Tuesday, December 27, 2011

What is Salvation, Part 3

After taking a look at the past (Part 1) and present (Part 2) elements of salvation, it's time to turn to the future element of salvation.

To briefly recap, salvation is being rescued from the penalty of sin (the past element) and the power (the present element) of sin, death and the devil by the grace of God. In the future, we will be saved from the presence of sin.

God is Holy and Righteous, so no sin can dwell in His manifest presence (Habakkuk 1:13; Psalm 5:5; 76:7; 130:3) and in the final state (what some theologians refer to as "The Eschaton") God will be manifestly present among His people in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:1-4). Since this is the case, sin will necessarily be dealt with fully and finally prior to ushering in the final state of Heaven at a time yet future (see these posts for more about the current state of Heaven and Hell) by God.

As part of the coming judgment, God will bring every thought, word and deed into light and will recompense each individual for the good and the bad they did while on earth (Ecclesiastes 12:14; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Hebrews 9:27). If we were all to be judged by our deeds, every one of us would be found guilty and would be cast into the lake of fire (Galatians 2:21). The Apostle John received a revelation of this final Judgment and wrote these words:

11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15, NASB).

By way of contrast, notice that the comparison in the above passage is between "books" (plural) that record the deeds of men from which everyone is judged, and there is another "book" (singular) that contains only names. Everyone who is judged according to their deeds (from the "books") is cast into the lake of fire -- this is the poverty of a works-based mentality: we can never be good enough! It is only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of Life (cf. Revelation 13:8; 21:27) who are rescued because their penalty has been paid by Jesus on the cross (Romans 8:3-4; Colossians 2:13-14).

As Jesus and some of the other New Testament authors describe the final state, reference is made to a great separation being made between the righteous (those washed by the blood of the Lamb) and the unrighteous (those judged according to their works). Some passages that describe this reality are as follows:

23 And someone said to Him, "Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?" And He said to them, 24 "Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 "Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, 'Lord, open up to us!' then He will answer and say to you, 'I do not know where you are from.' 26 "Then you will begin to say, 'We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets'; 27 and He will say, 'I tell you, I do not know where you are from; DEPART FROM ME, ALL YOU EVILDOERS.' 28 "In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being thrown out. 29 "And they will come from east and west and from north and south, and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God. (Luke 13:23-29, NASB).

Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying. (Revelation 22:14-15, NASB)

This separation points to the salvation from the very presence of sin itself. Remember, sin entered the world because of Adam, and death through sin (Romans 5:12). Sin is what separates us from God, so Salvation is extremely important because it represents the full re-establishment of communion with God and Man through the final destruction of sin forever. This includes the separation of individuals who are still in their sin away from His blessed presence as well (John 8:24; 2 Thessalonians 1:9).

In the present life, we still feel the effects of sin and are affected by it. We still experience pain, hardship and difficulty (even if we are able to have joy in the midst of difficult circumstances). The hope that Christians have is that in the future, we will be free completely from the presence of sin which separates us from our Lord and Savior. We will have the re-establishment of full communion with God -- in His manifest presence! -- that was lost by Adam.

Praise be to God for His indescribable gift of salvation through Christ!

Indescribable is a funny word (especially since we're trying to describe it!), but the reality of our future salvation is something we are not able to fully understand or discuss. It's easier to understand the past and present elements because they have correspondence to our everyday lives.

Everyday we experience distance from God.

Everyday we experience brokenness in this life.

Everyday we feel the consequences of sin (whether we realize it or not!).

We are literally saturated with sin in this world, and just like a fish trying to describe to another fish what life would be like outside of the water -- attempting to describe what an iPad can do or the wonders of travelling to the moon -- would be impossible because there is no correspondence. Similarly, Paul tells us: 9 but just as it is written, "THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND which HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM." (1 Corinthians 2:9, NASB)

We cannot really understand what God has prepared for us because it is of a completely different kind and quality of life than we currently experience. We do not understand what living free from the presence of sin, in the manifest presence of God, without the effects of the Fall will be like. How could we? Everything we know, experience and see is tainted by the Fall.

Paul describes a man caught up to view Heaven and he cannot even describe the things he saw and heard (2 Corinthians 12:1-4, NASB)!

I know that I am often awestruck by the beauty of this world that God has created -- things like a colorful sunset or lightening lighting up a stormy night or a mountain range on the horizon -- and am even more amazed that these things are part of God's created order after the Fall. God's original creation was better!

Sin has marred God's good creation. In the future, those who believe in the Son will experience what God's creation is supposed to be like -- free from all stain of sin, for ever and ever.

5 And He who sits on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." And He said, "Write, for these words are faithful and true." (Revelation 21:5, NASB)


(Continue reading Part 4)

1 comment:

P. Scott said...

I'm really enjoying this. What an awsome promise we not only have for today...but to look forward to as well.