The Great Apostasy
Revelation 12:4-- So we see that the dragon of verse 3 drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth.
The context of Revelation chapter 12
Revelation 12:1 "And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars."
It says "There appeared a great wonder in heaven". And this doesn't follow chronologically on from chapter 11 and verse 19 because of the time keys that follow. At the time that this great wonder appears in heaven, the great dragon has power on the earth, and he's being cast out of heaven, verses 3 & 9. And the context of the chapter tells us that we will be in some form of world government before the Rapture, 12:3,5. And in verse 6, the woman is persecuted for 1260 days-- 3 ½ year Tribulation period-- Its called time, times, and half a time-- 3 ½ times or years, verse 14. Chapter 13:5 says there was given to him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies. The Antichrist is that mouth. In the beast system, he is the mouth. And power was given to him to continue forty and two months. So the earlier verses in chapter 12, verses 1-5, refer to a time just prior to that 42 month Tribulation.
Revelation chapter 12:1-5 accurately, convincingly, and precisely describes the events preceding the great Tribulation
* We see the woman in 12:1, who is the visible Christian church.
* We see the dragon-- Satan's system and spirit desiring to devour that child that is within the woman.
* The birth of the manchild company-- that overcoming mature manchild who will rule the world with Christ.
* We see the Rapture of this mature body being caught up to heaven.
* We see war in heaven as a result of that Rapture, and in this war, Satan's forces are defeated by the forces of God as the manchild is Raptured up unto the throne of God.
* Then verses 6-17 we see Satan who is now defeated cast out of heaven into the earth and comes down having great wrath persecuting those who were not Raptured (those saints who were not Raptured; the woman and her remaining children-- they're the martyrs of the Tribulation seen in chapter 6, and in chapter 11 in a different view).
The manchild's birth described in chapter 12 actually precedes the opening of the 1st seal of the mortgage scroll in chapter 6.
So John says there appeared a great wonder in heaven. Now this great wonder is more than a wonder like a miracle or something fantastic. It's actually more specific than that, it's a great sign. It's literally a great sign. There appeared a great sign in the heavens. And a sign tips you off that this thing is not what it appears to be on the surface, but that it points to something else. A sign represents a greater reality. A sign points you to the real thing. And so you might say this is a symbol. And therefore because it's a sign, we know that John is seeing a vision and its a symbolic vision. But that doesn't take away from the truth of it. It points to a great truth that we're going to see.
Now although he saw this sign in heaven, actually what happens concerning this chapter is taking place on earth. For instance, this woman down in verses 5 and 6, after she brings forth the manchild, is on earth and she stays on earth, and the manchild is caught up into heaven. So she's on earth, although he saw the sign taking place in heaven.
And also down in verse 9, Satan is cast out into the earth, and in verse 13, when he was cast into the earth, he persecuted the woman who brought forth the manchild. So the woman is on earth. And in verse 3, it says there appeared another wonder in heaven; a great red dragon. So the other sign that he sees in heaven, the great red dragon, is also on earth. The reason that these things are spoken of in heaven, I think, is because we're talking about a conflict in the heavenly places. The saints are seated in heavenly places. The dragon, Satan, is accusing us before God in heaven. It says later in this chapter that he accused the saints before the throne of God day and night. And he is not just trying to devour their souls, he's trying to take them out of heaven. He's trying to make it so they don't have any place in heaven anymore. And this is a spiritual conflict as we're going to see, as well as an earthly persecution. And although those saints are on earth, there's a battle in heaven. So Satan's first choice is not just to kill all the saints, his first choice is to cause them all to backslide and lose their souls. But if he can't do that, then he'll settle for taking their lives. So there's a heavenly aspect to the tension we see in this picture here. And also in verse 16, we see the earth helped the woman. It says, "And the earth opened up her mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth." Now remember that verses 1-5 are taking place before the Rapture (12:5).
So the great sign that he sees is the woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered, and in verse 5, she brings forth a manchild.
Who is this woman?
Some think the woman is Mary brining forth Christ
The woman, I believe, is the church, the true church of Jesus Christ in the end of time. That is, those that are really His. Those that have the righteousness of Christ. Those that are truly born from above, are encompassed in the picture of this woman. Now some would say that it's Mary. But I'm going to list a few proofs why this woman could not possibly be Mary bringing forth the baby, Christ.
1.) The book is a book of prophecy. The whole book is a prophecy, right from the beginning, chapter 1:3. And the book is summed up as a prophecy in chapter 22:18,19. So start and finish the whole book is wrapped up under the heading of a prophecy. It was written in 96 A.D., approximately, and that's long after Christ was born. So it's not prophesying of the birth of Christ-- the birth of Christ is already long past. Christ is already caught up to heaven before this book is even written.
2.) At the time that this book was written as prophecy, Mary had already brought forth Christ. Now that's pretty much the same point, but it shows the woman bringing forth the manchild and that had already happened, if this is Mary.
