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Revelation Lesson 43 - The Perseverance of the Savior

Revelation Lesson 43 - The Perseverance of the Savior

Series: Revelation
Ref: Revelation 14:12–13

Can a Christian lose his or her salvation? Listen to learn the answer!

Transcript

The Perseverance of the Savior

Revelation 14:12-13

A recent USA Today article covered the interview of a well known media personality and self-made billionaire.  This man is the largest landowner in America with more than 1.6 million acres in his column of assets.  The interviewer gushed that behind all of his wealth and accomplishments lies a deeper desire for anything that promotes peace, harmony, and understanding.

Toward the end of the article, this individual answered specific questions about personal salvation.  

He said, “You know . . . almost every religion talks about a savior coming.  [But] when you look in the mirror in the morning, when you’re putting on your lipstick or shaving, you’re looking at the savior.  Nobody else is going to save you but yourself. / Jill Lieber, “He Wants to Save the World,” USA Today (2-17-2000), pp. 1-2C

At first glance, you might think, how can anybody say that?  You are your own savior?!  You almost expect to hear thunder from heaven or a bolt of lightning to fall.

Well, it might sound dramatic . . . but the core of what he said is actually the foundational belief of just about all organized religion on the planet.  You really are your own savior. 

The core of what he said is actually a part of the depraved deception in our fallen nature.

Frankly, the most dramatic thing about this man’s comments was not that he thinks he is his savior, the dramatic thing to me is that he thinks he can be; that he thinks he actually qualifies and is capable of saving himself.

Which by the way, happens to be terribly convenient, because now you can get rid of God – you don’t need Him; a personal relationship with a Savior is no longer necessary because you’ve applied for the job of Messiah and you’ve been accepted for the position. 

It’s really whatever you think . . . because at the end of the day you are the master of your fate.

That’s one of the reasons you can pick up the newspaper or a magazine and read the most bizarre statements about spirituality from very sincere people.  Sincere people who have no basis for believing whatever they do believe except the same basis of this billionaire who said in his interview, “I just do what I do because I believe it’s right.” / Ibid

I don’t need God . . . the church . . . or anything I can’t control.

The Associated Press, just this month, revealed that more than 100,000 people living in Great Britain have recently downloaded "certificates of de-baptism" from the Internet to renounce their Christian faith.

This internet initiative was launched by a group called the National Secular Society who reported that they are now producing (and I quote) “a certificate on parchment that we are selling for three pounds – or roughly 4 dollars a pop."   / Associated Press/BreitBart.com, Following atheist trend, Britons seek ‘de-baptism’ 3-29-2009

And the movement is catching fire.  Certificates of de-baptism are becoming all the rage, sweeping through heavily populated Roman Catholic areas in Great Britain, Spain and Italy.  More than 1,000 people a month, who were sprinkled as babies, are now lining up and paying the fee and getting their certificate of de-baptism. 

I don’t want anything to do with God or religion that I didn’t control.

Although the news is alarming, it’s really only a small minority who want one of those certificates.  The majority of the human race wants to add to their spiritual bag whatever they think might connect them to God – not take away.  Let’s cover all the bases.   Baptism, sure . . . cyber prayers . . . why not . . . what can it hurt?

And we’d better be careful.  Maybe there is a God out there and we don’t want to totally offend the Almighty.

So, just in case He is up there somewhere and listening, but you still don’t care about Him, or the church for that matter, there is a another solution . . . a cyber-solution. 

Let me quote from a journal I subscribe to, arrived just a few days ago, “If you don’t have time to pray, but you’re unwilling to ditch religiosity altogether, there is a solution; prayer outsourcing.  A Protestant organization allows you to subscribe and this company’s computers are programmed to recite prayers for you using text to speech software. (Evidently you need text to speech software because God can hear but He can’t read).  The advertisement continues, “Protestant subscribers can pay $3.95 a month for a computer proxy to recite the Lord’s Prayer each day for them.” 

This site boldly exhorted, “Show God you’re serious by purchasing a prayer package – even Catholics can purchase a complete Rosary Package for $50.00.”  Since this is Protestant organization, Catholics get charged more.  Oh, and the site has a prayer package for Muslims too, with the promise, I’m quoting, “the [computer] speakers will be turned toward Mecca.” / World Magazine, April 25, 2009, p. 14

I suppose if you’re not sure about it, you can buy all three packages.  You’re covered!

