You may have noticed that the entire purpose of this website is to provide Biblically sound doctrinal advice for those left behind after the rapture occurs. In Revelation 7:9-17, an untold multitude of people keep showing up in heaven during the tribulation period, while the church is already there. We know many of these will be martyrs, executed by the anti-Christ for refusing to worship the image of the beast (Revelation 13:15) and/or refusing to accept the mark of the beast, which will be a micro-chip implanted under the skin that conducts all of your banking and financial transactions. There is therefore no doubt that many people will be saved during the tribulation.
However, some good Bible teachers hold the position that people who reject the message of the gospel before the rapture will have their hearts hardened beyond any hope of accepting Christ during the tribulation. The Bible passage which is mostly responsible for this viewpoint is 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12, which identifies those who are perishing as being deceived by the anti-Christ, because they refused to love the truth and be saved. God sends them a strong delusion because of their having formerly refused the truth. It’s a “you had your chance, now you blew it” theology. The pastors who teach this doctrine theorize that the tribulation-era saints will be made up entirely of those who never had a chance to hear the gospel before the rapture occurred.
There is some logic to this viewpoint. If a person hears the gospel and rejects it now, with the influence of the Holy Spirit through the presence of the church available, it figures to become more difficult when that positive element is removed. My pastor likes to say, “If you cannot live for Jesus now, how much more difficult will it be to die for him later?”
However, there are some major scriptural problems with this position. The 2 Thessalonians verse is the only supporting passage for it, while there are about a dozen verses which refer to people being saved in the tribulation. The far-reaching grace of God which is disclosed in the entirety of scripture speaks much more towards mercy for those willing to repent at the 11th hour than for a rigid point of no return for anyone who heard the gospel even once but hasn’t come around yet.
The untold multitude who gets saved during the tribulation is a separate group than the specific 144,000 Jews who also get saved (in Revelation 7:3-4). The untold multitude is a much, much larger group. Christian missionaries have now been planted across the entire planet, including in most Muslim nations. You cannot throw a dart into a world map and be more than a few hours’ journey from a Christian Mission with printed Bibles available. What I am getting at it this: There simply are not enough people left on the planet who have not had a chance to hear the gospel to make up an untold multitude.
Angels will be traversing the entire planet preaching the gospel and warning people not to accept the mark of the beast, as is accounted in Revelation 14:6-11. Note specifically that in verse 6 the angel is preaching the gospel to every nation, tongue, tribe and people – and in verse 7 is calling for them all to worship God. Why would they bother doing this to people who no longer had any hope of salvation?
I think it is quite obvious the 2 Thessalonians passage is referring to those who continue to reject the gospel and side with the anti-Christ, who will deceive them (which is not a difficult task, given their stubborn unbelief). When the rapture occurs, it is going to be obvious what happened to many people, while many others will continue to rebel against God in their alleged non-belief. Those who get the wakeup call will finally wise up and become part of the untold multitude who gets saved after the rapture. Better late than never.