Matthew 24:3–14 (NASB95)
3 As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”
4 And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you.
5 For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many.
6 You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end.
7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes.
8 But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.
9 Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name.
10 At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another.
11 Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many.
12 Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.
13 But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.
14 This Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.”
Here, Jesus talks about a difficult period of time for Christians in the future, characterized by deceit, wars, famines, earthquakes, betrayals, and increased lawlessness. Depending on your perspective on the end times, this challenging season may have already happened in 70 AD, just for Christian Jews, when Titus destroyed the Temple, or it may refer to the time close to the second coming of Jesus (the so-called rapture), or it may refer to the period of the Great Tribulation. However, the end times are not the subject of this book. The bottom line is that Jesus describes a strenuous time in which Christians will be on earth. Many Christians think this text refers to genuine believers living in those times who will lose their salvation because of the trials. They advocate for this interpretation because of the phrases “many will fall away” in Verse 10, “the love of many will grow cold” in Verse 12, and “he who endures to the end shall be saved” in Verse 13. They interpret the word “saved” from Verse 13 as referring to eternal salvation and reason that, since only those who endure to the end will be saved, then it must be that some will not endure to the end, and they will not be saved. However, the context of the whole passage is not eternal salvation; that is not in play here, but rather physical tribulations and persecutions on earth for Jesus’ name’s sake during those times.
The “falling away” from Verse 10, which is rendered more correctly in the NKJV Bible translation as “being offended,” refers to backsliding in faith for a while and not necessarily losing eternal salvation. We know that because the following verses describe in what way many will be offended or fall away: they will betray one another and hate one another, and their love will grow cold because of lawlessness. All these actions show a lack of faith in Jesus and the Gospel for this present life and not a lack of faith in the Gospel for the future life. Why would believers betray other people? It would be out of fear of a threat or to gain some benefit during those difficult times. What does that show? Lack of faith in the provision of the Gospel for their physical needs, not lack of faith for the forgiveness of their sins. Why would love grow cold in some believers during those times? Because of the lawlessness all around them, everybody will become more selfish and look out only for themselves, times will be difficult, God will not seem to intervene on their behalf, and they will gradually lose the awareness of God’s love and care for them, so they will begin losing their love for other people as well. That is kind of what is happening today in our world. That doesn’t mean those believers are lost forever; it just means they are temporarily weaker in faith regarding the things of this life. Their love will not disappear completely; it will just grow cold for a while.
The Greek word used in Verse 10 for “falling away” or “being offended” is skandalizo, which means to stumble. Jesus uses same Greek word in Matthew 26:31–33 when He tells His disciples ALL of them will fall away because of Him on the night of His betrayal. Let’s read that passage:
Matthew 26:31–33 (NASB95)
31 Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of Me this night, for it is written, ‘I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered.’
32 But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.”
33 But Peter said to Him, “Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.”
Again, the NKJV Bible translation renders the falling away more correctly as “being made to stumble.” It reads like this:
Matthew 26:31–33 (NKJV)
31 Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: ‘I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’
32 But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.”
33 Peter answered and said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.”
When Jesus told His disciples they would all fall away that night because of Him, He was not talking about them losing their salvation but rather about them stumbling temporarily in their trust in Jesus. They were not even saved yet at that point; they didn’t have a salvation to lose because Jesus had not yet died for them and had not yet been resurrected. Moreover, we know that later, most of the disciples, except Judas Iscariot, were saved and even martyred for the Gospel. Also, think about Peter for a moment. Even though he told Jesus he would never fall away and never stumble, he fell away when he betrayed Him three times, but that was a temporary backsliding. He prayed after that, and he was restored to faith.
Now let’s go back to Matthew 24:13. It says, “the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.” As I said earlier, the context of that whole passage is not eternal salvation but tribulation and persecution for the name of Jesus. When this persecution strikes, Christians have two options. One of them is to keep a low profile by not being so vocal about their faith or even lying about it. The other option is to stand firm no matter what happens, all the way to the end. The word “saved” here doesn’t refer to being saved from hell but being saved from persecution in the sense of being spared and preserved in the middle of it. In Matthew 5, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells people to rejoice when persecution comes. It’s noble and right to accept and endure persecution for Jesus and even death for the sake of His name. However, if Christians decide they want to be preserved from persecution, they can be saved from it by faith.
Throughout the Old Testament, God always intervened to save His people from persecution when they stood firm in faith and defended His reputation. God defended them.
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