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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Perseverance

(Continued from previous post)

5) How much perseverance (v.15) would reflect real faith? In other words, how does anyone know whether they have “made it”?

I think you are asking the wrong question. Salvation is not a matter of how much we have worked to earn it, or how much we have persevered to maintain it, it’s a matter of what God has done to save us and promises to do to keep us there:

  • Rom 8:30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
  • Rom 8:38-39 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Rom 8:30 is an unbreakable chain from being predestined to being glorified, and Rom 8:38-39 assures us that nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate us from the love of God.

  • 1 Co 1:8-9  who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
  • Php 1:6 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.
  • 1 Thes 5:23-24 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.24 Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.
  • 1 Pet 1:5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

These 4 verses all tell us that what God has started in our lives, He is faithful to bring to completion. We are not dependent on our strength to persevere, but on God’s power to preserve us.

Then what about all those verses that seem to tell us that salvation is dependent on our endurance or perseverance e.g.

  • 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.
  • Lk 21:19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.
  • Rom 2:7 to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life;
  • 1 Tim 4:16 Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.
  • Heb 3:6 but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house—whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.

What is the relationship between perseverance and faith? Perseverance bears a parallel relationship to faith as works – both perseverance and works are the evidence of faith. Real faith will produce good works and perseverance. They go together. Just as you can say “faith without works is dead”, you might say “faith without perseverance is dead”, that kind of faith is useless. An analogy in human physiology is that of life and brain waves. Life always produces brain waves. No brain waves means the life is gone, dead. The brain waves do not produce life, but are the evidence that the person is still alive. Similarly perseverance does not produce eternal life, but shows that the faith is real and the life everlasting.

(To be continued)

Gospel Presentation

(Continued from previous post)

3) Why do we preach belief only but not perseverance (v.15) as part of the gospel?

We preach belief because that’s the model in the NT e.g. in Acts:

  • Acts 2:38, 40 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. … And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!”
  • Acts 3:16, 19 And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all. … Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;
  • Acts 8:35-37 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him. 36 As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” 37 [And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”] 
  • Acts 10:42-43 And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. 43 Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.”
  • Acts 13:38-39 Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you,39 and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.
  • Acts 16:30-31 and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
  • Acts 17:3-4 explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.”And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large number of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women.
  • Acts 17:30-31 Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, 31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”

In all 8 evangelistic sermons to non-believers, whether by Peter, Phillip, or Paul, the focus is always on believe in Jesus, not perseverance. Do they preach perseverance at all? Yes, but to disciples, not to non-believers:

  • Acts 14:22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”

The sequence is therefore first faith in Christ to be saved, then strengthen their faith to persevere. We do it not to sugarcoat the gospel, but to follow the natural order of first new birth, then nurture.

4) While justification is by faith, faith by itself without deeds is dead, but we don’t mention it as part of the gospel presentation. Why?

Faith is “proven” by works to show that it is “saving faith”:

  • Jas 2:14 What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?
  • Jas 2:17-18 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”
  • Jas 2:20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?
  • Jas 2:22 You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected;
  • Jas 2:24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.
  • Jas 2:26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

It’s not that we don’t mention deeds as part of the gospel. We do, but we are careful to point out that “works” is a result of faith, not a cause for our salvation. We emphasize this because the teaching of world religions, as well as the prevalent secular worldview, is that you save yourself by doing good deeds, which is wrong.

We know the value of good works:

  • Mt 5:16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
  • Eph 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
  • 1 Tim 2:10 [adorn themselves] … but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness.
  • 1 Tim 5:10 having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work.
  • 1 Tim 6:18 Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share,

We just don’t want non-believers to confuse “works” as a means to salvation. It isn’t. It is an “end”, not a “means”.

(To be continued)

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)

Responding to Persecutions (2 of 2)

(Continued from yesterday)

How will they make the charges stick? With lies (Ps 119:86)! Sometimes it is even without cause (Ps 119:161), as society has descended to lawlessness:
Ps 119:86 All Your commandments are faithful; They have persecuted me with a lie; help me!
• Ps 119:161 Princes persecute me without cause, But my heart stands in awe of Your words.

What should the Christians’ attitude be?
First, remember ultimately God will deliver us and punish those who persecute us:
Deut 30:7 The LORD your God will inflict all these curses on your enemies and on those who hate you, who persecuted you.
• Ps 31:15 My times are in Your hand; Deliver me from the hand of my enemies and from those who persecute me.
• Rom 12:9 “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY”, says the Lord. (Also Heb 10:30)

Secondly, our response to the oppressors should be to bless:
Mt 5:44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
• Rom 12:14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

What should Christians do? That depends on how far the persecution has gone. If it is possible, flee (Mt 10:23). It is no heroism to wait around and be caught. If we can’t escape, endure and persevere (1 Co 4:12; 2 Thes 1:4; 2 Tim 3:11):
Mt 10:23 “But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes.
• Mt 24:15-16 Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains.
• 1 Co 4:12 and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure;
• 2 Thes 1:4 therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure.
• 2 Tim 3:11 persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me!

If we have the opportunity, witness for Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit:
Mk 13:9-11 But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them. The gospel must first be preached to all the nations. When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit. (Also Mt 10:18-20; Lk 12:11-12)

One final warning. If you are a shallow Christian, like the seed sown on rocky places, you will fall away when persecution arises:
Mt 13:21 yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. (Also Mk 4:17)
So develop firm roots before it’s too late. Otherwise the consequences are fatal.

Kept from the Hour of Testing

Rev 3 10 d

Q. What does Revelation 3:10 mean and is it talking to the church in Philadelphia or to end-time Christians?

A. First, the immediate context is Rev 3:7-13, the message to Philadelphia. John was writing to a church in his days, not one over two thousand years in the future. So of course he was talking to the church in Philadelphia, although the message also applies to end-time Christians.

