What does the Bible mean "He that endures to the end shall be saved"?

What is the meaning of our Lord’s words, “He that shall endure unto the end the same shall be saved” (Matthew 24:13)? Why was this promise made? To what time does it apply?

In interpreting words of Scripture it is very important, before attempting any general application, to understand the original intention of the speaker, that is, first to interpret the words in their context. What then is the “end” spoken of here, and what did the Lord mean by being “saved”?

We notice that the disciples’ question was, “What shall be the sign of thy coming and of the end of the age?” This word (sunteleia) is much the same as is used in the other occurrences of the chapter for “end” (telos), and seems to include the general winding up of things. It occurs before in Matthew 13:39-40 and 49 as “the end of the age.” The Lord in His reply warns against mistaking for the end of the coming storm, its premonitory rumblings—”wars and rumours of wars.” “But the end is not yet,” He says (v. 6), for wars, famines, pestilences and earthquakes are only “the beginning of sorrows” (v. 8).

Before that “end” there must intervene terrible persecutions against the disciples of the Lord (of whom those addressed were the living representatives), and all will not pass through these unscathed: “many shall be offended,” and shall even apostatise from the faith. “And many false prophets shall arise, and shall deceive many. And because inquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure to the end” (i.e. of this great tribulation)—that is, shall not apostatise—”shall be saved,” in the sense, I believe, of being preserved alive.

Apostasy will not be the means of safety, but standing firm. This sense of physical preservation we find in other places. “God is the Saviour of all men, specially of them that believe,” “Eight souls were saved by water” (i.e. Noah and his family); and in this chapter also at verse 22 we read: “Except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved, but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened”—reminding us of Paul’s words on the ship in Acts 27:31 “Except these (the sailors) abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved.”

We may notice in closing that the scene of these happenings will be Judaea; the temple will be rebuilt, and when a special sign spoken of by Daniel the prophet is seen, let all the disciples “flee into the mountains” (v. 16). It will be “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7). Let them pray that their flight be not on the Sabbath day. Before the end, the Gospel of the Kingdom will be proclaimed everywhere as a witness. No doubt, the words we are considering may be used by extension to-day.

The best proof of reality is continuance in the faith. “Enduring to the end” is the outward and visible effect of the new-birth. It is those who are most truly in Christ who will feel most their need of being kept by the power of God, and consequently their faith will be in exercise. There were false professors in the early churches, who forsook the assembling of themselves with their brethren, and it is to be feared that such exist to-day. Jude speaks of them. They may boast of their correct knowledge of God, but alas their works sometimes seem to give the lie to their profession. The prayer of the true believer will be increasingly and to the end, “Hold Thou me up and I shall be safe!”