Bible Question:

On a Youtube video it appears that John MacArthur teaches that Christians can take the mark of the beast during the Great Tribulation and still have entry to heaven. His teaching seems to differ from Scripture. Have I correctly understood what he said?

Bible Answer:

We have received a number of questions about a Youtube video in which some believe John MacArthur teaches that Christians can take the mark of the beast during the tribulation and still be permitted entry to heaven. Consequently, some accuse Dr. MacArthur of being a false teacher. This article responds to those concerns and to what John MacArthur stated.

Can Christians Take the Mark of the Beast

John MacArthur  — Bible Questions and Answers, Part 11 Video

As a result of listening to a 1980 Sunday night service in which John MacArthur was answering Bible questions, some have concluded that he was teaching error. You can read the transcript or hear the audio recording titled, “Bible Questions and Answers, Part 11“[1] A careful review of the audio and the transcript reveals that a man asked Pastor MacArthur the following question,

My question is in regard to the latter half of the tribulation period, when men will be required to have the mark of the beast in order to buy or sell. My question is once a person takes the mark is there any possibility of him coming to Christ?[2]

Notice the man asked about someone “coming to Christ.” That is, can someone become a new Christian during the tribulation? Then John answered the man’s question about the possibility of a non-Christian becoming a Christian. What John said was,

Now, the question is, if you’re living in the tribulation period, and you take this mark – in other words, you identify with the beast’s empire, will you still be able to be redeemed? And I think the answer to that is yes. Yes. Otherwise, there would be no salvation of anybody in the end of the tribulation. And you’ve got to have the salvation of folks in the end of the tribulation. You’re going to have the Jews redeemed. You’re going to have, according to Revelation chapter 7, an innumerable number of Gentiles redeemed – so many they can’t even be counted across the face of the earth.[2]

That is, can such an unsaved person become a Christian? John did not say, “Christians can take the mark of the beast during the tribulation and still be permitted entry to heaven.” Instead he understood the questioner was asking if “you still are able to be redeemed?” Can unbelievers still be redeemed” or saved. This means those who claim that John said, “Christians can take the mark of the Beast” and still go heaven have altered his statement. T

After the controversy erupted, almost forty years later, Grace Church staff  pastor Phil Johnson responded with a Youtube video titled, “Did John MacArthur say take Mark of the Beast and you can still go to heaven? Phil Johnson explains.“[3]

Christians Take the Mark of the Beast

The difficulty with John’s answer was that Scripture does not say everything about a topic in one place. For example, most Christians know that in John 15:7 we are told that Jesus said a believer can ask for anything and it will be given to us. Now is that true? If you ask for anything you desire, do you receive every thing for which you ask? Most Christians will answer no and quote 1 John 5:14 which says that God hears us if we ask according to His will. The point is that even Jesus did not provide a comprehensive explanation, touching on all aspects of the topic every time He spoke about a subject. Most of do not do that either. That is why we must read everything Jesus said in order to have a complete understanding. Therefore, notice that Pastor MacArthur said, “And I think the answer to that is yes.” John was giving an opinion.

It is important to read Revelation 20:4 and notice what the passage says about those who take the mark of the beast. It says,

Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.  Revelation 20:4 (NASB)

The verse explains that people who will be in the kingdom, will include those who “had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand” came to life. We must notice the “and.” If anyone committed both acts they will not be allowed into the kingdom,  Both conditions are stated.

We must realize that Revelation teaches us that the gospel will be preached throughout the tribulation. People will have the opportunity to either be believe in Christ or follow the beast. The beast in this passage is the antichrist. They will have a choice. Revelation 16:9, 11, 21 reveals that a tremendous number of unbelievers will choose to follow the antichrist. They will respond in anger against God because of the wrath He will pour out on the  world. Their suffering will be great. The point is that people will either be committed to the antichrist or to Christ.

Why would anyone who truly worships the antichrist ever come to Christ? But Revelation 6:9-11 and Revelation 7:9-17 reveal some people will be saved during the tribulation. The point is they could initially receive the mark but not be worshipers of the beast.

According to Matthew 12:30-32 there is only one sin that is unforgivable and taking the mark of the beast is not listed. The unforgivable sin or unpardonable sin occurs when a person finally and ultimately rejects Christ. The point is that there is no hope for anyone, who after having received full knowledge about Christ, finally rejects Him. That is the unforgivable or unpardonable sin. That describes the worshipers of the beast. Otherwise, how can anyone be saved during the tribulation? Some could reject taking the mark of the beast, but then how will they eat? Therefore, someone could take the mark but still be saved. Remember the “and” condition.

As result, John MacArthur gave an acceptable answer, since Scripture does not address everything. John is not guilty of false teaching. He was faithful to Scripture. He said, “I think . . .” He did not say, “Scripture teaches . . .”

For those who have concluded that John is a false teacher because they disagree with him, they need to consider that every teacher makes mistakes (James 3:1). How many mistakes make a false teacher?

Conclusion:

We must remember that God has also promised this,

. . .or “ WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.” Romans 10:13 (NASB)

Should we reject God’s promise of salvation? If someone has taken the mark of the beast and they later learn the truth when they hear the gospel message, and want to become a Christian, what do you think God will do? What is your answer? Is your answer “No!” Then how will people become Christians during the tribulation?

 

 

References:

1.  John MacArthur. Bible Questions and Answers, Part 11. September 24, 1980. (www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/1301-I/bible-questions-and-answers-part-11)
2. Ibid.
3. “Did John MacArthur say take Mark of the Beast and you can still go to heaven? Phil Johnson explains.” May 4, 2020. (www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_rSSA3nYQE)

Suggested Links:

John MacArthur, Bible Questions and Answers, Part 11
Did John MacArthur say take Mark of the Beast and you can still go to heaven? Phil Johnson explains.
Does the mark of the beast come before or after the rapture?
Will there be a second chance to become a Christian after the rapture?
Does the rapture occur before the tribulation period?
After the rapture, will there be Christians on the earth?
The Rapture of The Chruch
The Unpardonable Sin
Is the unforgivable sin denying that someone is doing the will of God?