Matthew 24:1-14 Part 6

I had previously announced that the last sermon would close this initial passage in the chapter, and that we would go on from there after a few comments about verses thirteen and fourteen, and we did go on into verses fifteen and beyond.  But there are many things here in the last two verses that are too wonderful to pass over so quickly (i.e. the concepts of perseverance, proclamation and testimony).

And since they are so wonderful, you need to hear them; and I need to be responsible – to the end that you hear them!  So I’m going to call this sermon “part six” of verses one through fourteen.  And then we’ll have some time to introduce the next passage with a brief look at “mega-tribulation.”  (That’s what it says!  [thlipsis megale] as it appears in verse twenty-one.)

But for now let’s hear, once again, what Jesus said in verses thirteen and fourteen:  “But the one persevering (eis telos), to completion (not “to the end,” but “to completion,” or “through it all to finality”), this one shall be saved (future passive tense).  And this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be proclaimed (future passive tense) in testimony to all the nations, and then shall come the end.”

Jesus has described to His disciples, in broad, prophetic terms, what is to happen “in this generation”:  great phenomena, sharp persecution of the Church by Judaizers, the most awful, depraved condition in Israel – increasing in intensity day by day – famines and plagues and violence in every place!  And the entrapment and deception and lure of false christs and false prophets; terror and fear and anxiety; the “Parousia” of Christ and His consummation of the age!

The disciples of Jesus and their families, the elect of God from Israel, new Christians in the nations – all under great stress and suffering and persecution – hated by all because of the Name of Christ….

Don’t be deceived.  Have no fear, Jesus said.  It’s all necessary.  God is doing it all and … “The one persevering to completion, this one shall be saved….”

What a beautiful word… perseverance.

Made up of two parts, the Greek word, in its most simplistic form, means to “stay under.”  And it’s used in such a variety of (sometimes) unanticipated ways.  Listen to the prophets of old as interpreted by the later Greek translators:  the first is Micah, who speaks of this very evil condition in Israel in which members of families turn on each other in desertion and hatred….


“Trust not in a friend; put not confidence in a guide (teacher).  Keep the doors of your mouth from her that lies in your bosom (wife).  For the son dishonors the father, the daughter rises up against her mother, the daughter in law against her mother in law; a man’s enemies are the men of his own house.  Then I will look unto the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation….”


The word “wait” is our Greek word perseverance.  Even in the most severe circumstances, when depravity is at such a level that family members desert the family – and the religion-of-the-family – and “deliver” one another and distrust each other (as Jesus describes the intensity of the Jewish condition before His “Parousia”), the writer says he will “wait” on the God of His salvation.

In his prayer for help in the coming “day of vengeance” (as he puts it), Isaiah says the very same thing in chapter sixty-four:  “… for since the beginning of the ages we have not heard, neither have our eyes seen a God beside thee, and Thy works which Thou wilt perform to them that wait for mercy….”  And the prophet goes on to describe the horrible desolation to come in Israel in exactly the same terms as our Lord Jesus uses here in our text.  And the word he uses here for those who wait upon the Lord is again perseverance.

The prophecy of Habakkuk is rightfully called the “burden” of Habakkuk, for he saw what was to be for the nation of Israel.  In the second chapter he says, “… the vision is yet for a time, and it shall shoot forth at the end, and not in vain; though he should tarry, wait for Him; for He will surely come and will not tarry….”

The “waiting” for God is this word that Jesus uses – “perseverance.”  Stay under God is what the prophets are saying!  Surrounded by unrighteousness, in great distress, besieged by violence and deserters and persecutors and false prophets and unimaginable depravity, the righteous know to remain under God, for He’s the One doing it all, and His covenant promises will be fulfilled!

Now, the prophets make it clear that it is not human steadfastness that is being urged here.  As Isaiah says in chapter forty, it is cleaving to God!  He “shatters” purely human hope, as Job so clearly realizes in chapter twenty-three:  “But He is in one mind, and who can turn Him?  And what His soul desires, even that He does.  For He performs the thing that is appointed for me:  and many such things are with Him.”  Job ended up clinging to God alone in hope and expectation.  He learned to “wait” upon God – to persevere – to remain under God.  He learned not to “endure,” but to rest!

Paul and Peter both pick up the Hebrew understanding of “remaining under” in the face of evil and under affliction and persecution.  And they make it clear that this great gift of perseverance is not personal bravery – and neither is it stoic endurance and insensitivity!  But it is an unbreakable and patient waiting under God.

James, at the beginning of his letter to the Churches in the nations, says for them to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance; and let perseverance have its perfect work – that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

Clinging to Christ and remaining under His Spirit produces a heroic steadfastness… not personal power, not endurance under self-inflicted burdens, not insensitivity under self-selected affliction – but under imposed burdens of tribulation and suffering and persecution and uncertainty and threat and evil and injustice, and faced with hatred and desertion and betrayal!  It is resting under God and His sovereign power and promises – waiting on Him to do as He wills in complete hope and expectancy!

