Question: "What does it mean that he who endures to the end will be saved (Matthew 24:13)?"
Answer: In Matthew 24:13 Jesus says, “He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” (KJV), or, as the NIV has it, “The one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” This verse is part of Jesus’ Olivet Discourse, an explanation to His disciples about things to come.
Jesus told the Twelve that the temple would be destroyed (Matthew 24:2), and, in response, they asked Him, “When will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (verse 3). Their question had two parts and so required two answers. Jesus combined those answers into one long discourse about what was ahead before He returned. Some of those prophecies were fulfilled with the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. The remainder has yet to happen.
This specific verse is best understood when read in context. Verses Matthew 24:9–14 says, “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
From God’s viewpoint outside our timeframe, the “end times” began with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 2:16–21, Peter describes this event as “the last days.” From that perspective, it makes sense that Jesus combined events in AD 70 with those yet to come. They are all “the last days.” He then warns that, as persecution increases, many who considered themselves His followers will reveal their true spiritual condition when they turn away from the faith. This had already happened during His ministry (John 6:66) and would escalate until the end. True Christian faith would be tested by deception, false prophets, and the increase of wickedness. Not only will there be some who turn away, but Jesus foretold that “the love of most will grow cold.” The implication is that those who “stand firm to the end” will be the minority (see Matthew 7:14).
Those who endure to the end are the opposite of those in the previous verse whose love grows cold. Jesus’ statement that he who endures to the end will be saved cannot be taken to mean that our salvation is somehow dependent on our personal ability to remain saved. Rather, it is a promise of perseverance. Those who have the grace to endure to the end are the ones who are genuinely saved by grace. The various trials Jesus mentions will reveal our true colors. “Most will grow cold” and fall away from Christ, showing that they are professors only and not truly born again (Matthew 24:12). But those who endure and stand firm in the faith, despite incitements to do otherwise, are showing that they are genuine children of God “who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5, ESV, emphasis added).
We can dissect this passage even further to glean relevant truths. Those who endure to the end and are saved will stand firm through persecution. Matthew 24:9 warns that Jesus’ followers would be “handed over to be persecuted and put to death.” From the time of the apostles until present day, millions of Christians have been persecuted and put to death. We are seeing an escalation of that in more recent days with global terrorism, but martyrdom has always been common in most areas of the world. Verse 9 goes on to state that Christians will “be hated by all nations because of me.” As Islam and atheism increase in nations that once held to Judeo-Christian values, we are seeing a greater fulfillment of this prophecy. Hatred can be expressed in many ways, one of which is the radical secularization of culture and governments that once honored time-tested morality and faith. When a culture actively strips from its history and public life any vestiges of God’s involvement in its success, that nation is displaying hatred toward Jesus.
Those who endure to the end and are saved will stand firm through ridicule and hatred. Matthew 24:10 says that when many turn away from the faith, they will “betray and hate each other.” With the proliferation of internet websites, blogs, and Facebook pages, we are seeing the polarization of opinions leading to angry diatribes and un-Christlike dialogue. Everyone has an opinion about everything, and opinion, it seems, has become a god worth defending through anger. Even among professing “Christians,” the comments and editorializing have taken a decidedly downward turn. Issues not worth dividing over have become hot-button topics that alienate brothers and sisters and, sadly, the unbelieving world. Issues that are worth dividing over have been swept under the rug in the name of “tolerance.” Anyone who does not bow to the god of tolerance becomes an object of ridicule and self-righteous hatred.
Those who endure to the end and are saved will stand firm through false teaching. Matthew 24:11 goes on to warn of “many false prophets” appearing and deceiving the masses. We tend to imagine a “false prophet” as a flamboyant type, easily spotted and easily rejected. However, if this were true, then many would not be deceived by them. Instead, the false prophets are men and women with outward displays of Christianity, charismatic charm, and a way with words. They weave their heresies with Scripture, just as Satan does (see Luke 4:1–10), so that those who do not know God’s Word thoroughly are taken in by their great-sounding teachings (2 Timothy 4:3–4). We are already seeing this take place with the explosion in recent years of hyper-grace teaching and the prosperity gospel. Millions are being deceived, with Bibles in their laps, because the words of the false prophets are ego-soothing, exciting, and more desirable than Scripture’s focus upon self-sacrifice and surrender.
Those who endure to the end and are saved will stand firm even in the midst of a rampantly sinful culture. Matthew 24:12 says that “because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.” This is a cause-and-effect statement that we are seeing played out before our eyes. As culture redefines reality according to its lusts and depravity, those clinging to scriptural definitions of sin are being quickly outnumbered. As wickedness becomes more popular and socially acceptable, people without a solid biblical worldview are being swept up by its grandiose promises. They are “rethinking” and “reevaluating” the Bible’s relevance in our modern world. The definitions of gender, sexuality, and morality are being challenged, even within some segments of the church, causing those unschooled in truth to collapse beneath the weight of these “new insights.” It is no wonder that the flicker of love that may have been ignited by the Holy Spirit is squelched in favor of a new love and a new god created in the image of the culture.
When Jesus says, “The one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:13, ESV), He is speaking of those who are truly born again, whose lives are transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. True followers of Jesus Christ will withstand the onslaught of wickedness, recognize and reject false teaching, and cling fast to the truth of God’s Word. They will overcome this world and be granted reward in the world to come (Revelation 3:21). Those who have been sealed by the Holy Spirit until the day of redemption (Ephesians 1:13; 4:30; 2 Corinthians 1:22) have His power working in them to enable them to stand firm (Romans 14:4; Jude 1:24–25).