Endure To The End! How Christians reap the true glory of Christ's return.



Sir Francis Drake is known for being the first person to circumnavigate the world in in 1580. He is also known for his valor and success in defeating the Spanish Armada in 1588. After a successful fight at the Battle of Gravelines, Drake wrote a letter to Sir Francis Walsingham, Principal Secretary of Queen Elizabeth I. In that letter he said,
“There must be a beginning of any great matter, but the continuing unto the end until it be thoroughly finished yields the true glory.” Sir Francis Drake 1588
Drake makes note that great matters begin with great ceremony and excitement. The end of it, however, is far more glorious than the beginning. The harsh reality to his quote is its hard to keep fighting when the battle rages too long and the Calvary does not appear to be showing up anytime soon. Your love for your King and His mission can grow cold. Without the fire in your heart to keep your eyes fixed on the end, you no longer see the need to fight. True glory is only for those who hold on until the end.
This is true of the Christian faith. Jesus is always up front with his followers. Jesus says
Matthew 24:13 ESV
But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
Jesus says this in the midst of the Olivet Discourse, which is an explanation of the things to come. In Matthew 24:2 he tells his disciples that the temple will be destroyed. In response they ask, “When will this take place?” Jesus answers with a two chapter explanation of the last days. Matthew 24 describes the signs of the times, while chapter 25 gives three parables that help you understand who will be gathered into His kingdom. Only those who endure will be saved.
The word endure is important. If you take a brief look at Matthew 24 you see life is going to be difficult for Christians in the last days. In God’s economy of things, the last days began at Pentecost. Toward the end, when Jesus returns, he says that there will be signs, birth pangs if your will, that tell you his coming is near.
There will be political instability and strife among the nations (Matthew 24:5-7). There will be an increase of hatred and persecution of Christians (Matthew 24:7-9). False teachers will arose and lead many people away (Matthew 24:11). Lawlessness will abound and many in the church will see their love of Jesus grow cold. Many will not endure until the end. So Jesus says in verse 13, only those who endure until the end will be saved.
So, the big question is,

How do I endure until the end?

In some ways, I think Jesus answers this question in chapter 25 with three parables. The parables are meant to describe to you the kind of Christians who make it into the kingdom of God. He gives three descriptions of His elect.

The ones who endure wisely prepare for Christ’s return. (Matthew 25:1-13)

Matthew 25:1–4 ESV
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps.
There are two kinds of people in this world: those who are wise and those who are foolish. The wise seek the Lord while the fool says in his heart there is no God (Psalm 14:1). Jesus describes His kingdom as consisting of wise people. In the context of the parable, Jesus identifies two kinds of bridesmaids: wise virgins and foolish virgins.
In antiquity, it was a great honor to be a bridesmaid. For the bridesmaids were given the honor of escorting the groom to his bride, and then escorting the groom and bride back to his house for a wedding celebration that likely took place at night, which is why they had torches.
Because it was common for the groom to be delayed, the bridesmaids needed to be watchful and prepared with enough oil to be able to lead the groom and his bride to the wedding feast. Torches lasted about fifteen minutes before needing to be re-wrapped with rags soaked in oil. If the bridesmaid didn’t plan enough oil to last the night they would be not be able to fulfill their responsibility as a bridesmaid, and therefore, would insult the dignity of the host. This was a horrific dishonor and they would not be admitted to the wedding. New Testament theologian Craig Keener points to the severity of being an unprepared bridesmaid when he says
New Testament (25:1–13—Watchful Bridesmaids)
to be insultingly unprepared and shut out of the feast was the stuff of which young women’s nightmares were made.
The foolish virgins were unprepared for the return of the groom. They did not expect him to arrive in the middle of the night. The wise virgins remained wise by night giving any of their oil to the foolish, otherwise no one would be able to escort the groom and his bride. The foolish virgins did not value the groom and his bride enough to prepare ahead time. When they finally got their act together, the groom shut the door on them.
Jesus is the groom. He’s delayed for a time, but He is coming back. When he returns, He expects to find his people prepared to go with him into His kingdom. A true disciple of Jesus, the one who endures until the end, wisely prepares for his return. Wisely preparing means that the Christian is vigilantly watchful of Christ’s return.

