Staying Alive

In answering their questions regarding future events, Jesus gave His disciples a ray of hope: “But he who endures to the end shall be saved” (Mt. 24:13). What did He mean?

The key is the phrase to the end. The word end marks time in Matthew 24:6, 13–14 but is nonspecific. Other verses speak of “the end of the age” (13:39–40, 49; 24:3; 28:20).

The Jewish people perceived two ages: one preceding the coming of the Messiah and one following.1 Matthew 24:3 concerns the former. In context, “the end” in Matthew 24:13 does not, as some have claimed, refer to the end of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, particularly since Jesus did not return then and establish a literal, tangible Kingdom. Nor does it refer to the end of personal trials and persecution or the end of one’s life. Rather, the end refers to the end of the age preceding Messiah’s coming.

Jesus also explained in Matthew 24 who will have to endure those final seven years prior to His coming. Throughout the Olivet Discourse, Jesus addressed the disciples as “you” (plural). But this word goes beyond them to Jewish believers in the distant future. Although it is true that Gentile believers alive then may also “endure,” the passage’s context, along with its parallels in Matthew 10:22 and Mark 13:13, as well as the entire Gospel of Matthew, focuses on Jewish people. Thus Matthew 24:13 was not written for believers of all eras, as some have proposed, but for those Jewish believers who will live in the tumultuous days immediately preceding the arrival of Messiah Jesus.

What exactly will they have to endure? Like a woman in childbirth (Mt. 24:8), those days will be filled with pain and anguish. Those days are also known as “Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:7), “a time of trouble” (Dan. 12:1), and “great tribulation” (mt. 24:21). Israel will undergo severe persecution (Zech. 13:8; Rev. 12:13). Even Jewish believers in Jesus will suffer, being in the crosshairs of the Antichrist (Dan. 7:21; Mt. 24:9–12; Rev. 12:17; 13:7). Some will even die.

Those believers, however, are contrasted with others in Matthew 24:13 who endure. Although the word endure has a range of meaning, it is best understood here as “staying alive.”2 Notice that the verses following are life-saving instructions from Jesus Himself.

Matthew 24:13 is not a command, nor is it a conditional clause. It is merely a matter-of-fact statement that the survivor of those days will have the sure hope of salvation. The salvation promised here cannot be spiritual because spiritual salvation is based on faith in Christ (Eph. 2:8–9), not on physical survival.

Also, in context, Jesus said, “And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved” (physically delivered or rescued, Mt. 24:22). Since the word save can refer to either spiritual or physical salvation, and since the Bible clearly promises that God will rescue His people Israel from physical destruction at the end of the Tribulation (Isa. 4:2–3; Jer. 30:7; Dan. 12:1; Zech. 12:7–9; 14:3), the salvation presented in Matthew 24:13 signifies a physical deliverance, or rescue.

Thus Jewish believers who manage to survive until the end of the Tribulation will be physically rescued by Jesus Christ at His Second Coming.

ENDNOTES
  1. Matthew 12:32; Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30; Hebrews 6:5. Also, Mishnah, Aboth 5.19.
  2. When writing from prison to the Philippians, the apostle Paul believed he would not die but “remain in the flesh” and “remain and continue” (Phil. 1:24–25). Both words for “remain” are related to “endure” in Matthew 24:13.

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