3.) The dragon who stands before the woman has 7 heads. And 7 heads points us down to the time of the last day world government. Mary lived under the 6th head. Mary did not bring forth Christ in the time of the 7th head. The reason I say that is because of chapter 17:10. So 5 world kingdoms are already fallen when John wrote this book. One is, and that's the 6th one, Rome, and the other is not yet come, and when he comes, he must continue a short space, and that's the end time Antichrist government. So we're talking about the end times. This has to be a birth that happens in the end of time.
4.) Another problem with making this Mary is that Mary did not flee into the wilderness for 1260 days after Christ was caught up. But verse 6 says the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and three score days. And there's no record of Mary doing anything of the kind after Christ was caught up. The only things we know about Mary after Christ was caught up is she became, so to speak, the foster mother of John the apostle. That is, John took care of her. And she was there at the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was given. There's no record of her fleeing out into Arabia or the Sinai desert or anything like that for 1260 days.
5.) Satan was not cast out of heaven when Mary brought forth Christ. There's no record of Satan being cast out of heaven when Mary brought forth Christ. But, verse 9 says the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the devil, and Satan which deceiveth the whole world. He was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. So right after the time of the birth of this manchild and this manchild is caught up, Satan is cast out, and that hasn't happened yet. Neither did Satan go to make war against Mary and the rest of her children who were not caught up as he does with this woman in verse 17-- "And the dragon was wroth, or angry, with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." (That is the rest of her seed, meaning that the rest were not caught up as the manchild was). Verse 10 says when this manchild is caught up, they sing "Now has come salvation, and the accuser of our brethren is cast down." Satan is still accusing us before God day and night, he certainly has not stopped doing that. So this chapter hasn't happened yet.
Others think this is Israel bringing forth Christ
1.) Again Christ was already brought forth at the time this prophecy was written. Christ was already brought forth, and yet this speaks of the manchild being born in a time yet to come.
2.) Now Israel was not persecuted for 3 ½ years after she brought forth Christ, and the devil did not come down to the earth with great wrath knowing that he has but a short time after Christ was caught up, if this be Christ coming to Israel. The devil did not come down to earth in that time in history. But we read in verse 12..."Therefore rejoice ye heavens and ye that dwell in them. Woe unto the inhibitors of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time." And if the devil came down to persecute Israel after Christ was caught up, then he didn't do a very good job of it because it took about 40 years after Christ was caught up before Israel finally fell and the temple was destroyed. There's no 3 ½ years involved there. So this woman is the church, the church of Jesus Christ at the end of the age, because this woman is seen in a time when there are seven heads on the dragon, verse 3. It's the church at the end of time.
Now there's much precedence in scripture to say that the woman represents the church. One of the main ones is Ephesians 5:24-33. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. So he's giving some guidelines about marriage, and in there he's weaving in a higher truth of Christ and his church. So the woman represents the church. Also read: Rev.19:7;21:2;17:4; Gal.4:26; 2 Cor.11:2; Gen.3:15.
Some parallel scriptures
1.) The woman came from man, as the church came from Christ. The rib was taken from Adam's side and God made a woman out of it. And so to speak, the church was born out of the pierced side of Jesus Christ (Gen.2:22; Eph.5:30; 1 Cor.11:8).
2.) The woman was brought to the man in the garden of Eden, and the church is going to be brought to Christ.
3.) The woman was made for the man (Gen.2:18; 1 Cor.11:9). The scripture says the woman was made for the man, as the church was made for Christ.
4.) The woman bears children for the man, as the church bears children-- spiritual children (converts for Christ) (Gen.4:1,2; Rev.12:5,17).
5.) Also the woman is named after the man, as the church is called after the name of Christ. That name is Jesus. They're called by His name. And when we get to heaven, it says that he shall give us His new name (Gen.2:23; Rev.3:12).
6.) Another scripture talking about the church being a woman is Galatians 4:26. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. So Jerusalem, the church in heaven, that is, the church being in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, is the mother of us all.
7.) 1 Corinthians 11:7 is another one..." For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, for as much as he is the image and glory of God. But, the woman is the glory of the man." So we see an analogy there. The man is the image of God. The woman is the image of man who is in the image of God, so the woman is the image of God. The woman is the image of the church (Isa.62:1-3) The Gentiles is speaking of the church.
8.) And as a man ought to be submitted to God, so the woman should be submitted to the man (Gen.3:16; Eph.5:22).
9.) 2 Corinthians 11:2 "For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." So he compares the church to a chaste virgin who's being espoused to Christ.
10.) Genesis 3:15 says that the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head. And that's Christ who crushed Satan's authority on Calvary when he died for our sins. And it has another application down at the end of time, there's going to be another seed of the woman that shall bruise the serpent's head. Those scriptures that apply to Jesus Christ apply to those that are in Christ. And so in the end of time, there's going to be another crushing of Satan's head.
