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Falling Away - 2 Thessalonians 2:3


2 Thessalonians 2:3 in the KJV reads, "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 same verse in the NIV reads, "don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed…"  Scholars have debated this verse for centuries.  I won't end that debate.  However, I would like to throw my two cents worth into the confusion.  


Most people understand the words "that day" to refer to the day when Jesus returns to earth.  The "man of sin" (KJV) or the "man of lawlessness" (NIV) is normally seen as the anti-christ.  The words "falling away" (KJV) and the word "rebellion" (NIV) refer to the same event.


If you read 2 Thessalonians 2:3 in both the KJV and the NIV you'll notice one major difference.  The word "first" appears in the KJV but doesn't in the NIV.  In my thinking, the KJV states that the falling away will come "first".  After that the lawless man appears on the world scene.  The NIV in my thinking suggests that the rebellion and the appearing of the lawless man happens at the same time because the NIV does not include the word "first" in its text.   


Should the word "first" be in the text or not?  Notice how my Greek interlinear New Testament translates 2 Thessalonians 2:3.  Remember, in an interlinear translation, the English word appears directly beneath the corresponding Greek word.  Since Greek sentence structure differs from English sentence structure, the English translation is disjointed.  The verse reads, "not anyone you may deceive by no way because unless occurs the apostasy firstly and is revealed the man the lawlessness…"  Did you notice the word "firstly"?  According to the text I have, the word "firstly" does occur  in the Greek text. That tells me the "falling away", or the "rebellion", occurs before the lawless man appears on the scene because it comes "first".  The anti-christ does not lead the falling away spoken of in this verse.  He may lead a rebellion, but not this particular one.  So if I'm right, and that may be a "big if", the anti-christ comes after the "falling away".


The next logical question to ask is, "what is the "falling away?"  Concerning the words "falling away", my Greek interlinear transliterates the Greek word "apostasia" into the English word "apostasy".  "Apostasia" means a defection, or a falling away from something.  In this case, the defection is a departure from the truth of the gospel of Jesus.  This Greek word is also used in Acts 21:21 where Paul is accused of "turning away" (apostasia) the Jews from the Law of Moses. 


I presently believe that Paul predicts a defection from Biblical faith and practice before the appearance of the anti-christ.  I suggest this defection might be taking place right now.  Defections aren't new in the Christian church, but the present defection is severely impacting society as well as the church.  Even in Evangelical circles people are defecting to "another gospel", as Paul puts it in Galatians 1:8.  The Emergent Church with its emphasis on unity among world  religions is one such example.  The so-called gay evangelical church is another example.  Excessive spiritualism influenced by New Age thinking is another example.  I could go on.


The defection from Biblical truth in the church has weakened the church's influence in society.  The western world has been greatly influenced by the gospel of Jesus since the time of the Reformation.  That has now changed.  Western society has been moving away from a Christian consensus for years, but even more so in the last ten years.  Christian thinking is now obsolete in the minds of many.   


The United States in times past has been a leader in exporting the gospel throughout the world.  At this time, the United States needs the gospel imported back to her.  The U.S has strayed so far from her Judeo/Christian roots that many Americans no longer know they have such roots.  Lest you think I'm picking on Americans, all other western nations are doing the same.  Some are farther along the path to a non-Christian consensus than the U.S..  I center out the U. S. because she has been the leader in bringing a Christian consensus to the world in until recently.  She is now becoming the leader in influencing the world with a non-Christian consensus.    


It's only common sense that this present defection from Biblical truth in the church, the state, and society makes it easier for the anti-christ to appear on the world scene.  If there was still a strong Christian consensus, there would be too much opposition to him.  Once the Christian consensus weakens sufficiently, or "falls away", he can arrive on the scene with little opposition.  That's why the "falling away" comes "first".


This reminds me of Romans 1:28 that reads, "since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, He gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done."  That sure sounds like our western world today.  The Greek word "adokimos" translated as "depraved" means, "to be regarded as useless, not being able to pass the test, thus is discarded."   Paul uses this term in regards to people who do not retain the knowledge of God, and that's not some "generic or all purpose god" that is being promoted these days.  It's the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He will turn such godless people and nations over to their own depraved stupidity, ending in God's final judgment.  


The day of testing is near for us all.  May each one of us who have retained the knowledge of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus stand with Him and Biblical truth, no matter the cost.  May we never be found as "depraved defectors". 


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