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After the Church is Gathered?
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Can Anyone Be Saved After the Church is Gathered?

 

Does the Bible teach that anyone will have opportunity to be saved after the Church is gathered? In other words, when Jesus returns, will those who weren’t ready have a chance to repent?

 

A widespread teaching says that there will be a chance for salvation after the Church is gathered, that is, those who are “left” will have a second chance to be saved during the Tribulation and the reign of the Antichrist. Some even go as far as to say that if a person misses the rapture, he can be saved by giving his life during the Tribulation. But what does the Bible teach? Will anyone have a chance to be saved after the Church is gathered?

We have already proved from Scripture that the rapture occurs after the Tribulation, not before. Christ must reign at His Father’s right hand until He returns to destroy all His enemies. Since, as we have already seen, this will happen on the Last Day, when the last trumpet sounds and all believers are raptured, we can be certain that no one will escape the fiery judgment of our Lord Jesus Christ on that final day.

Since the false teaching of a second chance for salvation after the rapture is deeply rooted in the hearts of many believers, and since the Bible repeatedly warns that the day of our Lord’s return is not only “the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30) for believers, but also “the great day of his wrath” (Rev. 6:17) for unbelievers, I feel it necessary to answer this question thoroughly.

To begin with, no one can be saved by giving his own life. Those who teach that if a person misses the rapture he can be saved by giving his life during the Tribulation seriously distorts not only the doctrine of the Second Coming, but also the doctrine of salvation. The Bible clearly teaches that we cannot save ourselves. Salvation is a gift of God that comes by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, not by works (Eph. 2:8,9).

The Bible also teaches that the Lord reserves wrath for unrepentant sinners, not salvation. Paul stated that the goodness of God leads us to repentance. If we despise “the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering” and harden our hearts, however, we treasure up for ourselves “wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God who will render to every man according to his deeds” ( Rom. 2:4-6).

The Bible warns that the Lord “reserveth wrath for his enemies . . . and will not at all acquit the wicked” (Nahum 1:2,3). According to Isaiah 13:9, “The day of the L ord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.”

Jesus Himself warned that He will return to execute judgement (John 5:27).

Peter proclaimed, “The Lord knoweth how . . . to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished. . . . to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever” (2 Pet. 2:9,17).

Now the Lord delays His coming because He is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance,” but for those who refuse to repent, His coming will indeed be the fiery “day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men” (2 Pet. 3:9,10).

Clearly, then, to the enemies of Christ, the return of Christ means wrath, not salvation.

Jesus Himself clearly indicated that people who are “left” after the Church is raptured are left for judgment, not for a second chance of salvation.

He stated that “one shall be taken and the other left” in the context of discussing Noah and His coming after the Tribulation. He said, “The day that Noe entered into the ark . . . the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left” (Matt. 24:38-40).

Left for what purpose? To go through the Tribulation with a second chance to be saved? That teaching is extremely dangerous. How many were saved after Noah entered the ark and God shut the door? None! Likewise, when Jesus returns “after the tribulation” (v. 29), the door of salvation will be shut, the prepared will be taken to be with Him, and the unprepared will be left for immediate and eternal destruction. Remember that Noah was not saved from tribulation; he was saved from judgment.

Clearly, then, when Jesus said “one shall be taken and the other left,” He was not teaching a secret rapture, nor that the unprepared will be left to go through the Tribulation with a second opportunity for salvation. Rather, that when He comes after the Tribulation, the prepared will be taken to be with Him, and the unprepared will be left for destruction.

The Bible vividly describes what will happen to those who are not prepared for our Lord’s return. At the very appearing of Jesus, when the end of the world is come, the unsaved will panic and flee to escape, but there will be no place of refuge. This truth is illustrated as follows:

The apostle John foresaw the coming of the Lord and the catastrophic events that accompany that last great day: “And, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a might wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places” (Rev. 6:12-14).

As a result, “the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” (vv. 15-17).

According to Amos 5:18-21, on that Day of the Lord, it will be “as if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him.” Or, as we read in Isaiah 24:17-20, it will be as “he who fleeth from the noise of the fear shall fall into the pit; and he that cometh up out of the midst of the pit shall be taken in the snare, for the windows from on high are open, and the foundations of the earth do shake.”