This woman is clothed with the sun
Now clothed means "Wrapped around or thrown around or enshrouded with the sun." She's clothed. The sun is her raiment. The sun is the garment that she has on. And the sun, of course, points to Jesus Christ and his righteousness (Gal.3:27).
Malachi 4:2 calls him the sun of righteousness. It says that unto you that fear my name, the Sun of righteousness is going to arise. You're going to see him. He's going to shine on you. That's Jesus.
In Matthew 17:2 when Jesus was transfigured, his face shone like the sun.
Revelation 1:16 says... "And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two- edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength." And that's Jesus. His righteousness, his glory is compared to the sun (Acts 26:13-15; Rev.21:23; Psa.84:11).
Now the Catholics use this phrase in Rev.12:1 to teach that Mary was born without sin. Mary had no sin, and therefore she shined like the sun in and of herself. Of course, this is not true.
Now the woman (the church) is a light to the world by the light of God, by Jesus whose righteousness is wrapped around her. Christ's righteousness is the source of this sunshine brightness, not the woman herself. You see, she's clothed with the sun, it's not her. It's something that she's put on by her own choice, by her own decision. The righteousness is of Christ, and Jesus is the source of this brightness. It's not a fire or a flame, but it's the sunshine coming from this woman, from what she has on. She has on the righteousness of Christ. Read Rev.19:6-8 speaking of the Bride.
Matt. 5:14 says you are the light of the world. You, the church, are the light of the world, because when you're wrapped in my righteousness and you're walking in it, you become as a shining light. That's what you're supposed to be.
Matt.13:43 says, "The righteous shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of God."
She is standing on the moon
The moon is a symbol of the O.T. Covenant and the O.T. church, you might say. The O.T. congregation of the saints of God. The Old Covenant we know borrowed light from the true Covenant, the new Covenant, Jesus Christ being the sun and the sun shines and the moon reflects the light of the sun. The moon has no light of its own. It has no energy or light pulsing out of it, just that which the sun reflects onto the moon. And so the O.T. has no light of it's own, but it borrowed light from that which God knew was going to come. And you look at the tabernacle and all the vessels of the tabernacle and various things-- they all point to Christ. The sacrifices point to Christ. It even says the spirit of Christ was in them, and it signified things concerning Christ. David signified Christ. The kings signified Christ. They all pointed to Christ. Boaz, when he took Ruth for his wife, that pointed to Christ taking his bride. Enoch who walked with God and was not, that points to Christ who walked with God and God took him. You see, the whole Old Covenant was borrowing light from the New Covenant that was going to come.
Psalm 104:19,20 says, He appointed the moon for seasons. The sun knoweth his going down; Thou makest darkness, and it is night, etc.. It says that God appointed the moon and the sun.
Psalm 136:7-9 it says... Read. So the sun is to rule by day, and the moon and stars by night. And we'll see that spiritually this time of day and night refers to the New Covenant and the Old Covenant, Jer.31:35.
Romans 13:12... Since Christ came and brought us light the day is at hand. The time of the O.T., the time when all the promises of God were yet future, is far spent. The day is now at hand.
Galatians 3:23-34; Ephesians 5:8 says that you who were at one time darkness are now light in the Lord, 1 John 1:9. 1 John 2:8 ties it all together... Read. And that true light is Christ. The true light now shineth.
So this woman is standing upon the moon. That means that she is founded. She has her foundation upon the moon, upon the promises of God that He spoke forth in the Old Testament, Matt.5:17; Rom.3:31. He laid a foundation in the Old Testament that is for the church. And that's why it says in Galatians 3:23,24 that the law was a schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ. Through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. The Law shows us how sinful we are, and then we're glad to come to Christ and say, "O.K. Lord, I understand your righteous commandments now. Help me out here." So we come to Christ and we're justified.
She has upon her head a crown of 12 stars
The word for crown is "Stephanos", it means "a victor's wreath", 1 John 5:4. A wreath of 12 stars. And twelve is the number of the heavenly kingdom of God, whether it be on earth or in heaven. It's a completeness of government and the authority of God, the kingdom of God. And so it points to God's ministers. It points to those like it says in Hebrews, those who have the rule over you. Who are watching for your souls.
The church began under the head ship of 12 apostles. When the church was born, there were 12 apostles of the Lamb to lead it and to guide it. However, these 12 stars are not just the 12 apostles of the Lamb (although I think that's involved) but, it doesn't say stop there, because the 12 apostles are not the woman's head ship and government at the time of the seventh head, Rev.12:3. They're not here on earth to bear the rule over us and watch for our souls. Jesus is watching for our souls, and now He has new shepherds and those that are following in the old way of God who are the government of God today. And so if the 12 apostles are involved with these 12 stars, which I think is true, it's pointing to the spiritual government of God in the end times. It's saying that this woman has a perfect government, as it were, has a complete government. There are offices God has bestowed to this church, just as there were offices in the beginning of the church, which God gave to guide the church and protect it. And so also in the end of time, it's the government of God. It also may not be 12 men at all, but spiritually speaking of God's men, in general, leading the church.
