them from Pamphilia."
Acts 19:9: "he departed from them."
Acts 22:29: "they departed from him."
II Cor. 12:8:"I besought the Lord... that it might depart from me."
I Tim. 4: 1: "some shall depart from the faith."
I Tim. 6:5: "from such withdraw thyself."
II Tim. 2:19: "depart from iniquity."
Heb. 3:12: "in departing from the living God."
First, the reader should observe carefully that in 11 out of these 15 occurrences
the verb in question is rendered depart, departed, or departing, while in the other
four close synonyms are used.
Further, only three out of the 15 are concerned with departure from the truth.
And in all three it is clearly stated that the departure is "from the faith" (I Tim. 4:1),
"from the living God" (Heb. 3:12), and from that which was "for a while believed"
(Luke 8:13), leaving the meaning of the verb aphisteemi itself simply depart --
nothing more -- in all 15 occurrences.
In Luke 4:13 we read that the devil “departed' from Christ. In Acts 12:10 an
angel "departs" from Peter. In Acts 15:38 we read that a man had "departed" from
Paul and Barnabas. In II Cor. 12:8 we read of Paul's thrice-repeated prayer that a
thorn might "depart," or be removed, from his flesh. And so with all the others.
Indeed, in two of the 15 cases above the very opposite of apostasy or departure
from the truth is involved. In I Tim. 6:5 Timothy is told to depart ("withdraw thyself")
from men who are "destitute of the truth," while in II Tim. 2:19 all who "name the
name of Christ" are exhorted to "depart from iniquity." Surely these were not
instructions to apostatize.
Thus, bear it well in mind, aphisteemi, the root verb of the Greek apostasia,
means to depart -- nothing more. Later on we will discuss the particular "departure"
referred to in II Thes. 2:3, but first the rendering "a falling away," as compared with
"the departure," must be further discussed.
THE AUTHORIZED VERSION
AND ITS PREDECESSORS
Kenneth S. Wuest, in his preface to II Thessalonians, says in part:
"If apostasia and aphisteemi meant what our word ‘apostasy' and
‘apostatize' mean, why did Paul, when using aphisteemi in I Timothy 4:1, feel
the need of adding the qualifying phrase, ‘from the faith' to complete the
meaning of aphisteemi in that instance of its use? .... The word apostasia,
therefore, in its original and pure meaning, unadulterated by the addition of
other ideas imposed upon it by the contexts in which it has been used, means
In explaining why the King James Version failed to retain the rendering "a
departure," which they found in the five versions which preceded KJV, Mr. Wuest
points out a technical mistake contained in all six versions. Says Mr. Wuest:
"The fatal mistake the translators made 51was in failing to take into
consideration the definite article before the word apostasia ... "(Ibid). The article
here denotes previous reference, for this wording clearly implies that they
already know about it.
The meaning of Paul's words in II Thes. 2:3, then, is that before the Tribulation
can come, the "man of sin" must be revealed, and before this can happen "the
departure" must come "first."
No "falling away" or "apostasy" had been previously mentioned in either epistle,
but in the whole of I Thessalonians and also of II Thessalonians up to this point,
the Apostle's very theme had been the rapture of the members of the Body of
Christ. Thus here in II Thes. 2:3 he must be referring to "the departure" of the
Church to be with Christ. This falls naturally into place with the whole context, for
why should Paul exhort these believers not to be "shaken" or "troubled," merely
because the apostasy must precede the Tribulation? This would be no comfort.
Further, how could they recognize "the" apostasy, much less "a" falling away when
it came? The fact is that apostasy is raging now, in our day; it has been throughout
the Church's history. Indeed, it began in the days of Paul himself, and he wrote to
Timothy, instructing him what to do about it. Thus “a falling away" could be no
definite guidepost to the Thessalonian believers. But if, as we have contended, the
beginning of the Tribulation awaits the rapture of the members of the Body of
Christ, then the very fact that the Thessalonian saints were still on earth was in
itself positive proof that the day of the Lord had not yet come.
51 The very fact that five other translations preceded KJV proves that translators are fallible!
CORNELIUS R. STAM
Founder, BEREAN BIBLE SOCIETY
Editor, BEREAN SEARCHLIGHT
Radio Teacher, BIBLE TIME
Author, THINGS THAT DIFFER
And Other Bible Studies
BEREAN BIBLE SOCIETY