I listened to an audio commentary by Jon Courson on the Blue Letter Bible web site.On it he argued that the “falling away” mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 isn’t the great apostasy, but the rapture of the church. (This is a view held by Tommy Ice and Tim LaHaye also.) His argument for this view can be heard in his commentary on 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5. (Found here at about 14 minutes in.) Here is the scripture:
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. 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.
(2 Thessalonians 2:1-3)
According to these verses the gathering together to be with Jesus is the Day of the Lord! And according to Paul, this won’t happen until there is a falling away and the antichrist is revealed. Yet Courson tries to get around this anti-pretribulation teaching by claiming that the falling away is the “departure” of the church from the EARTH, rather than the departure of the church from the FAITH. But according to Strong’s Concordance (found here) the Greek word “apostasia” carries the meaning “falling away, defection, apostasy.” The entry from Vine’s Expository Dictionary conveys the meaning of revolt or rebellion. Yet the Greek expert Courson mentions in his teaching on 2 Thessalonians 2:3, E. Schuyler English, claims it means “departure” and could therefore be referring to the rapture. (English may have been a little biased since he was the Greek scholar used for the Scofield Bible, which popularized the pretribulation position. A scholarly article on this debate can be found here.)
I think it’s obvious that the Courson/English position is wrong because if they are correct, and the word “departure” is referring to the rapture of the church, then 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 would read like this:
Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him [the rapture], 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. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a gathering together unto him [the rapture] first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.
Why would Paul try to comfort the Thessalonians concerning their fears about the rapture by letting them know that the rapture won’t come until the rapture comes first!
No. According to Paul, the coming of the Lord to gather his church [the rapture] will come after the apostasy and after the revelation of the antichrist, and the revelation of the antichrist occurs at the opening of the first seal, which is after the beginning of the tribulation. That means that the rapture doesn’t occur before the tribulation, so how can the pretribulation rapture view be true?