Stars speak of the ministers of God. And in Rev.1:16 and 20 the seven stars are the angels, the messengers to the seven churches. So were talking about the ministers of God. In Dan.12:3 it says that they that turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars of heaven, also Dan.8:10.
Genesis 15:5;22:17;26:4.... Compares Abraham's seed, Abraham is to be the father of many nations, and God compares his seed to the heaven, because he becomes the father of many nations, of the faithful saints of God. So you might say the stars are the saints, but more specifically, they are the leadership of those saints. And we know that many times as the leadership goes, that's the way the saints go. The leadership represents the church, and they are accountable for the church.
Crown with 12 stars-- The 12 stars were the crown-- Godly leaders submitted to God with a victor's wreath, Jesus Christ.
Revelation 12:2,3 "And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads."
Now in Rev.12:2,3 we see that she (the church) is with child, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered, and then you see the red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven crowns. So you see she is travailing to bring forth the manchild (12:5), and then you see in verse 3 some form of world government. (for more on these verses see the study on prophetic events). Then in verse 4 you see a third of the stars (saints) swept away and cast to the earth, the Great Apostasy.
The Great Apostasy
Now notice that this occurs after v.3, the first form of world government, so possibly the world government causes many to fall. Many may think they are in the tribulation and have missed the Rapture; therefore, they will throw away the Rapture teaching. So we know that this is talking about the end times.
Revelation 12:4 "And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born."
"And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven"
Now Satan is preparing a great deception to bring upon the true church of Jesus Christ. And his deception has its effect upon many, many who are not totally clinging to the Word of God (Isa.66:1,2) above all else, many who have not allowed self to die. They have not really come to terms with the flesh in their life. They have not really come to terms with what they really are and dealt with it in surrender to Jesus Christ fully.
And they don't esteem the Word of God as their very life; they don't say, Lord, whatever your Word says I will believe, and whatever your Word does not say I will not believe. They haven't fully come to terms with the fact that the Word of God has to be all in all.
And there's different people in different positions that are opening themselves up in different ways to the deception of the devil. And notice that it's his tail
. This means that its a deception; something that comes in from behind and sweeps you away when your not looking. Your off guard (Ephesians chapter 6) Read. Also read Isa.9:15. These are those who make allowances for the lust of the flesh. There are those who hold traditions and opinions against God's Word. And they rationalize their position. The deception of the dragon's tail sweeping away the stars has many aspects.--see last few pages
And these stars are saints, and they're being swept out of their position with Jesus Christ, but God would say, don't be afraid-- fear not, even though my Word says a third of the stars will be cast down to the earth, I haven't written that to you to make you fearful and condemned and worried. I've written that to you to caution you to cling to Me and My Word, and that you would make the dedications you need to and sell out and become like Me and not fall asleep in the last days. So God says, keep drawing close to Me in living My truth, (Luke 21:34-36).
It's not a matter of roulette or a roll of the dice. Like, if 4 or less comes up you'll be the 1/3 that's swept out. And if 5 or more comes up then you'll be O.K., you'll make it. It's not that kind of a thing. You do not have a 1/3 chance of falling. If you love God and value His Word with all your heart, you do not stand a 1/3 chance of falling. You don't stand any chance of falling. If you cling to Him and hold His Word above all things and love Him, and despise the world and keep walking steadfastly toward the kingdom of God and stay awake, you don't stand a 1/3 chance of falling.
On the other hand, if you allow the love of the world to come into your heart and a willingness to compromise with man, then you stand more than a 1/3 chance of falling in the Great Apostasy in the last days. You see, God is looking upon the heart. It's not a thing of Calvinism, or, well, I was just ordained to be a part of the 1/3 that fall. Oh, boy, there's nothing I can do about it. It's not that kind of a thing.
Jude spends his whole epistle talking about deceivers and deception. But his conclusion is not that we should worry and fear and mistrust one another. His conclusion was in verses 24,25 (Read). For those who are walking with God and loving His truth, contending for the faith that was once delivered to the saints; there is sureness and we can know we're going to make it, and we're going to be among that Raptured company.
And remember that the church is paining to be delivered before world government comes in, so possibly saints will be tested as the Antichrist forces put pressure on them. Many will not stand under the pressures of the world system and give in to the pressures of the world.
Now some teach that this is speaking of the fallen angels that fell with Satan. But we see in verse 3 that world government is here, and so it has to happen in the last days. Besides fallen angels are never referred to as stars, saints are. Stars give light. The fallen angels are bound in chains of darkness, ( 2 Peter 2:4).
