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.
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.