Two verses in the King James Version of Bible quote the Messiah and always resonate with me:
1) Matthew 24:13—“But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved,” and,
2) Mark 13:13—“And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.”
A more contemporary translation of the central point of each verse is: “he who stands firm to the end shall be saved”.
In other words, he who “stands firm” in his faith in the Messiah until the “end” of his earthly life shall be saved.
The verses strike me as important because, if they are accurately translated, if they are true, and if they apply to all, then those who believe they’ve been “saved” at the age of 14, or 35 or 68, etc. may be mistaken—and that mistake might imperil their salvation.
Note that the verses declare that “those who stand firm to the end shall be saved.”
Again, if that’s a accurate translation of what the Messiah actually said, then (by virtue of the use of the word “shall”), it appears that we do not become “saved” in this life, but become eligible for salvation only after we perish—and more, only if we are still strong in our faith at the time of our death.
If so, then those who believe they’ve been “saved” at some time during their life but before they actually perish may be deceiving themselves with a comforting vanity since Matthew 24:13 and Mark 13:13 seem to say that salvation doesn’t attach until after we perish.
• We can see some evidence of this notion in the conduct of the Apostles after the Messiah was crucified. If anyone could claim to have been saved during his life and before he died, it should’ve been the Apostles. After all, which of us could be as close to the Messiah as his Apostles? If those guys weren’t “saved,” who is?
Reclaiming the Mind Ministries published an article entitled, “The Death of the Twelve Apostles” which admitted that details of the deaths of all twelve Apostles were sometimes sketchy. Nevertheless, that article asserts that,
“ . . . . it is very feasible to believe that all but one of the Apostles suffered and died a martyr’s death, even if we can’t sure of the exact details.
“Amidst some uncertainty, one thing is clear—the reason given for their death was the same in all accounts. They were killed because they proclaimed to have seen Christ die and then to have seen Him alive. They all died because of an unwavering, unrelenting claim that Christ rose from the grave. . . .”
I’m not writing to recommend or criticize the Reclaiming the Mind Ministries. I’m not writing to present the quoted text as God’s truth. I’m only saying that that text seems to be a commonly accepted view of the Apostles’ deaths.
Assuming that view is accurate, it appears that the Apostles all stood firm in their faith until the ends of their lives. We aren’t told if the Apostles believed that they’d received salvation before or after their deaths, However, it’s reasonable to suppose that if the Apostles had believed they were saved long before they actually died, they might’ve lightened up on the evangelism, kept their mouths shut, and avoided being martyred.
I mean, if they were convinced that they’d already been guaranteed salvation, why keep making a fuss that would only cause them to be prematurely and painfully killed?
Peter, for example, had denied the Messiah three times prior to the Crucifixion, but was himself later murdered for refusing to deny the Messiah a fourth time. If Peter really believed he was already saved, where’d be the harm in Peter denying the Messiah a fourth time and thereby escaping his own murder?
“Doubting Thomas” refused to believe in the Messiah’s resurrection “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). After this, the Messiah did appear to Thomas and Thomas was so convinced of the Messiah resurrection that he believed unto death. According to one report, “Thomas sealed his testimony as he was thrust through with pine spears, tormented with red-hot plates, and burned alive”. That’s a tough way to go. If Thomas was sure he’d already been saved, why didn’t he (falsely) recant his faith and avoid a premature death or at least avoid the torture?
The other Apostles were reportedly crucified, beheaded, stabbed, flayed, beaten to death, stoned, and tortured. John was reportedly thrown into boiling oil and disfigured although he was not necessarily killed by that assault.
Judging from the Apostles’ conduct, if they really believed they’d already been “saved,” some of them, at least, might’ve compromised in their claims of faith to avoid martyrdom.
But none of the reports suggest that any of the Apostles compromised their faith. They “stood firm” to the “end” even though that “end” was brutal and torturous.
This conduct implies that the Apostles, themselves, did not believe they were “saved” before they died and perhaps didn’t believe that they even could be “saved” until after they’d died.
This implication is not proof.