The letter to the Hebrews, written to the Church of the Jewish remnant from Israel, includes (chapter twelve) the analogy of the race.  These Jewish believers (kept by God for Himself), already having suffered great affliction and persecution, must continue to display the same perseverance if they are to win the victory!  And Christ is the model upon Whom they must continue to gaze.  Christ, Who suffered greatly on the cross, did persevere in contempt for the shame and hostile repudiation and the pain!  And they must do the same.  And if they fall away now, if they desert now, if they go back to Judaism, they can’t be returned!

In St. John’s Revelation (the first three chapters), in sevenfold repetition the apostle extols perseverance as the necessary virtue of believers in the last hours of the old age.  In verse nine of chapter one he tells the Churches that he is their co-sharer in tribulation!  He is their co-sharer in Kingdom!  He is co-sharer in “staying under” Christ and expectantly waiting for Him!

In chapter three the Word of Christ to the Church at Philadelphia includes this:  “Because you did keep the Word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from out of the hour of trial which is about to come on all the inhabited earth.  Hold what you have in order that no one takes your crown….”

The “Word of His perseverance” is the Gospel of Christ concerning His trials and suffering and crucifixion and death and resurrection – He stayed under and waited expectantly through it all to accomplish His Father’s Will; and it is no less expected for His people to stay under and not be deserters and betrayers and false witnesses during affliction and suffering!  He kept the Church of Philadelphia through tribulation because they kept His Word of perseverance!  They didn’t bail out when it got tough – they were clinging to Christ’s perseverance!

And they weren’t passionately holding on to uncertainties, either!  They weren’t “hanging in there” even though all the evidence was against them!  Just the opposite!  That’s not faith!  That’s not perseverance!  Christians are never described in Scripture as people who hang on against the evidence!

They persevered because of the evidence!  Faith is the substance of things hoped for (anticipated), the evidence of things not seen!  The Church persevered because of the Word of Christ’s perseverance!  Those who are in Him know Him; and they cling to Him and the certainty of His perseverance in times of trial!  They stay under because of the certainty of His Word!  And they do so in anticipation and expectation of what He said – thereby making their election sure.

“And this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be proclaimed in all the habitable world…” (verse fourteen).  Proclamation!  In just forty years – between Pentecost, 30 AD and Judgment Day, 70 AD, during the most tumultuous and difficult time in all of history, the Church of Jesus Christ was established in every civilization on earth!  In one generation!  In this generation, Jesus said.

And according to the decree of God it was accomplished by means of proclamation – heralding!  Now, the herald (knrux) is almost completely unimportant in the Scriptures; but the (knrygma) proclamation is all important!  The Scriptures say that Jesus Christ is Divine Proclamation – the event of incarnation, suffering and persecution, crucifixion, death, burial, resurrection and ascension; His having been given all power in Heaven and Earth; and His Parousia and consummation of the age, and His recreation of Heaven and Earth in the establishment of the New Covenant Church and His Kingdom!

He is O Logos – the Word.  He is the Revelation of God.  He is Divine Proclamation.  And the proclamation, or “knrygma,” is the voice of Christ Himself – the Divine Revelation!

That’s exactly what Paul means, in Romans ten, when he says:  “How may they call upon One in Whom they do not believe?  And how may they believe Whom they have not heard (not in whom they’ve not heard, but Whom they’ve not heard)?  And how may they hear without heralding…?”  So the heralding, or proclamation, is the Speech of Christ the Divine Revelation of God… save their hearing, people cannot believe!  They must hear Him!

The occasion of preaching the Gospel is an event of salvation in which Christ the Word speaks in Divine Proclamation.  That’s the reason it’s so important for men and women and children to avail themselves of each opportunity to worship and to hear the Speech of Christ as the Gospel is heralded.  For there is the Power of God unto salvation…!

Now, as Jesus says here in verse fourteen, “This Gospel of the Kingdom shall be proclaimed in all the habitable world in a testimony… to all the nations…!  A testimony.  A “witness.”  The word here is “martus” (and I give you that word for a reason, which will come clear in a moment).

But Moses said that the Law of God written on tablets of stone were put into a box – the ark – and it was called the Ark of the Testimony, because God’s Self-witness was in there!  A testimony, or a witness, is a confirmation of something; confirmation of the factuality or correctness of events or assertions.

A martyr (and this is why I wanted you to hear the Greek word “martus”), a “martyr” is one who is irrevocably committed to preach the “knrygma” even to death!  A martyr is a witness.  He gives testimony before judgment is passed!  He witnesses (under oath, I might add) to the factuality of the event – even though he is put to death because of his testimony!

The risen-and-ascended Christ came to the blinded Paul on the road to Damascus, and He told Paul to go into Damascus where it would be told to him what was appointed for him to do.  Then Ananias was sent to meet him; and he told Paul this:  “The God of our fathers has chosen you, that you should know His will and to see that ‘Just One’ and hear a voice from His mouth.  For you will be a witness to Him before all men concerning what you have seen and heard.”

