Apostasia: The Greek noun Apostasy is found twice in the New Testament. Once in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 and once in Acts 21:21. The verb rendition of apostasy is used fifteen times in the New Testament. Of these fifteen, only three have anything to do with a departure from the faith (Luke 8:13; 1 Tim. 4:1; Heb. 3:12). For example, 1 Timothy 4:1-2 tells us; “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their conscience seared with a hot iron.” This does not show a mass exodus from the Church but a corruptions within the church. Here, the departing from the faith is a defection from moral conviction, of truth itself and the reliance upon Christ for salvation. Those described here remain within the structure of the Church and are the apostates. There are three components given here by which we can identify apostates. They adhere to seducing spirits, they apply themselves to doctrines of devils, and they speak lies in hypocrisy, i.e. they are acting under a feigned faith of deceit.
In the two contexts where the noun is used the meaning is incontrovertibly a religious defection, a departure from what is considered to be orthodox. The Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionary describes the apostasy as a “defection from truth.” In Acts 21:21, Paul’s gospel doctrine was misconstrued as a rival to Moses’ ordinance requiring circumcision. In this context “Apostisia” is generalized while in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 the context demands it to be a discernible event as it is spoken of as “the apostasy.” Most Authors and Theologians agree “the apostasy” depicts those who profess to be believers, yet are not genuine in their faith. As mere professors, they succumb to the deception of the Antichrist. If those who are truly Christ’s and through the Holy Spirit have become members of His Body (1 Cor. 12:13) could be detached, then the assurances Jesus gave that His own will not perish would be made null and void (John 10:28-29).1
Is the term “what is restraining” in 2 Thessalonians 2:6 referring to the Apostasy? In grammatical terms, “what is restraining” the Man of Sin is neuter, referring to an impersonal force, while “He who now restrains” (vs.7) is masculine, suggesting a personal figure. There are two different forms of restraining here.
When Paul said; “Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things?,” almost all, without exception say we cannot know what Paul meant by “these things.” Somehow, its meaning is obscured because Paul is referring to a previous visit to Thessalonica where he taught them what is otherwise absent from this context. I believe the answer is within this context. In fact, what Paul is teaching here is building on what he had already taught the Thessalonians. When Paul says, “these things,” he is referring to what he had just told them in the previous verses, i.e. “that Day will not come unless, 1. the apostasy comes first, and 2. the man of sin is revealed.” The Advent (parousia) of Christ is contingent upon both coming to fruition. The Greek word for “these things” is tauta and is interchangeable with the word “same” as is the case in 1 Cor. 9:8; “Say I “these things (tauta)” as a man? or saith not the law the “same (tauta)” also.” Here Paul is simply telling the Thessalonians “Remember that when I was still with you I told you the same.” What is contained in the context is what must precede the coming of Christ, i.e. the Apostasy, and the revealing of Antichrist. The imperfect tense of the verb legw (“to speak, told”) suggests that this was not something Paul has only touched on but elaborated on in detail while he was in Thessalonica.
However, the “what is restraining” in verse six is something the Thessalonians now know and is directly connected to the apostasy. In other words, “the Apostasy” is a form of restraint as it must come “first” (vs.3). Thayer’s Greek Definitions articulates that “first” is speaking of “first in time or place, in any succession of things or persons. This word “first” in the Greek is prōton, it is the neuter of the adjective prōtos and is used here as an adverb signifying first in time. Adjectives modify nouns or pronouns while adverbs modify verbs. Adjectives provide answers to “what kind, “which one,” while adverbs answer “when” and “where.” In this case it is first or before the revealing of Antichrist. Matthew Henry’s Commentary asserts the apostasy gives occasion to the revelation or rise of the man of sin.2 This then means the apostasy is the incidental cause, or inducement of the revealing of Antichrist.