Waiting vs Watching

I use the word watchful because I believe there is a difference between simply waiting for Jesus to return verses watching for Jesus to return. Waiting implies some passivity, like I’m waiting in the doctors office for an appointment. I’m not really doing anything. Watchfulness implies a vigilant anticipation.
The difference between waiting and watching is illustrated in a story told of a Scotch fishing village.
After days at sea, the skipper of a fishing boat was bringing his craft back home. As the boat neared the shore, the men gazed eagerly toward the dock, where a group of their loved ones were waiting. The skipper, looking through his glass, identified some of the women, saying, “I see Bill’s Mary, and there is Tom’s Margaret, and David’s Anne.” One man was very anxious because his wife was not there. He left the boat with a heavy heart and pressed his steps up the hill, where he saw a light in his cottage.
As he opened the door, his wife ran to meet him, saying, “I have been waiting for you.”
He replied with a proper rebuke, “Yes, but the other men’s wives were watching for them.” Do you see the difference, Christian?
Jesus says,
Matthew 25:13 ESV
Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
There is a warning for religious unbelievers in the congregation. Religious unbelievers are exactly what it sounds like, unconverted church people. They know of Jesus, but they do not know Jesus. They know the word of God without knowing the Word of God. Jesus refers to them as the weeds that grow along side the wheat. Keep in mind, the foolish virgins are not Christians who loose their salvation, but are in fact false disciples (religious unbelievers).
Look at
Matthew 25:11–12 ESV
Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’
The “Lord, lord” is identical to the cry of the false disciples in
Matthew 7:21 ESV
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
The phrase “Truly, I say to you, I do not know you” echoes Jesus’ response to the false disciples in
Matthew 7:23 ESV
And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Religious unbelievers do not endure until the end. They the ones who let their love grow cold for Jesus. They are the foolish virgins who are unprepared for the groom’s return. They spent much of their life bust for their own kingdom but idle for the Lord. George Whitfield speaks to the idle religious unbeliever,

“A true faith in Jesus Christ will not suffer us to be idle. No, it is an active, lively, restless principle; it fills the heart, so that it cannot be easy till it is doing something for Jesus Christ.” George Whitfield

Jesus deals more with idleness in Matthew 25:14-30.

The ones who endure are faithfully working until Christ returns. (Matthew 25:14-30)