So the apostle Paul was a martyr – a witness – to Christ.  He was a witness who confirmed the factuality of the event of Christ – no matter what.  Notice that the Scripture did not say that Paul would be a witness to men.  He was not a witness to men – he was a witness to Christ!  He was a witness to Christ before men!  He heralded the Gospel of the Kingdom – testifying (giving testimony) before men – confirming the facts!

Peter said that very same thing about himself in his first letter to the refugees from Israel in dispersion in the nations.  Chapter five begins this way:  “I exhort the elders among you – I who am also an elder and a witness (martyr) of the sufferings of Christ and a sharer of the glory that’s about to be revealed – feed the flock of God in your charge….”

And the apostle John, in his Revelation, calls Jesus the Faithful Witness in chapter one.  And in chapter three he says Jesus is the Faithful and True Witness and Origin of the creation of God!  Jesus Christ – Martyr – witness!  The Faithful One.  The True One.  The One Who was there from the beginning, and Who is the Origin of God’s creation – confirming the facts, testifying to the facts, before judgment is passed.

So, to finish up now the passage through verse fourteen:  amidst the terrible conditions in Israel and Jerusalem and all over the world, in which there will be demonic lawlessness, there will be great salvation for those who “remain under” (persevere).  And throughout these forty years of terrible times, the Gospel of the Kingdom will be heard in the nations as the apostles “herald” the Divine Proclamation – the “Christ Event.”  And that having been accomplished, the end of the age will come.

The New Testament writers speak of this last magnificent occurrence with great expectation and anticipation as the transformation which began with the “travail” and labor of birth pangs would culminate in final transition.  Jesus called it the “restoration of all things” in Matthew 17:11; and the “regeneration” in 19:28.  Luke calls it the “times of refreshing” in Acts 3:19.  The writer to the Hebrews says the “time of reformation.”  John the apostle says “a new Heavens and a new Earth” in Revelation 21:1, and “all things new” in 21:5.  It is the “day of the Lord” in which all the earth is set at liberty.

And now hear the Word of the Lord by Zephaniah the prophet, as he foretells great tribulation for Israel and Jerusalem in the “Day of the Lord.” 


“The great day of the Lord is near, it is near; and comes quickly, even the voice of the Day of the Lord.  The mighty man shall cry there bitterly.  That day is a day of wrath, a day of tribulation and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of the trumpet and alarm against the fortified cities and the high towers.  And I will bring distress upon men that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the Lord.  And their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as dung.  Neither silver nor gold shall deliver them in the day of the Lord’s wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of His jealousy; for He shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land.”


Daniel the prophet begins the last chapter of his prophecy like this:  “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which stands for the children of your people:  and there shall be a time of tribulation such as never was since there was a nation – even to that day….”

Mark and Luke both record Jesus’ quote of Daniel, and so does Matthew here in verse twenty-one:  “For then there will be great tribulation (thlipsis megale), a kind not occurring (ap’ arxns kosmou) – from beginning of cosmos – until the present, nor shall there ever be.”

Trouble and affliction and suffering and tribulation are rather common terms in Scripture, but “great tribulation” is reserved, from beginning to end, for Israel and Jerusalem.  From God’s perspective, and from the Jew’s perspective, nothing like it had ever occurred anywhere – nor shall it.

The verses now before us (to begin next Lord’s Day) are recorded by Matthew; and I can imagine the fright upon first hearing the words from the “Faithful and True Witness.”  Josephus gives us a little help in understanding the magnitude of it all, although I’m not going to belabor that.  We’ve mentioned some of these things before.  But after three and a half years of besieging the city of Jerusalem and destroying the rest of the nation, Roman forces finally broke through the walls.  And the historian records one point one million Jews killed that day – not to mention the wholesale slaughter of the Jews in every nation in the Roman empire!  And as great as that disaster was, the Jews considered the burning and leveling of the city and the temple an even greater disaster!  And our Lord cut it short for the sake of His elect.

As we come to the Table shortly, it’s with the understanding that Jesus Christ preserved the lives of His people.  He had promised to do it, and He did it.  He begat them for Himself.  And the sign and seal of His promise was a covenant sign – bread and wine.

He has promised to be gracious to us and to keep us.  And He signified that covenant by bread and wine – body and blood.  And as we eat the bread and drink the wine, we participate in Him in His death and burial and resurrection and ascension.

This is for His people to whom He has made promises!  The promises are a covenant!  And He will fulfill that covenant – just as He did those first elect Jews who He kept for Himself.  He sought them out and found them.  And they followed Him when He called them.

If you’re one who He has sought out and called, and you’ve followed Him, then you come and participate in this sign and seal of His covenant.  Acknowledge that He has sought you out and graced you with the gift of life – and you’ve followed Him.