Clearly, then, not one unrepentant sinner will escape the wrath of the Lamb. The kings of the earth, and the rich and mighty men along with every slave and free man will run to hide themselves, but there will be no hiding place. Those who did not turn to the “Lamb of God” in repentance while there was opportunity, must now suffer the “wrath of the Lamb” for eternity. Scripture warns, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” (Heb. 2:3).

At least twenty-eight New Testament passages of Scripture associate the coming of Christ and the resurrection or rapture of believers with the final judgment, not with a second chance of salvation.

It is significant to note that seven of these passages are found in Matthew 24 and 25 alone, which is Jesus’ great discourse on the Second Coming. The following twenty-eight passages of Scripture show that at the single coming of Jesus Christ, believers will be eternally saved and unbelievers will be eternally damned without a second chance for salvation.

1. Matthew 7:21-27
The wise man who heard and obeyed Jesus’ word will enter the kingdom of heaven.   The foolish man who heard but did not obey will hear Jesus say, “Depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
     
2. Matthew 8:10-12
People of faith, such as the Gentile centurion, “shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.”   “But the children of the kingdom [those born to its privileges, but void of faith] shall be cast into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
     
3. Matthew 13:30,39-43
At the end of the world, the wheat will be gathered.   But the tares will be burned.
     
4. Matthew 13:47-50
The good fish will be gathered.   But the bad fish will be cast away.
     
5. Matthew 24:29-31
After the Tribulation, at the end of world, the “elect” will be gathered.   On the other hand, “all the tribes of the earth [shall] mourn.” It will be the cry of sinners in the hands of an angry God, but their cries for mercy will be too late.
     
6. Matthew 24:37-41: Luke 17:26-37
As in the day Noah entered the ark— one will be “taken” to be with Jesus.   But the other will be “left” for immediate and eternal destruction.
     
7. Matthew 24:42-44
They who “watch” will “be ready” when Jesus returns suddenly and unexpectedly as a thief in the night.   All others will be caught totally off guard and will suffer sudden and eternal destruction.
     
8. Matthew 24:45-51
The servant who remains wise and faithful will be rewarded.   The evil servant will be cut asunder and have his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
     
9. Matthew 25:10-13
The wise virgins will enter the marriage supper with the Bridegroom and the door will be shut.   The foolish virgins will cry, “Lord, Lord, open to us.” But they will be shut out without a second chance to be saved.
     
10. Matthew 25:14-30
The good and faithful servants will hear Jesus say, “Well done . . . I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”   The wicked, slothful, and unprofitable servant will be cast into “outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
     
11. Matthew 25:34,41,46
The sheep will hear Jesus say, “Come ye blessed . . . inherit the kingdom.”   The goats will hear Jesus say, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire.”
     
12. Luke 13:23-30
The saved will enter the kingdom of God with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets.   The unsaved will “seek to enter in, and . . . not be able”—the door will be shut. They will knock and cry only to hear Jesus say, “Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.”
     
13. Luke 18:7,8
The elect will be avenged of their adversaries   Their persecutors will face the vengeance of God, the righteous judge.
     
14. Luke 19:11-27
Faithful servants will be rewarded.   Christ’s enemies will be slain.
     
15. Luke 21:34-36
The watchful and prayerful will be accounted worthy to escape judgment.   But the worldly-minded will be caught unawares.
     
16. John 5:27-29 
When Jesus returns to “execute judgment,” the righteous will rise to “life.”   The wicked will rise to “damnation.”
     
17. John 6:39,40,44,54; 11:24; 12:48
At the Last Day, “all” believers will be resurrected.   At the Last Day, all Christ rejecters will be judged.
     
18. Romans 2:5-8
On the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, believers will inherit “eternal life.”   But the contentious and those who do not obey the truth will receive “indignation and wrath.”
     
19. 1 Corinthians 15:23-26; 51-54
At “the end,” when the “last trump” sounds, the righteous will “all be changed”—resurrected and glorified.   Christ’s enemies will all be destroyed including death, the last enemy. See also Rev. 20:14.
     
20. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-5:9
On the Day of the Lord, the Church will be “caught up” to meet the Lord.   The ungodly, however, will face “sudden destruction;” none will escape.
     
21. 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10
When Jesus is revealed in “flaming fire,” He will glorify believers.   He will take “vengeance” on those who know not God and obey not the gospel.
     
22. 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3,8
On the Day of Christ, believers will be gathered.   The Antichrist will be destroyed with “the brightness” of Christ’s coming.
     
23. 2 Peter 3:7,10-13
The righteous will inherit Jesus’ “promise” of heaven (John 14:3).   The wicked will face “the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.”
     
24. Revelation 6:12-17; 7:9-17
A great multitude will stand before the throne of the Lamb and “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.”   A great multitude will cry, “Hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb.”
     
25. Revelation 11:18
When the seventh and last trumpet sounds, the saints will be rewarded.   The wicked, however, will face God’s wrath and be eternally destroyed.
     
26. Revelation 19:9,17,18
The blessed will be called to the marriage supper of the Lamb.   Fowls will be called to the supper of the great God—they will eat the flesh of the ungodly, which speaks of judgment.
     
27. Revelation 20:9,10 with 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10
“His saints” will be “glorified”— that is, the “camp of the saints,”the “beloved city.   On the other hand, “fire” from heaven will devour their persecutors. The devil himself will be cast into the lake of fire.
     
28. Revelation 20:11-15; 21:7,8
At the great white throne judgment, overcomers will “inherit all things.”   The wicked and death, the last enemy, will be cast into the lake of fire.
     

Clearly, then, we have considered twenty-eight passages of Scripture that depict the single return of our Lord after the Tribulation. Since each one clearly demonstrates that the rapture or reward of believers is a simultaneous event with the judgment of unbelievers, it is obvious that after the rapture they will not have a second opportunity to be saved. In sharp contrast, there is not one biblical statement, in context, to support the idea of sinners having a chance to repent once the rapture has occurred.

 

You may be asking this question:

What about the nation of Israel? Won’t they have a chance to repent at the appearing of their Messiah?

It must be remembered that John the Baptist was addressing religious Jews when he said, “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham” (Matt. 3:7-9). In other words, they were not to think that they had true salvation just because they were descendants of Abraham. To flee the wrath to come they had to repent and come to saving faith in Christ Jesus.

Twice, Jesus Himself said to the Jews of His day, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3,5).

The idea of the nation of Israel being saved when Jesus returns contradicts Paul’s description of the Second Coming in four passages of Scripture. Let us consider just one in Romans 2:4-11. Paul declared that on the “day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,” He will “render to every man according to his deeds.” He clearly taught that for those who are “contentious, and do not obey the truth” there will be “indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish . . . of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile. . . . For there is no respect of persons with God.”

Also, please notice that the Lord will render to “every man according to his deeds.” Someone has said that “no church or nation is saved en masse.” The relationship with God is an individual relationship. A man must give his own heart, make his own submission, surrender his own life to God. God does not call men in crowds.

This passage of Scripture, then, overthrows completely the teaching that the nation of Israel will be saved when Jesus returns.

What does this teaching mean to us? It is important to note that almost every passage of Scripture which speaks of the Second Coming gives an admonition about readiness and holy living. Why? Because the time to prepare is now! There will be no chance for salvation once Jesus appears! If there was a second chance to be saved, Jesus’ warnings to watch, to pray, and to be ready for His coming would be meaningless. On that day, we will be appointed to our eternal destiny—heaven or hell. The choice we make now will make the difference then.

We must be as “men that wait for their lord” (Luke 12:36). “Now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2). In that day, “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still” (Rev. 22:11). Clearly, the world’s history will culminate in the events of the Second Coming with no second chance to repent.

This message is available by tape. For your free copy, write to Agnes Macdonald, 2948 Creekwood Drive, Salem, Virginia 24153.

 

Be sure to tune in tomorrow evening at this same time. God willing, I will be teaching on the theme—Does the Bible teach more than one final judgment? In other words, how many days of judgment will there be? Invite a friend to listen with you. Until tomorrow, may God bless you and be with you.