Jesus sat down with His disciples at the last supper and prepared them for His departure. He introduced them to the ministry of the Holy Spirit who would empower them and guide them into all truth. In fact there was much more truth that Jesus wanted to reveal to them but they were not ready yet. First, the Holy Spirit would come and bring the new birth and the baptism of the Holy Spirit to the disciples. This took place after Jesus’ ressurection and on the day of Pentecost. Then the Holy Spirit would reveal deeper truths. Those truths include what Christ has done for us from the Cross to the Throne! They also include details about the return of the Lord for His church.
The Lord chose the Apostle Paul to write much of the New Testament revelation where we discover who we are in Christ. Also and this is very important, the doctrine of Christ’s coming for the church was commissioned to Paul and is thoroughly explained in 1 & 2 Thessalonians. It is also referenced in all of Paul’s letters. The fruit of this doctrine is hope and comfort not confusion or anxiety. Jesus introduced the subject of His return at the last supper with His disciples saying, “if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, you may be also.” John 14:3 MEV
So lets take a look at what Paul referred to as the future departure of the church from the earth. Just as Jesus departed bodily from the earth at the completion of His ministry, so too the church will depart bodily from the earth at the completion of its ministry. This is one of the great mysteries of the New Testament.
Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, 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. 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 2:1-3
There are two specific and well-defined events that signal that the day of the Lord is rapidly approaching. First is the “falling away” meaning a departure. This text has been mistranslated and its meaning misinterpreted as a great number of believers falling away from the Lord. That is not taught by the Apostle Paul in the New Testament, he stated to Timothy that some will depart from the faith.
The earliest English Bibles translate this word as departure not apostasy. Earlier English translations before the King James translation render apostasia as a departure or departing. The word apostasy traditionally has been viewed in this text as a departure from the faith. But the context is clearer when interpreted as a “departure” not ‘departure from the faith.’ Departure and not apostasy or rebellion better fits the context when Paul explains the removal of the restrainer in 2 Thessalonians 2. The removal of the Holy Spirit’s ministry and the departure of the church coincide together because the Holy Spirit indwells the church.
The second specific event is the revealing of the anti-Christ which he explains can’t take place until “he” the restrainer is taken out of the way.
Now you know what restrains him that he might be revealed in his time.—2 Thessalonians 2:6 MEV
The “he” that restrains is the Holy Spirit who was poured out on the day of Pentecost which is a restraining force upon Satan’s kingdom. The Holy Spirit has been at work for 2000 years in convicting men’s hearts of their need for Jesus. Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as HE in John 14-16 and that He would be just like Himself.
The Anti-Christ can not appear until the church is departed because of the awesome authority and power He placed in the church. Revelation 4 & 5 is an account of the Apostle John’s vision of the redeemed worshiping at the throne of God. The redeemed then witnesses who would open the seals to judge the earth—it is the Lamb of God, Jesus! The first seal judgment is the release of the rider on a white horse to conquer which is none other than the anti-Christ to deceive the nations of the world. So the church has departed from the earth and is in heaven watching the judgments unfold.
The Apostle Paul also makes a clear distinction between the destiny of the world and the destiny of the church. Notice, the church who receives rest from persecution versus the world who receives judgment for not obeying the Gospel.
And God will provide rest for you who are being persecuted and also for us when the Lord Jesus appears from heaven. He will come with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, bringing judgment on those who don’t know God and on those who refuse to obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus. —Thessalonians 1:7-8 NLT
Again, the Apostle Paul compares the church who is set apart for salvation because of faith versus the world who is under delusion and condemnation because of unbelief. The future is very clear, its dark for the world but bright for the church.
As for us, we can’t help but thank God for you, dear brothers and sisters loved by the Lord. We are always thankful that God chose you to be among the first to experience salvation-a salvation that came through the Spirit who makes you holy and through your belief in the truth. He called you to salvation when we told you the Good News; now you can share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.—2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 NLT
The Apostle Paul closes with an admonition to stand fast and hold on to his teaching.
With all these things in mind, dear brothers and sisters, stand firm and keep a strong grip on the teaching we passed on to you both in person and by letter.—2 Thessalonians 2:15 NLT
Paul’s revelation of who the believer is IN CHRIST is the heart of the New Testament. Get a hold of all those wonderful IN CHRIST promises and know who you are in Christ so when it is time to depart you will be ready to meet the Lord face to face!