Further evidence is given in the use of the Greek copulative conjunction “and” (the apostasy comes first and the man of sin is revealed).” As a continuative in respect to time it narrates something as being done immediately or soon after that which the preceding context narrates. In this case the apostasy precedes the revealing of Antichrist. Essentially the apostasy then would be in the front, or before the son of perdition is revealed. It’s restraint however is with the intent of fulfillment. The Antichrist cannot be revealed without the presence of the Apostasy. Both the Apostasy and the Revelation of Antichrist are linked together as one event leading into another. “The Apostasy” is simply the provision for the revealing of Antichrist’s true nature and identity.
The grammatical difficulty of the gender change of the participle is very easily accounted for. There is actually a very simple and logical reason that Paul first utilizes the neuter participle in verse 6 (what is restraining) and then changes its gender to masculine in verse 7 (He who now restrains).
A.T. Robertson explains that an idiomatic use of the neuter singular may appear when an abstract expression is used to sum up a whole mass of ideas or expressions.3 The “whole mass” in our text is “the apostasy and the revelation of the lawless one.” Paul utilizes the idiomatic neuter singular participle, katecon, (restraining), (the “abstract expression” ) in place of these two events.
vs. 6 – και νυν το (neuter) κατεχον (abstract expression; restraining) οιδατε εις το αποκαλυφθηναι αυτον εν τω εαυτου καιρω
vs.7 – το γαρ μυστηριον ηδη ενεργειται της ανομιας μονον ο (masculine) κατεχων (restrainer) αρτι εως εκ μεσου γενηται
Daniel used similar language in chapter 8:23;
“And in the latter time of their kingdom. When the transgressors have reached their fullness, a king shall arise, having fierce features, who understands sinister schemes.”
The Hebrew word for “transgressors” is ‘pasha’ and is a primitive root (rather identical with the Hebrew word ‘pasa’ through the idea of expansion); to break away (from just authority), that is, apostatize. Daniel not only identifies “the apostasy” in connection to the rise of the Antichrist, but uses language showing its expansion and growth until it is fulfilled. As just noted, ‘pasa’ means to stride (from spreading the legs), that is, to rush upon.4 The Apostasy will grow or “rush upon” prior to and up to the middle of Daniel’s 70th week. In a sense, it is the apostasy which ushers the Antichrist into position. If the right sense makes sense, you have the right sense. “The Apostasy” cannot come after, but before the Abomination of Desolation and revealing of Antichrist.
Further evidence is given when we consider Daniel 8:24;
“His power shall be mighty, but not by his own power, he shall destroy fearfully, and shall prosper and thrive; He shall destroy the mighty, and also the holy people.”
Jewish history shows in Antiochus Epiphanes a fiercely ungodly monarch who desecrated the temple at Jerusalem around 167 B.C. The Book of 1 Maccabees, an intertestamental historical account, tells the story.
And there came out of them a wicked root, Antiochus surnamed Epiphanes, son of Antiochus the king…In those days went there out of Israel wicked men, who persuaded many, saying, “Let us go and make a covenant with the heathen that are around about us: for since we departed from them we have had much sorrow.” (1 Macc. 1:10a-11)
Robert Van Kampen in his book “The Sign” notes Israel’s demise to be the result of the apostate condition of the Nation of Israel.
In ancient Israel, long after the end of her own monarchies and after most of the exiles had returned to the Promise Land, God’s chosen nation, the natural line of Abraham persisted in ever-increasing apostasy. Because of their blatant disbelief and disobedience, the Lord not only allowed His nation to be conquered and persecuted by an exceedingly cruel pagan oppressor named Antiochus Epiphanes, the Greek king of Syria, but He even permitted His own holy temple in Jerusalem to be profaned.5
Most commentators attribute the “little horn” of Daniel 7 as a reference to the Antichrist, and the “little horn” in Daniel 8 as a reference to Antiochus, they teach both carry a near/far prophetic application to the future Antichrist.
