First of all, let it be clear that I agree with those who believe that there will be some people who will be saved during the tribulation period, according to Revelation 20:4 who are known as the tribulation saints. I believe that these souls will enter the Millennial Kingdom together with the raptured saints.
However, I feel compelled to state my apprehensions at the hope or confidence this truth might falsely raise because I feel that when preachers or teachers take this subject up, they leave out the implications of this teaching and even miss the qualifications for such saints. Because I believe the Bible has characterizations for the “tribulation saints” and it is not “just-refuse-the-mark-and-get-beheaded”.
You see, what bothers me about this topic is when preachers dangle this doctrine before Christians and heathen alike, and it comes as an, “oh-before-I-forget-the-key-is-under-the-mat” reminder, or some sort of a heavenly password, or an emergency exit or some panic button to press for those who do not get taken up during the rapture and will have to enter the tribulation period. The idea it leaves on my mind is this – “Don’t worry about getting left behind at the rapture. Just avoid getting marked, by all means, even death, and you’ll be joining the rest of the party up there. Better late than never!” I used to think this way, too.
But this creates a problem. It’s a serious problem because I can only describe that as a “hack” to gain entrance into heaven without repentance and submitting to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Allow me to expound.
Although I believe some people will get saved during the tribulation as I said from the beginning, I would suspect these will be the people WHO HAVE NOT ACTUALLY HEARD about the hack. These people are those who only have a faint Biblical understanding of salvation from others who’ve shared the Gospel with them. Perhaps they have heard or read of God’s offer of salvation elsewhere, but did not take the message seriously, or kept putting off the decision, and then the rapture hits. On the other hand, those believers and scoffers who were left behind but who already know the full Bible story, AND have heard of THE HACK, may NEVER really make it! But I hope I am wrong. Allow me to continue.
We should now examine if such a hack will work. Now before you think angry thoughts at me, or curse me in your heart, and close the browser or leave, please, PLEASE, allow the Holy Ghost to speak with you and bear witness to what follows. There might be a reason for that feeling of resentment. This is a short write-up, and I will try to be as succinct as possible. Judge for yourself if I am right or wrong.
Let’s look at Revelation 20:4 again. “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshiped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.”
Am I Being a Spiritual Killjoy?
Why do I think that there is no hack to heaven? Heaven is unhackable for three reasons. I have to say this again – just refusing the mark or evading getting marked may not help. Here are my proposals and the three qualifications that have to be met first before refusing the mark.
Reason #1 – We Can’t Outsmart God. “The good man receives grace from the LORD, but He will condemn a man of wicked devices.” (Proverbs 12:2) We must never think that God has a loophole or has a program vulnerability He hasn’t fixed. Or as if there’s something like an app’s Easter egg somewhere in the Bible that we can exploit.
I remember when I was in my senior year in college (yet unsaved!), I obtained a medical certificate as an asthmatic just to get myself exempted from mandatory ROTC (or Reserved Officers Training Corps). This subject was a prerequisite to graduation. But since those with medical conditions are still required to render office duties during ROTC period, I joined the school choir to evade this course. That worked. However, there aren’t exemptions to God’s call or even demand for humility, faithfulness, holiness, and righteous living as believers. Such traits mark us and separate us from the rest of unbelieving humanity. Before I got saved, I lived for myself. But after I yielded to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, I lived for Him. Earth is where we exercise our duty as God’s servants in demonstrating to ourselves and people around us how God’s love and pardon can be a life-changing thing.
“He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you but to do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)
Evading this responsibility would have been like shirking ROTC and yet have the gall of showing my middle finger to my college institution, and still expect them to give me my diploma. The tribulation saints “were beheaded… for the word of God…” (Revelation 20:4). If people aren’t living for the word of God, how can we expect them to die for the Word of God?
Reason #2 – We Can’t Fool God. “Do not be deceived. God is not mocked; ” (Galatians 6:7) The precondition to receiving God’s pardon and salvation is repentance. Period. You can’t fake it, and you can’t postpone it as long as you please. Not with God.
Answer me a couple of questions at the end of this parable.
Two drug dealers and criminals, Joe and Jim, were imprisoned and sentenced by a court of law to death by electric chair. While in prison, both heard the Gospel from the prison minister. Joe sincerely repents and gives his life to Christ. Jim, however, says he will give it some thought, but assured the minister that he will surely remember to repent on the day of his execution. What he really wanted to do was to secretly continue running the drug business even behind bars. Meanwhile, Joe’s life changed, and as he grew in faith, he eventually also led other prisoners to Christ. Jim actually enjoyed prison time because he proved to his friend that he can still have money and power right under the nose of authorities. Execution day came, and as they were led to the chamber, Joe wore a joyful smile, softly singing a worship song, confident he’ll be meeting his Savior that day. Jim was taut as a wound-up string, and while prison officers strapped him to the chair, managed to utter the prayer of repentance he’s heard so many times. Now answer me these two questions. Of our two characters, Joe and Jim – “Who honored God?” and “Who mocked God?”
