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Wednesday, 27 November 2013



John MacArthur is a very well known heavyweight Bible teacher (supposedly) of many years. A statement made by him during a Q&A session in 1980 has recently come to light; he actually stated that you will still be able to be redeemed if you take the mark of the beast! MacArthur still has the recording and transcript on his website and maintains this position. http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/1301-I/

MacArthur puts such little importance on the shock-horror reaction to such a dangerous statement that he has not even bothered to respond to the criticisms personally. His spokesman Phil Johnson has responded however:

Revelation 19:20 indicates that multitudes will take the mark of the Beast because they are deceived. Scripture does not say that they are thereby automatically hardened forever against repentance. That is not the point of the strong warnings.” http://mykingdomtube.com/index.php?topic=2539.0

The above response is completely irresponsible. The scripture is crystal clear - the Book of Revelation gives us an unequivocal answer:

And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulphur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshippers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.” (Revelation 14/9-11)

And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshipped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulphur.

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.

Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshipped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years. (Revelation 19/20 – 20/4)

The double qualifier in the above passages is that people receive the mark and they worship the beast or its image. These two things are synonymous:

It (the false prophet/second beast) exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed. It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived. And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain. Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. (Revelation 13/12-17)

The only part of Phil Johnson's response which is correct is that multitudes will be deceived (Matthew 24/4-5; Revelation 13/14; 2 Thessalonians 2/9) They are deceived by false signs and wonders performed by the false prophet (Revelation 19/20).  However, this delusion is sent by God for the very reason that they might be damned:

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 2:11-12).

There is no room for any doubt whatsoever that those who worship the beast or its image and take the mark will be thrown into the lake of fire at the end of the millennium to suffer eternal torment. On this basis we must reject John MacArthur as a competent Bible teacher. Anyone teaching that it is forgivable to take the mark of the beast has completely lost all credibility. This is so very critical since we cannot play Russian roulette with God's Word or try to rationalise what is unequivocal. Some believing that MacArthur and his ilk are competent Bible teachers may actually take the mark thinking that they will be able to repent.


MacArthur is also a pre-tribulationist: “the imminent pre-tribulation rapture is not stated, but is between the lines of the verses.”

The pre-tribulation theory originated in 1830 with dispensational cult leader John Nelson Darby who was a Freemason and an occultist.  There is speculation that Darby may have plagiarised the theory from a heretical group of people called the Irvingites.  In any event, the pre-tribulation rapture theory was unknown in the church prior to 1830.

The timing of the rapture is an extremely complex subject. Below are just some points to consider which make the pre-tribulation theory problematic.


Is the rapture imminent (meaning that it could occur at any moment) as MacArthur states? The pre-tribulation theory is the only view that allows for the immanency of the rapture. Other theories allow for an approximate estimation of where the rapture fits into end time events, in other words other things will precede it. If other things precede the rapture then it is not imminent by definition.
The early believers did not expect the imminent rapture of the church, they expected things to precede it. e.g. Paul said he must go to Rome - Acts 23/11; Peter would die when he was old (John 21/18).

The Last Trumpet

..in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. (1 Corinthians 15/52 [Isaiah 27/13]) The last trumpet is sounded by the seventh angel towards the end of the tribulation period. (Revelation 11/15-19) A pre-tribulation view necessitates that the last trumpet in 1 Corinthians 15/52 is different from the last trumpet in Revelation 11/15.

The Marriage Supper of the Lamb

The marriage supper of the Lamb occurs in Revelation 19/7-9 towards the end of the tribulation period not prior to it as the pre-tribulation view necessitates.

The Day of the Lord

The Day of the Lord or The Day of His Wrath is not the Tribulation Period.

The pre-tribulation view maintains that God has not destined the church for wrath (1 Thessalonians 5/9). However the Bible does not support the view that the tribulation is The Day of the Lord or the Day of His Wrath as this view necessitates. In various passages of scripture, The Day of the Lord is the wrath of God poured out on the ungodly, i.e. unbelievers, and it is preceded by various cosmic signs:
  • Isaiah 13/6-11 - The Day of the Lord comes to destroy sinners; to punish the world for its evil and the wicked for their iniquity. For the stars of the heavens and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be dark at its rising, and the moon will not shed its light. (verse 10)
  • Joel 3/12-15 - The Day of the Lord is near – to judge wickedness of the nations. The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining. (verse 15)
  • Joel 2/31 -The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.
  • Malachi 4/5 - “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.” If Elijah is one of the two witnesses of Revelation 11 (as is generally agreed), he appears during the last half of the tribulation which precedes the Day of the Lord as above.
  • Matthew 24/29-30 – Jesus Christ places the cosmic events which accompany the Day of the Lord after the tribulation. He describes the rapture of the elect after these cosmic events, prior to the Day of the Lord when the nations will be judged.  
the sun will be darkened,and the moon will not give its light;
the stars will fall from the sky,
and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.

Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.....
  • Revelation 3/10 - Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. The phrase, τηρεῖν ἐκ occurs elsewhere in the New Testament only in John 17/1, when Jesus prays for his disciples:I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.”  This suggests that Revelation 3/10 is protection during the hour of trial (tribulation), not escape from it. The Greek τηρέω (tereo) means to watch over, to guard (Strongs No. 5083). We cannot twist this word to mean what we want it to mean.
Tribulation/persecution is not the wrath of God according to the Bible:

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5/10-13)

Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him (rapture), we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way (the King James Version says by any means). For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. (2 Thessalonians 2/1-4). Paul the apostle was very concerned that believers would be deceived in this very area.

