Is the Discourse talking about salvation? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
One of the favorite topics evangelicals like to discuss is salvation. It’s a great topic, but just because the Bible uses the word saved, it doesn’t mean it’s talking about salvation. For a case in point, let’s look at today’s verse.
“But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”
One of my favorite examples of this is in Acts 27. When the ship Paul is on is in the sea in the middle of a storm, some sailors decide that they will flee in a lifeboat. Paul has already told them that everyone will be spared, but they’re not believing it. So what does Paul say?
“Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.”
Wow. So Paul was saying salvation was out of reach? Now to be fair, being dead could make it hard to get saved, but Paul is talking about something else. He is talking about surviving the storm at sea.
So when Jesus is talking about this, He is talking about avoiding death. He is not saying that enduring earns one salvation, although one who has salvation ultimately will endure. Now were there plenty of reasons for someone to not endure?
Yes. Apostasy will be a reality for the early church at this point. The book of Hebrews is the prime example of this. This was not persecution to the point of shedding blood as the writer of the piece himself says, but it is persecution that is leading people to be tempted to return to Judaism.
Christianity was a shameful movement at the start and if you are staying in it for salvation, well, Judaism already has that. Why not return to Judaism and avoid the social ostracism that takes place with Christianity? It was a tempting offer and that’s why the author makes repeated warnings to people to not abandon Christ. This letter quite likely has more such warnings than any other letter.
Jesus is describing people in Jerusalem going through a similar time, except it will be far worse, which we will get to later. This will be an event to endure indeed. There are some who place this in a “great tribulation” in the future which could very well return us to a salvation by works. As we go on through the discourse, I hope you will see that such an interpretation is unnecessary. Everything can easily fit into the first century.