1 Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you,
2 not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come.
3 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,
4 who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.
shaken in mind (v.2) = excited, violently disturbed. It also has the sense of “to move away from,” like a ship that slips away from its moorings in a storm.
Having at once quieted their hearts as to their present sufferings, the Apostle now proceeds to prove to them that “the Day of the Lord” with its terrors and judgments had not then set in. He had told them in [1 Thessalonians 5:4] that they should be raptured to Heaven prior to those judgments, and that when the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to execute them they would appear with him (1 Thessalonians 3:13; Colossians 3:4). So they were shaken in mind and troubled; for if the Day of the Lord had set in, the Apostle’s teaching about the hope of the Rapture was false, and if he erred on so important a matter, what security had they that his gospel was infallible? — Williams, page 949.
concerning (v.1) = in the interests of—to correct their thoughts about
The appearance of the article “the” (v.1) before “coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is not repeated before “our gathering together to Him” indicates that these are two aspects of the same event.
so soon (v.2) — Paul was telling them not to be swayed by first impressions but to think things through.
shaken in mind (v.2) — controlled by emotion, given to anxiety
by spirit (v.2) — those who claim to have spiritual gifts and insight. Their claims need to be carefully scrutinized
by word (v.2) — by reasoning, by statement, or by supposed word-of-mouth messages from Paul
or by epistle (v.2) — a written message, pretending to be from Paul. See 2 Thessalonians 3:17 where Paul explains how they can know.
from us (v.2) = through, by means of. Paul did not claim to be a source of knowledge in himself; he was merely a channel through which God revealed His mind to men. — Vine, page 115.
day of Christ (v.2) — same as the “day of the Lord”
Even though the Tribulation was only found in Jewish Scriptures, the Thessalonians knew how bad it would be, for they hung around the synagogue even before they were saved (Acts 17:1-4). So they knew “perfectly” how bad it will be (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2), knowing verses like Deuteronomy 28:65-67; Luke 21:26; etc. No wonder they were troubled!
Words and phrases have different meanings. The “coming” of the Lord (v.2) can refer to the Rapture, as it does here, or to the Second Coming (Matthew 24:27-29). Matthew 24 can’t be the rapture, for it speaks of the gathering of the eagles” for Armageddon (Revelation 19:17-19). The “gathering” of Matthew 24:31 can’t be the “gathering” of our text for there the Lord sends angels to gather the elect in Israel, while “the Lord Himself” comes for us (1 Thessalonians 4:16). — Kurth.
[Some commentators, when referring to “the falling away” (v.3), think Paul was referring to people turning away from God.]
[But] our English word apostasy, is not an exact equivalent of the Greek apostasia. The English word apostasy means rebellion, or revolt, against a faith once embraced, but the Greek apostasia means departure, nothing more. …
The fatal mistake the translators made was in failing to take into consideration the definite article before the word apostasia. The article here denotes previous reference, for this wording clearly implies that they already knew about it. The meaning of Paul’s words in v.3, then, is that before the Tribulation can come, the “man of sin” must be revealed, and before this can happen “the departure” must come “first.”
No “falling away” or “apostasy” had been previously mentioned in either epistle, but in the whole of 1 Thessalonians and also of 2 Thessalonians up to this point, the Apostle’s very theme had been the rapture of the members of the Body of Christ. Thus here in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 he must be referring to “the departure” of the Church to be with Christ. This falls naturally into place with the whole context, for why should Paul exhort these believers not to be “shaken” or “troubled,” merely because the apostasy must precede the Tribulation? This would be no comfort. Further, how could they recognize “the” apostasy, much less “a” falling away when it came? The fact is that apostasy is raging now, in our day; it has been throughout the Church’s history. Indeed, it began in the days of Paul himself, and he wrote to Timothy, instructing him what to do about it. Thus “a falling away” could be no definite guide-post to the Thessalonian believers. But if, as we have contended, the beginning of the Tribulation awaits the rapture of the members of the Body of Christ, then the very fact that the Thessalonian saints were still on earth was in itself positive proof that the day of the Lord had not yet come. — Stam, pages 121, 123-124.