But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. (Matthew 24/36)

Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. (Matthew 25/13)

Who or What is Restraining the Man of Lawlessness?

The assumption made by the pre-tribulationists is that the restrainer preventing the Antichrist from appearing is the church. In their view once the church is removed at the rapture, the Anitchrist will appear and the tribulation will begin. However once again scripture is not specific about who or what the restrainer is. The Thessalonian church knew what the restrainer was because Paul had told them:

Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. (2 Thessalonians 2/5-6).

It does seem odd that Paul should refer to the restrainer in this way if it was the church. Paul refers to the restrainers identity as something they knew about, but would he have said this if it was themselves i.e. the church?

Many have taught that the restrainer is the Roman Empire, some say it is the Papacy, some say that it is the Holy Spirit, some say that it is Michael the Archangel etc. The fact is that we cannot say with any degree of confidence who or what the restrainer is!


Lets remember that pretribulationism is a theory and nothing more than that, particularly in light of conflicting Bible passages. MacArthur and others teach the pre-tribulation rapture theory presumptuously. The consequences of this lethal doctrine will be dire for those Christians who do not expect to enter the tribulation; they will be unprepared for persecution; they will be thrown into confusion and they will be at great risk of abandoning their faith.

Pretribulationism is not taught in the Bible and furthermore the early church fathers did not believe in a pre-tribulation rapture. http://www.city-data.com/forum/christianity/575824-what-did-early-church-fathers-say.html


MacArthur is also a cessationist (the gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased with the apostles). Yet again, we have MacArthur making assumptions which are not stated in the Word of God. Where is his Biblical evidence for this? Paul actually encouraged Christians to earnestly seek the gifts of the Holy Spirit:

And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. (1 Corinthians 12/29-31)

  • In respect of cessationism, John MacArthur's false assumptions are contrary to the Word of God and serve to defraud the body of Christ of precious gifts that God clearly encourages Christians to covet for the purpose of edification.
  • Regarding the pre-tribulation rapture, this teaching sets Christians up for a fall from which they may not recover!
  • MacArthur's grand finale concerning acceptance of the mark of the beast is unspeakably dangerous, having untold consequences, both for believers and unbelievers. How many will be eternally lost because of this man's teaching? MacArthur has actually set people up for eternal damnation – the very antithesis of what the Christian message is all about!
This man is an enemy of Christ – and he is all the more dangerous because he has the façade of orthodoxy. I really do wonder how MacArthur dares to promote such teachings without one jot of evidence from the Bible and also in contradiction to the book of Revelation concerning the mark of the beast. What a judgement this man will face for leading people astray in such a wicked way! The book of Revelation carries with it a terrible warning for those who would change it:

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. (Revelation 22/18-9)

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. (James 3/1)



  1. Amen and Bravo, Ms. Gisborn! Excellent factual writing! You may be aware of the writings of American journalist Dave MacPherson who has researched pretrib dispensationalism's history since 1970, producing many web articles and several books including his bestselling, heavily documented and highly endorsed work "The Rapture Plot." And you surely must know of the current rapture debate here in the States. MacPherson, BTW, recently revealed that he is no longer able to return for more research to Britain and he hopes that someone over there can check out what he said is the "Clement Boase Collection" of Irvingite material (British Library shelfmark 764.n.14). He was able to obtain via mail a copy from it of Margaret Macdonald's handwritten 1830 account of her pretrib rapture "discovery" and would especially like to obtain a copy of any old photograph of Dr. Robert Norton who later married Margaret. MacPherson also said he invites someone to take up where he left off and he is convinced that someone, like yourself, could easily produce a book many would want to obtain since the "rapture" is big business over here! Dave's Google articles include "X-Raying Margaret," "Margaret Macdonald's Rapture Chart," "Pretrib Rapture's Missing Lines," "Edward Irving is Unnerving," "Thomas Ice (Bloopers)," "The Unoriginal John Darby," "Deceiving and Being Deceived" (by D.M.), "More Facts About Margaret Macdonald," "Walvoord Melts Ice," "Pretrib Rapture Stealth," "Pretrib Hypocrisy," "Roots of Warlike Christian Zionism," "Scholars Weigh My Research" and "Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty." Dave writes that Margaret was the first to teach a pretrib rapture (privately) and that the Irvingites (in their journal "The Morning Watch" in Sep., 1830) were the first to teach it publicly, and that Darby didn't clearly teach it until 1839. He has all this documented in his "The Rapture Plot" which can probably be borrowed through inter-library loan there. I am glad to see you taking on John MacArthur who has obviously won the victory over humility! I agree with everything you stated above and I am a lifelong Bible prophecy buff. You are much needed and you are surely part of the wave of the future! London Bible College is a great school and I noted that Dave favorably quotes Dr. Harold Rowdon who wrote a terrific book on the origins of the Brethren. Thanks much for your perceptive and readable writings. God bless you much! Cordially, Irv

  2. Thank you Irv. I am researching further about the rapture and will be posting more in the future. It is very complex so I have decided to do it in stages. God bless you.