In "Pre-Tribulation Truth - 3", I began to share an interesting and somewhat bizarre revelation that has been lost by much of the church today. I addressed an unfortunate set of circumstances - almost like a chain reaction event - that has resulted in a major misunderstanding of the Biblical term "apostasia". Because most people, even in the clergy rely upon their choice of Bible translations, they are for the most part, oblivious to a serious discrepancy that casts confusion on a profound meaning to a passage where we learn that the Apostle Paul taught the Pre-Tribulation Rapture in 2nd Thessalonians 2:3.
The word "apostasia" is a noun, and the noun version appears only two times in the New Testament. These appear in the KJV Bible as follows:
1. "which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses" -(Acts 21:21) [apostasain].
Its grammatical form - Nominative case, singular, feminine gender
2. "not come, except there come a falling away first" -(2nd Thess. 2:3) [apostasia]
Its grammatical form - Accusative case, singular, feminine gender
In classical Greek there are some related words which form the background of "apostasia", and these words really address "revolt", "a political rebel", or "deserter", or a "runaway slave". The word acquired its religious connotations initially in the 'Septuagint' where it translated Hebrew words which occurred in a religious context. Terms for this word group appear more than 250 times in the 'Septuagint' corresponding to about 40 Hebrew words. It should be noted that in Israel, revolting against God was not the same as revolting against the Romans or Greeks. It is here where the word gained a new religious dimension. The "apostasia" word group could not describe backsliding history of Israel without being affected by this. In addition, the words often translated Hebrew terms whose specific meaning was related to transgression or violation of the laws of God.
When "apostasia" was appropriated by the writers of the New Testament, its definition was primarily understood as religious "backsliding". It is true that "apostasia" is used only twice in the New Testament, but the use could not be more illustrative and representative of the phenomenon. The first use in Acts 21:21 refers to "abandonment" of the religion of Moses; and the second in 2nd Thessalonians 2:3, most see it today as referring to the forsaking of the Christian faith. In the first part of this two-part lesson, I noted that "seven"of the first English Bibles used the word "departure" in a negative sense. It is the use of the "Definite Article", "he" (pronounced as "hee or hey" "the departure" that changes the entire understanding of the passage meaning and its use. I also noted how the word's meaning was affected by the events of the Reformation and subsequently in how the word was used by Catholics and the Protestants. That nuanced shading of meaning by both the Catholics and Protestants is highly significant in determining how and why the KJV translators were influenced.
The change of meaning or nuanced understanding should not be a stumbling block, but it was at the time of the Protestant Reformation. Permit me to offer an example or analogy of an everyday expression, that is often confusing, when we hear its use: "He loves her!" You might think you know what that statement means, but it may mean something that you have not thought of. In Greek we have five different words for the word "love". These include:
1. Agapo - meaning Christian affection
2. Eros - meaning emotional or erotic, sensual
3. Philo - meaning brotherly love
4. Stergo - meaning parental love for one's child
5. Thelo - meaning wish or desire to have something, like chocolate, or ice cream, etc.
There are a couple others that could be included but they are more like adjectives or adverbs describing degrees of intensity. In the case of the English word "love" we are not always sure of its precise use or intended meaning, while in Greek, we see the enhanced specifics or preciseness in intent. In English, we have to rely on the context in which the word is used to ascertain its meaning, and then, certainty may still be in question. Rarely do we find any of our English Bibles today that translate the Greek word for "love" in a "word-for-word" translation". It is usually stated simply as "love". Understanding the meaning becomes a matter of understanding the context is left to the reader to determine in most situations by context or by the footnotes.
The verb form noun form for "apostasia" is "aphistemi" and it appears in fifteen different grammatical forms:
1. "departed not from the temple, but served God" [Luke 2:37] [aphistate]
Its grammatical form - 3rd person singular, it's indicative case, it's imperfect tense, and middle voice.
2. "he departed from him for a season" [Luke 4:13] [apeste]
Its grammatical form - 3rd person singular, it's indicative case, it's present tense, and middle voice.
3. "and in time of temptation fall away" [Luke 8:13] [aphistantai]
Its grammatical form - 3rd person plural, it's indicative case, it's present tense, and middle voice.
4. "depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity" [Luke 13:27] [apostete]
Its grammatical form - 3rd person singular, it's imperfect, it's aorist tense, and its active voice.
5. "and drew away much people from him" [Acts 5:37] [apestesen]
Its grammatical form - 3rd person singular, it's indicative, it's aorist tense, and active voice.
