Hello everybody and welcome in to episode #325 of the Bible 2021 podcast. We are reading 2 Thessalonians 2 today and our focus is on What Must Happen BEFORE Jesus Returns for the Second Coming? What is the Great Apostasy, or Falling Away? We are a daily 10ish minute podcast, where we will dig in to the truth of the Word of God by reading one Bible chapter a day and discussing it. Welcome to new listeners in Our goal is to encourage DAILY Bible reading, so you can jump in at any time and join with us. We want to invite as many people as possible to join us in daily Bible reading, so help spread the word and share the podcast! Don’t forget about our web-page, Bible2021.com – contact page, show notes, transcript and more– Click here for our Bible 2021 reading plan\
You will find as we continue reading in the book of 2nd Thessalonians that the theme and main topic of this letter is all centered around the end times, or Second Coming of Jesus. In today’s letter, Paul addresses a bit of first century fake news that had apparently circulated around to the Thessalonians. Somehow, someway, somebody got the false message to them that Jesus had returned, and had apparently left them behind. Worse, whomever sent that false message some how did it acting as Paul himself, so this really upset this young church, to hear from their mentor and founder that Jesus had come back. To counter that false narrative, Paul writes:
Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him: We ask you, brothers and sisters, 2 not to be easily upset or troubled, either by a prophecy or by a message or by a letter supposedly from us, alleging that the day of the Lord has come. 3 Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way. For that day will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. 4 He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he sits in God’s temple, proclaiming that he himself is God. 2nd Thessalonians 2:1-4
Basically, Paul is telling the Thessalonians church (and us, by extension) that, though they may have heard about rumors that Jesus had come back, to not be alarmed, because He hasn’t returned (at the time of Paul’s writing) and that TWO very noticable and important things would have to happen BEFORE Jesus returned. Those two things are the apostasy/rebellion , and the revealing of the Man of Lawlessness. Tomorrow we will discuss who the Man of Lawlessness is, so today let’s focus on the apostasy, or rebellion.
First, let’s talk about the word Paul uses – ‘apostasy,’ because it is not a very common word. In English, the word means, “the abandonment or renunciation of a religious or political belief.” It comes from the Greek word that Paul uses here, “ἀποστασία apostasía” which means to “forsake,” or “fall away,” and itself comes from a word that indicates a divorce. This is a concept that is developed powerfully in the Old Testament, where God often describes Himself as a Bridegroom, and His people Israel are a bride that has been unfaithful, and fallen away.
The prophet Hosea, for instance, compares Israel’s falling away from God as representing the same thing as an unfaithful spouse. Indeed, God commands Hosea the prophet to marry an unfaithful woman named Gomer, who ultimately cheats on him, so that the unfaithfulness of Israel can be demonstrated in vivid and devastating ways. Note the promise at the end of Hosea, however:
I will heal their apostasy;
I will freely love them,
for my anger will have turned from him.
5 I will be like the dew to Israel;
he will blossom like the lily
and take root like the cedars of Lebanon.
To apostatize, then, is to renounce or fall away from faith in the same sort of way as an unfaithful spouse breaks away from a marriage to be with another. Notice the RELATIONAL language employed. When people say, quite tritely, that Christianity is a relationship, not a religion, this is the sort of thing they are talking about.
Theologically speaking, Paul is pointing out here in this passage that Jesus will not return for His Second Coming until there is a significant ‘falling away’ or apostasy. Unfortunately, Paul gives us almost zero details as to this coming apostasy, and the word he uses there is used quite infrequently in the Bible. I think, however, that Matthew 24 gives us quite a bit of insight into what Paul is referring to, and I believe that the apostasy that Paul is referring to in 2 Thessalonians 2, is the ‘falling away’ that Jesus is referencing here:
“Tell us, when will these things happen? And what is the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” 4 Jesus replied to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and they will deceive many. 6 You are going to hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, because these things must take place, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these events are the beginning of labor pains. 9 “Then they will hand you over to be persecuted, and they will kill you. You will be hated by all nations because of my name. 10 Then many will fall away, betray one another, and hate one another. 11 Many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12 Because lawlessness will multiply, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 This good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Note here how lawlessness and falling away are connected together so tightly – this makes me even more certain that Paul’s Thessalonians reference is to Jesus’ Olivet discourse. Paul also seems to talk about this falling away/rebellion/apostasy in 1 Timothy 4, and probably 2nd Timothy 3 as well:
Now the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will depart from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons, 2 through the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared.
1 Timothy 4:1-2
I believe that the Bible is telling us something very important here, and I don’t believe most who teach on the end-times emphasize it enough: Before the return of Jesus happens, there will be a noticable, remarkable falling away by professing Christians. This happens all throughout church history (just as Jesus explained that it would in the Mark 4 parable of the sower), but this apostasy has been called the ‘Great’ apostasy, because it will be obvious that it is happening. Will all of the church fall away? Of course not! But many who profess only with their mouth will turn from Christ when it becomes less expedient (and perhaps more dangerous) to follow Him. I come from the Bible belt – millions of people identify as Christ followers, but know Him not. Before Jesus returns, a remarkable and heart-rending apostasy will happen, and a ‘Man of lawlessness’ will be revealed, perhaps even leading the charge in the apostasy. And then, at some point, the end will come.
In light of this information that a great apostasy is coming – how should we respond? What should we do? I am reminded of a handful of verses that serve as good encouragement here:
- 2 Thessalonians 2:15 So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.
- 1 Corinthians 16:13 Be alert, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong.
- Hebrews 12:1-3Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, 2 keeping our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.3 For consider him who endured such hostility from sinners against himself, so that you won’t grow weary and give up.
- And, as you hold on, remember that it is not the strength of your grip that will save you, but the strength of HIS grip: Isaiah 41:13 For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”
Bible Memory passage for the month of November: John 14:6 “Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
The Bible 2021 Podcast Is a ministry of Valley Baptist Church A Baptist Church in Salinas, California.
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