Nevertheless, if the Apostles who actually saw, touched and served the Messiah were not “saved” until after their faith had been tested by painful deaths, what’s the probability that you or I can be “saved” right now—while our lives may still be comfortable—and before we die?
I see people walk around in church with a beatific smile on their face, confident that they’ve been saved ever since they first gave their lives to Jesus, even if that conversion took place twenty, thirty, forty years ago. I hope they’re right. I hope they are saved. But if they are, Matthew 24:13 and Mark 13:13 are mistakes or lies or don’t apply.
• I can hypothesize one way that Matthew 24:13 and Mark 13:13 might both be true and yet not apply to us today:
The Messiah made the statement (“He who stands firm to the end shall be saved.”) during his earthly life and before he was crucified and resurrected. Therefore, it’s conceivable that Matthew 24:13 and Mark 13:13 might present a “formula” for those who lived before the crucifixion and resurrection to achieve salvation if they firmly believed in the Messiah (without yet knowing about a resurrection) until they died—and their deaths took place before the crucifixion/resurrection. That would be an Old Testament formula for salvation through the, as-yet-unresurrected Messiah.
However, once the Messiah was actually crucified and resurrected, that Old Testament requirement that you “stand firm to the end” in order to be saved after you died would no longer apply. After the Messiah’s Resurrection, our sins would all be paid for and we would all be automatically saved once we confessed our faith in the Messiah.
But does that hypothesis sound plausible? Are we to believe that Matthew 24:13 and Mark 13:13 only applied before the Messiah was resurrected—but don’t apply today?
I don’t believe that’s true.
Therefore, it appears to me that either:
1) Matthew 24:13 and Mark 13:13 are false and, arguably, lies; or
2) Those living men and woman who are currently convinced that they’ve already been saved are deceived and/or deluding themselves.
If Matthew 24:13 and Mark 13:13 are true and apply to all of us today, then none of us can be “saved” until we have first “stood firm [in the faith] to the end [death]”. Only then, after our deaths, can we receive salvation.
If so, those who smile so beatifically in church in the firm belief that they’ve already been saved may actually be in great peril. First, they may be in peril because they’ve embraced the lie that they even could be saved before they died. Second, they may be in peril because, believing themselves already “saved” they may see no compelling reason to “stand firm” in the faith unto death. After all, if they’re already saved, why go through all those trials and tribulations? Why not keep a low profile, compromise their faith, say whatever the government or 501(c)3 churches would have them say, and rest smugly on their laurels (having already been saved)?
• Again, I hope that those of you who believe yourselves to already be saved are right. I hope you are saved.
I also hope that I am saved.
But I don’t feel as if I’m already saved. I hate to admit that truth to people who claim to have already been saved because I expect them to nod knowingly that they are saved and I am not. Therefore, I might be deemed an agent of Satan rather than a servant of God. But, regardless of how people interpret my admission, that admission is the truth relative to my feelings. Maybe my “feelings” are accurate; maybe they’re mistaken.
However, while I doubt that I am already saved, I have no doubt that I am “called”. I feel as one who’s been offered the opportunity for salvation seen in Matthew 24:13 and Mark 13:13: If I can manage to “stand firm” in my faith (not works) until my own demise, then (later) I shall be saved.
I absolutely believe that to be true. More, I have believed those two verses to be true for at least—what?—twenty years? This belief isn’t new to me.
But that belief begins to trouble me because I’ll be 69 years old next month and I don’t have the strength and self-confidence that I had ten or twenty years ago.
As a younger man, it was easy for me to pledge that I would surely stand firm in the faith to the end. I was very strong and convinced that I could endure anything “to the end” without surrendering my faith.
But as a “senior citizen,” I recognize that I no longer have the personal physical or intellectual strength that I’d depended on in the past to ensure that I could “stand firm to the end”.
I don’t mean to say that I’ve become a weakling, but I can extrapolate my strength from when I was 50 to today, and on to when I might be 80 or 90 years old. It’s undeniable that I’m losing my former strength, and I can expect to grow weaker and even feeble over time.