Is it any surprise that the world is filled with religious hucksters and deceivers . . . people have God’s created intuitive sense that He exists (Romans 1).

But one of the reasons there are so many shortcuts and so many loopholes and so much confusion is because while so many people want to cover their spiritual bases, they do not want to be spiritually obligated.

Even among the so-called spiritually committed, more than half of the people polled some time ago by the Gallup organization who said they believed in God, only a minor fraction of them believed that the his Word, revealed in the Bible, had any authority over their lives.

Most of you are here today because you are a part of that small fraction who believe God has provided the answer in His word.

If you’re new around here, we meet weekly to reset our watches so to speak to heavenly time; we recalibrate our perspective according to God’s wisdom; we refresh our minds with God’s revealed truth.

So how does the Bible describe someone who truly belongs to God?

One of the clearest definitions of genuine Christianity comes out of the context of the Tribulation period which we’ve been studying.

An angelic messenger commissioned by God delivers the definition.

Turn to Revelation chapter 14.

Now remember, this angel will deliver this message during a time when most of the world will finally believe in the same god.  And they will worship him!  The problem is, they will be worshipping a god we know as the Antichrist. 

To those who worship him, accepting his name on their hand or forehead – whose sum is 666 – the angel has nothing good to say to them.  For them their idolatry and unbelief will lead to the wrath of God upon their lives in Hell.  Their suffering will be personal, terrible, painful and eternal.

But then the angel encourages those on planet earth with this message – let’s pick it up at verse 12. Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.  13. And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’”  “Yes,” says the Spirit, “so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.”

Let me make a number of observations as this angels message comes to a close.

Three words provide an outline to guide our thinking.

  1. Perseverance is the first word.

This angel says, effectively, those who capitulate and worship the antichrist are doomed, but the saint – that is – the true believer will persevere.  This is the perseverance of the saints.

This phrase reveals the wonderful truth that genuine believers never need to fear losing their salvation or being lost to God once they’ve been saved.  Genuine salvation cannot be lost.

Some would say that the very presence of this phrase – the perseverance of the saints – means the opposite is a possibility; that some saints might not persevere.

But that doesn’t have to be the case at all.  When the Bible says that heaven is eternal – it doesn’t automatically mean that it’s possible that heaven is temporary.

When it says that Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father – that doesn’t mean He might not be.

The perseverance of the saints is a wonderful, comforting doctrine that reinforces as a category all the verses of scripture that tell us that God will lose none of His (John 18:9).

From God’s perspective, the perseverance of the saints means that God will lose none of His children.

From the believer’s perspective, the perseverance of the saints means that the genuine believer will persevere in his relationship with Christ to the very end. 

From God’s perspective – God will not abandon his children.

From the believer’s perspective – they will not abandon God.

What then about those who fall away?

They were the seed that fell to the ground and received it and it looked like it took root and then affliction or persecution arose and because of the word, they fell away. (Mark 4:16-17)

Hebrews 6 speaks to the same issue.  They had the appearances of salvation.  They seemed interested and even delighted.  They tasted the things of God – but like Christ who tasted death – it was only temporarily.  They were even involved in some kind of participation with the things of God, but then they abandoned the gospel and hardened their hearts.  Nothing more could be given to them, or taught them – they were not interested.  Even if Christ were crucified again it wouldn’t have made a difference.

Like Judas, they were associated with Christ, but the didn’t believe in Christ as Lord and Savior.  And Judas, you remember, shocked everyone.  When Jesus announced in the upper room that one of them would betray them, they didn’t all look at Judas and say, “We knew it!” No, they all said, “Is it I?” (Matthew 26:22)

John Templeton, a former preaching companion of Billy Graham – in fact they co-founded Youth for Christ International.  In his Templeton walked away from God and said, I don’t believe any of it anymore. 

His last published book made headlines for its title alone – Farewell to God; and its subtitle, “My reasons for rejecting the Christian faith.

Did that mean he lost his salvation?  No, it means he never had it.