However, Antiochus is never specifically referred to in Daniel but can be viewed as a shadow type of the Antichrist Daniel is referring to because of similarities between he and the Antichrist. Problems exist in the fact that Antiochus never fulfilled most of what is contained in Daniel’s visions, here are some which may clear up any confusion and misrepresentation that Antiochus is in view of Daniels visions.
· No less than seven times the phrase “the time of the end,” or “the appointed time the end shall be,” is used in the Book of Daniel (Daniel 8:17,19; 11:35,40; 12:4,9,13). This indicates a certain point reached in time and speaks of the finish or demise of the human race at the end of the age, or consummation of the age. Daniel’s vision is intended for the time which would immediately precede the Coming of Jesus Christ, a time when the saints would be tested and a time of calamity in which the wicked would be punished. The Antichrist is ultimately referred to here and is the end of the prophetic horizon.
· That God commanded Daniel too “…shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end…” (Dan. 12:4) demonstrates the book of Daniel will not have any relevance until later in history. Daniel’s visions refers to a distant time and was obscure for the immediate future. The time of the end begins with the infringement upon the world by “the prince that shall come,” (Dan. 9:26-27), the “little horn” (Dan. 7:8; 8:9), who presents himself as God.
· Jesus referenced the Book of Daniel when teaching his disciples of the “End of the Age” (Matt. 24:3) detailing events surrounding the Abomination of Desolation, the Great Tribulation, His Coming to rapture His Elect Church, and the Day of the Lord. Events viewed by Jesus as yet future! This then makes Antiochus an invalid contender of Daniel’s prophecy but confirms Antichrist is in view.
· Both Daniel chapters seven and eight introduces the “little horn” in the same manner. He will speak pompous words, make war with and waste the saints giving further proof that Daniel chapter eight has Antichrist in view as opposed to Antiochus Epiphanes. Because the little horn of Daniel 7 and 8 are identified by key characteristics of the Antichrist, it is only reasonable to conclude both chapters refer to the future Beast. You cannot interpret Daniel 8:9 as referring to Antiochus unless you also interpret Daniel 7:8 as Antiochus.
· Antiochus never fulfilled specific prophecies spoken of by Daniel in Chapters 7 & 8. He never rose up as a small ruler amongst ten other kings, nor did he overthrow three kings of the ten king confederation to ultimately rule over ten kings.
· Antiochus never made Messianic claims, it is the Antichrist who exalts himself as high as the Prince of the host (Dan. 8:25). Consistently we are told in scripture that Antichrist will exalt himself as high as God and trample down the sanctuary.
Clearing up the issue of Antiochus and viewing Daniel 8:23 & 24 together one can recognize the same sequence of events Paul taught the Thessalonians. First would come the apostasy, then the Abomination of Desolation when the little horn (realized in “Antichrist”) is revealed and begins his war against the holy people (God’s elect). The explanation of Daniel’s vision begins in verses 19-22, but at verses 23-25 we see beyond Antiochus Epiphanes to a king with fierce features who will ruthlessly persecute God’s Elect in the Great Tribulation, just after the middle of Daniel’s 70th week.
Verse 24 tells us “His power shall be mighty, but not by his own power.” The Antichrist shall act by the power of Satan, who shall be permitted to work through him in unrestricted license, hence the ten kingdoms shall give the beast their power (2 Thess. 2:9-10; Rev. 17:13).
What comes next is the “he who now restrains” (2 Thess. 2:7). Within the Prewrath Rapture supporters of which I am a part, “he who now restrains” is identified as Michael the archangel who’s restraining ministry is against the Antichrist’s revelation. Alan Kurschner in his book “Antichrist: Before the day of the Lord” provides an outline of six arguments which supports this view.
1. In contemporary Jewish literature, the characteristics used to describe Michal establish him as having eschatological preeminence as the chief opponent of Satan and restrainer of God’s people.