1) The word apostasia and its root verb aphisteemi, do not, used by themselves, mean “apostasy” and “apostatize.” They mean “departure” and “depart,” nothing more.
2) 2 Thessalonians 2:3 states in the Greek, that the day of the Lord will not come “except the departure come first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.”
3) The term “the departure,” with the definite article, denotes previous reference.
4) Paul had written to the Thessalonians in his previous letter about the departure of the members of Christ’s Body from this earth (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) and had even disassociated this from the prophesied “day of the Lord” with the use of the word, “But” in 1 Thessalonians 5:1. He had also referred to this “departure” in the phrase “our gathering together unto Him,” in 2 Thessalonians 2:1. Indeed, this was the basis for his appeal to the Thessalonians not to be “shaken” or “troubled” by those who would lead them to believe that “the day of the Lord” had already begun. Also, he had “told” them about “these things” while he was yet with them (2 Thessalonians 2:5).
5) “The man of sin” must also be manifested before the “day of the Lord” can come, first as a great leader (Revelation 6:2) and then in all his blasphemy and wickedness (2 Thessalonians 2:8), and he cannot be manifested until “the departure” takes place “first.”
6) Thus, in addition to the many clear proofs that the rapture of the Body will precede the Tribulation we also have a passage which “explicitly affirms” this. — Stam, page 125
Kurth has a different view:
[Paul] revealed “a falling away” had to come before the day of the Lord. Many good pastors say this is the Rapture, arguing that the Greek word just means departure. But the Greek word is apostasia, from which we get apostasy, a departure from the truth. The only other place the Greek word is used bears this out (Acts 21:21). That’s the meaning here as well. … There is no need for Paul to introduce the Rapture at this point in his argument. He already begged them on the basis of the Rapture not to let anyone deceive them, knowing it must come before the day of the Lord. He’s already made that argument, now he is arguing that something else must come first, an apostasy. But there are two comings, one before the Rapture (1 Timothy 4:1) and one after. Since this passage started by talking about the Rapture, this is speaking about an apostasy that will come after the Rapture. — Kurth.
I find Stam’s argument, that the “falling away” means “departure” and is referring to the Rapture much more compelling both on the strength of his argument, and for a clearer, more logical reading of the text. In a section I haven’t included, Stam shows how the verb for of the Greek word is frequently used in Scripture to simply mean “departure.”
man of sin (v.3) — … A man over whom sin will have absolute dominion, the willing and efficient instrument of sin. A various reading is “man of lawlessness”; for this there is considerable manuscript authority, it agrees, moreover, with the words of vs. 7-8. … Here, perhaps the word includes the idea of contempt of [divine] law. If Antichrist denies the existence of the lawgiver he is not likely to respect His laws. — Vine, page 116.
son of perdition (v.3) — If “man of lawlessness” refers to character, then “son of perdition” refers to the proper destiny of such a one, who like Judas, must “go to his on place” (Acts 1:25). … [Perdition] is a general term for disaster, material and spiritual, temporal and eternal. — Vine, page 116.
Only one other person in Scripture is called “the son of perdition. … Judas Iscariot (John 17:12). … This has led some to conclude that “the son of perdition” of 2 Thessalonians 2:3 and Judas Iscariot are one and the same, both being Satan incarnate. They believe that Judas will be brought back to earth to fulfill his role as our Lord’s traitor. While this may be so, the Scriptures do not exactly say so, thus we merely point out what the Scriptures do reveal. — Stam, pages 128-129.
“Man of sin” is Antichrist in the first half of the 70th week [of Daniel], but when he dies and rises (Revelation 13:1-3) he becomes “the son of perdition.” He’ll be reanimated by Judas, the son of perdition (John 17:12) when he who was on the earth before that time, “was not” at that time, but who will rise out of the pit of hell (Revelation 17:8). … Elijah’s coming back (Malachi 4:5), why not Judas? Psalm 55:12-14 describes Judas, 55:20:21 describes Antichrist, because he dies and rises in between (v.15). — Kurth