Wednesday, August 24, 2011


I have to tell you that I don’t think our current view of salvation is completely wrong; I think it’s just too narrow. There is something we are missing. What many of us have been taught about salvation seems to be incomplete.

If we buy into our current view of salvation, I think the only reasonable conclusion we can take it to is best summed up by N.T. Wright, “As long as we see salvation in terms of going to heaven when we die, the main work of the church is bound to be seen in terms of saving souls for that future, but when we see salvation as the New Testament sees it, in terms of God’s promised new heavens and new earth and of our promised resurrection to share in that…then the main work of the church here and now demands to be rethought.” Essentially, I believe, if we buy into what has been taught about salvation--that it is about saving souls and getting into heaven--then we must conclude that life here on earth is meaningless. And I will not buy into that kind of theology. That is the very reason we must rethink what we believe about salvation.

If our understanding of salvation is wrong, then what should it be? Salvation, we all agree, deals with rescuing creation. But what are we to be rescued from? The obvious answers are sin and death. But, the true meaning of salvation goes beyond that.

Take a minute and read 1 Corinthians 15:19, 58. Once you have done that, we will begin this discussion.

The first thing I see Scripture teaching us is that: salvation is about the present, not simply the future. To say this flies right in the face of many within the evangelical church. But, reality is that life on earth matters; Jesus wasn’t focused on the future, in fact, he didn’t say much at all about the future.Very little of what Christ said and did was about the future and about heaven. Reading through the New Testament I see that he was primarily concerned with the here and now. With preparing to bring heaven to earth.

In Jewish culture heaven was more of an afterthought. They didn’t give much thought to heaven because they viewed it as a temporary stage on the way to the resurrection of the body. In reading much of the Old Testament, you should see that the Jewish people weren’t thinking much about God saving them from this life for something better. The salvation they sought was most engrossed with the here and now. They were concerned with the promises of God’s covenants and how they related to this life, in this world, not the afterlife in heaven. Think of the Exodus (being rescued from Egypt), Shadrach, Meshach and Abendango (being rescued from the fire), Daniel (being rescued from the lion’s den), or David (God, crush my enemies; rescue me now…). As a matter of fact, 90% of the passages in the Old Testament referring to salvation, spoke of temporal salvation. The salvation that takes place here on earth. Furthermore, roughly 50% of the New Testament passages regarding salvation speaks of this same kind of salvation. 

How many of you have ever thought this: the world is such a terrible place, I can’t wait to get to heaven. I have. I’ve thought it many times. It really would be nice if God would just end it all now and make things the way He intended them to be. But He isn’t. Because that is such a cop out. That’s the easy way out. That is what Paul, I believe, is talking about in Philippians 1:20-25.

Unless, you have a proper view of eternity. Eternity doesn’t start way in the future. Eternity starts today.  The day of salvation is here. Salvation has come today. I will argue until I am blue in the face, that salvation has more to do with the present than the future. Salvation is more embodied with the here and now than the then and after. Why is it wrong to view salvation in terms of the future? Because it separates body and spirit, heaven and earth. It assumes they aren’t one and the same. It is our mistake of bifurcation.

What is bifurcation? It is basically separating two things that are inseparable. Let me give you an example.  How many times in your youth did you find yourself saying "this doesn’t matter, I’m not even 18." Been there, done that, and trust me that wasn't the case. I found out the hard way that my actions did matter and had consequences well beyond turning 18. I still live with many of the consequences for some of the stupid mistakes I have made.

As Christians, we think so much about the future that we lose sight of the here and now. We forget that God offers salvation today. This goes into an age-old debate about temporal vs. eternal salvation. I do not for one minute believe it is one or the other. I believe a true, Biblical view of salvation must include both.  Although temporal is a poor word--giving the impression that it is only temporary--it is still fitting when in reference to the salvation God provides while we are here on earth. And when it is combined with eternal salvation, it makes it that much sweeter. 

God is about providing salvation for some of the things we’re dealing with right now. When God speaks of offering salvation and deliverance, it isn’t just from sin or death. It extends well beyond those two aspects.

Secondly, I see Scripture teaching us that: salvation is about the entire person, not just their soul. We all believe, I hope, that Jesus’ resurrection was a bodily one, not just a spiritual one. If we believe that, then how is it that we believe our resurrection will be a spiritual one? And how is it that we believe God cares only about our souls. What we believe about salvation and its relation to eternity, not only denies the physical resurrection of ourselves, but the physical resurrection of Christ as well. How can we believe that heaven exists as a place beyond this world that is inhabited by disembodied souls, when the Bible clearly states the resurrection is a physical one. It is simple. We cannot believe this and be a disciple of Christ. We must believe that salvation involves much more than just saving our souls and getting them into heaven.

