Faithful unto death?! What if I’m not 

Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. (Revelation 2:10c)

But what if I’m not faithful until death? Jesus remains faithful; you still get a crown.

A mind untouched by grace twists the promises of Jesus into tests that must be passed and commands that must be obeyed. “Jesus was faithful unto death; you’d better be faithful too.”

And in the richest traditions of the old covenant, proper behavior is incentivized with carrots and sticks. “Be faithful and you’ll get a crown. Be unfaithful and you won’t.” This is surely bad news for the saint who stumbles at the eleventh hour.

Others point to the crowns given to champion athletes as though only some win the prize. “You have to be faithful to the end to qualify for the reward.” This, too, is a graceless analogy for it puts the focus on you and your performance instead of Jesus and his.

The temptation to view life as a test comes naturally to those of us who have been raised in a world that glorifies achievement, but Jesus doesn’t speak that language. He does not dispense gold stars or crowns for good performance, but he crowns the undeserving and justifies the sinner.

Many believers worry that they might deny Jesus under pressure. They fear that if someone held a gun to their head and forced them to renounce the name of the Lord, they’d capitulate and be damned for all time. They worry because Jesus said, “Whoever denies me before men, I will deny before my Father in heaven” (Matt. 10:33).

But Jesus wasn’t talking about Christians with guns to their heads; he was talking about those who refuse to confess him as Lord.

For if we died with him, we will also live with him… If we deny him, he also will deny us. If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself. (2 Timothy 2:11–13)

This verse is contrasting unbelievers (who deny Jesus) with believers (who identify with Christ’s death). Those who refuse salvation shall not have it, but those who have died with Christ will never be cast away. Even if we falter at the last hurdle and prove faithless, he remains faithful. One with the Lord, your future is safe, for he cannot deny himself.

This anxiety that we might fail Christ under pressure and be damned for eternity reveals a fundamental insecurity, a hairline crack in our faith. We repair it by fixing our eyes on Jesus and fortifying our minds with the many promises of his word. “No one can snatch you from my strong right hand,” said Jesus. “I will never let you go.”

What a promise! Even if we let him go, he will never let go of us. This is good news. And if you believe it, you will find the strength to hold on to him no matter what.

But what about this scripture that comes later in John’s book?

He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. (Revelation 21:7–8)

This scripture has been used to terrorize the saints. “If someone put a gun to your head and said, ‘Deny Jesus,’ would you prove cowardly? If so, you’re going to hell.” God help us. Admissions made under duress carry no weight in a court of law, so why do we think a just God would take them seriously?

The Apostle Paul famously kept the faith, but what if he hadn’t? What if he had fallen at the final hurdle? What if he had folded under Roman pressure and renounced the Lord? He would still get a crown of life! We may disown the Lord, but he will never disown us because he cannot disown himself.

Eternal life is a gift of grace (John 17:2, Rom. 6:23). It is not a reward given to those who pass the torture test.

So why be faithful?

It’s the life-giving choice.

The exhortation to be faithful found at the end of verse 10 is the counterpoint to “do not fear” at the start of that verse. Jesus is offering us a choice. You can be fearful or faithful, and faithful is better.

Fearful is what you get when you lean on your own resources; faithful is what you are when you hold on to Jesus.

Fix your eyes on the source of your suffering and you will fear. But see the Savior who died but lives forevermore, and you will endure.

—-

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31 Comments on Faithful unto death?! What if I’m not 

  1. Cynthia Brown // July 16, 2020 at 4:16 am // Reply

    This is quite a ‘switcheroo’ in thinking. This very idea of not being able to ‘hold out’ under Pressure has always been a major stumbling block for me. First, that I would have to be in such a position ( childish I know) and then , wondering how I could face Jesus if I chickened out. This post takes grace to a new level for me. It’s challenging to unsee scriptures the way you have been taught. Repent, right?

    • You got it, Cynthia. I too was raised with scary stories about the coming persecution of Christians and I used to wonder if I would wilt under pressure. Then I had children. If some wicked person abducted them and forced them at gunpoint to say bad things about me, would I kick them out of the family? It’s absurd to think so, yet that’s how some believe our heavenly Father will act towards us.

  2. Who are the “cowardly” referred to in Rev. 21:7-8?

  3. Thank you so much for establishing this website. Your articles have helped me realize how i had been stuck in the mud of religion. I am curious if you have a search engine for your articles? i wanted to look one up in particular but i cant seem to find it.

    • Hi Lauren. If you are reading this on a PC, there is a very good search engine in the right sidebar. If you are reading on a device, it’s found at the very bottom of the screen. I also recommend checking out the Archives > Subject Index. This is an enormous site and we’ve taken care to ensure it’s navigable. I hope this helps.

    • You can also use any search engine like Google. Just include this: “site:escapetoreality.org”, then add whatever you’re looking for: Google will then only look for stuff within that website.

  4. So unfathomable to the Human mind, that just does not mind. So Father came forward with Son for us to be made new in him by Son’s perfect obedience of Faith.
    To see Eph. 1:1-13
    verse 6, 7, 13
    Accepted, forgiven and sealed! God did this for us all
    Paul, thank you for listening, with your spiritual ears given you
    God did this for us, to stand in
    Phil. 1:6, to trust in no matter what happens
    John 16:33

    Love the posts

  5. Božo Levanat // July 16, 2020 at 8:39 am // Reply

    Paul,what would happen If I, theoretically speaking, started to follow some other religion,and did not “come back”? Would I end up in hell?

