Question: Seems to me that many people during the tribulation will be forced to make the decision to take the mark or go hungry. Knowing that humans are weak and don't always follow the Spirit at any given moment, what do you think happens to those that take the mark in a moment of weakness? Thanks
Response: Thanks for the e-mail. You make a good point. It seems clear from the context of Revelation 13 that this is really a large part of the beast's and false prophet's motivation in denying buying and selling to those without the mark, to wit, both to pressure people to take it, and to punish those who will not. The Tribulation, of course, will be filled with unprecedented suffering world-wide, and hunger/famine will be a general trend in any case (cf. the third horseman of Rev.6:5-6, to be covered in the forthcoming part 2 of "Coming Tribulation"). This device of "the mark", and the necessity to seek sustenance for survival, will, I am sure you are correct, bring many Christians "out into the open" so to speak. As to the progression of events, however, it is clear from a number of scriptures, including in Revelation, that it will be the first half of the Tribulation which witnesses the great falling away from the faith, that is, before the intensification of pressures that will occur during the second half of this seven year period, namely, the Great Tribulation. In the first three and one half years there will occur an unprecedented abandoning of the faith, the "Great Apostasy" (2Thes.2:3; 1Tim.4:1; cf. Dan.8:12-13; Matt.24:10-1); while the remaining 42 months will see the unprecedented worldwide attack on those who have continued in Christ, namely, the "Great Persecution" (cf. Matt.24:9; Rev.6:9-11; 7:14; 14:14-16; 20:4). The last passage referenced, Rev.20:4, states that the resurrected tribulational martyrs John sees "had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands". Regardless of hunger, they had remained faithful, even unto death (whether by starvation or by execution when discovered).
So what you say about the pressure to compromise is true, but one also needs to put all this into the perspective of the "Great Apostasy" during the Tribulation's first half. During that time period, most of "seed planted on rocky ground" will have already been uprooted (cf. Matt.13:5&20; Mk.4:5&16; Lk.8:6&13). Before one ever gets to the issue of the mark, the majority of erstwhile "Christians" will have already chosen for the beast. Those who are truly serious followers of Jesus Christ and who remain so into the Tribulation's second half will be the real "salt of the earth" (Matt.5:13; Mk.9:50; Lk.14:34), and, from my reading of these scriptures, it will be the rare exception at this point who chooses compromise over martyrdom.
As to the last part of your question, the willing reception of the mark is clearly taught to be supreme infidelity to Christ:
"If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he too will drink of the wine of God's fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name. This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God's commandments and remain faithful to Jesus."
Revelation 14:9-12 NIV
No doubt about it, the Tribulation will be the most difficult and challenging time to be a follower of Jesus Christ, and it will be in complete contrast to today's world (the lukewarm era of Laodicea) where "easy-listening" Christianity is the norm, where following Him is for all too many a mere after-thought (rather than the cornerstone of their lives). In that coming day, however, the only safe mind-set will be complete and total commitment to Christ, to His Word and His will. Hunger may be the least of the pressures we experience, if it falls to our lot to undergo this period of testing, this period of the greatest personal and global "tribulation" in world history. That is why it is of the utmost importance for all believers who are truly committed to Jesus Christ now to intensify that commitment (and follow-through) "while it is still light" (Jn.12:35-36; cf. 1Thes.5:4-11), so that should that night come upon us, we will have the spiritual strength and resiliency to endure (Matt.24:13; Lk.21:36).
This subject is covered in much more detail in part 4 of Coming Tribulation, under "The Mark of the Beast" (see the link).
Hope this is helpful.
Yours in Christ,