If a Person
There are some who teach that those who have heard the gospel and do not get saved prior to the Rapture have no hope of being saved after the Rapture. This view is based upon a misunderstanding of 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12: "And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. (11) And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: (12) That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness." They understand this passage to mean that if a person rejects the truth prior to the Rapture, he will be deluded and unable to believe following the Rapture. Who then will be saved during the Tribulation? They teach that those saved during the Tribulation will be only those who never heard the Gospel prior to the Rapture.
What does the passage really teach? These verses in 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12 are not talking about people who reject the truth before the Rapture. They are referring to people who reject the truth during the Tribulation. These are people who willfully decide to follow the devil's man (see the context of 2 Thess. 2:3-9). These are people who reject the truth and receive the LIE that the man of sin is to be honored as God and worshiped. These are those who deliberately choose to take the mark of the beast and worship this evil man. According to Revelation 14:9-11, those who take the mark cannot be saved. Their destiny is Hell. Thus, during the Tribulation, those who willfully identify with the devil's man are doomed and damned (2 Thess. 2:12). In that day the issue will be very clear: worship God (Rev. 14:6-7) or worship the devil's man (Rev. 14:9-11). One's choice will determine one's eternal destiny.
If a person refuses to believe on Christ prior to the Rapture, there is still hope that he will trust Christ after the Rapture. His earlier rejection was not final and not fatal. God still reaches out to men in grace during the Tribulation. However, it is always dangerous to reject the truth, no matter when you live. The time to be saved is today, not tomorrow. If a person refuses to be saved today, what guarantee does he have that he will be willing to be saved in the future?
If a person refuses to trust Christ today when it is easy (for many, little or no persecution), why should this person be willing to trust Christ tomorrow when it will be very difficult (great persecution for believers during the Tribulation). Those who reject the Gospel today are in danger of rejecting the Gospel tomorrow. The person who rejects the Gospel before the Rapture could very well be one of those who will worship the man of sin during the Tribulation. Those who are unbelievers today will probably be unbelievers tomorrow.
God can certainly save a person who at one time strongly rejected the truth. Remember Saul of Tarsus. Remember how you yourself once rejected the truth before you were saved! During the Tribulation, God will be willing and able to save all those who will turn to Him. The same is true today: "Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them" (Heb. 7:25).
The time to believe is now. "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor. 6:2). It is never safe to delay such a decision. The time to be saved is now, prior to the Rapture.
Isaiah summed up the duty of man regardless of what dispensation he lives in: "Seek ye the LORD while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near: (7) Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and He will have mercy upon Him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon" (Isaiah 55:6-7).
Please note: I sent the following letter to a former professor of mine, a dearly beloved brother in Christ and a faithful servant of the Lord. He is also a very humble and teachable man, as seen from his response:
Dear Dr. Boyer,
It was good to hear from you. I thank the Lord for you and your faithful teaching ministry. I still have many fond memories of my Greek classes with you as well as Daniel and Revelation and some other courses you taught.
I did not realize that my position on 2 Thessalonians was in conflict with what you and others have taught. Iím sorry if what I wrote stirred up a hornetís nest. If the editors had so suggested, I would have gladly omitted that part. I appreciated very much your use of my article in your journal and I never dreamed that I was presenting a position contrary to what you and some of your colleagues have believed and taught.
What you sent me was the best defense of the other position that I had ever read. It caused me to re-think my position.
Let me share with you some of the reasons why I hold the position that 2 Thessalonians 2 describes a group of people who reject the truth during the tribulation not prior to the rapture (although their rejection of the truth could certainly have started before the rapture).
1) The context of verses 8-9 is the tribulation period, not the time prior to the rapture. The man of sin has been revealed (v.8) and it will be an unprecedented time of Satanic miracle working resulting in the deception of many. It is true that the rapture is referred to in the chapter (v.7 and possibly v.1), but the immediate context of verses 8-9 belongs to the tribulation.
2) The deceivableness and delusion mentioned in verses 10-11 is linked to verse 9 (note especially the phrase "lying wonders"). I understand this passage to be saying that these people will be deceived by means of the Satanic miracles which will be taking place during the tribulation in connection with the man of sin. Again this is a post-rapture context, not a pre-rapture context.