Jesus has given everyone of us a certain amount of resources to be used for His kingdom. Some people have more than others, some have less. The amount is of no concern. The concern is your faithfulness with what he has given you.
In verses 15-17, he speaks of giving talents to his servants. A talent was a from of currency. One talent was equal to roughly 6,000 to 10,000 denarii. The master was obviously a very wealthy man. He gave the first servant approximately fifty thousand denarii, the second servant roughly twenty thousand denarii, and the third servant ten thousand denarii.
Given this kind of money, the master expected his servants to turn a profit for him. Meaning, he did not want his money or resources to sit idle. It was not unusual for people who have the means to invest their money for a profit. Some people would lend to money changers who would turn a profit by investing it. Wealthy masters would also lend money to people at high interest rates. Wealthy masters looked for opportunities to double their investment. It was not an unreasonable expectation of the master to want his money to work for him, which is why it was weird that the third servant did nothing but bury his master’s money.
Burying money was also common, and a safe bet, but it was the least profitable of his options. So why didn’t he do something with the money? When the master comes back and holds his servants accountable, the third servant says,
Matthew 25:24–25 ESV
He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’
What was he afraid of? He might have been afraid of failure or that he would not satisfy his master. The master does not buy his servants excuses.
Matthew 25:26–27 ESV
But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.
The master does not agree with the servants assessment of his character. Meaning he is not saying that he is a man who reaps where he does not sow and gathers where he does not scatter seed. The master is using the servants words against him. Essentially he is saying, “If you thought that I reaped where I did not sow, and gathered where I did not scatter, then you would have done something with the money. You would known that I would hold you accountable for not investing.”
The master us exposing the lazy heart of his servant. The servant did not care about His master’s wealth. He had no desire to do His master’s work. He only cared about himself.
Jesus is the master who goes away and will return. The talents are the financial resources, the gifts, the privileges, and the opportunities that Jesus entrusts with his disciples, and he has given Americans an abundant amount of resources. Not everyone is given the same amount of talents, but everyone is expected to be faithfully using them to invest in the kingdom of God. Those who endure are the faithful servants who use the resources they are given for the kingdom of God, and God rewards them for their faithfulness.
Matthew 25:20–23 ESV
And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’
God praises and rewards you for using what he gives you for his kingdom faithfully.
When Pompeii was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, there were many people buried in the ruins. Some were found in cellars, as if they had gone there for security. Some were found in the upper rooms of buildings. But where was the Roman sentinel found? Standing at the city gate where he had been placed by the captain, with his hands still grasping his weapon. There, while the earth shook beneath him—there, while the floods of ashes and cinders covered him—he had stood at his post. And there, after a thousand years, was this faithful man still to be found.
Church, the setting of this parable reminds us that the church is going suffer at the hands of the wicked. The times are evil. Culture and government is going to erupt with hate toward the church because of Jesus. The earth will shake beneath us. Floods of hatred and persecution will fall on us like hot ash and cinders. Will Jesus find you at your post? Your post is not necessarily these walls. Will he find you faithfully and actively working for his kingdom in the glory of His name? Will he find you at Tending The Vine? Will he find you at the summer lunch program? Will he find you praying in your DNA group? Will he find you sharing the gospel with your neighbor? Will he find you faithfully working for His kingdom?
There is another warning to heed. To the lazy wicked servant, what he had was taken away and he was thrown out of the kingdom. Once again, this does not refer to a Christian who looses his salvation, but of a false disciple, a religious unbeliever.
A religious unbeliever is not concerned about the kingdom of God. They might work periodically on pet projects that inflate their pride, that make them feel religious, but they are not faithfully using their time and talents for Jesus.
Eric Lamb, in his book, “Following Jesus in the Real World,” contrasts two kinds of people in the church. There are those who view the church as a caravan that bands together to make common cause and are seeking a common destination, always making progress toward their destination. These kind of people view themselves as a participant in the body, always seeking to contribute something. They see themselves as a member who makes a commitment to join the life of the church in certain ways that brings more life to the church. They will faithfully attend worship services, small groups, outreaches, not because its the right thing to do, but because they believe its how life is done in the church. These kind of people are partners with the church. The partner, as an insider, wants the worship service, the small group experience, the service activity, even a fellowship time after worship, to be the best it can be. Here, Lamb describes a faithful disciple of Jesus who endures until the end.
A religious unbeliever, on the other hand, sees the church more like a commissary. A commissary is an institution which has been commissioned to dispense particular goods, services, or benefits to a select constituency. The commissary church, then, sees itself primarily as an institution, a divine institution franchised by God. This makes the religious unbeliever a consumer. The consumer attends a church service and rates it in the way a reviewer rates a movie or a secret shopper rates a restaurant. Religious unbelievers are attenders who are content to sit on the periphery of the church never committing to the life of the body. They are sporadic in their attendance at best, and are easily offended. They are likened to a critic who always keeps a mental scorecard of the church’s strength’s and weaknesses, analyzing how people perform certain roles.
Charles Finney once said,
“Those who are always ready to ask how little they may do for religion rather than how much they may do, are serving their own gods.” Charles Finney
idolatry will send you to hell in a heart beat. It is no wonder then, Jesus warns the religious unbeliever,
Matthew 25:29–30 ESV
For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Religious unbeliever, you do not make it into the kingdom of God. Your life is marked with unpreparedness and unfaithfulness to Jesus and his mission. I beg you, repent of your sin. Put your turn your life to Jesus and start truly working for his kingdom and looking forward to his return. He is coming back, and when he does he is going to gather his elect and judge the wicked. That is the message we must be telling the world.

