"Endure To The End"   (May 2008)

In Matthew the tenth chapter, Jesus called His twelve disciples to Himself and gave them a commission and empowered them to fulfill it.  “And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.” (Matthew 10:1)  Then He gave them instructions pertaining to where they were to go, what they were to preach, where they were to stay, what they were to do and what they could expect as they fulfilled His commission.  He also warned them that “they would be delivered up to the council, scourged in their synagogues, brought before governors and kings for my sake, brothers shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents and cause them to be put to death.  Ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake.  They will persecute you in this city.  Don’t think it strange because if they have called the master (Me) of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?”  Jesus told them right upfront that obeying His commission and following Him would not be easy.  He told them that they would be hated, persecuted, not received by everyone, brought before the council to be tried as criminals and it might even cost them their lives.  But He didn’t stop there.  He also gave them a word of hope- a wonderful promise.  “But he that endureth to the end shall be saved.” (Matthew 10:22b)

When we read the words of Jesus they were not just for the twelve disciples as they went forth to fulfill the commission, they are for all of His disciples- present day included.  If we are disciples- followers of Christ- we too have been given a commission and empowered to fulfill it.  In fulfilling His commission we have to remember that there is a price to pay, but if we endure to the end we will receive the same promise.  “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.”

Twice in Jesus’ ministry He gave this promise.  The first time was, as we read above, when He commissioned His disciples so that they would not get weary, give up, or turn back when the trials, temptations, persecutions, scourging and rejection came.  The second time He gave it was when He spoke concerning the events of the “End Times”.  “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” (Matthew 24:13)  In His discourse on the Mount of Olives Jesus tells us what we should expect during the times prior to His return.  “And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.  For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.  And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.  For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.  All these are the beginning of sorrows.  Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.  And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.  And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.  And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” (Matthew 24:5-12)

When Jesus finished His discourse on the end time events and warnings, He answered the question of what it meant to “be saved if we endure to the end”.  “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” (Matthew 25:46)  So the promise isn’t that we will be “saved from” going through persecutions, trying times, rejection or even death for His sake.  The promise is that we will be “saved into” eternal life if we endure.

If enduring to the end is key to eternal life, then what does it mean to endure?  Before I answer that question, let me make it very clear that we are talking about disciples- those who already know Christ as Savior.  These verses in no way suggest that salvation and eternal life come through works.  Just because you don’t “give in to the wrong thing” and “do the right thing” instead does not save you.  Salvation comes only through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and what He did for us at the cross.  With that said, the Greek definition of endure here means:  to remain i.e. abide, not recede or flee; to preserve: under misfortunes and trials to hold fast to one's faith in Christ; to endure, bear bravely and calmly: ill treatments.  

So how do we endure?  How can we bravely face ill treatment as we go about fulfilling His commission?  How can we remain faithful to Christ in the face of persecution?  How do we endure when trials and temptations come?  How do we endure when we see end time signs around us?  When we see fearful conditions of wars and rumors of war, famine, pestilence and increased natural disasters, how do we continue to abide in Christ?  How can we endure when deception is increased, false prophets arise, love of God is waxing cold and iniquity abounds?  If Jesus took the time to tell us what will happen, what to look for, warns us what to avoid, tells us what the consequences are if we don’t heed the warning and what the blessings are if we do, then you can count on Him to answer the question of what we need to do to endure. 

I primarily want to address the subject of enduring in the last days because I believe we are standing in the threshold of them.  Even though there have always been wars and rumors of war, times of famine, persecution of the church, natural disasters, false prophets and deceivers, the end time/last days will see them in greater proportion.  “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” (Matthew 24:24)  “But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse.” (2 Timothy 3:13a)  “And because iniquity shall abound.” (Matthew 24:5)  The answer to how to endure doing these times is found in another scripture text that is also about the end times.  In Paul’s writing to Timothy in Second Timothy chapter three he tells him what the last days will include.  “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.  For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.  For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.  Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.  But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as their's also was.  But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me.  Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.  But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.” (vvs. 1-13)

In describing the conditions of the last days he also exposed the “why” behind them.  Why will men become so wicked, unthankful, highminded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God?  Why are they deceived, being deceived and able to lead others astray?  It’s because they did not embrace the “truth”-- “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth; resist the truth concerning the faith.”  If not embracing the truth of God’s word is the problem, then embracing it solves the problem.  Adam and Eve’s problem was that they did not embrace God’s word as the truth, they believed a lie and acted upon the lie bringing sin and death upon all mankind.  If they had only embraced the truth and believed what God said, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Genesis 2:17) we would all still be enjoying a life free from sin in the Garden of Eden.  

