The Command to Persevere

Because you kept my command to persevere, I will also keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world. – Revelation 3:10

He who endures to the end shall be saved – Matthew 24:13

Salvation, as we can see from the words of Jesus, is not a one time event in the past. In fact, in speaking of salvation, the Scripture uses three different tenses. The Bible speaks of those who are saved, those being saved, and those that shall be saved. That is, past, present, and future salvation. This is true because salvation is applicable to our lives in different ways. As far as past tense salvation, we are saved from our sins and our guilt; as far as present tense salvation, we are being saved from the present troubles, temptations, and evils of this world; as far as future salvation, our bodies and souls will ultimately be saved from corruption and made like unto Jesus forever and ever. It is for this reason that salvation is spoken of in different tenses at different times. And it is for this reason that Jesus said, ‘he who endures to the end shall be saved.’

Some modern theologians may try to correct Jesus. They might say, “What Jesus really meant is, ‘they who are saved shall endure to the end.'” But this isn’t what Jesus said at all. This isn’t a description of what believers will do, it is a prescription of what believers ought to do: They must endure to the end. We see this very clearly in Revelation 3:10 “because you kept my command to persevere…”

Since it is true that there is a salvation yet ahead of us, and because it is true that some fall from their steadfastness (2 Peter 3:17), the Bible instructs us to fear ‘lest any of you seem to have come short of it’ (Hebrews 4:1). The Holy Spirit has expressly stated that some will depart from the faith in these latter times (1 Timothy 4:1), and a great apostasy will overshadow the church (2 Thessalonians 2:3). There is a large delusion over the church today that this kind of apostasy of faith is not even possible for true believers. But the words of both the apostles and our Lord Jesus are plain to those who have ears to hear. 

The command to persevere is, of course, for all generations, but a particular emphasis is given to the end of times. And since it is impossible that we are not in the very end of times, it would do us well to pay particular attention to the words of our Lord. The end days are marked as ‘perilous times’ by the apostle Paul, warning us that evil doers will wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived (2 Time 3:1,13). And his words are a parrot of Jesus’ words from our text in Matthew 24, where Jesus warns us of the extremely difficult days that are coming upon us, and, to a great degree, are upon us already. In this passage of scripture, Jesus gives us very specific temptations to look out for, with the warning that only those who overcome them–who endure through them to the end–shall be saved.

Our Coming Trials and How to Overcome Them

I want to mark and explain four specific trials that Jesus exhorts us to watch for, how they will bring a great temptation, and what we must do to overcome them. 

1. Hardship

Then they will deliver you up to tribulation… Matthew 24:9

The word ‘tribulation’ refers to hardships and troubles, that is, difficult times. Jesus warned His disciples of difficult circumstances that awaited them in their journey down the narrow road to life. These troubles are described by our Lord as the hot sun that blazed down upon the seedling that had no root, beating against it until in withered away in the burning heat. It is the description of a believer who folds under the pressure of hard times or persecution (Matthew 13:20-21). Those who believe will face trouble and persecution ‘because of the Word,’ Jesus said. These tribulations are a pummel attack from Satan to persuade us to release what is in our hand. This is why Jesus said, “hold fast what you have, that no one may steal your crown” (Revelation 3:11).

The hardships that we are facing now, and that we will increasingly face in the time to come, will be a great occasion for stumbling for many. Are we ready to lose our jobs, our comfort, our way of life, our families, and our very lives for the cause of Christ? If we are not, then we will not endure to the end, and we will not be saved. Remember, Jesus said, “be faithful unto death, and you will receive the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).

The time is coming, and is now here, when it will be that if you do not bow to the golden statue of Nebuchadnezzar, that you will be thrown into the burning fiery furnace (Daniel 3). And while the three Hebrew children were delivered from the flames, there’s no promise that you and I will be. Instead, we ought to adopt the same spirit as they had when they said to that tyrant, “we have no need to answer you in this matter, O king! Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, but if He doesn’t, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship your image.”

What will you do when you must choose between your job or business and God’s word? What will you do when you must choose between your family and the gospel? What will you do when you must choose between comfort of this world or the reproaches of Christ? God is going to make you choose. If you don’t choose now, you certainly won’t when the sun is hot, and when the flames of persecution burn against your skin. Choose this day whom you will serve. Be faithful to him unto death, only then will you receive the crown of life. 

