QWhat will happen to unbelievers after the rapture? Please specifically address those who live in the sphere of professing Christianity.
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AThose who have not believed the gospel of the grace of God will be left behind when the rapture takes place (1 Thess. 4:17). Unbelievers will be faced with the horrors of the tribulation period.
In 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12 we learn that God has prepared a special judgment for those who ultimately reject the gospel. When Antichrist emerges, “all” those who have “received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved”, will be drawn into his delusion, and they will meet their end with the man of sin; “that they all might be damned” (2 Thess. 2:12). This does not include those who have not heard or understood the gospel.
“And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12
Antichrist will be revealed at the middle of Daniel’s seventieth week, and that is the point at which Christ-rejecters are swept up into the apostasy. The delusion is connected with Antichrist being revealed, not with the rapture, as some have speculated. These ones are akin to those in Revelation called “the earth-dwellers”, a class of individuals opposed to God and His purpose. They have rejected the best that heaven has to offer and chosen earth; they eventually become followers of the Beast rather than followers of the Lamb. Two things are said of those who are swept up in the delusion:
- They “received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” This is clearly speaking of the truth of the Word of God presented to a person. When someone is born again, they have a new life that loves the truth. These ones refuse it.
- They “believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” Not only do they refuse it but they “believe it not”. In order to disbelieve something you have to hear it. Paul tells us that justification is by faith alone. These are those when believe not. Furthermore, they have “pleasure in unrighteousness.” This gives us the positive reason why they reject the gospel: they love their unrighteous lifestyle, and don’t want it to change.
What will be the end of these unbelievers? “God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned.” They will be deceived by the lies of the Antichrist. There will be great confusion at that time, pictured by clouds of smoke that blot out the sun (Rev. 9:2). The “strong delusion” is sent by God as a judgment (2 Thess. 2:11), but the lie itself is from Satan, and promulgated by the False Prophet. God will judicially blind these ones to the obvious truth, and harden their hearts as He hardened Pharaoh’s heart many years ago. This is consistent with the ways of God in His government. Whenever truth is rejected, a person opens themselves up to the blinding influence of Satan (2 Cor. 4:4). Earth-dwellers will be swept up into the delusion of Antichrist (Rev. 13:14), and will meet with the awful judgment that Revelation predicts for the followers of the Beast.
This is the terrible end of those who ultimately reject what the Thessalonians had believed (“our gospel”, 2 Thess. 2:14). Sadly, many will find themselves in this condition, and among them are those who have made a false profession, for whom the strongest language is reserved. In the parable of the virgins, the foolish virgins represent those with a profession (lamp) but no indwelling Spirit (oil). The foolish virgins find (to their horror) that when the wise virgins go into the marriage, the door is shut (Matt. 25:8-13). This indicates that those left behind after the rapture in an empty profession of Christianity will have no opportunity to believe the gospel then preached, and are thus eternally damned.
“And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.” Matt. 25:8-13
The testimony of scripture is to urge the sinner to turn NOW to Christ for salvation, and flee the coming wrath. The door of mercy is open now, but one day it will be closed, and there is no hope for those found outside when that day comes.
“When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.” Luke 13:25-27
“How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation.” Hebrews 2:3