A pastor told a funny story. While walking seminary grounds musing about God, someone leaped from behind a tree startling him with the question, “Are you saved?” The frightened pastor called back, “From what?” while looking around for danger. After a moment, the pastor realized that the man was not warning him about pedestrian danger, but instead was doing evangelism in his own style and asking him if he has Christian salvation. The pastor answered that he was saved. We should ask ourselves and even pastors if they are Christians. However, the point of this story is to answer the question, “Saved from what?” From what danger does Christian salvation provide protection?
The pastor went on to show that we each need to be saved from the coming wrath of God. Jesus left the world promising that he would return one day to judge the world. Those following him will be rewarded, while those not following will suffer wrath. Paul encourages believers, “For God didn't appoint us to wrath, but to the obtaining of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Thessalonians 5:9 WEB). John warns of future despair for unbelievers, “They told the mountains and the rocks, 'Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb' ” (Revelation 6:16 WEB). Paul says again, “and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead: Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come” (I Thessalonians 1:10 WEB). And the promise of salvation is good, but not like a plate of cookies is good. It is good like having a fire extinguisher by your side when you wake at 3 AM with your bed on fire! Are you prepared for the fire of God’s wrath? Jesus has a guarantee of salvation from the wrath to come.
All mankind has some appreciation for saving or protecting things of value. I saw a bumper sticker, “Save the Manatees.” Manatees are a wonderful creation, but may become extinct without mankind’s protection. Praise God for those protecting God’s creation. Aspiring leaders also fulfill a God given passion to “save” people from need and harm with vision for hope and strategy for change. Thankfully few rob the title of “savior” from Christ, but all leaders exercise the savior image of God in their being through efforts to help their fellowman, even if they are woefully misled. Praise God for those providing for God’s people. Even pop music expresses a lover’s desire to save their beloved. Praise God for those pleasing their spouse. God has stamped his savior image in our being and though sin has marred his image in us and warped our efforts to save, we can still see traces of the rich character of God’s salvation; protecting, providing, pleasing. Protection from God’s wrath is clearly a primary dimension of salvation, but are other dimensions evident in Scripture?
SAVED PAST, PRESENT, & FUTURE
The pastor above answered that he “was” saved, past tense. But since God’s coming wrath remains yet future how can one be saved already? Is salvation simply a one time event that each of us should quickly purchase like fire insurance so that when fire comes we can point back to the date we signed the policy? Romans 5:10 (WEB) offers insight, “For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we will be saved by his life.” Here we see that salvation is past, present, and future. God has reconciled mankind to himself in the past while we were yet his enemies and before we even knew we needed to be saved. God brings individual men to receive their salvation being reconciled in the present receiving God’s eternal love through faith in Christ, thus saving our hardened hearts. God will complete our reconciliation in the future as he changes us into his likeness day by day, though in this life we are sinners only perfect in him, but in eternity we will be completely perfect with him. God signed the policy for the salvation of his people in the past, brings individual men to receive salvation in the present, and will complete our salvation in the future. Praise God for Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday, today, and forever!
Last summer our church youth studied I Timothy 2:14-15 (WEB) which states, “Adam wasn't deceived, but the woman, being deceived, has fallen into disobedience; but she will be saved through her childbearing, if they continue in faith, love, and sanctification with sobriety.” Can a woman be “saved” through child bearing? The word “saved” here is the same Greek word used for Christian salvation in John 3:17, John 10:9, and Acts 2:21. So can women be saved from God’s wrath by bearing children? Surely our Father God is enraged at those who murder the unborn or malign motherhood by debasing women as sex objects. And just as surely he is pleased with those who honor or fulfill his design in motherhood. Yet the gospel makes it clear that only God’s grace can shield us from his coming wrath. Even the best of mothers who reject Christian salvation will be sentenced to the punishment of Hades. So then what does I Timothy 2:14-15 mean?
Salvation is the major theme of Scripture. However, each time we read of salvation we should ask “Saved from what?” Some Scripture is explicit. I Thessalonians 1:10 (WEB) says, “and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead: Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come.” Jesus rescues or saves us from the coming wrath of God. However, other Scriptures are not explicit. Do not assume that Jesus only saves from God’s wrath. A study of the context shows that Jesus saves from other dangers as well. Since the same word can be used in multiple ways with multiple meanings, the context finally determines word meanings! In fact you will be amazed to discover that Christian salvation is all encompassing, even reaching beyond Hell. In this study I prove that the mighty arm of Jesus Christ reaches to save from 1) harm, 2) sin, 3) vanity, 4) Hades, and 5) the Lake of Fire. Saved 5X!
Jesus Christ is mighty to save us from harm!
The disciples called to Jesus in a storm, “Save us, Lord! We are dying!” (Matthew 8:25 WEB). Jesus commands the wind and the waves according to his pleasure. David cried out, “Save me, God, for the waters have come up to my neck!” (Psalm 69:1 WEB). Jesus has authority over every circumstance in our lives. We also read in John 9:1-3 (WEB), “As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, 'Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?' Jesus answered, 'This man didn't sin, nor did his parents; but, that the works of God might be revealed in him.' " Jesus has power to save from every harm and malady, yet at times has another purpose. We also read in I Corinthians 11:30-32 (WEB), “For this cause many among you are weak and sickly, and not a few sleep. For if we discerned ourselves, we wouldn't be judged. But when we are judged, we are punished by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.” Jesus saves us from harm, but also has wisdom enough to inflict pain, sickness, and even death to save us from greater harms such as dishonoring God. So our eyes look to Jesus who is mighty to save us from harm and wise to govern the trials in our lives.
Jesus Christ is mighty to save us from sin!
