By Mark Swarbrick
Has the truth of a pre tribulation Rapture been obscured by a mistranslation of the King James Version? Should 2nd Thessalonians 2:3 actually say that the Tribulation won’t come “unless the departure comes first?” Let’s dig a little deeper and see.
The Geneva Bible was carried to America by the Pilgrims on the Mayflower. The Pilgrims and Puritans did not trust the modern version of the time, known as the King James Version. For one thing, King James had repeatedly thrown them into prison for daring to have a personal relationship with Jesus and trying to worship God according to the Scripture.
The evil King James, who tortured and persecuted born-again believers, was head of the Church of England. He insisted that the Church of England was the only true church and forbade anyone from forming their own church or even making up their own prayers.
Consequently, the Pilgrims fled to Holland, and a dozen years later they escaped to America. The last thing they wanted to bring with them was a Bible version that had anything to do with King James, let alone one that bore his name! They considered that Jesus was head of the Church, not any earthly king. They believed that the Church of England was hopelessly corrupt and was centered on religious hierarchy and empty ritual rather than of upon Jesus Christ. King James viewed the protestant revival and the actions of the Puritans, Pilgrims, and Separatists as a falling away from the faith. Anyone who left King James’ Church of England was branded an apostate.
King James Hated the Pilgrims
There is an interesting passage of Scripture that was changed in the King James Version, and the question arises: Was it changed because of King James attitude toward the Puritans and the Pilgrims? The passage in question tells us that the Tribulation will not come until a certain event happens: “that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first…” ( 2nd Thessalonians 2:3 KJV)
What most people don’t realize is that this passage had never been translated that way before. The seven English translations prior to the King James Version did not refer to a “falling away,” or to an “apostasy.” Even the Latin Vulgate, which had been the accepted word of God for a thousand years prior to any English translations did not translate it that way. Rather, all the Bibles referred to a “departing” or a “departure.” Here is how the Geneva Bible (the Pilgrim’s Bible) has it:
“For that day shall not come, except there come a departing first…” (2nd Thessalonians 2:3, Geneva Bible)
The World English Bible, a revision of the American Standard Version, says it this way:
“Let no one deceive you in any way. For it will not be, unless the departure comes first…”
This is reminiscent of Paul’s stated desire “to depart and be with Christ.” (Philippians 1:23) and his statement in 2 Timothy 4:6, “the time of my departure is at hand.” Both of those statements used the same Greek word as is used in 2 Thessalonians 2:3.
The early church fathers did not use the term Rapture for the catching away of the Church. There is evidence from their writings that they referred to it as “the departure” or “the departing.” For example, Cyprian, an early Christian theologian and bishop of Carthage (AD 220-258), speaks of the Rapture, saying, “By an early departure you are taken away, and delivered from the shipwrecks and disasters that are imminent…”
Why did the King James Version change this passage of Scripture from what it had been in previous versions? Could it be that King James and his bishops had an axe to grind with the Puritans and their Geneva Bible? They certainly did! Indeed, in the original preface to the 1611 version of the King James Bible the translators wrote, “We have…avoided the scrupulosity of the Puritans…”
King James took issue with certain doctrinal positions in the Geneva Bible, particularly in the study notes that were printed in the margin. King James believed in the divine right of the king (himself) to rule the Church and the notes in the Geneva Bible disagreed with his theology. This was one of the main reasons that King James wanted a new translation of the Bible.
King James War on the Pilgrims
Did King James interfere in any way with the translation of the Bible named after him? Yes, he did. King James gave some specific instructions to the translators. For example, they were ordered that they must translate the Greek word “ecclesia” as “church.” The Greek word actually means “the called-out ones” and is sometimes translated as the “assembly” or as “congregation.” But King James specifically ordered that it could not be translated as “congregation” but must be translated as “church.”
Why? Because King James did not want anyone getting the idea (as the Puritans already had) that anything other than his church, the “Church of England,” was the body of Christian believers refered to in the New Testament. After the KJV was produced it became the only official pulpit Bible for the Church of England.
When the King James Version was published in 1611, which included the Catholic Apocrypha, the Geneva Bible was then banned in England. Indeed, James made ownership of it a felony. Christians met secretly in underground churches with their Geneva Bible. The purpose of the King James Version was to replace and ban the Geneva Bible. Today, those who insist that the KJV is the best translation, don’t realize that it was a Bible produced by the state, and for the state, and Christians who cherished their former version were hunted and imprisoned. It is because of this very wickedness that the Pilgrims fled to America. They fled from King James, from his Bible and from his church.
Did King James Believe the Pilgrims were “The Apostasy?”
As I mentioned, King James and his bishops considered the Puritans and Separatists (Later, in America called the Pilgrims) to be apostates. They had “fallen away” from the Church of England. Could it be that the king, perhaps even the bishops and the translators, wanted this verse to speak about a great “falling away” or “apostasy” in order to point the finger at the Puritans?
That is an open question. Certainly, it is noteworthy that the KJV was the first English version to translate the passage in a manner that disagrees with the original Greek and different from the Latin Vulgate and all previous English versions.
If the Pilgrim’s Geneva Bible is correct, we have a solid biblical proof of a pre-Trib Rapture. “Let no one deceive you in any way. For it will not be, unless the departure comes first…”
For those who would like to read more about the translation of this passage, I refer you to my article on this topic. You can find it here:
For an in-depth study on proofs of a pre trib Rapture, see my book End of Days.