Q. On one hand I read where the meaning of the word “apostasia” has to do with people in the church “falling away” from the faith. On the other hand, I read where the same word means more of a “departure” from this earth as in “The Rapture.” The second argument seems very convincing and yet, in Revelation we read about how small and weak the Church of Philadelphia is in comparison to the “Luke warm” church of Laodicea. Which is it? What does apostasia really mean?
A. The watershed event that prompted the change in the accepted meaning of the Greek word apostasia in 2 Thes. 2:3 was the publication of the King James Bible in 1611 where it’s translated falling away. Prior to that it was almost always translated departure. There is still disagreement among scholars as the to word’s proper meaning and even its etymology (origin). Some, like E.W.Bullinger, say it’s a compound of apo and stasia and means a separation away from. Others, like the Strong’s Concordance, say it’s the feminine form of apostasion, which means divorce, both of which are derived from aphistemi which is most often translated depart. The question that to me remains unanswered is whether it refers to a physical departure, such as the rapture would be, or whether its an intellectual or spiritual departure, such as our understanding of apostasy would indicate.
But to me it’s all semantics. Whether you think the word points to the rapture or a falling away from the gospel doesn’t change the fact that 2 Thes. 2 teaches a pre-trib rapture. In fact the stated purpose of the letter, which was to refute a forgery, requires that Paul had previously taught the believers in Thessalonica that the rapture would precede the end time judgments. You can read my study on 2 Thessalonians for more detail.