“Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition” (2 Thessalonians 2:3).
While there have been types of apostasies mentioned in the Bible, and experienced here in the Church in recent years, the apostasy mentioned in the above verse is speaking of something huge – on a worldwide level. It is speaking of the climactic state of affairs just prior to Christ’s second coming. This is important to understand because it clues us in to where we are historically and also because we have traditionally thought, at least some of us that the great apostasy was referring to what happened with WCG here in the last 20 years.
It is significant that the word “apostasia” in the Greek has the meaning of “rebellion” or a “defection”. We in the Church of God, or at least I have read into the verse… “falling away from the Truth” feeling that it was implied by the fact of the falling away. Yet, as Dr. Winnail has pointed out in a recent sermon, the verse does not say “from the Truth”, and in various translations it is rendered as something other than the falling away.
Moffatt: “It will not come till the Rebellion takes place first of all…”
NLT: “For that day will not come until there is a great rebellion against God…”
Cassirer: “For there is no possibility that that day should come until the final rebellion against God has taken place…”
RSV: “for that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first…”
ESV: “For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first…”
See the sermon: The Great Rebellion
See the article: The Great Rebellion Against God
The next question is whether this rightly aligns with the rest of Scripture. One thing that is important to understand is that the man of sin is, or actually appears to be, contemporaneous with the great rebellion, rather than coming afterward. According to the Glossary of Morhpo-Syntactic Database Terminology the word translated “and” between the two subjects in the verse in question (unless the falling away comes first “AND” the man of sin is revealed) [Strong’s G2532 kai] the word can be used as a conjunction or a logical connective which “may serve to logically continue a narrative … or to associate two items that, in context, are together the mutual focus of the clause” (Example: “Aquila and Priscilla taught Apollos”).
Again, does the Bible show plainly that there will be a worldwide rebellion against God, above and beyond man’s normal carnal state, which signifies the end of the age? In Revelation chapter thirteen verses two through eight we find that Satan gives the beast his power; the whole world follows the beast and worships Satan; the beast blasphemes God and makes war against God’s elect; the beast is given authority over all nations and people; and all nations and people worship the beast. If that isn’t a worldwide rebellion, I don’t know what is. And to stress the point even further, when Christ returns, the rest of mankind who would not repent of their demon worship, murders, sorceries, sexual immorality and thefts, which also includes the Eastern hordes who come to make war against the beast (Revelation 9:16-21), will ally themselves with the beast at the very end to fight Christ (Revelation 19:19-21).
In the following verses in Revelation chapter thirteen we find a religious figure involved in this worldwide rebellion (Revelation 13:11-18), the previous “beast” being a political figure. This beast, which looks like a lamb, like Christ, has the mouth of the dragon, i.e. Satan; he speaks lies, slander, malicious words, etc…. He deceives the people by lying signs and wonders, causing them to worship the first beast and to receive a mark. (See: The Beast of Revelation: Myth, Metaphor or Soon-Coming Reality?)
These verses show clearly that the end-time rebellion against God is tied directly to religion.
Another point: in Revelation 13:14 I have several resources that indicate that God is talking about His people; the NU Greek Texts omit this information, as does the Received Text. The Majority Text brings this information out about this verse. I personally have a greater confidence that the Received Text is most accurate one, which then brings up the problem of figuring out whether the Majority Text is right on this point. (If you don’t have a clear understanding as to what the differences are between the Greek Texts used to formulate the various English translations of the New Testament, this book is a good place to start.) Christ indicates that only the very elect, i.e. those chosen to become firstfruits, will not be deceived (Matthew 24:24). This indicates that much of the Laodicean era of the Church will be deceived. For we find that many of those of the Laodicean era are “blind” to their own spiritual state, due to self-satisfaction (Revelation 3:17-18). If we are blind, we are incapable of comprehending reality, and if we cannot see reality we are deceived because by default we are looking at and believing something that is not real. As Christ says, we need His product so we are not poor, naked and blind (Revelation 3:18). Yet, does this mean that God’s people will be deceived by this main end-time false prophet? It is truly hard to believe that anyone knowing God’s Truth would be deceived by this individual, although we can certainly easily be self-deceived about our own spiritual state and relationship to God (1 Corinthians 10:12). Yet, if Christ demonstrates that out of all those who know His Truth only the very elect will not be deceived, then many of those who know the Truth WILL be deceived. Perhaps the self-deception of “having it made” can lead to the deception brought on by the end-time main false prophet? Perhaps it will be because of spiritual intoxication (Revelation 17:2) brought about by compromise and self-will? Perhaps due to failing at watching end-time events as Christ commanded us? Perhaps because we’re not keeping oil in our lamps and vessels, and we’re also not cleaving to God as our very life?
Whatever the reasons, I pray that none of us fall into this category. And it behooves all of us to draw closer to God than we ever have before!
Other suggested reading: Fourteen Signs Announcing Christ’s Return & Who or What Is the Antichrist?