In 2 Thes 2.1, Paul uses the phrase “and our gathering together to him.” To Paul, this is a Jewish doctrine found in the Scriptures, for example Isa 13.2-3, 18.3, 26.1-3, 57.1-2; Zeph 2.1-2; Psa 27.10. Paul taught it in 1 Thes 4 and 1 Cor 15. In 2 Thes 2.2-3, it says, “that you may not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit (a prophetic spirit) or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord (the last 1000 year period) has come. Let no one in any way deceive you, for unless the falling away comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition.” So, let’s work in these verses to find out what Paul is saying.
The “falling away” is the Greek word “apostasia” and anciently it meant a “physical departure.” We will be quoting from the book “Rosh Ha Shannah and the Messianic Kingdom to Come” by Joseph Good, p. 125-126, where Good writes, “Kenneth Wuest, a noted Greek scholar, states in his word studies an interesting point that has much to do with the catching away away of the living believers. He states that the phrase falling away is a mistranslation of the Greek word “apostasia” and should rather be translated departure. “The root verb aphistemi is found fifteen times in the New Testament. It is translated ‘depart’ eleven times.” Although it is often found translated in similar meanings, “the predominant meaning of this verb in the New Testament…is that of the act of a person departing from another person or from a place… Liddel and Scott in their classical lexicon give as the second meaning of apostasia, ‘a departure, a disappearance.’ Dr. E. Schuyler English, to whom the author is deeply indebted for calling his attention to the word ‘departure’ as the correct rendering of apostasia in this context, is authority for the fact that…the Greek word (means) ‘a departure.'” Wuest further states that apostasia was at times used to denote a defection or revolt; however, this meaning “should not be imposed upon the word where the context does not qualify the word by these meanings.” According to Wuest, Rav Shaul (Apostle Paul) refers to “the gathering together of the saints, to the Lord Yeshua at his coming, which is a departure of the congregation from the earth” in 2 Thes 2.1. In Rav Shaul’s previous letter, “he had described that event in these words, ‘Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air,’ which involves a departure from the earth. Remember that the Greek word harpuzo means to catch away. Harpuzo is the word used in Rav Shaul’s (Apostle Paul) first letter to the Thessalonians. Its Hebrew equivalent is natzal, which in its root form means to deliver. A derivative of natzal is metzal, which means to pluck away, or a radical departure.”
The term “rapture” is Christian terminology not found in Jewish sources. Job 14.7-15 deals with many of these same concepts, and Job writes in verse 14-15, “If a man dies, will he live again? All the days of my struggle will wait, until my change comes. Thou will call, and I will answer thee; thou will long for the work of thy hands.” This is the same concept that Paul uses in 1 Cor 15.50-52. As a result, 2 Thes 2.1 and “our gathering together to him” relates to this. Until we have the “physical departure” the false messiah cannot be revealed.
The Jewish Encyclopedia has an article called “Antichrist” which establishes this concept further. The Jewish eschatological understanding of Sanhedrin 98a is that the Messiah will not be revealed until the world is entirely righteous or entirely wicked. This concept relates to what Paul is explaining when he says, “He that restrains” or “impedes” the redemption in 2 Thes 2.6. So, to get a better look at these concepts, let’s look at 2 Thes 2.6-8, with comments in parenthesis, for it says, “And you know what restrains (“restrains” is the Greek “katecho” and it means “to seize and hold fast to, retain”) him (the Messiah) now (in the first century) so that in his time he (Messiah) may be revealed (“revealed” is the Greek “apokalupto” which is the subject of this chapter and the actual name of the book of Revelation in Greek). For the mystery (the hidden meaning) of lawlessness (without Torah) is already at work and he who now (in the first century) restrains (or holds fast to, seizes) until out of the midst (out of the midst of lawlessness) it comes, and then that lawless one (the false messiah who will be without and disregards the Torah) will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of his mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of his coming (on Yom Kippur, at his second coming to the earth).” In a further explanation of what is said in Sanhedrin 98a, both statements on when the Messiah will come are true. When he came the first time, Israel rejected him. It was estimated that only one in six believed in him (wicked). After the invasion of Gog and Magog, Israel will believe in him and never turn away again (Ezek 39.22). Then when he comes at the end of the Birth-pains, Israel will be seen as righteous.
Is there a doctrine in Jewish eschatology about the “departure?” Yes. Let’s look at some. In Isa 13..1-3, we have the nobles being called to “my anger” which means “nose” and this is a Rosh Ha Shannah passage. Psa 81.3 has the moon (the believers) being concealed on Rosh Ha Shannah. Zeph 1.14 through 2.3 has the righteous being gathered before the Birth-pains begin. Zeph 2.1-3 says, “Gather yourselves together, yes, gather O nation without shame (before God). Before the decree (on Rosh Ha Shannah, a Yom Ha Din, year 6001, and 10 days before the Birth-pains begin) takes effect-the day that passes like the chaff-before the burning anger of the Lord comes upon you. Before the day of the Lord’s anger comes upon you, seek the Lord. Seek the Lord, all you humble of the earth who have carried out my ordinances (Torah observant); seek righteousness (by faith), seek humility. Perhaps you will be hidden (Gesenius translates this word to mean “to escape from not protected through.” This relates to Yom Kiseh, to be hidden or concealed in Psa 81.3 and reinforced by such passages as John 14.1; Isa 13.2; Psa 18.3; Psa 2.1-5; Isa 26.20; 1 Thes 4 13-17; Isa 57.1-2 and 1 Thes 1.10. The name Zephaniah means “the Lord hides”). Who are the righteous being gathered? These are all the righteous going back to Adam, living and the dead.
What follows is going to be a troublesome passage for many. Matt 7.15-23 describes a group of people that will be alive when Yeshua returns. They prophesy, cast out demons, perform miracles, all in the name of Yeshua, but practice “anomos” or a life “without Torah.” In other words, not everyone who says they are a believer is really a believer. If they are, there should be fruits of Torah observance being done. That doesn’t mean “totally observant” or “perfect” but a believer should be moving towards it because “my sheep hear my voice” and the voice of the Lord always guides us to obey the commandments, so there should be a move towards that in the life of a true believer. This obedience to the Torah does not save anyone, it never did, but it shows that they have been truly born again. The people in Matt 7.21-23 are “lawless” which means they are without any Torah observance, and probably against anyone who does. It is the same word used of the false messiah in 2 Thes 2.8 and we know he opposes the Torah. Is there a group of so-called professing believers that say they work miracles, prophesy and cast out demons in the name of “Jesus?” And yet Yeshua says “I never knew you.” Something to think about.
In Part 17, we will pick up here and begin to discuss Yom Kippur and the second coming of Yeshua.