If the true church of believers is lifted off the earth in large numbers pretribulation, who in the world would take much notice of…or care much about…leftover churchgoers “falling away” as the result of merely being left behind…like everyone else following such a cataclysmic event as the rapture?
Such a falling away, immediately after-the-fact of the rapture, would be anticlimactic, comparatively inconsequential, and barely worth noticing. It would have trouble getting news-media coverage on the back page of the newspaper, because a post-rapture falling away would be a non-event.
To constitute a noticeable falling away capturing the attention of the world, worthy of mention in biblical end-times prophetic scripture, the Christian church must still be fully in attendance on earth. This includes all of the saints of God who will eventually be martyred or raptured, and includes all of the nominal, unsaved churchgoers who will “fall away” as a result of an as-yet-to-be-determined, currently unknown reason.
If the Christian church is not raptured pretribulation and is on the earth for some of Daniel’s seven-year tribulation, a more plausible motivation for nominal churchgoers to fall away would be the hard choice of facing persecution along with the genuine church, compared to the easier choice of saving their own skins by compromising with the direction the world is going in accepting the mark of the beast.
Or some modern application of Daniel 8:23-25 might explain large numbers of nominal churchgoers mistakenly falling away to follow the deceptive and smooth-talking appeal of the Antichrist at the beginning of his reign…of falsely promised peace and worldly prosperity.
This might presumably be followed up with a more complete falling away after persecution begins for the genuine Christians (saints of the Most High) who are not taken-in by the deceptive appeal of the Antichrist (Rev. 13:16-17).
Because of the unique character of post-rapture tribulation saints, the falling away that Paul describes in 2 Thessalonians 2:2-3…would not likely occur between the time period of a pretribulation rapture of the church…and the second coming of Christ seven years later.
In a pretribulation rapture scenario, the tribulation saints that become Christian believers after the rapture are probably a hard-core, uncompromising group of determined disciples, having themselves missed the rapture, who will not fall away in large numbers as a result of anything that comes against them during the tribulation period.
All of the “left behind” nominal churchgoers who do not become tribulation saints would quickly be absorbed into the world-at-large and quietly fade away into the background.
The characteristically hard-core, resolute commitment of last-days tribulation saints, steeled in their faith by the knowledge that their conversion came too late to participate in the rapture, eliminates them as plausible candidates to fall away under harsh persecution.
Continuing this argument, once the church is raptured (pretribulation) and gone, the contrasting spiritual makeup of the remaining cast of characters would be rigidly polarized and separated for the rest of the tribulation period.
Remove hundreds of millions of Spirit-born Christians from the earth, and the current reality of a large, undecided, unbelieving composite mix of people co-existing undetected within churches…would overnight become a separate and homogenous group…easily identifiable and totally distinct from the soon-to-be converted, immerging group of tribulation saints.
From that time forward…post-rapture…there would be no internal motivation based on shared common beliefs, nor the existence of external communication channels recently in place in organized Christian church structures, for these two dissimilar groups to merge.
The zeal and determined dedication of the tribulation saints to become and to remain faithful Christians “come what may,” would separate out tribulation saints as a uniquely zealous and distinct group of people for the remainder of the tribulation period.
Paul presents the falling away and the revelation of the son of perdition as signs leading up to the rapture.
The rapture and the falling away cannot be bundled together in reverse order within a short time-span. The magnitude of the rapture would completely overshadow any subsequent falling away.
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” (Jn. 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…within a brief time-period…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.