Stars are compared to saints in a number of passages of scripture
1. Daniel 8:9,10 The horn was Antiochus Epiphanes, a ruler of the Syrian Empire. And also it points, in a more future sense, to the Antichrist. Cast down some of the host and of the stars (saints) to the ground.
2. Gen.15:5 Here God gives Abraham a promise and he says his seed is going to be as the stars of the heaven, and he is the father of our faith--spiritually.
3. Daniel 11:35 Those with understanding are saints with spiritual understanding.
4. Daniel 12:3 These are saints which are compared to the stars.
And so the Bible talks about a third of the stars (saints) being swept from heaven and being cast down to the earth, we're seeing a picture of saints. Remember that Ephesians tells us that we're seated in heavenly places with Christ. And being swept out of their place and cast unto the earth means that this is showing saints loosing their position in the heavenly places with Christ, and being cast down to the earth with a part of the earthly system of things. They are loosing their position with God. It's the Great Apostasy.
The Bible prophesies that great deceptions will come that if possible will destroy the very elect (Matt.24:24). So we're seeing a picture of the Great Apostasy.
So the dragon has his way in some who are not walking with God as closely as they should be.
And the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born
So the dragon is standing in front of the woman to devour her child. So Satan is trying to devour us spiritually now. But later he will want to kill us physically if he can (John 8:44). Not only take our souls, but devour the manchild physically. He would wipe it out. Some have fallen spiritually already. Some well fall spiritually. Some have been killed already for their faith and some well be killed, but God will have a mighty company and a faithful company of His ministers and His living bride of the last days to proclaim His Word. He's promised that the manchild would be born; and that when it is born, it's not going to be devoured. It's going to be caught up unto God and His throne.
Now Satan is desirous to devour me and you and all of us spiritually and physically, and get us out of our position where we can be used by God. But the Bible says that there will be those, and they will be many, who will resist his deceptions and be raised up by God and perfected in the last days-- they will become that spotless bride whom God has been looking for.
2 Thessalonians 2:1-8
Now 2 Thess. 2 is an astounding testimony of the Inspiration of God's Word because it fits in exactly. I mean exactly with the things that this chapter 12 of Revelation says are going to happen and with the order they're going to happen in.
2 Thess.2:1 (Read) Now verse 1 where it says, "By the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." It would be better to say, "as touching" or "as concerning." So his main point of importance is what he starts out saying, "We're beseeching you concerning the coming or presence of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together unto Him." That's the main focus of importance in their minds; Paul's mind and in our mind; that day when we'll be gathered together at the Rapture. So we need to fit the whole rest of the chapter into the context of our being gathered together unto Him.
Now gathering together unto Him. The word "episunagoge, translated "gathering together" in the K.J.V., literally means, according to A.T. Robertson, "to collect together with emphasis on the place." That is, us gathering together unto Him-- the Rapture.
2 Thess.2:2 (Read) he does not want them to be "Shaken in mind or troubled by spirit, nor word, nor letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand." And the day of Christ in the best Greek Manuscripts is "The Day of the Lord."
And so "The Day of the Lord" points to that time in the end when God intervenes in man's history to establish His kingdom. It starts in the Tribulation: it starts after the Rapture: culminates and includes the whole Millennium and right up to the final judgment before this earth is destroyed. We're talking about The Day of the Lord.
And also "as that the day of Christ is at hand" more precisely not that it's at hand, as though it's about to happen, but that it's already here, is what the Greek is saying. That the day of Christ (The Day of the Lord) has begun or has stood in and is presently upon us. He does not want them to think that the Day of Christ had already come and was presently upon them. Even though they were enduring intense tribulation and persecution, he said, "don't be shaken in your mind. Don't think that the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ has already come and you're in the Tribulation already.
Don't be shaken in mind. The Day of Christ has not set in, it has not come because in verse 1 I'm beseeching you concerning the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together unto Him." Our, yours and mine. And you're still here aren't you? So don't be shaken in mind to think that the Day of the Lord has come. Our gathering together unto him has not come yet. And the Day of the Lord is after that. So don't be shaken in mind because in verse 7, "He who now hinders will hinder until he be taken out of the way." And he's not taken out of the way yet. So don't think that day has set in yet. The Rapture has not happened.
Now in verse 3 (Read), he tells us some things which must happen first. Verse 3 says, "Let no man deceive you by any means." And that applies very directly to us because Jesus said, "Remember, that even some of the very elect would be deceived if possible." "....for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition."
So there shall come a falling away first, the Greek is "apostasia", a standing away, a falling away, an apostasy. In the Greek it has the falling away, the apostasy. So the apostasy will come before the Rapture. And so if you tie in the parallel in Revelation 12:4 you see that the dragon with his tail of deception, that which they were not expecting; they were expecting a frontal attack. He caught them with his tail. He swept a third of the stars out of heaven before the Rapture of 12:5.