Second, the text:
Rev 3:10 Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.
Most scholars agree that the “hour of testing” coming upon the whole world refers to the Great Tribulation. But what exactly does “keep you from the hour” mean?

Those who believe in a pretrib rapture argue that since Jesus will keep the church from the hour of testing, not just the testing itself, He must snatch them away before tribulation begins, to avoid the time period altogether. Others note that the context is perseverance (v 10) and “hold fast” (v 11). Therefore the Lord’s keeping should mean protection as the church goes through the testing, because if they had been raptured away, then endurance would not be necessary.

Which is correct? There are precedents of both modes of protection in Scripture:
• Escape prior to judgment e.g. the angels whisking Lot’s family away before He rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 19).
• Protection through the hour of testing e.g.
o Noah’s family in the ark during the Flood (Gen 7),
o The Israelites during the plagues (Ex 8:22-23; 9:4-7, 25-26; 10:23; 11:5-7; 12:12-13)
o Those with the seal of God on their foreheads (Rev 7:3, 9:4).
While we note that the latter is more prevalent and indicative of God’s pattern, the frequency of occurrence by itself is not definitive.

What about the historical and grammatical context? Although I subscribe to futurism (the view that most prophecies regarding the end times are still future) and not preterism (the view that some or all of the prophecies concerning the last days have already been fulfilled in the first century), I do believe the meaning to the original recipients holds significance to twenty-first century readers. How the Lord kept first century church of Philadelphia should inform us how He would keep the end times Philadelphian church, because His promise was first to the former and only secondarily to the latter. Was the first century church physically removed from the hour of testing, perhaps hidden in the wilderness? There is no historical evidence to that effect.

Grammatically, both “you have kept” and “I also will keep” translate the same Greek verb tereo, which means to attend to carefully, take care of:
• to guard,
• metaphorically to keep one in the state he is,
• to observe,
• to reserve to undergo something.

The Lord will keep the church the same way the church has kept the word of His perseverance. How did the church keep His word, by escaping or by persevering? By enduring through the trial, not by hiding.

Secondly, pretrib commentators argue that “keep from the hour of testing” really means “keep out of the hour of testing”, because the word “from” translates the Greek preposition ek which really means “out of”. I disagree because while “out of” is a legitimate translation, it is only one amongst several possibilities. ek appears a total of 921 times, which the KJV translates using the following:
of 366X
• from 181X
• out of 162X
• by 55X
• on 34X
• with 25X
• misc. 98X

Which is the proper translation really depends on the context or syntax. If ek is used as a preposition referring to a place, “out of” is a proper translation. However, if ek is used to qualify time, then “from” is the proper translation. In Rev 3:10 ek qualifies time, so “from” is the better translation, which is what almost all translations have done, despite pretrib commentators’ assertion otherwise.

I therefore conclude that Rev 3:10 means the Lord will guard and keep the church from and through the hour of testing, NOT take it out of the hour. Hope this helps.

Flax Spiritual Lessons

We went to the Maritimes with our friends for a little rest and recreation after our short-term mission, which vacation turned out to be educational as well. For example, at King’s Landing, New Brunswick, we learned a bit of history about early settlers from the British Isles to Canada. The agricultural setting gave us some reminders of biblical truths. For instance, the yoke recalled Jesus’ yoke in Mt 11:29-30, or “unequally yoked” in 2 Co 6:14. And the muzzle brought to mind how we should look after our pastors in 1 Co 9:9 or 1 Tim 5:18.

But a very interesting lesson came from the flax plant. Farmers grow flax for both food and fiber. The plant is pretty with small bluish flowers. The seed is like brown sesame and rich in omega-3. The stem is long like that of rice or wheat. However, it is how the plant is turned into useful products that provided the object lesson. Going back to the old days when most jobs are manual, the mature plant is pulled up by the roots, sun-dried, and the grains removed by threshing. The straw is then retted for up to two months, during which time the sun and the rain produce an enzyme that breaks down the bond between the straw’s outer stalk and the inner fibers.

After retting the outer straw is broken into smaller pieces on a crusher, which is shaped like a paper-cutter except that the edge is not sharp. The “chopper” breaks the stalk but leaves the long fibers intact. The fibers look like long blond hair, and are drawn through a bed of long nails called a hackle or heckle to separate them into strands. The individual strands are then spun on a spindle into threads, which are 2-3 times stronger than cotton, and transferred onto a loom to be woven into cloth.

The preparation process is an analogy to the Christian life. To be useful in God’s hands, Abraham, Jacob and Joseph had to be uprooted for their training. Paul had to suffer beatings (2 Co 6:5; threshing). Retting is soaking flax or hemp in water to soften it and separate the fibers. It is removal of the woody tissues by partial rotting. In the same way, Joseph, Moses and David had to be put on the sideline and wait to learn humility. Heckling resembles afflictions. Paul knew about being afflicted in every way, but not crushed; struck down, but not destroyed (2 Co 4:8-9). Though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day (2 Co 4:16).

Most of us would shy away from any form of suffering, because we have not learned its value. But not Paul, who said in Rom 5:3-4 “but we exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character”. If only we’ve truly learned the theology of suffering, we would have been much better Christians and the Church would have a much greater impact. Pray that all of us would learn to pay the cost of discipleship.

Top - horn yoke; bottom - neck yoke

Top – horn yoke; bottom – neck yoke

Muzzle

Muzzle

 

Flax plant

Flax plant

Flax chopper

Flax chopper

Heckling

Heckling

Spinning into yarn

Spinning into yarn

Weaving into cloth

Weaving into cloth