Earlier, I was ranting about my general disagreement with the perspective held by most Christians that salvation is summed up in terms of going to heaven or hell.
“So what do you think salvation is about?”
Well, more than heaven and hell.
In truth, the position that the whole point of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection was about saving my eternal soul from an everlasting time experiencing pain and torment has never seemed complete to me. I’ve never understood how a person could read John’s Gospel and come away thinking that Jesus was only about heaven. Eternal life is knowing Jesus. He came to give life more abundantly. These things aren’t some future promise about eternity. They’re for the here and now. I’m learning that the rest of the New Testament speaks in the same way, but more on that later.
My problem always was that I didn’t know what it meant. What is life more abundant? What does it mean to know Jesus? How do these things effect us now?
In my frustration, I kind of abandoned the argument, and decided to let things be. If I didn’t have an alternative, I didn’t see any point in saying anything. I mean, going to heaven is important. And bringing the Gospel to people is crucial. So why object?
Object isn’t the right word anymore, though. Now, what I do is beg for completion of the message. I ask that Christians think about what the Bible teaches.
I’m glad I gave up trying to argue with evangelism. I was wrong in that idea. Since I felt the “heaven vs. hell” doctrine was incomplete, I was trying to throw out the whole thing (although I didn’t realize that until later). I’m glad that I didn’t think that Jesus’ work stopped in heaven, but instead I still seek to fully understand what it means to have life more abundantly.
Because I’m not alone in thinking there is something more to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. And others have done a good job of explaining what that means (I was pointed to this work by a pastor whom I respect greatly).
The essence of salvation is this: God did not save you to take you out of this world. His purpose is redeeming His good creation (which has been corrupted by sin), and He saved you so that you can be a participant in that. Yes, you will go to heaven when you die. But Jesus is coming back. And He is going to bring you back with Him. Thus, when His reign is visibly established on this earth (His reign has already begun, but few believe that), all that Christians did to reflect God’s kingdom in this life will be a part of God’s New Heaven and Earth (which will be one place, rather than two). This is why Paul encourages the Corinthian church:
…be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.
He isn’t encouraging these Christians to be good so that they will go to heaven. He is reminding them that their work here matters, because the God of heaven rescued them from sin and death, giving them new life through His Son, Jesus Christ.
We’re called to that life now.
Maybe you disagree with this. Perhaps you think I’m abandoning conservatism, supporting liberal ideas, or whatever. The truth is, I just think what we do matters. Politics. The environment. Education. Feeding the hungry. Helping the poor. We act like these things are divorced from Christian life because they’re tied to government or liberal organizations or whoever else we don’t like. And the excuse for much of that separation is because preachers tell their flock that what matters most is going to heaven. But true religion isn’t spending eternity in heaven with the angels. Its something we do here. Now. This very moment.
So I ask, what has your salvation done? Has the Grace of God in your life helped this world? Or has it simply given you a ticket to the afterlife?