Rehearse again the scene in Matthew 7:22 at that awful scene of judgment where many will say to the Lord on that day, “lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name; cast out demons and perform miracles - you could add publish books and sing songs for Jesus . . . and the Lord will say, “I never knew you.”

Would you note, He did not say, “I used to know you, but not anymore; we used to be related but not after you pulled that stunt; you used be in the family of God until you had that rebellious streak and you never got around to praying for your salvation again . . . so tough luck.

No . . . I never knew you.

Wayne Grudem wrote in his Systematic Theology these insightful words; The purpose [of this phrase – the perseverance of the saints] is not to make those who are trusting in Christ worry that at some time in the future they might fall away; rather [it can] warn those who are thinking of [walking] away that if they do, this will be a strong indication that they were never saved in the first place. / Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Zondervan, 1994), p. 793

Now be careful Christian . . . be careful church.  Don’t get out your stopwatch and say, “Okay, looks like they’ve gotten off the usher rotation . . . I’ll give him 3 hours to repent.  Uh, they’ve skipped the last three Sunday school activities . . .

They did what?  They said what?  Yea, we didn’t think they were saved.

 Listen, you didn’t gain your salvation by being sinless and you cannot lose your salvation by sinning.

Paul preached the doctrine of abounding grace and people got all riled up and said, “You’re gonna encourage people to sin with abandon if you teach this gospel of grace.”

No he won’t.  Grace in the life of a genuine believer doesn’t produce sinfulness, it produces gratitude.

In fact, you will sin after salvation – have you discovered that yet?  Have you studied Paul’s personal battle in Romans chapter 7? I’ve got 37 sermons in that chapter. You can pick ‘em up later with a wheelbarrow. 

But some think you need to be saved all over again . . . and again . . . and again and again.

Ladies and gentlemen, compare scripture with scripture. 

Here’s one to compare.  The Apostle John wrote in 1 John 2:1, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. (In other words, I’m instructing you so that you’ll learn how to say no to sin and grow in Christ likeness; but then he adds), And if anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”

And if anyone sins – remember your advocate Jesus Christ who never sins and stands in your place as your savior.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the perseverance of the saints is, in the final analysis, the perseverance of our gracious Savior.

For Paul would leave Romans chapter 7 and say in Romans chapter 8, there is no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus.

Jesus Christ He guards us; He intercedes for us; He guides us; He holds us firmly in His hand; He instructs us; He empowers us; He disciplines us; He leads us; and then He completes us in that day when we see Him. (Philippians 1:6)

The perseverance of the saints is not to our glory; the perseverance of the saints is the persevering passion of the Savior.

There’s another word beyond the word perseverance here in this text. 

  1. It’s the word obedience.

This is where it gets even more personal.

John writes, “Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God . . .”

In other words, the genuine believer is one who keeps the commandments of God.

Now, there are some who would add to the end of this phrase the words, “without failure.”

Those words aren’t in the text.  In fact, this is a present active participle from the Greek word tereo (threw), which means to observe.   / Fritz Rienecker/Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament (Regency, 1976), p. 845

In other words, His commandments are your desire . . . you want to obey Him and it troubles you so when you don’t.

The difference between a true believer and a false believer is not that the true believer never sins and the false believer does; the difference is that both of them sin and the genuine believer is disturbed by it . . . troubled by his sinfulness . . . agonizes over his failure . . . hurt that he hurt his fellowship with God his Father and Christ his Lord.

The false believer isn’t troubled at all, apart from the consequences that may be troublesome.

But let’s not beg off too quickly.  While obedience is not a condition to salvation, obedience is an evidence of salvation.

Let me put it this way; if you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you in a court of law?

Anyone who really doesn’t want to obey God and doesn’t really care about what God says is someone in dire need of the warning of this angel.

I agree with one author who writes, “Obedience and genuine faith are mutually interpreting; obedience involves faith and faith involves obedience.  Faith and obedience are not separate stages of the Christian experience.” / Douglas Moo, New International Commentary, Romans (Eerdmans Publishing), p. 52.

Paul wrote to the Ephesians, For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10).

Listen, even though genuine faith is not a result of works, genuine faith works.

And the genuine believer lives with a daily sense of his failure in keeping the commandments and yet they are his daily desire.

Listen to William Carey lament his oft failing heart and desire for Christ – he sounds like Paul in Romans 7.

