“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
(Matthew 24:9-14 ESV)
We are currently studying the Olivet Discourse – Jesus’ final instructions to His disciples before He is crucified. After explaining what will be the general course of events on earth in the end times, which He did yesterday, Jesus now tells His disciples what will happen specifically to them in the future.
None of these men, as young as they were (all except Peter were likely teenagers), lived to see the end times and the return of Jesus. So we can understand Jesus’ comments to pertain to all Christians in the time period between Jesus’ ascension into heaven and His return to earth.
During this time Jesus’ followers should expect to be persecuted. The will be treated poorly (tribulation) and will be put to death. They will be hated by all nations because they follow Christ (for my name’s sake).
But as Jesus mentioned yesterday, all these things are like birth pains. They will start off slowly and infrequently and will increase in severity and frequency.
Certainly this has been true since the start of Christianity. From a rabid Jew named Saul who persecuted followers of “The Way” (as Christianity was first called) [Acts 8:3, 9:1-2] to modern-day governments and terrorists groups who rape, torture, and behead followers of Christ, the world hates Christians and delivers them up to tribulation. And these things are happening at a faster rate and with more brutality.
One sad result of this will be that many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. There have always been, and will always be, those who take advantage of difficulty to promote themselves at the expense of those who are persecuted, whether as it relates to Jesus or not. As times get tougher those who claim to be followers of Jesus but who were not will fall away and follow these false teachings.
Lawlessness – disregard for God’s word – will increase in the end times and as a result the love of many will grow cold [2 Timothy 3:1-5, 13-15]. It is no surprise that there is a lack of love when sin is prevalent and false gospels – those that deny Jesus – abound. The world touts these false gospels because it believes that removing Jesus from culture and replacing Him with man-made truth makes the planet a better place. But we know that is not true just by observing the world around us – which is clearly not improving as Jesus is marginalized. Only the true gospel of Jesus can create love because there can be no love without Jesus [1 John 4:7-8, 16].
But there is good news. The one who endures to the end will be saved. Note that Jesus is not stating that endurance results in salvation. It does not. Rather, endurance in the face of persecution, even death, is proof of salvation. Only true followers of Christ follow Him no matter what happens [John 8:31].
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