Endure Unto the End

I’ve spent the last few days in Warsaw, Poland. The more I visit this land the more I admire the Polish people: industrious, innovative, upright, hard-working, law abiding and tolerant — promoting religious freedom and the rule of law since the 15th century, and harboring the world’s largest and most significant Jewish community for centuries. As WWII began, about 3 million Jews, one-fifth of all the world’s Jews, resided in Poland.

Warsaw Ghetto Monument, Warsaw, Poland

During WWII, the Nazis forced Polish Jews into dense city ghettos under unspeakable conditions, before deporting them for “resettlement.” The largest of these ghettos was in Warsaw, where about 400,000 Jews were packed into 1.25 sq mi. When the Jews found out that “resettlement” was to a death camp, they decided to die fighting. As they tried to defend themselves, the Nazis attacked and torched the ghetto, burning many men, women and children alive. It was a horrendous time.

In all, the Nazis exterminated 3 million Polish Jews; the Warsaw Ghetto Monument reminds us of their suffering. As I beheld it, just after touring the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, built on the very site of the Warsaw Ghetto, and seeing the graphic depictions of all this horror, I was trying to imagine what it would have been like to live through it. I just can’t; I don’t pretend to even begin to understand it.

But according to scripture, even more difficult times are yet to come: “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” (Mt 24:12-13) What will that be like? What does it mean to endure to the end in a time like this?

I’m thinking that it’s only by God’s grace that any soul survives wartime atrocity with a clean conscience; enduring doesn’t secure salvation — salvation secures enduring. (Jud 1:24) When push comes to shove, most will save their own skin and let the world go to hell, but God’s regenerating, sanctifying (Tit 3:5) work produces holiness in His elect regardless of the times. (Ro 6:22) We’ll be loving Him and others from the heart because He lives in us, willing and doing according to His good pleasure. (Php 2:13) This isn’t presumption (Ps 19:13), it’s hope, grounded in the nature and promises of God.

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One thought on “Endure Unto the End”

  1. Many texts link behavior to salvation:
    — “If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister.” (Co 1:23)
    — “But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.” (Heb 3:6)
    — “For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end.” (He 3:14)

    There are many more like these, showing us that we must not try to decouple works from salvation.

    However, all of these kinds of texts have an important property in common: none of them actually specify a cause-and-effect relationship between works and salvation.

    The only texts specifying a cause-and-effect relationship with salvation are those which show that faith causes salvation, and that God causes faith.
    — “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Ep 2:8-10)
    — “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (Jn 1:12-13)
    — “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” (Tit 3:5)
    — “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Ro 10:10)
    — “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” (Ga 2:16)
    — “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” (1Co 1:30-31)

    So, while we may not decouple salvation from works (“Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” Ja 2:17), we must understand that salvation does not depend on works, it is not produced by works. Salvation is not by a faith that is void of works (“Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” Ja 2:24), but by a faith that produces works: works are the evidence of faith because faith in God always results in good works. (“And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.” Ja 2:23)

    We can know that we are saved (“These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” 1Jn 5:13), not because we’ve decided to follow Christ and are determined to endure to the end, but because God has enabled us to believe on His Son, justifying us such that He will never impute sin to us (“Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” Ro 4:8) and He is sanctifying us by transforming us into the likeness of His Son. (“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” Ro 8:29)

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