Will there be the great falling away of 2 Thessalonians 2:3?
Jesus talks about a great falling away of the saints when he talks about the end times in Matthew 24. He details those days as a time of tribulation and chaos (Matthew 24:4-8). Nations will rise against nation’s, wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes and famines, all of these are precursors to the end.
That’s when Jesus talks about the internal struggles of the church (Matthew 24:9-14). It begins with tribulation and persecution, even the death and martyrdom of the saints. Because of these external tribulations and trials, Christian brother will turn against Christian brother and betray one another.
Within this context of struggles for the saints, Jesus specifically mentions that there will be a falling away from him and those end times (Matthew 24:10). False prophets will arise and lead Christians astray in the faith and doctrine (Matthew 24:11).
Whether it is from the stress and pressure of tribulations and martyrdoms or from listening to false prophets, many will follow away. Their love will grow cold for the Savior (Matthew 24:12).
But even in the middle of all of this persecution and falling away, there will be those who remain steadfast in the Lord and in their faith (Matthew 24:13). These will endure to the end and will be saved. The gospel will still be proclaimed despite the persecution.
It has always been that way. As Tertullian, one of the great early church father theologians has said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” The church will grow even in persecution and tribulation.
In 2 Thessalonians, the Thessalonians who had just become Christians, a church founded by Paul, had never received his full teaching. He had to get out of town before he could finish preparing them for following Christ completely.
Apparently, he didn’t get to the end times teachings very quickly before he had to leave. They were afraid that they had missed the coming of the Lord, the rapture. Paul writes 1 Thessalonians to assure them that they have not missed the event and describes it, especially in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.
He writes 2 Thessalonians to further outline some of the events of the end times, in this second chapter, the coming of the man of lawlessness, or the antichrist. He shows them that they have not missed the rapture because they have not seen the antichrist come to power.
He told them to ignore anything that said otherwise, even if it looks like a letter from them (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2). They must remain steadfast in these signs he was giving them about this event.
He says that a few things have to happen before that day comes:
- The rebellion must come
- The man of lawlessness must be revealed
He further goes on to explain who the man of lawlessness is and what he does (2 Thessalonians 2:4). The rebellion that Paul refers to lines up with the ideas at Jesus talked about in Matthew 24 that I have already described.
If this is so, the rebellion would be the falling away from the Lord of saints under the pressure of persecution and martyrdom, as well as the betrayal of other brothers from within. The man of lawlessness is described throughout this chapter, and as the antichrist, described by John in his letters.
It seems that persecution has the ability to drive Christians one way or the other. Some of them will not be able to handle the weight and pressure of persecution and may succumb to it by turning away from Christ.
But others will remain steadfast and endure until the end, even in the face of martyrdom. Those days will be particularly hard on Christians. This is why the Lord cuts the days short (Mark 13:20). Let us hope that we are the ones who will endure until the end and be saved.