So, I’m learning something. It’s easy to say and believe that “I’ll stand firm to the end” when you’re young and strong. But I begin to see the real test may not come when you’re young and strong. Instead, the real test may come at the “end” when you are likely to be weak, discouraged and perhaps even fearful.
Can you (or I) “stand firm to end” of our lives, if that end is marked by physical frailty, mental disability, the loss of our friends, family and people we’ve loved? Can you (or I) “stand firm” in a nursing home, in a single rented room, or even as a homeless man on the streets? When you have nothing left in this life to love, live or hope for—can you still stand firm in your faith?
I begin to understand that “standing firm to the end” is not about being a young hero eager to challenge and withstand every adversary. It’s about being old, small, weak and even helpless.
I begin to see that “standing firm” in your faith “to the end” may be, ultimately, a test to see if you can hang onto your faith when everything else—even the hope of living to see just one more day—is absolutely gone.
If you can “stand firm” in your faith–even in midst of profound weakness and complete isolation–then you “shall be saved”.
• I’m reminded of the Messiah who, after being badly beaten and whipped, and in the midst of being crucified, cried out, “Father, father, why have You forsaken me?” Weakened, bleeding and within minutes of death, the Messiah thought he’d been “forsaken” by our Father YHWH ha Elohiym.
I believe that the Messiah always had the power to step off that cross if he’d chosen to do so. And even if that belief were false, I also believe that Satan was present at the crucifixion and waiting for the Messiah to choose to appeal to Satan to be released from the cross. In either case, I believe the Messiah could’ve chosen to be freed from the cross.
It was the Messiah’s choice to stay on the cross that made his death a sacrifice rather than a murder. I see that choice as being finalized when the Messiah was as weak as a man near death can. I see that choice as evidence that despite losing everything and seemingly having been even forsaken by God, the Messiah nevertheless “stood firm to the end” and, later (three days after he had died), was resurrected and saved.
This implies that even the Messiah may not have been truly “saved” until after he had “stood firm to the end”.
I.e., if we presume that the Messiah was “saved” all along and throughout his earthly life, then we might presume that he had no choice in his death. If his death was preordained and assured from the beginning, then his death was not a personal sacrifice based on the Messiah’s choice, but was, instead a murder.
If the Messiah’s death was murder rather than a choice to make self-sacrifice, those guilty of the murder might be punished or even damned–but why should anyone else be saved if there was no sacrifice? If we believed that our salvation was based on the Messiah’s murder (rather than his choice to sacrifice his life) then, today, we should worship the people who murdered the Messiah, rather than the Messiah,himself. We would’ve been saved by the murderers’ violence rather than the Messiah’s choice.
If the Messiah’s death was a murder rather than an intentional act of self-sacrifice, we should reasonably worship Pontius Pilate or even the Jews for having murdered the Messiah and thereby saved us all. But we don’t worship Pilate or the Jews. We worship the Messiah. Why? Because he intentionally chose to sacrifice his life on our behalf, and he “stood firm” in that choice until he actually died.
The Messiahs’ choice to sacrifice his own life could not have been completed until he had actually died. His actual death made it impossible for him to “choose” again and thereby not sacrifice his life. So long as he had even a nano-second of remaining life, he could’ve chosen to step off the cross and live rather than die. But, thank God, the Messiah chose to sacrifice his life on our behalf. The Messiah chose to “stand firm” in his faith (obedience to God) “to the end”. That “end” was the Messiah’s death. Therefore, we worship the Messiah rather than Pontius Pilate.
If the Messiah’s choice to sacrifice for all of us could not be “validated” until he “stood firm to the [very] end” in his own earthly life, that would seemingly cast doubt on the validity of the modern belief that any living man has already been absolutely “saved” before he has first “stood firm to the end”—and then actually died.
The apparent logic of this analysis indicates that each man’s salvation is conditioned on his “standing firm to the end”. More, that salvation will not attach until after each man’s “end”.
The belief that any of us are already saved seems to contradict Matthew 24:13 and Mark 13:13 and might therefore be hazardous to our spiritual health.