Believers Endure to the End
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 24:12a (Holman) Because lawlessness will multiply,. . .In hard times, Christ-followers can face many troubles: persecution (v. 9a), martyrdom (v. 9b), hatred (v. 9c), betrayal (v. 10), false teachings (v. 11), and, as verse 12 adds, easy access to sin. This describes our current culture. Sin is increasing; atheism has become brazen, heresies abound.
We even lost the thin layer of respectability that often tries to veneer the sin under it. Sin, rather than hated, is often flaunted. As in Jeremiah’s (6:15) day, evildoers “were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush”.
Sin is let loose in our land. It is very accessible. The Internet changed everything. Sin walks among us as a fifth column. One terrible result of this is; abundant availability of sin lures many people away, as verse 12b warns.
Matt. 24:12b . . .the love of many will grow cold.
Wars, famines, earthquakes, false teachings, persecution, betrayals–these are bad enough, but here we reach a worse level of distress, a wound bleeding deep. If the problem is inside us, we have a worse level of trouble.
In sinful times, it is hard to walk with God, as teens and young adults are now learning the hard way. As the wicked grow hot in sin, we believers often grow cold in loving God and each other. A flood of sin can demoralize us. Discouragement is often a terrible blow. It can sideline us, and defeat us.
Uphill fights leave us breathless, worn down. It is hard not to do what the crowd we are in is doing. Coldness in others can make us colder. Evil examples are contagious, causing defection in some, and infection in others.
In sinful times, we must learn to make our spiritual life about God and people. The most important characteristic in a believer is a warm love for Jesus and others. Beware the telltale signs of a cold heart. A cold heart does not go to church sincerely or gladly, does not sing hymns heartily, cares not about involvement in ministry and missions, does not pray much at home, does not pursue holiness, and has trouble getting a hand to find money in the wallet to give. “Christianity is gone when the heart is cold” (Spurgeon).
Matt. 24:13 But the one who endures to the end will be delivered.
Endurance does not produce salvation. The overwhelming verdict of Scripture is; we are saved by grace, not works. Endurance does not produce salvation, but does prove it. All who make it through trials give evidence they are God’s children. A faith that drowns in a sea of adversity is not valid.
Enduring to the end is tough. One skeptical sneer, a mocking friend, or a laughing co-worker can devastate us. A cynical fellow student can take a terrible toll with a simple, “You believe that?” accompanied with a smirk.
Stand firm. Christianity is the real deal, and will be going strong long after her angriest critics lay a-smoldering in the grave. Many of them will be buried within 100 feet of a tombstone bearing a Bible verse. Voltaire said he would see Christianity end, but his house was later used to store Bibles.
We don’t have to be perfect in times of trouble to prove we are saved. The untrue are those who fall, don’t care they fell, and never try to get up.
The people who falter irretrievably never were believers. Apostasy, the blatant denial of our faith by word or deed, indicates the salvation a person claimed was never theirs. Scripture is clear on this topic (1 J 2:19).
Not all who falter are apostates. Peter denied, but we know he was saved. Some prodigals fall as low as a pigpen, but finally get up and come home. Then there are others, like Judas, who went to Hell. We cannot judge any individual for sure. We have to wait and see, and show much grace.
After Naaman was healed he had to return to his pagan country. He asked for dirt to take to his home, giving evidence he believed the gods were territorial. He also asked Elisha’s permission to bow down before his king’s idols when the king did. Elisha did not try to stop him. He instead consented (2 K 5:19). God knows we are frail, made of dust. Only He knows the heart.
Samson failed grievously, but did not stay down. He had to grovel due to his sin, but never gave up on God’s mercy. His hair began to grow again, and he came back to do the greatest work he ever did, accomplishing more in his death than he ever had in his lifetime. Many consider his name in the roll call of heroes (HB 11:32) a shocker. I think it’s there because he never gave up on God’s grace. Don’t ever quit. Get up. Dust yourself off. Proceed.
Little grace for the fallen had serious ramifications for Christianity. In the early days of persecution, many who failed later sought forgiveness and wanted to return to the fold. Many others had loved ones who had remained faithful in persecution, even to death. Often the penitents were required to do acts of homage to the martyred. This helped lead to venerating the saints.
Don’t miss the two notes of optimism in our text. One, some will for sure make it. We can do this. Endurance to the very end is possible. Jesus’ Name will never be forgotten. If only two people are left, one will be a believer. If a Baptist, she will build a building and invite the other to come.
Not everyone falters. There will be always those who don’t betray, who do stay true, and continue to love God and others. In the church there lives bulldog perseverance, a faith that refuses to die out completely.
Two, our suffering for Jesus is always temporary. All persecution ends—by flight, respite, or death—and all who remain faithful to the end receive a huge reward, the assurance of knowing they “shall be saved”.
Perseverance brings assurance. Endurance to the end–of life, of a season of persecution, of the world–has ever been the test of genuineness.
It is never enough that we made it through yesterday. The battle is not over till it is won, and it is won only in the end. Diogenes lived a life of austerity. At age 90, a friend recommended he should indulge himself a little. He said, “What! Would you have me quit the race close to the goal?”
We admire the beauty of a new ship, and celebrate its launch, but we reverence the battle scars, thunder-blows, and shattered rigging of a beaten man-of-war. We in the USA love the USS Constitution. We visit and tour it, speaking in hushed tones. We venerate longterm tenacity.
Martyrdom is required of few. For most, the long tedious test of years is our lot. Don’t falter in old age. “There should be fire within the mountain, though there may be snow on its crest” (Maclaren). When a ship comes into harbor, the captain stays at the bridge, and the engineer in the engine-room, till the anchor is safely down. They stay focused till the very end.
To the end!! Fellow grey heads, making it a long time isn’t enough. What matters is enduring to the end; no hypocrite like an old hypocrite.
Consider some of the Bible’s most infamous sins: Noah’s drunkenness, Lot’s incest, Moses’ striking the rock twice, David’s adultery, and Peter’s denial. What do they all share in common? The sinners were not spring chickens, but people of age who knew better.
Old age makes sin worse. At least youth can claim inexperience. Time enlarges one’s circle of influence, making a fall much more devastating.
After 48 years of ministry, what if I fumbled now? How would I face my wife? What would I say to my children? What would be told my grandchildren? All their lives, they would meet people who knew me, and hear them say, “I knew your grandpa when. . .” and then there would be an uncomfortable pause. How would people finish the sentence, I knew him when he was true, a preacher, before he fell and became a humiliation?
Brothers and sisters, let’s not go there. We have locked arms with one another. Let’s choose to make it faithful to the end of our shared pilgrimage.