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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Hacksaw Ridge and Thou Shall Not Kill

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This post is prompted by “Hacksaw Ridge“, but it’s not a review of the film, which is a fine movie. Although I differ from the main character Desmond Doss’ understanding of the sixth commandment “You shall not kill”, I admire his courage in singlehandedly saving the lives of 75 soldiers during WWII’s bloodiest Battle of Okinawa, for which he received the Medal of Honor for actions above and beyond the call of duty.

Doss was a conscientious objector (“CO”), a person who refuses to bear arms in a military conflict on religious or moral grounds. However, he wanted to serve his country in the armed forces, and joined as a medic to save lives, not to kill. He was also a Seventh Day Adventist, and refused to work on the Sabbath. Both convictions were misunderstood by fellow soldiers in his battalion, who viewed him as a coward and can’t be counted on to help when they needed him. So they persecuted him, both physically and verbally to try to get him to quit the army. But he stood firm, which nowadays many are not prepared to do, and for that he earned my respect.

My disagreement with COs and pacifists is with their interpretation of the 6th commandment, which appears 5 times in the Bible:
Ex 20:13 You shall not murder.
• Deut 5:17 You shall not murder.
• Mt 5:21 … ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’
• Mt 19:18 … “YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER; …
• Rom 13:9 … YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, …

“Murder” translates the Hebrew word ratsach and Greek phoneuo.
Ratsach means to murder, slay, kill:
• premeditated,
• accidental,
• as avenger,
• slayer (intentional),
• assassinate.
Phoneuo also means to kill, slay, murder.

Although the older KJV and ASV chose “kill”, nearly all newer versions (e.g. ESV, HCSB, NASB, NET, NIV, NKJV, NLT, NRSV etc.) chose “murder” as the more accurate rendering. This is because while God gave this commandment, He also ordered capital punishment and allowed going to a “just war” to defend one’s own country:
Ex 21:12 He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death.
• Num 35:16, 17, 18, 31 the murderer shall surely be put to death
• Num 35:19, 21 The blood avenger himself shall put the murderer to death; he shall put him to death when he meets him.
• Num 35:30 ‘If anyone kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death at the evidence of witnesses,
• Lev 24:17 If a man takes the life of any human being, he shall surely be put to death.
• Deut 19:21 Thus you shall not show pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.
• Num 10:9 When you go to war in your land against the adversary who attacks you,
• Prov 20:18 Prepare plans by consultation, And make war by wise guidance.

If the 6th commandment prohibits killing, then God would be contradicting Himself, which He would never do. So by “you shall not kill” He must have meant the premeditated and intentional taking of a human life i.e. murder. That being the case, the CO’s refusal to bear arms to defend his country is not God’s requirement but his own preference. It’s his choice, and using the 6th commandment as justification is not warranted. Still, we commend Doss’ courage. We need more people with conviction like him.

“Silence” Reflections (2 of 2)

Or was it the voice of Satan?

Or was it the voice of Satan?

(Continued from yesterday)

More importantly, what does the Bible say? A few verses come to mind:

Mt 10:32-33 Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.
• Mt 26:34 Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” (See also Mt 26:75; Mk 14:30, 72; Lk 22:61; Jn 13:38)
• Heb 6:6 and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.
• Heb 10:29 How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?

The Lord Himself said He will deny whoever denies Him. Judas betrayed Jesus and was not forgiven; Peter denied Christ three times and yet was restored. For both to be true, there must be a point when a person denies Christ under duress, but not premeditatedly and maliciously, and had not gone to the stage where he tramples under foot the Son of God, beyond which it is impossible to renew him again to repentance. So can someone who had renounced Christ be forgiven and saved? Apparently yes, provided they are truly repentant and have not crossed the line of no return. Only God knows the condition of the heart, and whether that person had crossed that line by pushing away the out-stretched arms of Christ to pull him back.

With respect to the second question, we need to look beyond the immediate suffering to the broader consequences. Why did the inquisitor want the priest to apostate so much? For at least 2 reasons:
• Effect on the congregation – Mt 26:31 I WILL STRIKE DOWN THE SHEPHERD, AND THE SHEEP OF THE FLOCK SHALL BE SCATTERED. (Also Mk 14:27)
• Effect on the apostate – Mt 18:6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. (Also Mk 9:42; Lk 17:2)

The objective of the inquisitor, and Satan behind him, is to destroy the infant church by cutting its roots. If the priest apostatized, he will bring down not only himself, but many Christians with him. The devil would have killed two birds with one stone. At the very least, they would lose their crown of life:
Rev 2:10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

To be tortured for one’s faith is a terrible thing, but throughout church history countless have experienced mockings, scourgings, chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about being destitute, afflicted, and ill-treated, but gained approval from God through their faith (Heb 11:36-37). Satan can kill the body but is unable to kill the soul, unless they apostatized and God destroys both soul and body in hell (Mt 10:28). So if I were the priest I would choose for their and my sake to persevere. I just pray that God will strengthen us to endure to the end.

“Silence” Reflections (1 of 2)

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We watched two movies over the weekend, both related to religious persecution. Both have the same lead actor and are directed by Catholic directors. The first is called “Silence“, based on a historical fiction about two Portuguese Jesuit priests in the 17th century who went to Japan in search of their mentor, who reportedly apostatized and converted to Buddhism. The second is called “Hacksaw Ridge“, based on a true story of a Seventh Day Adventist conscientious objector who joined the army as a medic and saved the lives of 75 soldiers during WWII’s battle of Okinawa. Both films grab your attention and are worth watching, but while the second was inspiring, the first was disturbing.