He wrote in August of 1793; I have reason to lament over a barrenness of soul, and am sometimes much discouraged, for if I am so dead, how can I expect to be of any use among the [lost]? / S. Pearce Carey, William Carey (The Wakeman Trust, 1923), p. 126

On January 22, 1794 he wrote in his journal, “I wish I had more of God in my soul, and felt more submission to His will; this would set me above all things. / Ibid, p. 138

On one occasion after becoming so sick his mission staff thought he was going to die – in fact, he had just finished his revision of the Bengali translation of the Bible – and everyone assumed his work was finished.

Later that same year he wrote, “My soul is a jungle, when it ought to be a garden; I can scarcely tell whether I have the grace of God nor not; how shall I help India, with so little godliness myself? / Ibid, p. 149

Several years later he agonized before the Lord, “My crime is spiritual stupidity.  I am, perhaps, the most inconsistent, cold creature that ever possessed the grace of Christ.  I have no love.  O God, make me a true Christian!  If God uses me, none need despair. / Ibid, p. 171

Can you imagine what his supporting pastors thought?  You don’t talk like that and raise money for missions!

When you sinned, did you feel like that?  When you walked out of fellowship with the Lord did you struggle with how you could ever be His?

I hope so . . . it becomes sweet evidence that you long for his approval and so berate yourself for your failure, like Paul who said, “Oh wretched man that I am.”

But do you have to be born again all over again?  No.  In fact the agony you felt over your inconsistency and your sin is among the evidences that you are genuinely converted.

  1. There’s a 3rd word: It’s the word Reliance!

Another mark of a genuine believer is they rely upon the Savior alone for their salvation.

John wrote, these saints keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.

For this immediate context it means they refused to put their faith in the Antichrist.  They refused to put their faith, like that billionaire I mentioned earlier, in themselves. They didn’t consider themselves their own savior.

This faith here, by the way, is not some vague belief but active loyalty. / Stewart Custer, From Patmos to Paradise (BJU Press, 2004), p. 162

I’ve met people who have nothing to do with Jesus Christ but believe they’re on their way to heaven because they prayed a prayer at an evangelistic rally years earlier, or walked an aisle and joined a church or were baptized.

This is where perhaps eternal security communicates a watered down version of perseverance and obedience and loyalty.

I believe in eternal security.  It’s impossible to be called by the Father, born again from spiritual death, sealed by the Spirit, forgiven of all my sin, past, present and future, and then lose it or worse yet, decide to give it back.

Anybody who wants to give it back, never got it.

I fear that the church in holding to eternal security can effectively tell people that if they’ve prayed that prayer sometime in the past and they’ve been baptized sometime in the past that no matter how they live beyond the point of that prayer, no matter.

Listen, there’s a difference in saying people can’t lose their salvation because of sinning, and saying unrepentant sinners who do not care about Christ or His word or His church or His will don’t ever need to wonder if they’re not saved because, remember, you prayed a prayer at the front of a church or in front of the television and then you got baptized to boot.

This is a present active loyalty to the crosswork and sacrifice of Christ.

Those who walk away from Christ and live a life no differently from the one they lived before coming to Christ are not eternally secure, they are more than likely eternally deceived. / Grudem, p. 806

That’s why Paul told the Corinthians to examine themselves to see if they were in the faith. (2 Corinthians 13:5)

This doesn’t mean that a Christian cannot backslide, or disobey the Lord, or even walk away from the Lord for a season; the disciples did that. 

But the individual who says they were once a Christian, but are now happily reunited with the world, the flesh and the devil, never came to Christ to begin with.

The one who says, “I used to have faith in Christ but now I don’t believe in Him any more” never was a genuine believer.