Most of us are eager to keep our bodies comfortable and our necks free from the noose. So being saved from harm and Hell is sensible. However, salvation from sin requires that we accept God’s standard instead of our own. For God calls us not only to believe and be saved from Hell, but also to quit sinning to save us from our natural born love of corruption. God promises in I Corinthians 10:13-14 (WEB), “No temptation has taken you except what is common to man. God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above what you are able, but will with the temptation also make the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” Yet he also warns in I John 5:16 (WEB), “If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life for those who sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death. I don't say that he should make a request concerning this.” Jesus calls men away from the destructiveness of sin and some believers obey and are saved. Yet other believers still disobey and are not saved from sin or from the fruit of sin, even though saved from Hell. Consider the fate of King David or Ananias and Sapphira. These believers were saved from Hell, but not from the dread effects of sin. So our eyes look to Jesus who is mighty to save some from sin by graciously granting obedience and consider that not all who obey the gospel are spared from other sins and suffer for it even to loss of life.
Jesus Christ is mighty to save us from vanity!
Most of us are also eager to live a meaningful life for our own good. What a waste of life to reach the end of life and have lived a useless life. So the offer of salvation from vanity is attractive. Yet the cost to be saved from vanity is to submit to the example and teaching of Christ. We may see the value of not doing the do nots, but do we see the value of doing the dos? If we are busy doing the dos we won’t have time to do the don’ts! I Timothy 5:13 agrees that “Idle hands are the devils workshop.” Paul also warns in I Corinthians 3:10-15 (WEB), “According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another builds on it. But let each man be careful how he builds on it. For no one can lay any other foundation than that which has been laid, which is Jesus Christ. But if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or stubble, each man's work will be revealed. For the Day will declare it, because it is revealed in fire; and the fire itself will test what sort of work each man's work is. If any man's work remains which he built on it, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned, he will suffer loss, but he himself will be saved, but as through fire.”
Paul also said at the end of his life, “For I am already being offered, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight. I have finished the course. I have kept the faith. From now on, the crown of righteousness is stored up for me, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that day; and not to me only, but also to all those who have loved his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6-8 WEB).
It is certain that you and I will reach the end of our lives one day. What is not certain is will our lives have been lived in vain or served some useful purpose for Christ? Sadly even true Christians can make a total waste of their lives. So our eyes look to Jesus who is mighty to save the obedient from vanity and consider that not all who have obeyed the gospel have also served the great commission, and so they reach the end their lives empty handed.
Jesus Christ is mighty to save us from judgment in Hell, that is Hades!
Jesus said in John 3:36 (WEB), “One who believes in the Son has eternal life, but one who disobeys the Son won't see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”
Paul also said in Romans 10:9-10 (WEB), “that if you will confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart, one believes resulting in righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made resulting in salvation.”
Paul says again in I Thessalonians 1:5-10 (WEB), “5) and that our Good News came to you not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and with much assurance. You know what kind of men we showed ourselves to be among you for your sake. 6) You became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, 7) so that you became an example to all who believe in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8) For from you the word of the Lord has been declared, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone out, so that we need not to say anything. 9) For they themselves report concerning us what kind of a reception we had from you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, 10) and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead: Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come.”
Have you ever thought it curious that God saves us from himself? It is his holy justice that demands our damnation and his gracious sacrifice that demands our salvation. Wrestle with that nut for a time and you will soon not only be thankful to escape Hell, but rejoicing to fellowship with the awesome God of Heaven with all God's people present and accounted for! So our eyes look to Jesus who is mighty to save every believer from God’s wrath in Hell.
Finally Jesus Christ is mighty to save us, and all the elect, from the Lake of Fire!
Thank God if we have been saved from harm in this uncertain life, from judgment in Hell for unbelief, from the destructiveness of sin, and from a vain and useless life. Yet after this short life is over and this present world ended and even God’s purposes for Hell are finished and men stand before the Great White Throne Judgment, who will be saved finally? The value of any previous saving is moot if we are not saved at the last judgment! There is no rejoicing in the preservation of precious cargo over millions of miles of perilous journey only to fail in delivering the cargo across the threshold to final safety.
Thankfully Jesus promises final safety to every soul whose name he has written in his Book of Life, “11) I saw a great white throne, and him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. There was found no place for them. 12) I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and they opened books. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged out of the things which were written in the books, according to their works. 13) The sea gave up the dead who were in it. Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them. They were judged, each one according to his works. 14) Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15) If anyone was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:11-15 WEB).
Paul likewise teaches that God unconditionally and effectively predestined to save each of his chosen people from before the creation of the world, “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and without defect before him in love” (Ephesians 1:4 WEB). Do you know if your name is in the Book of Life? You cannot write your own name in the Book for you are powerless to ascend to Heaven. Your pastor, parents, or Christian friend cannot write your name in the Book. Yet a brother can tell you the good news that faith in Christ IS NOT a pen to write your own name in Jesus’ Book, but faith IS the glasses to see that Jesus your savior has already written your name there, as my brother told me. So our eyes look to Jesus who is mighty to save his chosen from the Lake of Fire and consider that his grace will not fail to save even one of his chosen… regardless of past judgments.
Do you believe that Jesus chose you? Through faith in Christ you can know that he has always loved you!
These reflections are cause for self examination and for the fear of the Lord who acts according to his wisdom. We reflect because we are not yet fully out of harms way. Hopefully, we see the value of humility and caution, for even if we have trusted Christ to save us from Hell, we are not finally saved from the sinfulness and vanity possible, for even a Christian. Yet we praise God for the thankfulness and joy available to those who know that their name and the names of all God’s people have been indelibly inscribed in the Book of Life by Christ before the foundation of the world. These are saved from the Lake of Fire and carried across the threshold into final safety.