Tribulation Saints and ‘The Mark’
Vol: 28 Issue: 12 Saturday, November 12, 2016
I received an email from a member asking, “Upon what grounds will a believer be saved during the Tribulation Period?” It was an intriguing question, one that we’ve not touched upon in any great detail in previous discussions.
My correspondent framed his question around the acceptance of the Mark of the Beast and a ‘paradox’ he sees facing those who might accept it under coercion.
Specifically, he asked,
“During the Tribulation, if a “believer” is threatened with the choice between either taking the Mark upon himself, or becoming “responsible” for a horrendous evil act otherwise aimed upon their child, doesn’t a feasible scenario present itself whereby a believer may choose to take the Mark. How can these two apparent “truths” occur coincidentally, and form a contradiction?”
Another excellent question. Researching the answers was most illuminative, and I thank my correspondent for posing them. At the same time, the answers themselves are among those ‘hard sayings’ of Scripture.
Let’s go with the Mark first.
The Mark of the Beast is not merely an economic medium of exchange, like a debit or credit card, although it will incorporate that function. If that were all there was to it, my correspondent’s paradox would be valid.
The Mark of the Beast is first and foremost a worship system. So now, we have crossed over from the material to the spiritual.
“And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not WORSHIP the image of the beast should be killed.” (Revelation 13:15)
The Mark is a symbol of membership in the ‘church’ of antichrist, and among the privileges of membership under his rule is the right to life, a form of liberty and the right to pursue a form of economic happiness.
But the Bible makes plain that no man can serve two masters.
To the question of whether or not accepting the Mark to save a life is paradoxical, James answers that question with a question of his own:
“For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” (James 4:14)
There are two distinct and separate understandings of ‘life’ at work here. There is our understanding of life, under which one might be tempted to take the Mark of the Beast, say, to save one’s child.
Then there is God’s understanding of life. Physical life is granted to us so that we can choose where we will spend eternity.
Since the main purpose in the spiritual sense for our physical existence is to exercise that choice, the choice we make is of far greater importance than the physical existence that provides the opportunity to choose.
Is the Bible specific concerning the choice to accept the Mark of the Beast and worship his image?
“And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.” (Revelation 14:9-11)
There is no paradox here. The choice is the same as it has always been. It was the same choice that Joshua offered the children of Israel more than three thousand years ago.
“And if it seem evil
unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15)
During the early persecution of the Church, many martyrs were given the choice between worshipping Caesar or seeing their entire families thrown to the lions.
Those who accept a martyr’s death are promised a crown, but nowhere does the Bible grant an exemption for those who reject Jesus, coercion notwithstanding. Not in the Church Age, and not during the Tribulation.
“Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.” (Luke 17:33)
The second question asks, “Upon what grounds will a believer be saved during the Tribulation?” The short answer would appear to be, “the same grounds upon which believers are saved during the Church Age” — salvation by grace through faith. But that isn’t exactly accurate.
During the Tribulation, God’s grace, as we understand it in this Dispensation, is withdrawn. The Age of Grace concludes with the Rapture. The Tribulation Period is the final, unfulfilled week of the Age of the Law.
Revelation Chapter 7 describes an event so unique that Jesus devotes an entire chapter to its discussion. It describes a special ‘sealing’ of “the servants of our God in their foreheads.” (Revelation 7:3) These ‘servants of God’ are twelve thousand Jewish male virgins chosen from each of the twelve tribes of Israel — 144,000 in all.
They are sealed in a miraculous manner, by the direct intervention of God, in exactly the same way Church Age believers are, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus was sealed by the Holy Spirit.
“And Jesus, when He was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16-17)
Church Age believers are sealed. “. . . in Whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise.” (Ephesians 1:13)
The sealing work of the Holy Spirit is the basis for our eternal security during the Church Age. Among the spiritual benefits of being sealed by the Holy Spirit are:
1) Men receive courage to rebuke sin: Matt. 3:8
2) Men are enabled to speak with confidence: Acts 4:31-33
Returning to the question at hand, the 144,000 evangelists are sealed by the Holy Spirit to empower them as evangelists during the Tribulation Period, because it is only through the conviction of the Holy Spirit that men can be saved.
The doctrine of eternal security is due to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in all believers during the Age of Grace.
During the final Week of the Age of the Law, the universal ministry of the Holy Spirit is withdrawn. (2nd Thessalonians 2:7)
He then indwells believers only selectively, as He did during David’s time, when David cried out, “Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.” (Psalms 51:11)
There will be believers in the Tribulation who will succumb to the antichrist’s coercion and accept his mark to save their families. And Scripture is clear that those who do are forever lost.
Tribulation believers will be saved by faith in Christ and enduring until the end, as in the Church Age, but without the guarantee of eternal security or the automatic indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus described the tribulation as, “such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.”
He warned that, “except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.” (Matthew 24:21-22)
It is our job on this side of the Tribulation to give the warning of what is to come. It is coming. And it is coming soon.
Our blessed hope is found in the Scripture’s promise that Jesus comes for His Church first.
“Wherefore, comfort one another with these words.” (1st Thessalonians 4:18)