2 Peter 3:17 ".... Beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness."
2 Peter 1:10 "... Give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall"
1 Timothy 4:1 "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."
And here we see a great apostasy that comes before the Rapture, our gathering together unto Him. It's an exact parallel.
"And that man of sin be revealed." So this is also something that is going to happen before the Rapture. "Man of sin will be revealed." And again that is going to tempt Christians who don't really understand the Word of God to think, not only do we have a world government but here's the Antichrist, and he's revealed and Christians know who he is. He may not be in full power at that time. I don't think he will be, but his identity will be revealed and many Christians will say, well, if the world government is here, the Antichrist is here, are we not in the Tribulation? Is not therefore the Rapture after the Tribulation? And we can all expect to be killed, you see. They're not careful with the Word.
2 Thess.2:4 (Read) Now this man of sin is described as "He who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he, as God sitteth in the temple showing himself that he is God."
Now this does not mean that he sits in the temple as the abomination of desolation before the Rapture. This merely shows the end culmination of him exalting himself above all that is called God or that is worshipped, you see. He exalts himself in part and outwardly above God so that end result at some later time whenever that is, he sits in the temple of God proclaiming himself to be God. It's not saying that his sitting in the temple will happen before the Rapture. This is the end result of him exalting himself.
And that "so that" there in verse 4 in the Greek is "ho ste". Thayer's defines this word as "a consecutive conjunction, i.e. consequence or result. The consequence or result of him exalting himself is that he sits in the temple of God later on. It actually happens just before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. I believe, probably claiming himself to be God.
Now 2 Thess.2:6 says (Read). Literally it is, "Now you know the thing holding down or the thing restraining."
Now this is a neuter gender. Not necessary a neuter sex. Greek gender does not mean sex. It's just a classification of words. Now the curious thing is that this thing restraining is neuter, and the "man" of "manchild" (Rev.12:5) is also neuter. There's a man, only it's neuter gender. And there's a parallel there.
The thing withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. That is, the Antichrist is going to be revealed in his time. Now, he's being revealed in a more specific way. He is being revealed in his time. Before he was revealed as to his identity but now he's revealed in his time. And that word time is "kairos". And it means "an allotted time". "An appointed time" as opposed to a span of time in general. It's a specific time. So he's now being revealed in his time.
Revelation 13:5 (read). The mouth is the Antichrist, him is the beast system. So here he is revealed in his allotted time.
So there is something restraining or holding back this flood of lawlessness and the wicked one, in order that he might be revealed in his allotted time, in his appointed time. Until then, it's being restrained.
So now it says he is going to be revealed in his time. Back in verse 3 of 2 Thess. chapter 2 it said that the man of sin would be revealed before the Rapture and before the Day of the Lord comes. But now he is being revealed in a more specific way. He is being revealed as the world ruler with all power given to him in his time, in that 42-month Tribulation in which he reigns. Before, he was revealed in a general sense as to his identity. And now, he is revealed in his time as the world ruler empowered by Satan himself.
Now verse 7 (Read) says "For the mystery of iniquity doth already work." Even in Paul's day and even long before that, the mystery of iniquity was already working. "Only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way."
So he who now letteth or restraineth is the same word that was back in verse 6 under withholdeth. But here it is masculine, he who now letteth. So this thing that is letting or restraining is something that is being spoken of as being both neuter and masculine, grammatically speaking. And it's interesting that the manchild in Revelation 12:5 is also spoken of in both a neuter and a masculine sense. It is a manchild, a man son. The son part, the child part, is masculine.
So this mystery of iniquity is already working. Satan has been scheming all along for world control through the worship of man and through the worship of a man. Revelation 17:10 (Read). "And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is yet to come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space." And this beast system has 7 heads. You see, it has been the same beast all along. There would be a different empire in power at different times. But it was the same beast. It was Satan working for the same ends through these various governments. And so it is spoken of as one beast with 7 heads. That is why we see all 7 heads crowned in the end of time. You may think, why would that be? Babylon is not in power any more, and Greece and Rome. But yet there are 7 crowns upon his heads. The reason is that they are all of the same character. They've been all manifestations of the same thing, Satan and his plan in the world. And they all find their fulfillment and culmination in the great beast system of the last days. The great last day world Babylon, world government, wraps up and encompasses all that has come before.
"So he who now letteth, will let until he be taken out of the way." So, he is going to be taken out of the way. Now here it says, "until he be taken out of the way." Literally you might render it, "until out of the midst, he might come to be." He is going to come to be out of the midst.
Rotherham has a really interesting translation here. He says, "until out of the midst he be suddenly gone." There is a he that is going to be suddenly gone out of the midst.