3) The greatest evidence, in my mind, has to do with the teaching of Scripture elsewhere. In other words, where in the Bible are we told of a group of people who reject the truth in such a way that it will be impossible for them to be saved? I donít know of any passage that says such a thing of a group of people prior to the rapture. But Revelation 14 (especially verses 9-11) teaches very forcefully that during the tribulation there will be such a group. These are those who take the mark of the beast. According to this passage, taking the mark is equivalent to going to hell. It is impossible for someone who has taken the mark to ever be saved. Also Revelation 13:8 teaches that those who worship the beast (that is, those who take his mark) are doomed forever.
4) I agree with you that the verbs in verses 10 and 12 are past tense. They received not the love of the truth and they believed not the truth. I believe that their rejection probably took place during the tribulation, especially during the first part of the tribulation. We know that this will be a time when the gospel will be clearly announced (by the two witnesses, by the 144,000, by angels, etc.). We also know that no one will take the mark of the beast until the last 3Ĺ years. Indeed, some of their rejection of the truth could have even begun prior to the rapture as they rejected the clear gospel message that they heard then.
5) When will God shut the door? The exact time that God shuts the door, according to Revelation 14, is when the tribulation unbeliever takes the mark of the beast. For each individual this may occur at any time during the last 3Ĺ years. Once this final and public act of rejection takes place, there is no hope of salvation.
6) What is "the lie" (verse 11)? This same expression is also used in Romans 1:25 which speaks of the terrible lie of giving worship to a mere creature as if that creature were God. The absolute culmination of "creature worship" will be in the tribulation when men will worship the man of sin as God (and this is mentioned in the very context, 2 Thess. 2:4). These tribulation unbelievers will be supernaturally deluded into believing that this mere man, Satanís man, is actually God and they will worship him and take his mark. If this is the correct understanding of "the lie," then we are again in a tribulation context and not a pre-rapture context.
7) Although I believe that the hopeless unbelievers described in this passage are tribulation unbelievers and not pre-rapture unbelievers, I also teach that those who reject Christ prior to the rapture will most probably reject Him after the rapture. The salvation of these people is improbable, but not impossible. (In a similar way, the first century Christians would have thought the salvation of Saul of Tarsus was improbable, but they learned it was not impossible).
These are my main reasons for holding the view that the unbelievers represent tribulation unbelievers. It is true that many of these tribulation unbelievers rejected Christ even prior to the rapture and continued their unbelief into the tribulation. It is the taking of the mark that will seal their doom. It is Godís delusion that will make them take the mark. It is their wicked unbelief, in spite of very clear gospel testimony, that will bring about Godís delusion. Simply stated, they willfully and knowingly rejected the truth of God. This terrible rejection could have started prior to the rapture. The culmination of it will take place when the unbeliever takes the mark. The sealing of their doom does not take place at the time of the rapture; it takes place at the time they take the mark of the beast.
Thanks again for helping me to better understand the other position and causing me to re-think my position.
Your brother in Christ,
Note: The response that I received was as follows.
I have great reason to write and express my appreciation for your very kind and understanding response to my earlier letter regarding the 2 Thessalonians' teaching. Your words prompted me to do what I should have done before. I went back to the Word and looked at it again, and what I saw there this time has convinced me that your teaching was right, that the "unpardonable sin" there is indeed tied to the "Mark of the Beast" rather than to the rapture.
To keep busy in the Word I have been spending much time refreshing my translating of the Greek N.T. I had done all of John's writings up to Revelation 13 when I got your letter. Chapter 14 seems to be providentially arranged by the Lord to come next after your comments, and its discussion of the Mark of the Beast ties in so closely with the 2 Thessalonians statements that I am convinced of the position you stated.
Thanks again for your very helpful and gracious letter.
Sincerely your brother in Christ,
Dr. James Boyer
(now with the Lord)
Final Note: Regardless of whether my understanding of 2 Thessalonians 2 is correct, it was refreshing to receive such a humble response from a man, well up in years, who was willing to amend his thinking in favor of God's truth. May we too search the Scriptures daily to see if these things be true!