Pretribulational interpreters attempt to argue that Paul in 2 Thess 2:3 teaches that the “apostasy” and “the revelation of the man of lawlessness” will happen “during” the day of the Lord and not before it. But the Greek does not support such an interpretation. Rather, we shall see it clearly supports the prewrath interpretation that those two events will occur first, before the day of the Lord.
“Let no one deceive you in any way; for the day of the Lord will not come unless [ean mē] the apostasy comes first [prōton] and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction.” (2 Thess 2:3)
A couple of simple cross-references of the same Greek construction in 2 Thess 2:3 to other biblical examples will demonstrate that the pretribulational view skews Paul’s message. The Greek is constructed with the conditional “unless” (ean mē) coupled with the adverb “first” (prōton), which results in placing the conditional events sequentially before the main event.
For example, John 7:51:
“Our law doesn’t condemn a man unless [ean mē] it first [prōton] hears from him and learns what he is doing, does it?”
That is to say, before the event of “condemnation,” two events need to happen first: (1) hearing from the accused, and thus (2) learning what he is doing. The two events do not happen “during” the condemnation, as the flawed pretrib Greek analysis would have it. Rather, they occur before the verdict of condemnation.
Next Mark 3:27:
“But no one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property unless [ean mē] he first [prōton] ties up the strong man; then [tote] indeed the house can be plundered.”
That is to say, the strongman is tied up first, before the house is plundered (the “then” [tote] confirms this).
These two examples that share the same Greek construction with 2 Thess 2:3 suffice to illustrate Paul’ message that before the day of the Lord begins, two events must happen first: the apostasy and the revelation of the man of lawlessness. Only then can the day of the Lord begin.
Incidentally, Paul confirms this point a few verses later in 2 Thess 2:8: “and then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will destroy by the breath of his mouth and wipe out by the manifestation of his arrival.” Explicitly, Paul states here that the man of lawlessness will be revealed before Jesus returns to destroy him. Jesus cannot destroy the Antichrist when he returns if the Antichrist is not present in the first place!
Second Thessalonians 2:3 has been the number one reason why pretribs are leaving their view and embracing prewrath. And pretrib teachers know this, which is why they will make the most convoluted interpretations on this verse to attempt to maintain pretribulationism and imminence theology—from making up the idea that the “apostasy” means “rapture” to, as we see above, twisting the Greek of Paul to say something the complete opposite of what he is doing.