Guest post by Justin Alfred
1 Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. 2 For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. 3 While they are saying, ‘Peace and safety!’ then destruction will come upon them suddenly like birth pangs upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape (καὶ οὐ μὴ [ou mē] ἐκφύγωσιν). 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief; 5 for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; 6 so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. 7 For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. 8 But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him. 11 Therefore encourage one another, and build up one another, just as you also are doing.
(1 Thessalonians 5:1-11)
This passage is dealing with the rapture and the Second Coming of the Lord some seven years later. Verse 3 is saying this: those who refuse Christ, when the rapture comes and the Great Tribulation begins, these people “will in no way, under any circumstances, escape the hellish consequences that will follow.” As you can see in the quote above, the οὐ μὴ [ou mē] is attached to the English verb “escape,” which is an aorist active subjunctive, thus, this is the subjunctive of emphatic negation, implying that nothing they will do will facilitate an escape from the ensuing tribulation. In other words, it is too late since they rejected Christ.
Let’s note the actual verb “escape” in the Greek. Its root is ἐκφεύγω (ekpheugō), and it comes from two Greek words: (1) the Greek preposition ἐκ (ek), which means “out of, from, and away from”; and (2) the Greek verb φεύγω (pfeugō), which means “to seek safety in flight; to become safe from danger by eluding or avoiding it; to keep from doing something by avoiding it because of its potential damage; and to cease being visible.” As you can see, this verb incorporates almost every avenue of escape and avoidance that is available to someone, but in all of them, they shall not escape the coming tribulation and wrath of God that will be poured out!
The tragedy of sin and Satan’s lie
This is indeed the tragic commentary on that part of the human race that is in the bondage of spiritual, mental, and emotional darkness with regard to their sin and its self-destructive consequences. Satan is a liar. And although his lies go back to the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden, they are still with us today, and it is just as intimidating, abusive, and coercive now as it was then. However, God’s Eternal Truth is a message that is just as real, and the following passages illustrate this. In Genesis 2:15-17, the Lord speaks to Adam concerning the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil”:
15 Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die.
This last phrase is one of the most emphatic in the Old Testament, as it is comprised of what is called an infinitive absolute with a finite verb form. Thus, God is emphatically declaring that if Adam eats from this “tree,” then without any equivocation or the remotest doubt, “he will absolutely die.” Then we go to Genesis 3:1-5, and we read the following:
1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 3 but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, lest you die.'” 4 And the serpent said to the woman, “You surely shall not die! 5 For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
(Genesis 3:1- 5)
In verse 4, we read Satan’s response to the woman, “You surely shall not die,” and this is the exact same grammatical construction as in Genesis 2:17 where the Lord said to Adam, “you shall surely die.” Thus, Satan used the same grammatical emphasis that the Lord used but making the exact opposite statement the Lord said, that if you eat of the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you surely shall not die.” And guess what? This is the exact same lie he is propagating today:
“You will surely not die and spend an eternity in a fabricated hell because there is no life after death, and even if there is, your good intentions and actions based on those intentions will compensate for anything and everything you have done because you are your own god, and you decide what is right and wrong based on your personal proclivities, versus some fabricated law that is supposedly the foundation for all truth throughout human history – you and you alone are your own ‘God,’ and what you determine is right and wrong is all that matters!”
What happens to those without Christ
When I read the above, and I see the tragedy of the lives of those who overtly reject Christ in favor of their own self-deification, my heart breaks, but I am also prompted with an urgency of sharing the Gospel with all whom God brings across my path because I see what will happen to those without Christ as their end and the end draws near:
1 Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him, 2 that you may 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. 3 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, 4 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. 5 Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things? 6 And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he may be revealed. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. 8 And then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; 9 that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, 10 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. 11 And for this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they might believe what is false, 12 in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.
(2 Thessalonians 2:1-12)
In the above passage, we see several things that are important to point out:
1. The meaning of the word “apostasy.”
Some have taught that the word “apostasy” in verse 3 is actually referring to the rapture because of the construction of this word in the Greek. In the Greek, the English word “apostasy” is ἀποστασία (apostasia), and it comes from two Greek words: the Greek preposition ἀπό (apo), which means “from, or away from”; and the Greek noun στάσις (stasis), which means “a condition of being in a certain position or state of affairs; a movement toward a (new) state of affairs; and a lack of agreement respecting policy.” Thus, with reference to the rapture, those who say this is what ἀποστασία (apostasia) is referring to do so because they say the preposition ἀπό (apo) indicates “moving away from one position to another,” which would include “moving away from the earth” to heaven with Jesus when He raptures the church.