I will never forget getting an illustration of this first hand as a college freshman.  I was walking down the sidewalk of the little town near the small Bible College I was attending.  A man dressed in old clothes and an old overcoat stepped toward me and said, “Hey friend, can you spare some money.”  I said, “I’m a college student at the Bible college – which is another way of saying, I have no money.”  He said, “Are you sure you can’t spare some change.”  I said, listen, I don’t have any money, but I’ve got something that will last longer than my spare change.”  He seemed interested and so I continued.  After sharing the gospel with this man I asked him if he’d like to pray to give his life to Jesus Christ and receive from Christ forgiveness and eternal life.  Tears filled his eyes and to my surprise he said, “I sure would.”  Right there on that city sidewalk we knelt down together and he prayed a glorious prayer of salvation.  We got up from our knees, I was so thrilled I could hardly wait to get back to my dormitory and spread the news that the next great awakening was breaking loose.  This man literally dried the tears from his eyes and then said, “Can you spare some money?” I said, “I don’t have any, but let me take you to the Union Mission where they’ll have food and a place to stay while you get started in your new life.”  His entire face clouded over and he said, “You mean you don’t have any money?”  I said, “Listen, sir, like I said before, I don’t have a dime on me.”  And he began to curse at me and use every word you could imagine.  Some of ‘em weren’t even in the King James version.  And he stomped away, cussing and fuming with every step he took.  I was stunned.

I guess there would be no great awakening.

I have never seen the distance between a conversion based on loyalty to someone other than Christ and open abandonment of Christ than that day.

But I’ve seen many more with not much distance between the prayer and the apostasy.

How many came to church for a season . . . went through the motions, but in the end were only in church because they wanted a place to network; they wanted to meet potential clients; they came looking for affirmation; they came to be served; they came looking for a spouse and once they found him or her they quickly abandoned their religious affections; they came because they wanted to be viewed as respectable; they came because it looked good on their community profile.

What about Jesus Christ?  He was never the attraction; His name was affirmed only because it might be to their advantage. 

They’re no different than a drunk praying a prayer to get some money – they just make it look more respectable.  Their clothes are nicer.  They smell better.  They are just as disingenuous. 

What Jesus Christ’s name could offer them on earth is their only attraction.  What the church can provide their only connection.

This isn’t active loyalty to the object of your faith – the Lord Jesus Christ.

Perhaps the angel is warning you today.

John is also implying here in Revelation 14 that this person doesn’t switch their faith from Christ to someone or something else.

Christ remains the object of their faith for salvation to the end.

Can you imagine the challenge and encouragement this will be to these tribulation saints – those who’ve accepted Christ after the Rapture, but are now living in the horrific days of persecution and martyrdom.

There will be no advantages to being a Christian on earth in these days.  They will die in their faith, their loyalty to their Lord being the cause of death. / Robert L. Thomas, Revelation: Volume 2 (Moody Press, 1995), p. 215

But their genuine faith will be revealed in their unwillingness to abandon Christ as their Savior and Lord.

Now for them and every one of us, what happens next is the timeless promise of heaven.

The Spirit’s Amen:

And the promise is two-fold.

They are promised rest and reward.

v. 13.  And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write,” ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’”  “Yes,” says the Spirit, “so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds will follow them.”

There is the promise of rest!

Rest from your labor.  The word is kopon (kopwn) which describes hard, difficult, exhausting toil. 

Working not to gain entrance into heaven, but working for the glory of Christ and the coming Kingdom on earth.

By the way, this is not a word that signifies the cessation of activity.  For we will serve Christ in the Kingdom based on our use of talents given to us now.

This word is used to refer to irritation and trouble. 

We will rest from the irritations and annoyances that plagued our fallen nature as we attempted to serve Christ.  We will cease from that daily wrestling with our undisciplined flesh over tasks where we knew we could do more and we could serve better.

That quality of service will be over forever as we serve Christ with glorified bodies and minds, without the hinderances of our fallen flesh that will be stripped away.

There is also the promise of reward!

John writes in verse 13b. For their deeds follow after them.

It will be reward enough to be in His presence; then to serve with Him in the Kingdom; then to anticipate a new heaven and a new earth forever.

What more could we want.

And yet, can you imagine the grace of God in this verse, “For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.” (Hebrews 6:10)

What grace.

Listen, the perseverance of the saints is really the perseverance of the Savior.

The rewards for the saints are really the rewarding of the Savior’s work through us.  No wonder we’ll give them back.

I am convinced on that day, we will simply weep over the truths that engulf us all there in His presence; as we grasp the eternal significance that we have been saved from the wrath of God forever; we have been saved for the worship and service of God forever.

We have been saved from somewhere that is hideous;
When we were saved by Someone Who is spotless;
Who saved us for someplace that is glorious.

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