    • I got a thought about this: Looking at Peter, who said to Jesus, I will never deny you! Then did, and felt bad, and then we see later in scripture, where Peter and others were back fishing, Jesus on the shore, cooking fish, Peter jumps off the boat and goes to him. Jesus asked Peter 3 times, do you love me. Feed my Sheep

      Wow, woe is me. Even later on Peter, still had that fear, read up on that in Gal. Where Paul rebuked him. We all have traits in us of fear, that is born of flesh and blood, first birth, until one sees the amazing Love given them, through Son’s done work for them

      Then 1 John 4:19 becomes fruit to0 chew on. Perfect love casts out all fear. Once fear leaves, one has no time to try to not do what one now hates to do
      This is like having one’s conscience purged. Starting with Hebrews chapter 1 to see this happening in us that stand in beleif, even if we sin again. Father is Faithful even in Son as risen fir us to be new in

    • I don’t have an exact answer to your question but thought I’d share a little about my life. I left Christianity because I got tired of trying to be perfect, I went to new age spirituality but God never stopped pursuing me. I found no peace in New Age-ism for about 4 years till I gave up that path and cane back home to Jesus who has loved me and has never ever mentioned my sins to me but loves me like all that never happened. God is faithful.

  6. John Kenneth Cheeseman // July 16, 2020 at 1:50 pm // Reply

    I so love this and clearly see how this addresses once saved always saved, the Bible is in perfect harmony.
    My oldest son is a childrens minister, a great Christian man and father but somewhere along the line he was convinced that salvation can be lost. I have tried explaining it to him but I guess, as they say, a prophet is not welcome in his own town. The time will come when the Lord will reveal thus truth to him as it was to me. I don’t go to church anymore because the law/grace doctrine is everywhere and because of this the reproaches of man teaching a corrupted doctrine has those reproaches fall on Christ.

  7. megagenius // July 16, 2020 at 7:18 pm // Reply

    Why did Jesus say, Be faithful unto death and I will give you a crown of life, when He could have just said lean on my faithfulness?

    • I guess you’ll have to ask him.

      • megagenius // July 18, 2020 at 3:18 pm //

        I was asking you. So you can’t answer the question. No problem. The answer is in the question.

    • that answer surely is. Thanks
      Leaning on his Faithfulness, YES, YES, YES! what a change this does in me at least, thanks

    • Megagenius,
      When Peter was denying Jesus to the people questioning him, was he faithless? When he was answering that he never knew Jesus, did his love for Him stop and He no longer believe Jesus was the Messiah? Peters faith that Jesus is the Savior never faltered, but Peter was however disappointed in himself. Jesus came to Peter after His resurrection and assured him of his salvation. Peter needed to be convinced he was safe in Christ, not the other way around. Christ didn’t need to be convinced that Peter was faithful.
      To be faithful unto death, you have to first have faith. If you never have faith, you can’t be faithful unto death.

  8. Hi Paul, I love the powerful use of words and sentence construction you use. Words and actions have wounded me deeply through the good intentions of “religious” people, including my own father. The words “discipline” and “just push through” couldn’t activate change. After 27 years of being in a relationship with Jesus, I am slowly changing the narrative associated with abuse, pain and feeling unworthy. I am now 58 years old and allowing more of “God’s truth” through clearer lenses to set me free. I mindfully practice loving myself as Christ loves me and applying healthy “BEETS” – – healthy Breathing, Eating, Exercise, Thoughts, Sleep patterns. In the beginning, God spoke “let there be light” and there was light. Words are powerful. Thank you for sharing.

  9. These warnings were meant for the churches as shown in the book of revelation.
    Why would you say it’s a warning for today’s church?

  10. lisa Harness // July 19, 2020 at 10:50 pm // Reply

    This was much needed.

  11. The lamp of the body is the eye. If you see a Jesus who can only be faithful when you are faithful unto death, you will struggle to have faith. If you see a Jesus who is always faithful to you, even when you miss the mark, your faith will flourish.

  12. Good discussion. Another set of verses to use when folks try to weaken/destroy your faith in that you may fail is to direct them to Romans 8:31-39 ending with “nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing,shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

  13. charlene clough // July 29, 2020 at 4:45 pm // Reply

    Thank you! I so needed this encouragement today!

  14. allen shappell // August 10, 2020 at 3:42 pm // Reply

    Dear Paul,
    Just a note to tell you how much I enjoyed this article. I am almost 70 and the majority of my life is now in the rear view mirror. Until I found the free grace gospel approximately 4 years ago, I lived with the constant fear of feeling like I’d never done enough to earn heaven even though I have been a believer since the age of 12. Reading authors like yourself, Jack kinsella, Jack Kelly, J.B. Hixon, Charles Bing, Andy Woods, and the list goes on, I have gained such peace. I subscribe to your news letter. Please keep up the good work, and thank you.

    Allen Shappell

  15. What book is this from? I wanted to order for a friend? Or which first book you recommend they read?

    Thank you much for your Gospel ministry it’s blessed me beyond! 😊

    • Hi Alina, thanks for your comment. Anything from Rev 2-3 is going to be from my book Letters from Jesus. It’s a verse by verse commentary on Christ’s letters to the churches. For a first book, I normally recommend The Gospel in Ten Words or Stuff Jesus Never Said.

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