“And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.” (Mt. 24:6)
From my book The Christian Church in the Last Days
Another reason a falling away would not likely occur between a pretribulation rapture and the second coming of Christ seven years later, is that Paul is addressing this scripture directly to the Thessalonian church in the first century. There is not the slightest hint that Paul is lobbing a football pass over the heads of the Thessalonians to a future group of “tribulation saints” who have missed the rapture. Paul is telling the contemporary, first century Thessalonian church to watch for the sign of a falling away as a precursor to the “day of the Lord.” This instruction of Paul to the Thessalonians directly applies to the Thessalonian church while it is still on the earth, a group of people Paul knows intimately well, and not to some unknown group of believers to be formed after the first-century church has left the scene through the rapture.
The expectation of the rapture, followed by the second coming of Christ, and the beginning of a new earth and a new heavens where peace and justice will reign, is a hope that is rightly supposed to reside within the hearts of Christians in every century leading up to today. The fact that the rapture and the second coming did not occur in these past centuries, even though Christians were faithfully watching and looking for these events, is due to some overriding considerations that are more important than the timing of the rapture or the second coming of Christ.
One of these important considerations is the salvation of the many sheep that Jesus speaks about when He says He has other sheep to call that are not of this first century flock: “And other sheep I have, that are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (John 10:16). Those sheep that Jesus is referring to, at this current time, happen to be us.
Because The Great Commission takes precedence over the rapture, the second coming, and the millennium, this John 10:16 concept of remaining lost sheep to be brought-in allows the prophetic 2 Thessalonians 2:2-3 scriptures to continuously extend unbroken through each successive generation of Christians throughout the church age down to our present day. This instruction by Paul to the Thessalonians is still in full force and effect, held in suspension until the appointed time. In my opinion, therefore, this great falling away should occur before the rapture of the church, and not afterwards.
This view regarding the timing of the falling away and the revealing of the son of perdition refutes the traditional pretribulation scenario, because currently there is no rationale for the extreme magnitude of worldwide events that would facilitate both this mass falling away and a revelation of the son of perdition, other than the great tribulation itself. Some worldwide events of colossal proportions must certainly occur to cause this falling away, but a pre-rapture falling away does not conveniently fit within the scheme of events currently hypothesized within the pretribulation rapture program.
Paul writes to Timothy: “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.” (2 Timothy 3:1). This verse, combined with 2 Thessalonians 2:2-3 giving the sequence of a falling away and the revealing of the son of perdition before the rapture, implies that the fiery challenges of the tribulation period are in full play and producing noticeable prophetic results on a grand scale by the time the rapture occurs.
Many people believe and teach that all of the prophecies that are required to take place prior to the rapture were fulfilled with the formation of the nation of Israel in 1948. I am not so sure. The Bible talks about a great falling away before the coming of the Lord, as quoted above, regardless of whether the “day of the Lord” refers to the rapture or the second coming of Christ. It talks about scoffers in the last days chiding Christians about the rapture or the second coming not having occurred yet (2 Peter 3:3-4). It talks about perilous times, when people’s moral standards and sense of right and wrong will have noticeably deteriorated (2 Timothy 3:1-5). The Bible talks about believers prophesying, seeing visions and having dreams, to the point that this prophesying is probably recognizable and notable to skeptics and believers alike (Joel 2:28-29; Acts 2:17-21). 2 Timothy 4:3-4 talks about a time when people will not endure sound doctrine, but will turn their ears away from the truth.