Again the exact parallel is in Revelation 12:5. The manchild is caught up unto God and to His throne. He is suddenly gone out of the midst. Now some teach that this is speaking of the Holy Spirit being taken out of the midst at the Rapture (2 Thess.2:7). But this cannot be true, because we see clearly the Holy Spirit working through the Tribulation saints in Revelation chapter 11. They are prophesying, etc... Clearly these saints are filled with the Holy Spirit and doing mighty works. Besides, they will need the Spirit of God more than ever at this time of wickedness such as never before.
2 Thess. 2:8 (Read) "And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming."
Now again, it is taking a lot of things and wrapping them up in one verse. Because he will be revealed, but he will not be immediately consumed and destroyed by the Lord. That happens down at the Second Coming of Christ. But it is characterizing him here. Then shall that Wicked one be revealed, the one that the Lord shall destroy at His Second Coming.
So that Wicked one is going to be revealed. This ties directly right back into verse 6. Now you know what withholding that he might be revealed in his time. Now he is being revealed in a fuller sense.
"Then shall that Wicked one be revealed." Or, "Then shall that Lawless one be revealed." So the mystery of lawlessness or iniquity culminates in the manifestation of the lawless one. He is Satan's counterfeit Christ, Satan's counterfeit savior for the world. The mystery of God culminates in the Godly one; Jesus Christ and those made like unto him, who are perfected into his likeness.
It is really interesting to me the mystery of godliness in 1 Timothy 3:16 is spoken of as a who. It is spoken of as a person. Great is the mystery of godliness who was manifest in flesh, or God was manifest in the flesh. The Greek there in the oldest Manuscripts says who. And so the mystery of godliness is a who. It is a person. It becomes manifest in godliness himself, manifested in Jesus Christ the perfect image of God.
And so Satan's mystery, Satan's plan, becomes manifest in the lawless one, the Antichrist.
Now there is an indication here, and to me it is highly likely that the Antichrist will be Satan incarnate in a man, that Satan will actually come and posses this man. It is a likelihood. Scripture doesn't definitely say that, but I tend to think that it is true because this Wicked one in verse 9, his coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders. So it is after the working, the energizing, the inner working, "En ergo"-- to work in, or to work within. So Satan is working within him. He is energizing him. His coming, his presence is after the inner working in and through this man to have his way in the world.
Again there's a parallel with Revelation 12 because we see there that as soon as the manchild is caught up there is war in heaven. Michael and his angels fight against the Devil and his angels and the Devil is cast down. And it says that he is cast down into the earth. That occurs at precisely the same time when this wicked one is revealed in his appointed time (2 Thess.2:6,7). And when he, the Antichrist, is revealed, he comes after the inner working of Satan. So it seems that there is a direct tie in there, and that this man is an embodiment of the Devil himself.
So we see that there will come the great apostasy before the Rapture. It's a falling away from the faith. And many will be caught off guard and give into the pressures of the Antichrist system, as it moves in with deception.
Some possibilities as to the coming deception
The Coming Deception: Some possibilities as to this coming deception
The following are among the many factors which will or may be involved in Satan's last-day strategy to deceive Christians and to hinder the work of God. Some of these trends are already here. These are furnished that we might be aware in advance of the enemy's plans, be fortified against them, and strengthen others through the truth of God's Word.
1.) Attempt to weed out the most active ministers through arrests on false moral charges, etc. (charges will appear to be factual).
* Fear that charges may be true will steer some church members away.
* More ecumenically-minded ministers will replace the others.
2.) Constant ridicule of "Christian fables."
* Clever half-truths brought to show how Bible stories (such as the creation and miracles) originated with primitive superstitions and are contrary to science, logic, and history.
3.) Highly skilled theologians cooperate to "prove" Bible believers ignorant, stumbling the untaught, newborn Christian who thinks he can stand without the Word.
4.) The disappearance of some Spirit-filled churches due to
* Governmental persecution and arrests.
* Unreasonable new federal, state, and local requirements which churches and Christian schools cannot meet.
* Condemning of property.
* Intimidation of church members.
* Laws against teaching things critical or contrary to government policies or organizations such as the American Medical Association or the World Council of Churches.
* Pentecostals branded as mentally and emotionally unstable.
* Claims that they unfairly accuse the government and others.
* Claims that they are inciting fear and discontent.
* Claims that they are practicing medicine without a license.
5.) Financial difficulties for churches due to
* Christians being squeezed out of jobs, losing jobs for witnessing.
* Taxing of church property.
* Huge expenditures for church projects not led of God.
6.) Lack of church growth due to
* Laws against proselytizing.
* Moving, job transfers, etc., causing a slow decrease.
7.) Later, new laws prohibit public meetings of all but state-approved groups, as in Spain and Italy. This leads to lack of teaching for those afraid or unwilling to attend "underground" meetings.
*Lack of teaching leads to ignorance.
*Ignorance leads to acceptance of false teachings.
*Deception leads to falling away.
8.) Constant, increasing brainwash in schools and entertainment media, bringing in new "enlightened" morals that make Bible standards look unrealistic and outmoded.