2. Michael is viewed as a celestial restrainer of God’s people in Daniel 10-12, the larger passage that serves as the source for Paul’s exposition in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-8.
3. Daniel’s use of the Hebrew verb ‘md‘ (âmad; parentheses mine) in Daniel 12:1 comports with the ceasing activity of the restrainer in 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7.
4. The Greek term parerchomia in Daniel 12:1 of the Septuagint (LXX) means “to pass by”, which shows that ancient Jewish interpretations of this text viewed Michal ceasing his restraint at this eschatological event. Instructing on the restrainer in 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7, Paul is most likely drawing from Daniel’s text.
5. Early Rabbinic interpretation of Daniel 12:1 conveyed Michael as “passing aside” or “withdrawing” in relation to the Antichrist’s establishment near or at the Temple Mount (Dan. 11:45) and just before the unequaled, eschatological tribulation against God’s people (Dan. 21:1).5
6. Revelation 12:7-17 supports viewing Michael as the restrainer because it links Michael’s heavenly war against the dragon with the eschatological persecution of God’s people (cf. 2 Thess. 2:6-7; Dan. 11:45-12:1).6
Presently, Michael’s restraining Ministry keeps the Antichrist’s revelation under wraps until the ripe eschatological moment. Taking both 2 Thessalonians 2:3-6 and Daniel 8:23 together, Michael will not cease his restraining until the apostasy has reached its full, that is, is completed (See Daniel 8:23; full, tâmam). A balloon must first be inflated before it can be popped.
Interesting is the use of the Hebrew word āmaḏ translated “shall stand up” (Dan. 8:23; c.f. Daniel 12:1). Depending on the context this word can have two completely different applications. “Shall stand up,” can mean to rise up and take one’s stand,” or “to remain motionless.” As noted in Alan Kurschner’s six point argument Daniel 12:1 comports with the ceasing activity of the restrainer in 2 Thessalonians 2:7. Here In Daniel 8:23 it is has a causative use and is used of causing a person to do something. The Antichrist will stand up and present himself “as God, showing himself that he is God” (2 Thess. 2:4). At the middle of Daniel’s 70th week, Michael will cease his restraining ministry where the antichrist will then stands up and then persist to persecute God’s holy people (God’s elect) unrestrained.
The timing of “The Apostasy” then occurs prior to the Abomination of Desolation. It’s duration must be no less than 3 1/2 years if not longer. It is my consensus the apostasy will be much longer as the professing church moves gradually away from truth, we will discuss this in a later chapter. Upon the revealing of the Antichrist, the true bond servants of Christ who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus (Rev. 1:2; 6:9; 12:11; 12:17; 14:12) will recognize him and be persecuted for their faith in Jesus. The apostate church, which we will discuss in a later chapter will be offended, hate and betray true believers, delivering them over to persecution. The issue with lawlessness, the love of many growing cold, false Christs, false prophets (cf. Matthew 24) and “The Apostasy” (2 Thess 2:3) cannot be observed from a world view but is contained within the structure of Christendom. The formation of “The Apostasy” will come from within the church structure and come to fruition within it.
The crescendo of “The Apostasy” is seen in the Strong delusion God will send those who parish because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved (2 Thess. 2:10-11). What is clear here is that the coming of Antichrist will be accompanied by “all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception (2 Thess. 2:9-10). When you understand that this is among those who profess Christ within the confines of the Church, by the time Antichrist is revealed, they will in no uncertain terms, be reprobate. The end game is true believers will be faced with betrayal, hatred, and the greatest persecution the world has ever seen.
1. The Complete Word Study Dictionary; Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible
2. Matthew Henry’s Commentary; p. 1884
3. (A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research, Nashville: Broadman, 1934, p.409.)
4. Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries H6586, H6585
5. The Sign; Robert Van Kampen, Crossway books; p. 146
6. Antichrist Before The Day of the Lord; Alan Kurschner; Eschatos Publishing, 2013 p. 38,39