Salvation is simple, right? Everybody knows that Billy gets “saved” when he comes to a faith in Jesus. Right? It’s that simple, and it’s not worth giving it a second thought.
Well, I’m not finding good support for this simple model in the scriptures. It turns out that there are over four times as many passages that speak of salvation as an event yet future to the writing. This is very awkward under the popular model. Indeed, which question seems normal and which seems awkward?
- Hey, Billy, when did you get saved?
- Hey, Billy, are you looking forward to our salvation?
Surely the first is how most believers use the word “saved” most of the time these days, but it was not always so. If you study all the scriptures on the topic, you’ll find that they were definitely looking forward to something, regardless of whatever they may have meant in the small handful of (8) passages that refer to salvation in the past tense. Five other passages seem to refer to it as an ongoing process, and 35 refer to it as yet future!
So what’s my point?
The scriptures simply don’t fit our traditional model. It is most likely the traditional model, therefore, that is wrong.
Why is it that modern believers look to some past “conversion” event as the pivotal moment in their lives when the first Christians looked to some future event?
I believe the evidence will bear out a new model: These people, upon putting their faith in Jesus were saved from the “perverse generation” in which they were living—a generation in which Satan was indeed the “ruler of this world”. When they were “saved” at conversion, they were separated out from the generation in which they were living. They became members of Jesus’ ekklesia (the “called out ones”), and were being called out of Satan’s world and called into Jesus’ kingdom. He was going to come and get them in that very generation, and those among them who were found faithful would be taken to eternal life.
They were forgiven of their sins and imbued with the indwelling Holy Spirit upon conversion. This was an arrangement of good faith between them and God, but it was by no means a guarantee of eternal life. They all knew that they would be judged individually by God for everything done in the body, whether good or bad. They did not consider that this judgment had already happened. They did not consider that they had a “get out of jail free” card or a “trump card” for this judgment. They did not consider that only the good about them would be taken into consideration, but were constantly warned to shun the bad so as not to fall under judgment for it.
They understood that being saved out of their “perverse generation” was by no means the same thing as being saved into eternal life. Yet today, a great many believers seem to accept the idea that their conversions guaranteed them eternal life—and even that there is no way they can sin their way out of it. Not only does this errant model present the most unnatural arrangement imaginable, but it flies directly in the face of a great many passages of scripture to the contrary.
When we set the record straight on salvation, however—when we show that their conversions were not a “free ride” to eternal life, but merely a good-faith initiation and fortification for the fight against Satan (which they would have to choose to fight for themselves or not), then we relieve a great amount of the strife between the Temporary Ekklesia Theory and the standard model. Indeed, if they were looking yet forward to a meeting in which God would (hopefully) count them worthy of eternal life, then why should we be surprised to find that we are in the same situation in this respect?
In short, far too many today insist on having some eternal guarantee that not even the First Century Christians had. They quote passages such as this one:
Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus,
They say, “See, it’s all settled and they will not be condemned!” But they do not even realize that they have done violence to the context of this teaching, even throwing away the second half of the sentence! Here’s the whole sentence:
Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
Apparently, one could be “in Christ Jesus” and yet not be walking according to the Spirit. The second phrase in the sentence, however, makes it clear that this sentence is not about those people. Instead, it was only those who were walking according to the Spirit who would find no condemnation. Indeed, this is only one of many such distinctions and caveats in the scriptures.
They, like us, had their judgment coming. It was future to them, and not past. It was not settled already—not at the moment of conversion, nor at any other moment in their pasts or presents.
What does it matter to us, therefore, if they needed the apostles and we do not? Or if they needed the indwelling and we do not? What does it matter if they got to see the evil angels and the evil spirits and we do not? These first believers were fortified for a battle that is long-since over. We are not fortified for it because God knows we have no need of such. Thus is there no ekklesia for us, no indwelling, no prophecy or apostleship, and no miracles. Yet judgment remains as inevitable for every human—the same judgment they were preparing for.
It was at the time of that personal meeting with God that the ultimate salvation would come or not. That was the thing to which they were looking forward. It was to come at the return of Jesus. In fact, this was so firmly established that the Savior (one who saves) was known as their “Salvation”. Consider the words of Simeon, upon seeing the infant Jesus:
Luke 2:25 And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, 28 he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said:
29 “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace,
According to Your word;
30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation
31 Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples,
32 A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel.”
Here he calls Jesus the “salvation” from God.
The believers in the First Century could not receive their salvation under their Savior returned to get them. He came and got them, along with the faithful dead. He also dispatched Satan and the other evil angels to the Lake of Fire, freeing the Earth from satanic rule. Then he left with the believers. Ever since then, those who die faithful and righteous have been added to their number.
Many find this model disappointing. One advantage it has over their preferred model, in which we are still living in the First Century, is that it is factual and reasonable.