After Paul talked about the state of men in the end times he immediately turns his attention to talking about the scriptures.  “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.  All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:  That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.  I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” (2 Timothy 3:14-4:4)  He reminded Timothy about God’s word.  He told him to continue in the things that he had learned from the scriptures.  He reminded him how profitable they are.  He told him that they would make him perfect and well equipped.  He also told him to preach the word because it is sound doctrine that will stand the test of time.  That’s our answer to enduring--- God’s word.  God’s word is truth that we can anchor our hope in.  It is the solid foundation that our lives are built upon.  It is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path when the way gets dark.  It preserves us from sin when it’s hid in our hearts.  It’s life to us- health and marrow in our bones.  It keeps us from error, it makes us free, it exposes the enemy and it’s the tool by which we judge what is right and what is wrong- what is of God and what isn’t.  In these last days we must be discerning.  “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1)  One way we try the spirits is by God’s word.  Does it line up with the written word or is it contrary?  If it’s God He will never speak, act, move or manifest Himself contrary to His word.  If He does, He becomes divided against Himself.  “But he, knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth.” (Luke 11:17) 

Paul also addressed this issue at the church of Thessalonicia when he told them that before the Lord returns there would be “a falling away”. (2 Thessalonians 2:3)  And he said that “many would perish because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.  And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12)  Then he offers hope:  “But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:  Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.  Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.” (vvs. 13-17)  Hope of not perishing if we hold on to the truth of God’s word.

You have to admit that we are living in a very “spiritual” time.  Everyone is searching for some deep spiritual meaning to life.  False cults are on the rise.  New movements that present themselves as the truth spring up almost daily.  Spiritism is increasing.  Fortune telling, mystics, psychics, witchcraft, channeling have all made their way into the main stream of society.  New Age is replacing solid foundational teachings.  Even in the church there is so much false that presents itself as “God”.  “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.  And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.  Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)  If ever there was a time in which Christians- disciples of Jesus- needed to read, study, meditate on and hide the scriptures in their heart it is today.  This morning I was reading in the Book of Amos and noticed Amos 8:11- “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.”  I wonder if we aren’t seeing that scripture fulfilled?  There seems to be hardly any attention given to the Word of God any more.  We believe it’s all right to live our lives the way we want to live them instead of conforming them to the word of God.  There doesn’t seem to be a hunger for the word of God any more.  Very few sermons are preached from the word- most are taken from men’s opinions, philosophies or surveys.  Most Christians don’t seem to want to hear the truth- they always want to hear something that will make them feel good.  Many churches are geared to only worship, healing lines and prophetic utterance but no preaching of the word.

When I was praying about the “new wave of Christianity” that seems to be sweeping the nation, especially the church world, the Lord reminded me of the children of Israel in the wilderness.  God sent them manna everyday to supply their need for food.  But the people complained because they were tired of manna and wanted meat.  God gave them their desire (lust) and sent quail.  While they were eating it a plague came upon them. (Numbers 11)  Have we become like the Israelites?  Manna was God’s “bread” to them, but they wanted meat- “flesh”.  God still provides bread for us everyday- it’s His word.  But we have been crying out for something more- manifestations, signs, wonders, miracles.  God is a God of wonders, signs and miracles, but our focus is not to be on them.  Our cry is not to be for “flesh”- something we can see, hear, feel, taste or touch.  When the quail was gone, the manna was still there.  “But whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.” (1 Corinthians 13:8b)  When all the miracles have ceased, when the signs are gone, when the “feeling” that comes from “eating quail” has left, you are going to be left empty because you placed that above and desired it more than God’s manna.  It will only leave you with what I call a “spiritual sugar rush”-- good for the moment but when it’s gone you have to look for something else to make you feel “good” or “spiritual”.  And what could have been a blessing to us has become a curse instead.

Jesus Himself said that we “live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God”. (Matthew 4:4)  Signs and wonders follow them that believe so that Jesus may be glorified- they are part of our commission.  But the “supernatural” is never suppose to take the place of God’s word.  And when the supernatural comes we are to judge what is being said and done by God’s word.  The Bible is the plumb line that we hold up against everything to see if it lines up.  If it doesn’t don’t accept it because God’s word is the first and final authority for all things.  When heaven and earth pass away, God’s word will still be here.  It’s His word that He has highly exalted, even above His own name.  The word of God has to become priority in our lives, without it, we will not endure the times that are coming or even the trials of today.  His word is the truth... therefore, embrace His word that you might endure to the end and be saved.  “Thy word is truth.” (John 17:17b)