2. Offense

And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. – Matthew 24:10

The word ‘offense’ in the Bible can more literally be translated as ‘made to stumble.’ The picture is of a person placing a block or stone in the path of another, causing him to stumble and fall. This can be in the form of an obvious temptation to sin or in the traditional sense that we understand the word ‘offend,’ as when someone says or does something to us to that results in resentment, humiliation, or hurt. 

Offense is two parts: those who offend, and those who are offended. It is perfectly possible for a person to cause offense, yet for the targeted subject to refuse to be offended. It is also possible for a person to be offended when there is no intention for offense on the part of the one that caused it. 

Both to offend, if done for that intention, and to be offended are sin. Jesus ascribed severe punishments to those who cause children to sin, for example, saying that it would be better for that person if a large milestone were tied to his neck and were thrown into the sea. But here in our text, in Matthew 24:14, Jesus is speaking about those who are on the receiving end of offense. He is speaking of those who allow words and action against themselves to cause them to be offended, whether that offense was intentional or not, real or supposed. 

Offense is essentially the opposite of forgiveness. To forgive is to release, to be offended is to harbor. To accept offense is to let a root of bitterness take hold of the heart. And bitterness spreads like a malignant cancer. When it takes root in your soul, it poisons your entire life and all of your relationships; the final result is a bitter, angry, and miserable person, only finding joy in tearing other people down. Unless you repent and forgive, you will never be forgiven.

So My heavenly Father also will do to you (deliver you to hell) if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” – Matthew 28:35

The occasions to be offended and become bitter are now great, and will only grow greater as the day approaches. Every one of us will have marvelous opportunities to be offended in the days to come. The question is: Will we allow that bitterness to eat us up like a cancer? Or will we obey the commandments of Jesus to forgive, even as He forgives us?

We must remember that we have no right to refuse forgiveness to any person. Like the king in the parable of Matthew 28, who forgave the servant deeply indebted to him, so also God has forgiven us a great debt. But that servant refused to forgive the much smaller debt his fellow servant owed to him. The result? The anger of the king burned hot against that servant. He was delivered to the tormentors until every last penny was paid. 

3. False Doctrine

Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. – Matthew 24:11

In Matthew 24:11, the word ‘many’ is used twice. First to denote the abundance of false prophets, and second to denote the number of the deceived. This ought to trouble us greatly, and we, like the disciples at the Last Supper, ought to ask ourselves carefully, “Lord, Is it I?”

The trouble with being deceived is that the one deceived does not know it. It is impossible that most of the world not be deceived in regard to spiritual matters, for beliefs vary widely, even among those called Christian. It would be foolish to not consider if we are among the deceived, for, statistically, it is more likely we are than we are not. 

And although this is a scary proposition, those who are careful and honest need not be too worried. The reason for this great deception is easily explained.

Deception, like offense, takes two parties: the one who deceives, and the one who wants to be deceived. Of course, I don’t mean that there is anyone that desires to be fooled. But what I am referring to is the bait that these wicked fishers toss out. It is the desire for the bait that tangles up a man in the web of false doctrine. 

But let me be clear before I write on this any further. I am not referring to being deceived on various teachings that might be doubtful and secondary. We all see through a glass dimly and will never reach a full attainment of knowledge. What I am referring to are teachings and doctrines that lead a person out of the kingdom of God and in to the kingdom of this world. We must remember that ‘in every nation whoever fears God and works righteousness is accepted by Him,’ even if they do not have all their facts straight (Acts 10:35). 

The false doctrines that would constitute a ‘damnable heresy’ are the ones that lead us into pride and sin. If the devil can lead you into pride and sin, he has no care what you believe, or how much of the Bible you can quote. He has your soul, and that’s all that he wants. 

The way to avoid false doctrine and false teachers is to ask yourself: Does this teaching lead people into sin? Does it lead people away from the service of God? God has put in each of us His law. If a teaching leads us to disobey or be lax concerning what we know to be wrong, it is false doctrine. Avoid it! If it leads us to spiritual apathy or worldly endeavors, away with it! It is a doctrine of demons. If it leads us to be puffed up in pride, to look down upon others, or to be excessively concerned with words and procedures, throw it out! It is satanic–no matter how dressed up and religious it might be. 