6. "And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men" [Acts 5:38] [apostete]
Its grammatical form - 2nd person plural, it's imperfect, it's aorist tense, and active voice.
7. "and forthwith the angel departed from them" [Acts 12:10] [apestesan]
Its grammatical form - 3rd person singular, it's aorist tense, and it's active voice.
8. "who departed from them from Pamphylia" [Acts 15:38] [apostanta]
Its grammatical form - 3rd person plural, it's indicative, it's aorist, and active voice.
9. "departed from them, and separated the disciples" [Acts 19:9] [apostas]
Its grammatical form - Nominative case, singular, it's masculine gender, it's a particle, it's aorist, and
10. "Then straightway they departed from him" [Acts 22:29] [apestesan]
Its grammatical form - it's 3rd person plural, it's indicative, it's aorist, and active voice.
11. "besought ... thrice, that it might depart from me" [2nd Corinthians 12:8] [aposte]
Its grammatical form - 3rd person singular, it's subjective, it's aorist, and active voice.
12. "In the latter times some shall depart from the faith" [1st Timothy 4:1] [apostesontai]
Its grammatical form - 3rd person plural, it's indicative, it's future tense, and middle voice.
13. "Ffrom such withdraw thyself" [1st Timothy 6:5] [aphistaso]
Its grammatical form - 2nd person singular, it's imperfect, it's present tense, and middle voice.
14. "that name the name... depart from iniquity" [2nd Timothy 2:19] [aposteto]
Its grammatical form - 3rd person singular, it's imperfect, it's aorist, and active voice.
15. "in departing from the living God" [Hebrews 3:12] [apostenai]
Its grammatical form - it's infinitive, it's aorist, and active voice.
You may find the grammar as boring or extraneous material, non-essential, but I assure you to the contrary, it is essential in understanding what the Greek text says and means. When I took my first semester of Greek, I ended up taking my first semester over again in summer school because of my class load and serving as a student pastor of a 200-member church on top of the academics. Basic Greek stresses grammar and grammatical form as well as word memorization. The key to mastering the conjugating verbs is in memorizing prefixes and suffixes. Prefixes and suffixes are usually the same for all verbs. I found the best way to learn the Greek or Hebrew was to use an Interlinear Bible which includes both the English and the Greek/Hebrew. Once I had the prefixes and suffixes down pat, the Interlinear became understandable. In seminary Greek students use the Greek New Testament as their text book, the Nestle-Aland edition published by the United Bible Societies. I found the Greek tools by Dr. William Mounce as vital in mastering Greek grammar. I recommend Dr. William Mounce's 'Teknika' materials for learning Greek. These have been refined over the past twenty years and have become favorites by Greek instructors.
Unfortunately, I did not have computer Bible software when I first went to college and seminary. Despite four years of college and ten years of seminary academics, and 51 years in the pulpit, I still do not consider myself a language expert nor do I believe I could ever claim that. I define "expert" as being when you can read, write, and speak a language fluently, and I can't do that. The KJV Bible is the closest we have in English where we know it has been proven to be 98.2% accurate.
We have a three-year old granddaughter who is bilingial, able to speak in both French and English. Her biological father is a French citizen working toward US citizenship, and he teaches her French and English. My wife and I babysit her three days a week and it is 'jaw-dropping' amazing to hear her speak two languages. Few of us have the penchant for learning a foreign language.
As I bring this post to a close, it is extremely important that you understand that since the Greek language does NOT need an article to make the noun "definite", it becomes crystal clear that with the usage of the "definite" article, it becomes something particular, and there is a reason that lies behind it, and that reason may not be obvious to the untrained mind. In 2 Thessalonians 2:3, the word "apostasia" is preceded by the "definite" article "ho" which means that Paul is pointing specifically to a particular type of departure clearly known to the Thessalonian Church. "The departure" was something that Paul and his readers clearly had a mutual understanding about. Paul says in verse 2:5, "Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?" The use of the "definite article" would also support the notion that Paul spoke of a clear, but discernible event. A physical departure, like the Rapture would fit such a notion. However, the New Testament teaches that apostasy had already arrived in the first century -(confirmed in Acts 20; 1st Timothy 4:1-5; 2nd Timothy 3:1-9; 2nd Peter 2:1-3; Jude 3-4, 17-23). Thus, such a process would not denote a clear event as demanded by the language of this passage. Understanding "the departure" as the Rapture would satisfy the nuance of this text.
