What are We Saved From?
The prevailing notion on salvation in most churches today seems to be that we are saved from hell. In fact, most gospel presentations seem to emphasize this point as well as the converse destination for those who believe: heaven. There seems to be little discussion of the effect of salvation in our lives presently. Rather it is relegated a future event post-mortem.
But what does the Bible say about salvation? You may be surprised that the concept of being saved from hell is never discussed in the Bible. Instead, the Bible speaks of salvation from our sins.
You don’t believe me? Let’s examine some passages.
She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
"Then I asked, 'Who are you Lord?'
‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’
remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.
But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.
Luke 1:67-79 (Zechariah’s Song)
His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:
“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David
(as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us —
to show mercy to our ancestors
and to remember his holy covenant,
the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
and to enable us to serve him without fear
in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace. ”
There is a clear theme to these verses: salvation from sin and from our
enemies. We know who our primary enemy is from 1 Peter 5:8 which tells us
to “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a
roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
We aren’t just saved from a future destination, but from a way of life in the present. We are saved from our bondage to sin and the influence of Satan in our lives. We are saved from destructive choices that tear apart families and destroy relationships.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). This freedom from sin and from the law of man-made religion, allows us to serve and love God as well as our neighbors, as we act as subjects of the kingdom of God on earth. As Jesus said, “the kingdom of God is in your midst” (Luke 17:21). We get to show God’s kingdom to the earth as He sanctifies us and allows us to participate in the work He is doing.
Notice the process of salvation:
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
This makes sense if we are continuing to be sanctified and saved from our sins as we continue to follow Christ. It makes very little sense if we think of salvation only as a one time event that rescues us from a future hellish destination.
We should be aware, however, that there are great future benefits that we
receive through trusting in Jesus and following Him. Consider the
Revelation 20:6 (ESV)
Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.
Notice that believers get to reign with Christ for a thousand years and that the second death has no power over us. The second death is also described as the lake of fire, and we get to avoid this. But I believe this second death is not an eternal torture chamber (for many Scriptural reasons) but rather a process of purification (albeit painful), as we will see later.
While the book of Revelation also makes it clear that we are saved from the second death as believers this doesn’t seem to be the primary thrust of the salvation message. And we will soon see that the second death isn’t really best interpreted as the hell of eternal torment you’ve been told about. More on that to come.
But before we get to the symbolism of the second death, let's consider some more Biblical evidence for God's great design to save all of humanity.
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