* This has worked in the past. Note how the Puritans, whose standards were Christian (though with extremes of legalism) are ridiculed as being narrow-minded.
* Fascists and Communists have used this technique.
* Young people pressured by media, friends and liberal-minded teachers to be "free" of "outmoded" restraints and indulge in sin.
9.) Publishing of new Bible translations slanted toward new ideologies. (this has already happened).
* Possible new claims of manuscript finds from the first and second centuries (actually fake).
* Unabashed mistranslation; e.g., calling God "she." (this has already happened with the new Bible that's politically correct).
10.) Spirit-filled apostates join false ministers to deceive many.
* Evangelists motivated to enlarge their own empires bring false teaching for the sake of money.
* False manifestation of gifts of the Spirit lead some astray.
* Christians not taught to judge by the Word are led astray by new "revelations."
11.) Many non-Spirit-filled fall away due to lack of spiritual power and intimacy with God. Many who consider themselves "charismatics" have never received the Holy Spirit and spoken in tongues. False teaching is to blame.
12.) Spirit-filled and evangelical ministers fall away and "admit" they have been wrong and teaching falsehood.
* Apostates who stay under the old banner.
* False evangelists and teachers (liberals in sheeps' clothing).
13.) Liberals give feigned admissions that they were wrong.
* They enter into temporary dialectics to appear open-minded.
* Their purpose: to get on the same level with fundamental Christians.
* They become all things to all men:
1.) Spirit-filled to the Spirit-filled.
2.) Bible-believing to the Bible-believing.
3.) Genuinely liberal to the liberal.
* Result: several camps, not one Body.
1.) Each camp ends up with champion leaders.
2.) Leaders teach and gain confidence.
3.) Leaders rejoin each other in organization.
14.) Liberals recapture defectors through deceit.
15.) Demonic attack on the churches to weaken from within.
* Spirits of rebellion and mistrust toward pastors and elders.
* Criticism and estrangement between brethren.
* Marital problems divide families.
* Derailment of some brethren through false revelations.
* Gossip and rumors cause hurts and bitterness.
* Some deceived to think that knowledge alone without holiness of life will protect against deception.
* Others minimize importance of knowledge: "Love is enough."
16.) Half-way covenant among Spirit-filled.
* Gifts without holiness; gifts without love.
* Lack of freedom leads to program.
* Lack of anointing leads to entertainment of flesh.
* Flesh and human ideas lead to deception.
17.) Half-way covenant among "street Christians."
* Some taught that it is acceptable to stay on drugs; others fall back into drugs--lose the Spirit of God.
* Some taught that fornication is permissible.
* Desire for teachers and prophets who will cater to desires of flesh.
18.) False brethren planted in churches.
* Purpose: join, spread discontent, lies.
* Divide the churches from within.
* Undiscerning congregations do not recognize them as outsiders.
* Groups filter in gradually to overpower.
19.) Discouragement will lead to apostasy of some.
* This has happened in a measure.
* But this time, big discouragement's leading to disillusionment.
1.) Doctrine of blessings without any difficulties leaves many unprepared for distress.
2.) Doctrine of imminent escape leaves some unprepared for pressure, persecution, ridicule, loss of jobs, food, housing.
3.) Some discouraged when God does not immediately overthrow Satan's work.
4.) Some grow discouraged when they see the failures of others under pressure.
How will these things affect those who stand?
1.) Communal living may be necessary.
2.) Restricted witnessing.
3.) Faithful endurance.
4.) Sorrow of losing loved ones (prison, death, apostasy).
5.) Bitter hatred by outsiders.
6.) Much in prayer; living in holiness (temptations great).
7.) Following despair, fear, and doubts; peace and even joy are renewed as God renews spiritual strength.
8.) Battles with Satanic oppression.
9.) Loss of luxuries for most.
10.) Tendency toward animosity as some are not willing to share.
11.) Churches vandalized, burned, bombed; mob violence against churches; ministers threatened and beaten up; cars vandalized and burned.
12.) Secret home meetings where the Lord and His word are appreciated.
13.) Miracles of power, victory, and provision of food.
14.) Betrayal by false converts.
15.) Betrayal by converts who fall away.
16.) Loss of truth of the Rapture among some as persecution intensifies.
17.) Earnest waiting and longing for the Rapture by those who hold fast to this truth.
18.) Saints driven to prayer, faith, trusting God.
19.) Result: manifestation of His love, power, provision.
20.) New spiritual strength for those who endure.
21.) Deliverance's long sought are obtained as the Body of Christ unites in love and loses its affinity with the world.
22.) Renewal of heavenly vision as the world loses its glitter.
23.) Perfection through chastening.
24.) Intense love among the faithful.
25.) Unity of the faith and of the Spirit.
26.) A great last effort to win the lost.
You could probably add to this list. Remember, these are only possibilities!
Let the Word of God so fill your being so you will never be tempted to apostatize.