If salvation is just about getting our souls into heaven, why then did Jesus waste most of his life on this earth performing miracles most of which dealt with the very physical and real aspects of life. Let me give you one example. John 9 records a miracle in which Jesus heals a man born blind. Why would he heal a man born blind, unless he cared about the physical stuff of life? I believe the answer to that question is simple. Jesus didn’t come just to get people into heaven. Jesus came to bring a little bit of heaven to earth, and since heaven is a place for the physical body, he came to take care of some of the physical stuff. As a matter of fact, what most Christians believe about salvation and heaven was written off by the early church as Gnosticism. We need not worry about the physical or the flesh aspect of life because it is bad and will be done away with one day; all we need to worry about is the spiritual aspect of life because it is good and will last for eternity.

We were knit together in our mothers womb, physically and spiritually. God knows the exact number of hairs on our head. For some of us that is a little easier to keep track of than others, but that fact alone leads me to believe that if God cares about how many hairs are on our head, he must care a lot more about our physical body that we lead on. In fact when Scripture speaks about salvation some of it refers to a physical salvation and some refers to a spiritual salvation.

Another idea I see Scripture teaching us is that: salvation is about all of creation, not just humanity. In Genesis we read that everything God created he called "good." Nothing was bad. Nothing was scrapped. Sure, down the road we find that God was so upset that he caused a flood to wipe out his creation; however, it was man that upset him, not the rest of creation. Jumping way ahead, Jesus informs us that he makes ALL things new, not just humanity, but ALL things--plants and animals. God is about all of creation. He is about redeeming every last bit of it. All of creation speaks of the grandeur of God, one author wrote. In the Psalms, we find that if we cease to praise God, surely the rocks will cry out.

Salvation isn’t just about making humanity the way it was intended to be; although that is a huge part. It is about redeeming all of creation. Salvation is about extracting all the beauty and grandeur of everything he created. As much as I hate to say it, I think there is a lot of truth to some of these hippie tree huggers. Granted, they may take it a little overboard, but hear them out. We can’t keep treating creation the way we have been--exploiting it, using it for our advantage. We were called to care for it. We are to be good stewards of all that God has given us--and that includes creation. I don’t think that God had Adam give names to each of the animals for lack of something better to do. I believe He had Adam do this in order to give him ownership. I hope you are seeing where I am going with this. We are to be agents of salvation to humanity, yes (1 Corinthians 6 tells us that), but more importantly, we are to be agents of salvation to all of creation. It annoys me that we think we can continue to treat creation with the disrespect we do and think there will be no eternal consequences.

A guy I know, who happens to be a smoker, was talking to me about creation, eternity, and how we treat what God has entrusted us with. During this discussion, he asked a somewhat outrageous question. He said, "What if I spend the first part of eternity picking up all the cigarette butts I just threw on the ground?" My answer to him, "That would suck!" While it may be a bit absurd (and doesn't take into consideration the grace of God), I think he poses a question we need to ask. What if all of us have to spend the first part of eternity righting a lot of the wrongs we did to creation? Would that make us better stewards of the creation God has given to us to care for?

Salvation isn’t this great plan that God had while Jesus was here. It isn’t something that came when Jesus died on the cross and is basically to be forgotten until we die. To view salvation in this way does such a disservice to reality. N.T Wright, speaking on our current view of salvation put it best. He says this: “Life before death is what is threatened by the idea that salvation is merely life after death.”  

Salvation is meant to be lived out in our everyday lives. Perhaps this is taking the Scripture out of context, but I believe that is exactly what Jesus was talking about when he said he came that we might have life and have it abundantly. He wants us to enjoy life (not necessarily this health, wealth, and prosperity gospel; but you don’t have to be any of those to truly enjoy life). Sure you may suffer, things may happen, but those are only a chance for God to teach you and show you how He wants you to live life. Back to the man born blind in John 9. They thought he was born blind because of his sin or his parents sin; but Jesus said it was only that God’s power and grace might be displayed--get this--in this life!

I believe if Jesus were standing here today, discussing with the church how it has missed the point regarding salvation, he would probably bring us back to “The Lord’s Prayer.” He would point out the part that says: “on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus would inform us that when he came down here 2000 years ago, he brought a little piece of heaven with him and gave it all to us. I believe he would then ask us what we did with that little piece of heaven? Did we forget about it since, as we believe, heaven is a thing of the future, or did we try to expand that and truly make the two become one?

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