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By direct revelation of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul wrote to God's people –
 "Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling to meet Him [the Rapture of Believers]...
Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day
[the Rapture] will not come unless –
the 'apostasia' comes first, and
 the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition" 
2 Thessalonians 2:1-3.
In other words, these two things must first happen before the Lord takes His people to Himself [not to Heaven*] into His resurrection glory.
This Hellenistic
(koine) Greek word 'apostasia' (ἀποστασία) in the Bible's holy text, has been variously translated as –
1. 'apostasy'    Analytical-Literal Translation;   5. 'departing'    1599 Geneva Bible;
2. 'falling away'    1901 American Standard Version;     6. 'falling away from the faith'    1965 Bible in Basic English;
3. 'revolt'    1899 Douay-Rheims;   7.. 'rebellion'    International Standard Version;
4. 'defection'    Apostolic Bible Polyglot;   8. 'rebellion'    2001 English Standard Version.
*Note that we do not need a
resurrection to go to Heaven
for the Bible says –
'absent from the body
present with the Lord'
(2 Corinthians 5:8).
Sadly, some
'expositors' have strangely tried to build on this old Geneva Bible translation to teach that this word means the 'departing' of the Christian Church: the Rapture of Believers.
The Evangelical Lie
Effectively then, if it were true, it would mean, in the Scripture's own context, that the Rapture of Believers will not take place until the Rapture of Believers has taken place.
This is simply silly, for the 'apostasia'-sign is here given as a marker for believers to know when the 'Rapture of Believers' takes place.
very misleading interpretation by Christian teachers was actually to try and make Scripture fit into the pre-tribulation-rapture model of end-time events developed by Darby and Irving in the 19th century and popularised by the Scofield Bible notes, which is now unfortunately the popularised view in most evangelical and charismatic/pentecostal circles. But pioneer translator Wycliffe rightly translated this same word in its Biblical context as 'dissension', for the word carries the idea of 'defection' and it is in that sense the Geneva Bible translated it as above (if the 'expositors' referred above were really honest with themselves).
The Darby Division
It is the context of this word that should and must lead our understanding of its original meaning in the writer's mind,
if we are to be honest, as most translators usually are. 
Its Context    
The Apostle
Paul, having already instructed the Thessalonian believers directly while he was with them, now writes to them to correct the error being spread that the return of Jesus for the believers was 'imminent', could happen at any moment, as so many continue to teach today.
reassure these anxious believers then, Paul gives them two events as its preceding signs – events that MUST first happen BEFORE Christ returns for His Church. These are described as –
  1. The 'apostasia' occurs; and then,
2. The Man of Lawlessness is revealed.
first sign – the 'apostasia' – has often been understood in a religious sense, as spiritual apostasy from moral, spiritual or religious standards. This is a traditional interpretation among those who teach that Christ could come at any moment and it seems to simply be a restatement of what is written elsewhere by Paul, and therefore always true and not a unique sign. 
But this robs the Scripture statement of its specific meaning of being a special prior indicator of a coming unique event!
all Christian history there has never been a time when some part of the Christian believers were not spiritually unfaithful in comparison to other Christians. Whether one understands this unfaithfulness as nominal Christianity or as a 'backslidden' form, the same problem exists. So, we can know that this interpretation is false because it robs the 'sign' of its primary purpose.
It is true that elsewhere Paul warns of a general increase in ungodliness before Christ's return, but this increase of a history-long condition does not carry the power of a distinct sign by which the ordinary believer could know the imminence of the time. To interpret the 'apostasia' therefore as just a more terrible degree of spiritual decadence is to rob the sign of its special status of immediately preceding the end in the context that Paul gave to it.
In other words, this 'apostasia' must be understood as no less a distinct sign than its companion sign — the Man of Lawlessness "revealed".
For us
to deal honestly with this word in the context in which it is given, its meaning must be understood as its readers in Thessalonica, Greece, at the time of Paul's letter (c.50 AD) would have understood it. For this we need to remember their socio-political context (the situation they were in). 
authority of Rome was everywhere. Any new movement making reference to future political changes, such as the changes that the second coming teachings of Jesus implied, was thereby suspect and in danger of punitive action by the authorities toward those associated with it. Hence the caution in Paul's letter not to give too much detail, and the unspecified reminder of what he had taught them while among them (2Thes.2:5). Thus Rome is the reason for restraint in the text of this letter of Paul.
So, Paul
writes the frustratingly obscure statement –
"And now you know what is holding him [Antichrist] back [from coming], so that he may be revealed at the proper time.
For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work;
but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way."
2 Thessalonians 2:6-7.
in line with the Darby-Irving interpretation mentioned above, the 'restrainer' has been ignorantly identified as the person of the Holy Spirit. The theological impossibility of this interpretation should be evident to mature Christians even without examining the context of the text.