On the other hand, verse 1 is clearly referring to the rapture when it says, “Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him,” and so what we would have if ἀποστασία (apostasia) is referring to the rapture would be something like this: “Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together (i.e., being raptured) to Him, 2 that you may 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 (i.e., our being raptured) has come. 3 Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come (i.e., our being raptured) unless the apostasy (i.e., our being raptured) comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction.” So, according to those who say that ἀποστασία (apostasia) is referring to the rapture, based on the above passage, before the rapture occurs, we will be raptured! Now there is no way anyone can look at this passage and honestly say that is objective, honest, correct, and accurate exegesis of this passage. However, when we look at the word ἀποστασία (apostasia) and its use throughout Scripture, we see a quite different use of this word in the following passages:
(a) Joshua 22:22: “The Mighty One, God, the LORD, the Mighty One, God, the LORD! He knows, and may Israel itself know. If it was in rebellion (ἀποστασία – apostasia), or if in an unfaithful act against the LORD do not Thou save us this day! ”
(b) II Chronicles 22:19: “Moreover, all the utensils which King Ahaz had discarded during his reign in his unfaithfulness (ἀποστασία – apostasia), we have prepared and consecrated; and behold, they are before the altar of the LORD.” (LXX)
(c) Jeremiah 21:19: “Your apostasy (ἀποστασία – apostasia) shall correct you, and your wickedness shall reprove you: know then, and see, that you forsaking me has been bitter to you, saith the Lord your God; and I have taken no pleasure in thee, saith the Lord thy God.” (this verse is taken directly from the LXX, and the Hebrew MT has “apostasies,” which is obviously plural and is referring to many acts of “rebellion and unfaithfulness”)
(d) I Maccabees 2:15: “In the mean while the king’s officers, such as compelled the people to revolt (ἀποστασία – apostasia), came into the city Modin, to make them sacrifice.”
As we look at the above examples, we see is a clear act of “rebellion” and a “turning away” from that which is “truth” to that which is a “lie” – thus, the idea contained in στάσις (stasis), which means “a condition of being in a certain position or state of affairs; a movement toward a (new) state of affairs; and a lack of agreement respecting policy,” is consistently used with reference to a position of truth throughout the Scripture, as well as in Maccabees, and when ἀπό (apo) is attached, which indicates “moving away from one position to another,” that position that it one is moving “away from” with the use of (ἀποστασία – apostasia) is unequivocally, as just stated, the position of truth that the Scripture is emphasizing to a position of lies, contrary to biblical truth.
Consequently, the word ἀποστασία (apostasia) as used in 2 Thessalonians has absolutely nothing to do with the rapture, but rather it is talking about people who once had a “professed belief in Jesus,” but were persuaded by lies and false doctrines and eventually deserted Jesus, the Church, the Bible, and everything related to Christianity. After this occurs, at some point then the rapture will occur and the Anti-Christ will make his appearance.
2. The Anti-Christ will make his appearance.
As verse 3 indicates, The Anti-Christ will appear and proceed to proclaim his self-deification before the whole world: “3 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, 4 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.”
3. Verses 6-8 describe the rapture and the emergence of the Anti-Christ:
“6 And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he may be revealed. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. 8 And then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming.”
4. Verses 9-10 describe the tremendous deception that will spread over the earth through Satanic power and those who will be engulfed by it:
“9 that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, 10 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved.”
5. Verses 11-12 describe God’s judgment upon those who have rejected Christ and the Eternal Truth of God in Him:
“11 And for this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they might believe what is false, 12 in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.” This last portion of Scripture is in line with Romans 1:18-32 with regard to God “giving people over” to their lusts and rebellion after rejecting Him on a consistent basis:
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four- footed animals and crawling creatures. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. 28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 32 and, although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.
Therefore, it is imperative for us who are Jesus’ followers to be the evangelists He has called us to be in Acts 1:6-8:
“6 And so when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, ‘Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?’ 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; 8 but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” There is no greater calling for us than to be Jesus’ “witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth,” and I want, therefore, to challenge all of you who read and respond to this Blog to begin being a witness to the world around you, versus simply embracing this or any other computer generated means of communication as your main source of communication with the world. As believers in Jesus, we need to the “salt and light” in a decaying and darkened world around us, proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ to those who have clothed themselves in the Bad News of this dying world. I would like to challenge all of you who read this Blog, therefore, to begin praying and asking the Lord to lead you every day to share the Gospel with someone who needs Jesus in their lives. You will be surprised to see what the Lord does in opening doors for you to share, but that is what He has promised to do for us as we go forth in faith and trust in Him to share with those who we either know that do not know the Lord, or with those whom we have never met, but who also desperately need the Lord.
Let’s resolve to spread the good news to those around us!