“Therefore, you also be ready. For the Son of man is coming at a time that you do not think.” (Matthew 24:44)
You must understand this, beloved brother/sister. Postponed repentance is non-repentance. But then again, God is Sovereign. He will save whom He will save, even contrary to what I’m saying here. But wouldn’t it be better that we’re ready for His appearing today? It will happen SUDDENLY and unexpectedly without leaving anyone time to repent. The tribulation saints “were beheaded for the witness of Jesus” (Revelation 20:4), not just for evading the mark!
Reason #3 – We Can’t Predict God. “And the ark of God was taken. And Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were slain.” (1Samuel 4:11). God may seem to have consistently done something in the past in some situations, but that doesn’t mean we can be certain He is bound to do the same thing again just because those same conditions are present.
We know the story in 1st Samuel, but if you don’t, it goes like this. The Philistine and Israel army pitched against each other in battle array. When they clashed, Israel lost four thousand men. Retreating into their camp, the Israelites assessed their damage and the reasons for their defeat. The elders suggested the army take with them the ark of the covenant. They believed if the army brought it with them, it will give them the victory over the Philistines. After all, did not Moses attribute God’s presence wherever the ark went (as what happened in Numbers 10:35)? And when the army attempted to engage their enemy without the ark, did it not result in dismal failure (Numbers 14:44-45)? Did not the waters of the Jordan river part at the feet of the priests who bore the ark (Joshua 3:13)? Did not Israel under Joshua supernaturally bring down the impregnable walls of Jericho when they went around it with the ark for seven days (Joshua 6:1-20)? So this is what Israel did. The two sons of the high priest, Hophni and Phinehas, accompanied the ark of the covenant as the army brought it to the battlefield. They clashed with the Philistines again. And the result was catastrophic. Worse, the Philistines captured the ark and killed the two sons of the high priest, as well.
God has promised many things in the Bible for the believer; many of these promises are conditional. These include salvation, healing, deliverance, manifold blessings, etc. But their actualization is dependent on God’s sovereignty, His omniscience, and whether or not we’ve made our lives conform to His purposes and holy requirements laid down in the Scriptures from Genesis all the way to Revelation. Just because we seem to conform to the “requirements” for qualifying as a tribulation saint (see Revelation 20:4), that may not cut it because God knows what our heart looks like. Even if we wore the ark of the covenant, that may only look to Him like a talisman. The tribulation saints did not worship the beast (the world system, the system of the antichrist).
“The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way, but the folly of fools is deceit.” (Proverbs 14:8)
So, in answering my own question of whether or not I’m being a killjoy, no, I’m just saying that we must be very careful about this hope because it may be false for the three reasons and the qualifications given in Revelation 20:4.
COVID-19 is Nothing!
If this “pandemic” is causing so much financial damage, anxiety, carefulness, watchfulness among peoples all over the world, wait till the rapture happens. No, I take that last part back – DO NOT wait to see what happens after the rapture! Because when THAT happens, the turmoil, the panic, the terror will go on a rampage worldwide on a scale unimaginable. It will be evil on steroids all over the planet. People will be in survival mode everywhere. Such conditions are the perfect setting for the Antichrist to exploit and do all the evil things written about him.
As for the backslidden, left-behind Christian, there is the possibility that the peace of God will no longer be in his heart. Fear and terror can take its place. As a result, he might no longer have a craving for the Word of God, no desire to pray, or even think of God. What was once love for God could be replaced with something else. Knowing that he has been left behind, he will likely condemn himself, convinced God has rejected him. He might even despise Him for that. Being left behind can be the ULTIMATE DISAPPOINTMENT for those who expected to be raptured. With that big disappointment with God, might they still want to be with Him? Nobody wants to gatecrash a party hosted by his enemy!
“He who walks in his uprightness fears the LORD, but he who is perverse in his ways despises Him.” (Proverbs 14:2)
What Must I Do?
If you’re already a professing Christian, but for whatever reason, you’ve cooled off and now your life is no different from your unbelieving neighbor, please, I urge you, set your life in order again. Go back to the Cross, and on your knees, out of a sincere heart, beg for God’s forgiveness and ask Him to take you back to the kind of relationship you had with Him when you first got saved.
If you’re not a born-again Christian reading this article, forget your religion whatever it is. You can be sure it has not helped you thus far with regards to your standing before a just and holy God. God is not looking for religion, but He wants us to be in a relationship with Him. I urge you to come to God just as you are. No pretenses, no alibis. But humbly ask for His forgiveness. He has promised He will be found by those who seek Him. “But if you shall seek the LORD your God from there, you shall find Him, if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 4:29)
Believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Son of God Who came into the world to become man, and gave His life to personally pay for your sins so that you can escape the eternal fires of hell. Believe that not only did He die, but more importantly, He rose from the grave to prove that He indeed is Lord and Savior. Then, pray out loud a prayer something like this:
“Lord Jesus, I know my life has not been lived in a way that is pleasing to You. So, please forgive me of all my sins. Wash my heart with Your precious Blood. I believe You are the Son of God Who came to take away my sins. I believe You rose from the dead and will come back again to take Your children with You to heaven. I commit my life to You. Please help me to live for You as You taught in Your Word. Thank You for saving me. Amen. “
Let me know if you’ve prayed that prayer. I’ll be happy to help you and let you know how you can grow in your faith in Christ.
If you were blessed by this issue, bless others with it, too! Until our next issue, God bless you!