Perry Stone: Blessed Is He Who Endures to the End...Without Offense
The following is an excerpt from Perry Stone's book There's a Crack in Your Armor: Key Strategies to Stay Protected and Win Your Spiritual Battles. For more from Perry Stone, please visit VOE.org, OCIMinistries.org, "like" him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter @perrystonevoe, and watch him on Youtube!
Prophetic teachers often point to the Olivet Discourse to glean insight concerning signs and events to unfold at the time of the end. Often ministers mention wars, rumors of wars, famine, pestilences, earthquakes, and other negative signs (Matt. 24:4-7), but they omit one of the most significant personal signs that all believers must be warned of, and that is the sign of offense.
In prophetic conferences I have heard detailed statistics on the increased number of earthquakes, plagues, and diseases, along with the increase in civil and national wars. At times the speaker concludes with Matthew 24:13: “But he who endures to the end shall be saved.” The speaker implies that “enduring to the end” refers to enduring many disasters, diseases, and possibilities of death lurking in these global calamities. It would be like saying, “It is going to get rough out there, and if you can survive and endure these signs, you will be saved in the end.”
However, if you will study Matthew 24:13 in the context of what was previously stated, there is a different light of understanding that comes forth. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations, for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. (Matthew 24:9-13)
What Christ is revealing is that at the time of the end men and women will be so sensitive to offense that many will not be able to endure offenses and will retaliate by betraying and hating their offenders and speaking evil about them.
What does Christ refer to when instructing to “endure until the end?” The end of what? The English word end is found five times just in Matthew 24 and has three different applications.
- Christ uses the word in verse 3 concerning signs of His coming and the “end of the age.” This word end refers to the consummation and completion of the age of man’s government and control on earth.
- In verse 6 Christ then refers to wars and rumors of wars as a sign of His coming but informs His audience that “the end is not yet.” The end here alludes to the conclusion or the uttermost point of something.
- When we arrive at verse 13--"endures to the end"--the word "end" here refers to the conclusion.
Back to the question of enduring to the end of what? There are three possibilities Christ is referring to according to three different interpretations given by scholars. The first is enduring till the end of the destruction of Jerusalem--which occurred in AD 70. History recounts that community of Christians living in Jerusalem immediately prior to 70 evacuated Jerusalem when the attack began and settled in Pella in Jordan, as prophesied in Matthew 24:15-16. They built a thriving community there while Jerusalem burned to the ground. Thus they endured until the end of the destruction of the city.
The second interpretation by some is that if you, as a believer, can remain faithful through the bad things occurring during your lifetime, then you can make it till the end and be saved--or enter the eternal kingdom of God by enduring the persecutions and pressures of life, thus having lived an overcoming life.
The third interpretation, as stated above, is surviving the negative circumstances sweeping the earth prior to the return of Christ. Many will fall, suffer, and give up, but others will endure until the “end.”
There is, however, a fourth possibility that is more plausible in light of the context of Christ’s statement. Christ was warning that “many will be offended” (v. 10). The Greek word for “offense” is skandalon, which originally referred to the bait on a trap that attracts the animal. The root word means, “to jump up, snap shut,” and the skandalethron was the arm of the stick where the bait was set. When a trap is set for an animal, there must be some form of camouflage to hide it from the sight of the unsuspecting creature. However, the smell of the bait, like a magnet to a magnet, pulls the animal off its journey to investigate the bait, and suddenly the trap catches the animal.
By Christ’s time the word referred to any stumbling block put in a man’s way that would trip him up and cause him to fall. The strategy behind an offense is to cause a person to stumble, fall, or participate in certain behavior that will cause ruin or destruction.
This word is used in a variety of examples throughout the New Testament. The word was used by Greek writers (such as Aristophanes) for the “verbal traps” set to lure a person into an argument in order to trip them up. In Matthew 13:21, in the parable of the sower, there are some who are offended at the instruction required by God’s Word, and thus they turn from Christ because of persecution. The spiritual design of persecution is to use verbal assaults, like burning arrows, to insult a person and place mental pressure upon a believer, causing that person to choose serving Christ with persecutions or departing the faith for convenience. The apostate who departs has fallen to the offense, or the skandalon, as the bait of persecution created internal and emotional pressure attempted to trap Christ with controversial questions, Paul wrote that the preaching of the cross and crucifixion of Christ was a “stumbling block” to the Jews of his day (Rom. 14:13; I Cor. 1:23; Gal. 5:11). This was because in the Torah, the Law said that any man who was hung on a tree was cursed (Deut. 21:22-23).
Enduring to the end, in this context, has nothing to do with surviving a plague, crawling out alive from the rubble of an earthquake, or hiding in a mountain until war ceases. It refers to a person who can endure the many offenses and verbally set traps that will be encountered until the time of the return of Christ. If you were to do a survey in the church, and reach out to those who once attended but are no longer in the pews, you will discover (as I have) that a majority of former church attendees were offended by the pastor or a church staffer or a fellow member, and now they sit at home refusing to attend any any church at all. They now perceive that all Christians and ministers are hypocrites! I cannot tell you the number of individuals I have personally encountered during more than thirty-five years of ministry who stay at home on Sunday while their family attends church because they engaged in a verbal conflict, a difference of opinion, or heard a particular message from the pulpit that offended them in some manner. No amount of invitations and baiting them can bring them into a church as long as they are entrapped in the offense. Solomon said in this way: “A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city, and contentions are like the bars of a castle” (Prov. 18:19).
How do we endure? The word “endure” comes from two words: hupo, meaning “under,” and phero, meaning “to bear.” The imagery of the original Greek word was that of a plant that had been trampled on yet continued to rise again and again. It means to have the strength to bear pressure without collapsing or being destroyed by the weight. Paul understood this when he spoke of having a hindering spirit that buffeted him (2 Cor. 12:7), meaning that this spirit was continually harassing him and causing him difficulty. He would be hit, then stand up only to be hit again. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9: “We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” Paul learned that “in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned to both be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need” (Phil. 4:11-12). The key was in this fact: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (v. 13).