Whatever Paul is referring to in his reference to "the departure" was something that both the Thessalonian believers and Paul had apparently discussed in-depth previously. When we examine closely Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians, he never mentions a 'doctrine of apostasy', however, virtually every chapter in the epistle speaks of the Rapture or "the departure" -(confirmed in 1:9-10; 2:19; 3:13; 4:13-17; 5:1-11). In these passages, Paul has used a variety of Greek terms to describe the Pre-Tribulation Rapture noted in 2nd Thessalonians 2:3.
Dr. Kenneth Wuest, a Greek scholar [ an expert] from Moody Bible Institute, further added to the contextual support that makes "apostasia" as a "physical departure'. Dr. Wuest is a 'heavyweight' when it comes to Greek. Years ago, I read many of his writings and recall him stating that he was driven to the inescapable conclusion that "ho apostasia" in verse 3 refers to the Pre-Tribulation Rapture of the Church which precedes the Day of the Lord, and holds back the revelation of the Man of Sin who ushers in the world-aspect of that period, referring to the Tribulation.
In checking a number of English translations you will find that several do correctly translate the "definite article" while others commit the error of the KJV Bible.
As I have stated in previous posts, why should Jesus have told the disciples, or the Jews of His day, anything about a future event (the Rapture); that was left to Paul to deliver in his ministry. Think about this for a while, Paul does not even talk about Jesus' miracles, teachings, or His examples, in any of Paul's epistles! I have always found that to be stunningly remarkable of an omission. We consider them important, at least from the perspective of one's faith; however, they are not essential to the Gospel message of Paul. And yet Paul adds the "definite article" to his statement of 2nd Thessalonians 2:3. The Gospel according to Paul was based on three things: Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection. These three points overshadow all other aspects of Jesus' life and ministry!
To use the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24-25) as a basis to refute the Pre-Tribulation Rapture on the basis of negation is both faulty logic and to incorrectly divide the Word of God, and at a bare minimum is to diminish the roll of Paul and his ministry in the New Testament.
What I have shared in this post and "Pre-Tribulation Truth -3", about the existing discrepancy can easily be partially verified if you are a user of the Internet "Blue Letter Bible". You want to search the text for 2nd Thessalonians 2:3, particularly the KJV Bible, and the Greek TR (Textus Receptus). The KJV Bible reads: ".....except there come a falling away first........" when it should read ".....except there come the falling away first........" To verify the meaning and understanding of the "definite article" requires some Greek grammar training and Greek morphology and lexical aides. The discrepancy was discovered by Greek scholars and experts years ago. The late Spiros Zodihates, of AMG Ministries pointed out this discrepancy more than thirty years ago. For those of you unfamiliar with Spiros Zodihates, he was a native Greek, born on the island of Cypress and came to New York in the 1970's to head up the AMG Ministries, a missionary ministry to the Greek people. Before he died he produced a number of excellent scholarly Bible-related resources, among which was his 'Key Word Study Bible'.
To many this may seem to be like I am splitting hairs or being picky on an issue over a single letter Greek word in the Greek Textus Receptus, and yet it is of immense and profound significance in the meaning of a passage that clearly is basic or foundational in the understanding of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture teaching that originated with the Apostle Paul.
Your perspectives on the importance of the Apostle Paul and his ministry will inevitably shade or color your view regarding Eschatology and end times. The higher your view of Paul, the greater the chance you will be Dispensational and hold to a Pre-Tribber view. The converse of this is a truism as well, the lower your view of Paul, the more likely you will be in the Covenant/Reformed camp and likely to hold one of the other positions on Eschatology like Ammillennialism or Preterism. Another area that certainly will bias a person's view on proper understanding Eschatology of the Bible is where you see yourself on the spectrum concerning the matter of Law and Grace.
If you should per chance save this series of posts, may I suggest that you go back and save three additional posts. They are:
1. "Comfort One Another With These Words" - (January 18th on Five Doves).
2. "Israel and the Church" - (January 25th on Five Doves)
3. "Edify One Another" - (February 1st on Five Doves)
The Apostle Paul first taught the Pre-Tribulation Rapture and to miss that in his epistles comes as no surprise. The Greek Textus-Receptus of 2nd Thessalonians 2:3 and other passages certainly contains the elements which is oblivious to the untrained mind but obvious to the person equipped to translate Greek..
Keep looking up! We will be going home before all hell breaks out. If things look bleak now around the world, just image how worse it will become after we are gone! Steady as you go, no need to panic for those washed in the blood of Christ Jesus!
Blessings in the name of the King,