It has often been said that true repentance is seldom late but late repentance is seldom true. When it comes to repentance during the great tribulation period, this saying seems appropriate. Though this is a day when prophetic themes are not as prominent as they once were, there still seems to be quite a bit of interest in the question of salvation after the rapture, that is, within the tribulation period. A Google search with this title confirmed to me not only the interest but the variety of opinion (as well as much confusion) about this question. The more specific question is, of course, whether or not a person can still be saved in the tribulation if they refuse Christ now and miss the rapture. That is what I want to address.
A few broad observations need to be settled first. I do believe in the pretribulational rapture of the entire church of God. I don’t believe that there will be some believers left who have to earn enough spiritual points to be raptured later. The church will be complete when she is raptured and her number settled. But it is also surely true that there will be people saved on earth during the tribulation. We know there will be two witnesses who begin to prophesy evidently during the first half of the tribulation (Rev. 11:3-11). These are instrumental in converting 144,000 Jews, twelve thousand from each tribe by the middle of the tribulation week (Rev. 7:1-8). There is also a multitude of Gentiles converted by this same time (Rev. 7:9-10) probably by the 144,000 who become evangelists and preach throughout the world. These believers and unbelievers during the tribulation become the subjects of the parables of the wheat and tares (Matt. 13:18-30), the sheep and the goats (Matt. 25:31-46), and of the one taken while others are left (Matt. 24:36-41). The saved out of the tribulation period (wheat, sheep, ones left) remain on the earth and go into the millennial kingdom alive and in physical bodies but the lost (tares, goats, ones taken) will be cast into torment.
It should also be stated that salvation, even within the great tribulation period, will be by grace through faith in the blood of Christ brought about by the conviction of the Holy Spirit. It will not be the Old Testament time because that has been finished, but it will not be the age of grace (church age) either because the ministry of the Holy Spirit through the church will also be finished. But since salvation has always been by God’s grace through the faith of the believer based on the blood sacrifice of Christ and accomplished by the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, salvation in the tribulation period will be accomplished the same way. The circumstances for these things to be brought about, however, will be unlike any mankind has yet known.
Therefore, I did not title this article “Can You Be Saved After The Rapture?” but “Will You Be Saved?” And I am addressing particularly those who have knowledge of these things now and are making a conscious choice to delay faith until after the rapture. Perhaps some are even waiting to see if these things will really happen and then, if they are in fact true, they will quickly ask Jesus to save them. If you are thinking like that, I would encourage you not to be so bold in your rejection of Christ and the precious drawing of God’s Spirit, nor to place your eternal destiny on a wager that a later chance will be given you. The Bible strongly indicates that salvation for you will be extremely difficult and that you will most likely be under a strong delusion allowed by God and fostered by Satan and his antichrist. Ten reasons may be given for this point of view.
The first three reasons why you probably will not be saved if you wait until after the rapture involve the most direct statements written by the apostle Paul to the Thessalonians.
1. You have not had sufficient love of the truth to be saved now.
And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved (2 Thes. 2:10 ). Here Paul says that unrighteousness will be so deceiving precisely because this person had not (previously-past tense) loved the truth enough to be saved. These kinds of people easily become hardened in their heart. This would surely be true of a person who purposely refused the gospel prior to the rapture.
2. You will be under strong Satanic delusion allowed by God.
And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie (2 Thes. 2:11). “A lie” is actually “the lie” perhaps referring to the antichrist pretending to be the real Christ. One who has refused the real Christ now will be a prime candidate for His imitator. Most striking, however, is the indication that God Himself is pleased to be the active agent in allowing this strong delusion to come specifically upon those who previously refused His gracious offer. Will a person be saved if God is no longer drawing him? If you have had your opportunity in the age of grace, you will be under strong delusion about Christ in the tribulation.
3. You will have more pleasure in sinful activity than interest in being saved.
That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness (2 Thes. 2:12). John recorded in Revelation that although many will experience severe judgment from God, they will not repent of the works of their hands . . . Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts (Rev. 9:20-21). Paul wrote that the perilous times of the last days would be characterized by people being lovers of all kinds of pleasures more than lovers for God (2 Tim. 3:1-5). It will therefore be a righteous thing for God to display His displeasure by confirming such rebellious ones in condemnation who had refused (past tense) the truth. To purposely reject such truth now, places you in severe danger for the future.
The last seven reasons are further facts that have direct bearing on the condition of salvation in the tribulation.