Firstly, an Omnipresent One cannot be "taken out of the way", anymore than that He 'arrived' on the Day of Pentecost (click for detail).
Secondly, that the active agency of God's creative wisdom and power could be treated as a passive object that could ever be "taken" is an impossibility, other than in the poetic style of a Psalm to describe the loss of a personal relationship. God's Spirit is always everywhere!
But more importantly still, He the Spirit does not deal with the politics of this world – that is the agency of God's angels – or so the Bible teaches us. And, this is very much a political situation that precedes Christ's return. All the more reason to write in an obscure manner for the sake of the safety of believers from persecution by the government of their day.
Light from its Old Testament background to Paul's teaching completes our understanding of 'apostasia'.
Daniel's first prophecy of the empires that would rule his 'Beautiful Land' (Palestine) from his time up to the end (when the Messiah receives the kingdom), the last phase of these four empires is described as the 'feet' of the image which are made of iron mixed with baked clay which does not bond or hold together (Dan.2:43). This special focus on disunity in imperial government of human history's final phase should guide our thinking here, as it undoubtedly did for Paul.
Lawlessness is the dominant description of Antichrist at his coming
See: The Hidden Time

Political Disintegration
is not the lawlessness of a Jew who rebels against the law of Moses. This is a description to Gentile believers, in a Roman controlled city, of the future final world ruler.
would really have been strange if the 'apostasia' had no relation to its accompanying sign of the Man of Lawlessness (as some teach) whose coming is promoted by the "secret power of lawlessness" that is "already at work"
The counter to this lawlessness is law and order – the special strength of the Roman governing authorities, personified in the Caesar himself. Here, the necessary obliqueness of Paul's reference (2 Thess.2:7) is therefore important.
the apostle Paul to have made any form of direct reference to the Roman government or the person of the emperor would have immediately re-classified Christianity from that of a Jewish sect to an insurrectionist movement with bloody consequences for Christians across the empire. Paul would not risk that misinterpretation of his intentions in any way. He had enough enemies.
It is the light of this context to end time events that Paul charges Timothy, in his leadership of the churches, to give priority to prayer for authorities of all levels of society, so that the necessary social stability and peace may allow the unhindered preaching of the gospel.
"I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for everyone –
for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.
This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth."
1 Timothy 2:1-4.
About 200 AD,
Christian scholar and lawyer Tertullian (famous for his defiant expression – 'the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church'), writing in a political context considerably safer than Paul's had been, could rightly say of Christians –
"We are for ever making intercession for the emperors. We pray for them a long life, a secure rule, a safe home, brave armies, faithful senate, an honest people, a quiet world, and everything for which a man and a Caesar may pray ...We know that the great force which threatens the whole world, the end of the age itself with its menace of hideous sufferings, is delayed by the respite which the Roman Empire means for us ...when we pray for its postponement we assist the continuance of Rome ...I have a right to say, Caesar is more ours than yours, appointed as he is by our God." (See Johnson 1976, p.70).
A rather more explicit rephrasing of this Pauline teaching!
were now numerous across the Roman empire –
"We are but of yesterday, and we fill everything you have – cities, tenements, forts, towns, exchanges, yes! and camps, tribes, palace, senate, forum. All we leave you are the temples!" (Ibid.)
About 400 AD,
Christian scholar and translator of Holy Scripture into Latin (Vulgate) Jerome also understood the Apostle Paul similarly as Tertullian. He believed that the power restraining this mystery of iniquity was the Roman Empire, but as it fell this restraining force was removed. Accordingly he saw the pressure of the Barbarian invasions of Europe in his time as a threat that could open the way for Antichrist.
Jerome’s Letter to Ageruchia
that as the 'Pax Romana' (Paul's "fullness of time" in Gal.4:4) was the precondition for the amazing spread of the gospel in its beginning, so also in its completing – under whatever name that may yet be: whether it be the European Union, United Nations, or whatever else it may please the Lord to use on a world scale.
Yes Lord, let it be!
Yet even then,
Tertullian wrote –
"If the Tiber reaches the walls, if the Nile fails to rise to the fields, if the sky doesn't move, or the earth does, if there is famine or plague, the cry is at once: 'The Christians to the Lion!'". (Ibid.)
when that time of completed mission has come, it will be known by a scale of world 'apostasia', rebellion, lawlessness, revolt, anarchy, and consequent arrival of the Anarchist, the Man of Sin, for whom it has opened the way, that the darkest night of this world may herald the glorious dawn of the Sun of Righteousness –
"For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble.
The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.
But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.
You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.
And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act,
says the LORD of hosts."
Malachi 4:1-3

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