“Silence” referred to the silence of God when the Christians were under intense persecution by the local government to recant their faith or face torture and execution. The authorities captured the priests and forced them to renounce Christ by torturing and killing the Japanese Christians before their eyes. They cried out to God for deliverance and protection, but got only dead silence in response. I won’t spoil it for you by giving away the plot, but the haunting questions raised are:
• Are apostates “saved”? Can they be forgiven?
• What would you do if you were in the priests’ shoes? Would you deny Christ to save the peasants? Or would you hang on to your faith and watch them cruelly tortured and killed?

The film depicts the priest’s agony as he watched the farmers being tortured, but ultimately the novel’s author accepts apostasy as the lesser of two evils. The dialog of the Japanese inquisitor stressed stepping on the fumi-e (picture of Jesus) was only a formality. The apostates did not have to mean it. It was only a gesture for show to the authorities. One simple act on the part of the priest and the inquisitor would release the farmers being tortured. Isn’t that the humane thing to do? Wouldn’t any good priest do that? Not to do it was simply the priest’s pride. Wouldn’t Christ understand and forgive him?

All that was the inquisitor’s reasoning, from a human, temporal perspective, tormenting the farmers while using a soft approach on the priest to persuade him to commit apostasy. But what’s important is not what the inquisitor said or what the priest believed, but what God says. In convincing the priest, the inquisitor was literally the devil’s advocate. Since there is no truth in the devil as he is a liar and the father of lies (Jn 8:44), none of his representative’s words could be trusted. He duped the priest by saying it really did not matter, but what does everyone understand trampling the fumi-e to mean? Apostasy! More importantly, what does the Bible say?

(To be continued)

Is ISIS a sign of the End Times? (1 of 2)

ISIS 1

Q. Is ISIS a sign of the end times?

A. I believe it is, though not for the same reason as some commentators suggested. ISIS or ISIL stands for Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The name Iraq does not appear in the Bible, but Iraq is located where ancient Babylon was. Some therefore identify Iraq as Babylon in Rev and hence a sign of the end times. The name Syria appears in the NASB 9 times, and is ancient Aram. Both Babylon and Aram were enemies of Judah and Israel.

I do not equate Iraq to Rev’s Babylon. The name Babylon appears in the NT 11 times:
• 4 times as literal ancient Babylon – Mt 1:11, 12, 17; Acts 7:43;
• 7 times as figurative Babylon – 1 Pet 5:13; Rev. 14:8; 16:19; 17:5; 18:2, 10, 21;
Who or what does the symbolic Babylon refer to? The most detailed clues are in Rev 17:

1. Babylon is called the great harlot (17:1, 15, 16; 19:2) or Mother of Harlots (v 5):
Rev 17:1 … the great harlot who sits on many waters,
• Rev 17:5 and on her forehead a name was written, a mystery, “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.”

Many waters refer to people and (Gentile) nations:
Rev 17:15 And he said to me, “The waters which you saw where the harlot sits, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues.
• Rev 19:6 Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters

2. Her main characteristic is immorality:
Rev 17:2 with whom the kings of the earth committed acts of immorality, and those who dwell on the earth were made drunk with the wine of her immorality.”
This is mentioned 8 times: Rev 14:8; 17:2 twice, 4; 18:3 twice, 9; 19:2; and refers to her adultery, both physical and spiritual.

3. She is affiliated with a beast:
Rev 17:3 … and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns.

There are only two beasts in the Bible with seven heads and ten horns. The first one is the red dragon in Rev 12:3 i.e. Satan. The second one is in:
Rev 13:1 Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names.
• Rev 17:7 And the angel said to me, “Why do you wonder? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns.
• Rev 17:9-10, 12 … The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits, and they are seven kings; five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; … The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, …

Scholars agree that this beast from the sea (nations) is the Antichrist. Most commentators equate the seven mountains to Rome, as Rome was built on seven hills. Or the seven kings may refer to seven Roman emperors. Those who take this literally believe the Antichrist to be a revived Roman Empire, or the personal Antichrist to be the head of this future one-world government. Those who take this figuratively believe the Antichrist to be the Roman Catholic (RC) Church. Regardless, Babylon the great harlot is an ally of the Antichrist.

4. She is intoxicated with persecuting God’s people:
Rev 17:6 … And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus.

5. Even though the beast begins as the harlot’s partner, it will turn against her:
Rev 17:16 And the ten horns which you saw, and the beast, these will hate the harlot and will make her desolate and naked, and will eat her flesh and will burn her up with fire.

6. The woman is the great city:
Rev 17:18 The woman whom you saw is the great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth.”
Including 17:18, “great city” is mentioned 8 times in Rev:
Rev 11:8 And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.
• Rev 16:19 The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath. (See also Rev 18:10, 16, 18, 19, 21)

Sodom stands for immorality; Egypt represents slavery. Several possible cities have been suggested:
• Babylon, taking the passage literally;
• Rome, because it reigned over the kings of the earth at that time; and
• Jerusalem, because that’s where the Lord was crucified;
but which, if any, is correct?

(To be continued)