Ultimately, those who are deceived unto damnation are those who ‘suppress the truth in unrighteousness.’ Light has come to them, no doubt, but they ‘loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.’ Men will forever look for a way to have their sin and be righteous, too. But this is impossible, and anyone who proposes a doctrine that either implies this or affirms this is a false prophet or teacher. Don’t listen to them!

It would do well for us to search the scripture for those verses that bear the emphatic phrase, ‘DO NOT BE DECEIVED.’ Every damnable heresy will violate at least one of these verses. I shall list a few:

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. – 1 Corinthians 1:9

For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. – Ephesians 5:5-6

Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. – 1 John 3:7

There are more verses like these. We must beware of popular and light teaching. Remember, the false prophets will be many, and those deceived will be many, too. 

4. Lawlessness

And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. – Matthew 24:12

Jesus told us that, in the time of the end, lawlessness would abound. This refers to multitudes of people committing crimes with no proper justice to be seen. When justice is not swift, or when justice systems are corrupt, criminals become more brazen and the population vengeful. 

Many of us look upon the news, through the TV or in the periodicals, and shake our head at the lawlessness that has possessed our country. We see a gross lack of respect for God-given authority. We see justice perverted in favor of social trends and political correctness on one side, and on the other angry groups seeking to take justice into their own hands. Both are ungodly and devilish. 

And while these things concern us greatly, we must ask ourselves, as believers in Christ, what we will do when this lawlessness comes to our homes and families. It’s easy to preach forgiveness and love for our enemies from the arm chair, but what will we do when injustice comes to our houses, affecting our children? How shall we respond then?

Jesus told us what will happen because of this. He said that the love of many will grow cold. Their love for people will wane, and thus will their love for God. For if we do not love those whom we do see, how can we love God whom we have not seen? (See 1 John 4:20)

The challenge for the child of God in these end times will be to speak truth loudly and clearly yet do so out of a heart of love. When John the Baptist lifted up his voice against Herod and said, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife!” He did not do so from anger or from hatred, but from a heart of obedience toward God and love for his people. And when Peter rebuked Simon the sorcerer in Acts chapter 8, although his words were sharp, they were not in malice. And Jesus, when He used the sword of His mouth to cut deep into the hearts of the churches of Asia, assured them that it was those that He loves that He rebukes and disciplines. In the same way, we must boldly preach agains the evils of this world. No one should wonder what we are for and what we are against. But all our words must always proceed from a heart full of love, seasoned with salt, for the purpose of edification, and not for strife. 

And no matter what happens to us or our family, we must be found in obedience to the commands of Jesus: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you. Do not resist an evil person. But whoever strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” Vengeance does not belong to us, but to the Lord. And if we are ever tempted to groan over our call to suffer for Christ’s sake, let us consider Him who endured the cross, and the great evil and injustice that He suffered for us, ‘lest we become weary and faint in our minds.’ 

Conclusion

There are indeed great challenges that await us. As we face them we must remember the exceeding great and precious promises that He has given us, by which we can escape he corruption that is in this world. He has promised to never leave us, and to never forsake us. He has promised that no temptation will overtake us except that which is common to all men, and with every temptation He will provide a way of escape, that we might be able to bear it. Therefore we can be confident that whether we face the flames of the furnace, or hunger or sword or ghastly tortures, or more probable, the loss of our job, the disdain of our loved ones, or the scorn of the world, that we can persevere in Christ. If we remain in Him, He will keep us, as He has promised. No one can snatch us out of His hand. 

But we must remain vigilant. Those who are not prepared for this hour will be like the foolish virgins who brought no oil. They were ultimately shut out. In the same way, if we are not prepared in our hearts and minds, we will be among those who fall away. None of our good and righteous deeds will be remembered. In fact, our last state will end up being worse than the first, like a dog returning to his vomit, or a pig to its wallowing in the mud.

However, if we persevere, a great and glorious award awaits us in heaven. Jesus will gird Himself and command us to sit down as He serves us at the great supper of the Lamb! Indeed, a great and glorious an entrance will be given us into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord! It will be worth every tear, every struggle, every drop of blood, every difficulty, and every suffering. We will walk with Him in white forever and ever. Death will be no more, and sorrow a thing of the past. He will wipe away every tear from our eyes and in His presence will be pleasures forevermore. The former things will be not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. The King will reign forever, and we his servants will be forever by His side.