We are living between the times. Between the time of Jesus first coming and the time of His second. His first coming was one of mercy and forgiveness, with the offer of salvation. His second coming will be one of judgment. And we're living in between.
Jesus warns the disciples, and us, that the in between time will be very, very dismal at times. We saw yesterday that war, terrors, plagues, famines, and natural disasters will wreak havoc on the earth - and we've seen that truth play out throughout history exactly as Jesus said it would.
And in today's passage we see that persecution will also be rampant. This is also simply gaining in numbers. MacArthur states (and is something I've heard said before) that more Christians have been killed for their faith in the 20th century, than in all the other centuries combined. It's getting worse. Just as Jesus said it would.
But there's a few things that Jesus says here that is amazing, and truly gives hope to those living under persecution.
First of all, it says very clearly we don't need to stress out ahead of time about what we would say and how we would respond to persecution. Why not? Genuine faith, though exercised of free will, is a gift of God, and one that cannot be taken away. Genuine faith is proved genuine in times of persecution.
Those who fall away were simply not saved to begin with.
I know the whole "once saved, always saved" debate can get quite heated - but I am beginning to feel more and more that it is true. Once genuinely saved, always saved. Those who fall away simply give evidence that their faith was not genuine to begin with - they were the seed that fell anywhere but on the rich, fertile soil.
Jesus just said in this very passage... 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.
He's obviously not talking about physical life, because He just said some would be killed for their faith. He's talking about spiritual life.
Here's just a few more passages to support this....
John 4:13-14 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
You drink it, and you never thirst again.
John 5:24 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
You don't go back and forth from life to death to life to death. Whoever believes has eternal life. And eternal life, by definition, lasts forever.
John 6:37-40 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
MacArthur: all believers who come to faith are brought to faith by the work of the Father, they are given to the Son as gifts of love, the Son receives them, the Son does not reject them, the Son holds them, the Son keeps them....the Son loses none and the Son raises all to eternal glory. Nobody falls through the cracks.
Jesus gives believers eternal life. We will never perish. No one will every snatch us from His hand. No one. Ever.
God has given us a faith that cannot fail. It's not up to us. If it was up to us, we would fail, no doubt about it. But's it's not up to us. It's His gift. And His saving faith cannot fail. It will endure - despite war, terror, plague, famine, false teaching, and even persecution to the point of physical death.
Matthew 24:10-13 is a parallel passage that adds to this thought....
10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
The one who endures to the end will be saved, because his/her faith has been proved genuine. Those who fell away were not saved to begin with.
Exactly like it says in 1 John 2:19 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.
Those who are genuinely saved do not fall away.
We cannot see into people's hearts. We cannot know who actually believes what they say they believe. They may even live like they believe it for awhile. But if hardship causes them to fall away - they were never saved to begin with.
Let's use an analogy of a man and a woman getting married.
How do you know they actually love each other?
By the marriage enduring the test of time and hardship.
You can say all the right words. You can pledge your love in front of a congregation in a church and in front of God. You can vow to love. You can even act loving for years. The love may be genuine or it may not be. The way it is proven genuine is when it survives trial.
Similarly with faith. You can say all the right words. You can speak Christianese with the best of them. You can walk down the aisle and pray a prayer. But there are no magic words. If you do not understand the gospel, if you do not understand what you're repenting of and committing your life to, if you do not believe in your heart the words you are saying, if you do not live the newfound commitment you've made, and if you do not endure - then it wasn't genuine.
Look at 1 Peter 1:3-10 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
That just sums it up right there.
God gets the glory and credit for our salvation. We've done nothing to earn or deserve it. It's completely His mercy.
MacArthur: You have by God’s mercy been caused to be born again into eternal life, you have a hope that cannot die and to fulfill that hope, you already have reserved in heaven for you, not for anybody who happens to make it, but for you an inheritance which cannot perish, cannot be defiled, will not fade away.....you don’t have the power. But you’re protected by the power of God through...what?...here’s the key, “Through faith.” God protects you to the very end when you will receive that eternal inheritance, He protects you by His power, that’s the source of protection, the means of protection is your faith. That’s what He says. Protected by the power of God through faith. Faith is the means by which God protects you all the way to eternal glory. That faith which He has given you is an unassailable, unfading, undying, unfailing faith. It is a permanent faith. It is in that gift of supernatural faith that God does His protecting so that one day you will receive the final salvation to be revealed in the last time.
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
MacArthur agrees: we’re protected by the power of God through faith. And God gives us that enduring faith because He loves us. Nothing can ever change His love for us. No one can ever tear us out of the secure hold of the Father. Therefore, salvation is forever. And so whatever comes in this world, we are not terrified. We know what our glorious end will be.
Tomorrow's scripture focus: Luke 21:20-24