THE ARGUMENT BASED ON MATTHEW 24
Now let us take a look at the New Testament. Matthew 24:13 says, "But he who has endured to the end, this one shall be saved." When many see this verse, they jump up in surprise. They think that this verse is surely about salvation and not about God’s government, as we have just claimed. For example, some would say that since I lost my temper yesterday and did not endure, I am now unsaved. They would say that it is true that a person must believe in the Lord Jesus in order to be saved. But they would also say that a person must endure as well. But if you say this, you are twisting the Word of God. You have cut off the head and the tail in God’s Word and have taken a sentence out of context. No wonder we confuse the Word of God! If you would understand the meaning of endurance spoken of in this verse, you have to know what was spoken of before verse 13. You must also know what was spoken after verse 13.
Verse 13 is not speaking about the Christians at all. It is speaking about the Jews. What evidence do we have? First, in the following passage we have the Holy Place, the holy temple, and the Sabbath. All these are Judaic matters. What these verses say is that the Jews should flee to the countryside and should pray that their fleeing would not be in winter or on the Sabbath. When they see the abomination of desolation, that is, the image of the beast in the Holy Place, they have to flee. They should not stay in Jerusalem. If this word is for us, how can we possibly know these things, seeing that we are in Shanghai and the image of the beast is to appear in the temple? Although we do have wireless communication today, what Matthew is speaking about here is a knowledge that comes after actually having seen something. Only one who is as near as those in Jerusalem can see. Hence, this passage refers only to the Jews.
Second, the time in this verse does not refer to the time of the apostles, nor does it refer to the time of the church. The time spoken of here refers to the time of the great tribulation. It refers to the last three and a half years at the end of this age. At the beginning of the tribulation, Antichrist will set up his image in the temple. This passage of Scripture has nothing to do with the church. It refers to the future, not to today. There is no possibility for this to happen today, because Antichrist has not yet come, his image has not yet been set up in the temple, and the great tribulation has not yet started.
Matthew 24 refers to the time of the great tribulation. The salvation mentioned here does not refer to the salvation of the soul. Rather, it refers to the salvation of the body. All the things mentioned here have to do with the salvation of the body. All those who understand the Bible know that this is the period of time when Antichrist will set up his image in the temple, forcing men to worship it and putting his seal upon people’s foreheads. When all the Jews who worship and serve God see the beginning of the tribulation, they must not worship in that way and must not receive the seal. Because of this, they will suffer much. Many persecutions will come upon them. That is why the Lord Jesus told the Jews to flee when they see the image of Antichrist in the temple. If anyone has things at home, they should not bother to get them. They should hide themselves quickly in safe places. Furthermore, the Lord told them to pray that their flight would not be on a Sabbath (v. 20). The reason for this is that they keep the Sabbath. The women should not be pregnant at that time because it would be hard for them to escape. Woe will be to those who are nursing babies at that time. It would also be better if they did not face winter at that time. They should flee to the mountains or to the countryside with the hope that by chance they would not see suffering, persecution, and affliction. At that time, all the forces of Rome will come upon them like a net. They will suffer many difficulties. Many verses in Revelation show us this matter. These people will be saved if they endure during this great tribulation. Because we are too concerned for the matter of salvation, every time the word save appears, we apply it to ourselves. But one cannot apply this word to himself here. If he does, he will be twisting the Word of God. In verse 22 the Lord Jesus said another word: "And unless those days had been cut short, no flesh would be saved." When Antichrist is on earth, no one will be able to escape. Thank the Lord that his day will not be that long. Because of this, there will still be some who can flee. If one endures, he can be saved. Hence, the question of salvation here is not a question of eternal life or death. The nature of the salvation mentioned here has to do with falling into the hands of Antichrist or not.
(Gospel of God, The (2 volume set), Chapter 17, by Watchman Nee)