The ones who endure are urgently telling the lost of God’s judgement when Christ returns. (Matthew 25:31-46)

The Olivet discourse ends with Christ returning to gather his elect and judge the wicked. Remember, there are two kinds of people in this world: the wise and the foolish, the faithful and the unfaithful, and the sheep and the goats. When Jesus comes back in His glory as the resurrected warrior King, he will gather His sheep into his protection. Jesus already suffered their judgment on the cross. God’s elect, his sheep, are justified, adopted, and are heirs to his kingdom. And Jesus knows who they are. He reveals them again in
Matthew 25:34–40 ESV
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
The righteous are those who have been saved by grace. How do we know they are righteous? By their deeds. They are fulfilling the work that God had planned for them (Ephesians 2:10). They live and look like Jesus. They are generous with their possessions. They give their time and care to the sick and the stricken. They are busy being faithful workers of God’s kingdom, always ready for Jesus to come back. There is no idleness among them. The least of these refers to the lesser members of the kingdom: the children, the poor, the outcast, who have come to Jesus for life, and God’s sheep are eager to give them life. Jesus tells us
John 13:35 ESV
By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
It matters who we treat each other. How you love your brothers and sisters in Christ, especially the least of theses, reveals your love for Jesus. the ones who endure until the end lovingly endure with the church.
The goats will be judged by the same standard. Jesus says to the goats
Matthew 25:41–46 ESV
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Religious unbeliever, can I have your attention? You are a goat. You come to church, but you deny Jesus to the least of these with your stinginess, apathy, and criticism. Jesus identifies with the least of these in his church and you are like Saul who persecuted the church. Jesus told him, what you do to my church, you are doing me. His promise to you is that if you do not repent you will go away into eternal punishment; where there is fire, weeping, and gnashing of teeth.
God’s elect, his sheep, as they prepare for his return, are faithfully working to joyfully advance his kingdom by making much of Jesus in the church, community, and home. We make much of Jesus by bringing light into darkness with our time and talents while we urgently warn that God’s judgment is coming. A day of wrath is quickly approaching and all who have rejected His Son Jesus will perish in hell. For all have sinned and fall short of His glory and the wages of that sin is death. But God’s gift to you this morning is the free grace of forgiveness given in Jesus. Jesus came and fulfilled God’s righteous law and died on a cross as a perfect sacrifice on your behalf. He has made atonement for your sin and God accepted his sacrifice by raising him from the dead on the third day. Jesus is alive right now, sitting at he Father’s right hand. And he calls you to turn from your sin, and trust him, his work on the cross, his death, his resurrection, believe that he is alive and will forgive you. Trust His promise to give you abundant life now and for all eternity.
What I hope you see this morning is

Christian, you must endure until the end by preparing for Christ’s return with urgency as you work joyfully to advance God’s kingdom by proclaiming his salvation in Christ from his judgment everyday of your life.

God has appointed you to live in the last days. This is your time, your chance to make an eternal impact on the kingdom of God. The battle is going to rage. Jesus is delayed from coming for a time. This is grace! There are many who need to hear the gospel. In the midst of the hatred and persecution, Jesus tells his disciples
Matthew 24:14 ESV
And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Don’t let your love of Jesus grow cold! Don’t let your heart be hardened by the deception and idleness! Jesus’ mission endures through the hardship and it will be accomplished. The question for you this morning is,

“Will you endure until the end and reap the true glory of it?”

Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves, when our dreams have come true because we have dreamed too little, when we arrive safely because we have sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess, we have lost our thirst for the waters of life; having fallen in love with life, we have ceased to dream of eternity; and in our efforts to build a new earth, we have allowed our vision of the new heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly, to venture on wider seas where storms will show your mastery; where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars. We ask you to push back the horizons of our hopes and to push us into the future in strength, courage, hope, and love.
—Sir Francis Drake, 1577, explorer and naval pioneer during the Elizabethan era
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