Endure to the End

Q.  If perseverance is like good works in that they do not produce eternal life, why are there so many bible passages that say “he who endures to the end will be saved”.  No where in the bible says “he who do good works to the end will be saved”.  If a person is a true believer, even if he fails to endure to the very end, he would be saved because He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Isn’t that true?

A. The phrase actually appears 3 times in the Bible:

  • Mt 10:22 You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.
  • Mt 24:13 But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.
  • Mk 13:13 You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.

The context of Mt 10:22 is Jesus sending out His 12 disciples to preach the kingdom of heaven, warning them a hard road will be before them, where they will be hauled to court, scourged, and persecuted. It will be perilous times as even family members will betray each other.

Both Mt 24:13 and Mk 13:13 refer to Jesus’ disciples asking Him what will be the sign of His (second) coming, and of the end of the age. Again, the end times will be times of deception, wars, famines, earthquakes, tribulation, apostasy, and betrayal. There will be severe trials and suffering for the disciples, no wonder the Lord encouraged them to endure.

Good deeds are the fruit expected under ordinary times. Under trials and tribulations, the focus switches to survival. Disciples still bless those who persecute them (Rom 12:14), but the emphasis is endurance; hence you don’t find “do good to the end and you will be saved” in the Bible.

Yes Php 1:6 is true:

  • For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

As I have argued, ultimately perseverance does not depend on how tough the true believer is, it depends on the Lord promising to see him through. So he may be weak and fail, but he will still be saved because He always keeps His promise.

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Parable of the Sower

Q.  I have some questions about the Parable of the Sower. Your comments are greatly appreciated.

A. The inquirer put a lot of thought into this parable and asked multiple questions touching on many theological issues. I will therefore answer them in several installments. Here’s part 1:

1) If the parable is about the gospel and hence salvation, it would seem to mean that real saving faith is not determined at the moment of confessing faith, since temptations (v.13), worries (v.14) and perseverance (v.15) happen later on in life.

The parable itself is in Lk 8:5-8, which narrates a typical agricultural scene about a farmer sowing his seeds. When Jesus’ disciples questioned Him what it meant (v 9), He said it is about the mysteries of the kingdom of God (v 10). So the subject is kingdom of God, which encompasses the gospel and salvation, but involves more than both. Broadly speaking, the kingdom of God is God’s reign over His entire creation. More narrowly defined, it is God’s rule over the hearts of His subjects.

You are right in observing that temptations, worries and perseverance happen later on in life. But real saving faith is a “both-and“, not an “either/or”. It starts at the moment of confessing genuine faith, and is a process that continues and “endures to the end”:

  • Mt 24:13 But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.
  • Mk 13:13 You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.

The fact that it starts upon confession of genuine faith is observed elsewhere, e.g.:

  • Lk 19:9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham.
  • Lk 23:43 And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”

The Lord did not tell Zaccheus or the thief on the cross to wait and see whether they would persevere; He told them “today”.

2) In that case when people accept the gospel verbally, why do we congratulate them with Jn 1:12; 6:47 and declare that they are now born-again babies?

For Jesus it’s not a problem because He knew men’s thoughts and what’s in their hearts:

  • Mt 9:4 And Jesus knowing their thoughts
  • Lk 9:47 But Jesus, knowing what they were thinking in their heart, …
  • Jn 2:25 … for He Himself knew what was in man.

But while God knows and the people themselves may know:

  • 1 Jn 5:13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

we’re human and don’t really know men’s hearts:

  • Jer 17:9 The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?

So we’re jumping the gun a bit when we congratulate them, as we really don’t know for sure that their faith is genuine. We compensate by asking clarification and diagnostic questions, as done in Evangelism Explosion, for example. By observing all the “signs” we can have a certain degree of confidence, but never 100% sure.

(To be continued)