4. The Holy Spirit will be removed.
For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way (2 Thes. 2:7). The Holy Spirit is the Restrainer of sin in the age of grace. He dwells within the believers and will leave when they leave (or, conversely, they will leave when He leaves). As noted previously, He will still convict and draw individuals during the tribulation, but not in the same manner which He does now. Sin will certainly abound more because He is gone; delusion from God will increase; idolatry will reach its zenith. It seems also that unbelief will reach unparalleled levels. The writer of Hebrews says that after one has tasted of the Heavenly Gift and refused Him, it is impossible to renew him again unto salvation (Heb. 6:4-6).
5. The Church will be removed.
In the age of grace, it has been the church’s unique responsibility to evangelize the world. By it the gospel has been preached around the world in almost every language, tribe, and culture. We can’t imagine what effect the removal of all believers will have on the gospel. The Jewish evangelists of that day will be at a huge disadvantage compared to the universal scope of the gospel by the church today. If you are not convinced of your need of salvation now by the preaching and testimony of the church, neither will you be then.
6. The world will be in great apostasy.
Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition (2 Thes. 2:3). Although this “falling away” may actually refer to the rapture, it is abundantly clear that the tribulation sends the world into great apostasy. Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils (1 Tim. 4:1). The reason you will not believe now is because the apostasy of Satan, has already blinded your mind (2 Thes. 4:4). It will be much worse in those days.
7. There will be great pressure to receive the mark of the beast.
Revelation makes it clear that anyone who does receive the mark of the beast will not be saved (Rev. 14:11; 20:4). Since the purpose for this mark is to be able to survive religiously and economically during the tribulation period (Rev. 13:17), and since we are already so conditioned to body markings, idol worship, and convenience buying, the reception of the mark will be welcomed by the world as a miracle of technology. You probably will not even discern the fact that this is also sealing your eternal fate.
8. Peer pressure will be greater then than now.
It is amazing to see that in the coming tribulation period people turn quickly to a herd mentality (Rev. 6:14-17; 9:20-21; 13:8; 16:21). History has shown that when powerful orators speak to crowds, and masses of people are swaying and screaming together, and shocking action is proposed, the entire crowd will follow obediently. Even today’s political season illustrates that crowds are more interested in emotional unity than in rational sensibility. If you are rejecting Christ now it is likely due to fear of what others think of you. How much greater will the pressure be in that time.
9. The fear of physical persecution will be greater than at any time in history.
The second (red) and fourth (pale) horses of the apocalypse (Rev. 6:3-4; 7-8) bring in death and killing in unparalleled proportions. The inhumane treatment of the two witnesses as their bodies are left lying in the streets of Jerusalem while all the world cheers shows the savage nature of tribulation people. The antichrist and false prophet order world-wide executions by beheading for anyone refusing the mark of the beast. To dissent in any fashion will mean immediate detection and suspicion. The occasional savagery we observe now by mass killers and murderers will become the norm in that day. Public executions will be common. It has never been man’s nature to easily withstand physical threat and eventual torture. The best of Christians have acquiesced under such terrible circumstances. The reader ought to consider what it is that keeps you from believing now and then ask why you think believing then will be easier and more within your physical ability to withstand. For every fear you have now there will be ten-fold more in that day.
10. Sins of presumption are the most serious with God.
Under the law, Moses wrote,
But the soul that doeth ought presumptuously, whether he be born in the land, or a stranger, the same reproacheth the LORD; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Because he hath despised the word of the LORD, and hath broken his commandment, that soul shall utterly be cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him (Num. 15:30-31). The book of Hebrews gives four extended warning passages to those who would hear the gospel but knowingly refuse it (Heb. 2:1-4; 3:7-11; 5:11-6:6; 10:26-39). If the Israelites who refused God’s offer perished, How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation (2:3)? For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries (10:26-27). To presume that you can refuse God’s loving offer of grace, turn your back on His Son’s sacrifice on your behalf, and then be confident that there will be opportunity left for you at a later date, especially in the great tribulation, is to act most presumptuously before God. I would not, if I were you, take such a chance!
Someday you’ll hear God’s final call to you;
To take His offer of salvation true;
This could be it my friend, if you but knew,
God’s final call, God’s final call.
If you reject God’s final call of grace;
You’ll have no chance your footsteps to retrace;
All hope will then be gone, and doom you’ll face;
O hear His call! O hear His call!