Question: Recently I heard a pastor use the phrase “falling away” (2 Thessalonians:2:3) to mean “departure” or “rapture.” This is the subject that Paul is addressing in 2 Thessalonians:2:1. The pastor stated that all of the following references in the New Testament use the word “departure” to mean “turn away or go in another direction” and not “rebellion or apostasy”: Luke:2:13; 8:13; 13:27; Acts:5:37, 38; 12:10; 15:38; 19:9; 21:21; 22:29; 2 Corinthians:12:8; 1 Timothy:4:1; 2 Timothy:2:19; Hebrews:3:12. So what departure do you think we find in 2 Thessalonians:2:3? J. Vernon McGee stated both views.
Response: I do not understand the distinction the pastor was attempting to make. Is not “to turn away or go in another direction” the same as “rebellion or apostasy”? With all due respect to this pastor and McGee, I don’t see why anyone would leave an opening for two opposing views. A falling away is something that people do, not something done to them. The Rapture is done to us, not something we do. We can depart from sound doctrine, but we cannot depart from this earth to heaven—Christ must catch us up. The word apostasia (translated “falling away” in 2 Thes:2:3), which means to defect, forsake, or depart from, could not mean the believer’s defection, forsaking, or departure from earth to heaven. Nor by any stretch of the imagination could apostasia mean the Rapture!