Sometimes I am surprised to learn that pretrib teachers continue to perpetuate the lexical error that the Greek noun apostasia can refer to the sense of a “physical departure.” For example, just recently, Arnold Fruchtenbaum of Ariel Ministries stated:
“However, the Greek word simply means ‘departure’. This could refer to a moral departure but it can also refer to a physical departure. From the overall context of this passage, we identify this ‘departure’ as the physical departure of the church from the earth.” Source
I want to comment on this.
The Greek noun apostasia never means a physical departure. There is no instance of this in Hellenistic Greek literature, which is why New Testament Greek lexicons do not include this meaning in its entry. Pretrib teachers are simply making up a meaning of the word, while it was never used with that meaning. That is not just sloppy exegesis, but it is indicative of a strong tradition at work in their theology, where they are willing to add a false meaning to God’s Word to maintain their tradition. It is first rank eisegesis.
In my cross-examination with my debate with Thomas Ice, he had to admit that he was not able to produce any documentary evidence of a single instance where apostasia means a physical departure in the Hellenistic literature. Andy Woods wrote an entire book on this word in 2 Thess 2:3 but was not able to produce a single instance as well, but still insists that this is the meaning! (Woods is not willing to defend his book in a public moderated debate with me).
But it makes sense of their desperation of attempting to place the rapture before the Antichrist’s great tribulation in 2 Thessalonians 2, because that passage is very clear—when you read it without pretrib lens—that the church will face the Antichrist. Many, many prewrathers who were once pretrib cite that passage as the very reason why they left the pretrib view.
The word can either mean a religious or political departure, but not a physical departure:
“to rise up in open defiance of authority, with the presumed intention to overthrow it or to act in complete opposition to its demands — ‘to rebel against, to revolt, to engage in insurrection, rebellion’” (L&N).
“rebellion, abandonment, (state of) apostasy” (NIDNTTE)
“defiance of established system or authority, rebellion, abandonment, breach of fait” (BDAG)
This lexical fallacy that is perpetuated by popular pretrib teachers could easily be avoided if they were aware of basic lexical principles. I have written on this issue many times here.