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Salvation: More than a ticket to Heaven?

God Saves

When someone says, “I’m Saved!” There is always the contextual question, “Saved from what?” Except if it’s said at Church. Within Christianity Salvation has become synonymous with Eternal Life. Salvation means that if I believe, one day I will go to Heaven. Yet, should Salvation always equate to being rescued to Heaven?

There are many places in the Scriptures that Salvation is past, present, and future to the author or reader. One tricky example is Romans 13:11 the Apostle Paul writes,  “our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed?” Was Paul saying that he was not “saved” yet?

Or take for instance Luke 19:9. Jesus said Salvation had come to Zacchaeus’ house that day. Does this mean Zacchaeus died and entered Heaven that day?

“In the Old Testament, God’s acts delivering the people from hunger, bondage, and other difficulties are usually called ‘saving’ acts, and Yahweh is repeatedly praised as the Savior of Israel.  In the New Testament, ‘salvation’ may mean either healing or deliverance from sin-and sometimes both.  Thus, salvation has to do, not only with one’s eternal destiny, but with everything that stands in the way of God’s purposes of communion with creation-and specifically with the human creature.  Thus salvation includes both justification and sanctification.

In the Greco-Roman world in which Christianity was born, there were many religions offering ‘salvation.’  Most of these understood salvation mainly or exclusively as life after death, and often combined these notions of salvation with the ideal of escaping from the material world. Given that context, it is not surprising that quite often Christians lost the fuller notion of salvation that appeared in their Scriptures, and came to think of salvation merely as admission into heaven-sometimes even seeing such admission as an escape from this physical world.  Perhaps the most notable development in soteriology [the Study of the Doctrine of Salvation] in recent decades has been the recovery of the wider notion of salvation as including, not only salvation from death and eternal damnation, but also freedom from all sorts of oppression and injustice.  Salvation, in its fuller sense, certainly includes eternal life in the presence of God; but it also includes the process of sanctification, whereby we are brought greater communion with God; and it includes also the destruction of all the powers of evil that stand between God’s purposes and present order of creation.”

-Justo L. Gonzalez, Essential Theological Terms. pg 162-163

Salvation cannot be understood in reference to one particular saving act of God. Jesus has rescued us from many things, and will one day rescue, redeem, and renew us and creation. The one unifying aspect of Salvation throughout the Scriptures is that God does the saving apart from the help or interference of man.

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Spiritual Milk? Do you get enough? Has it changed?

The writer of Hebrews lists several key items and labels them “Elementary Teachings.” He says of points listed that they are “spiritual milk,” and that his Christian audience should be growing up and feasting “spiritual meat.”

Here are the points of understanding that the writer labels “milk”:

  • Repentance from acts that lead to death.
  • Faith in God.
  • Instruction about baptisms.
  • The laying on of hands.
  • The resurrection of the Dead.
  • Eternal Judgment.

(Hebrews 6:1-3)

Some of the items on this list are understandable as “milk.” Repentance and faith in God are the introductory elements to the Christian life. However as one examines the other items on the list unanimous consent isn’t a given. For some these points might be areas of contention between denominational communities. For many others there might a complete and genuine ignorance as to understanding of these issues. To this ladder point I write to address.

The Christian church has failed on many levels to educate its people. At one point Christians were at the forefront of community education. Yet our ranking has dropped. Many churches are “producing” dumb Christians. I am not an advocate that every Christian needs a seminary education. However, I do believe that the community of believers need to taught more than many of them get in the Sunday morning situational/behavioral sermon. Our lives are shaped and flow out of our understanding of who God is. If our view of God is shallow than our lives are build on a shallow footing and any powerful event may have the ability to shake us from beliefs.

It also seems as though this list has shifted today from what it was. The elementary teachings of the church ages past are not consistent with the elementary teachings of the church modern. I have debated my self, wondering if this is due to contextualization or if there is a misrepresentation of what truly is an “elementary teaching.”

Two of the most common substitutions on this list are the teaching of Creation, and the Rapture. In many circles these have become the benchmark doctrines for new believers. Evolution is only equaled by some to Satanism, and the teaching of the resurrection of dead has been surpassed by the Hollywood images of floating in clouds in some mysterious Rapture.

I want to hear your opinion on the issue. Think back for me what was the most common and frequent teaching you remember or hear to this day in church?

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The Missinglink Between Nonviolence and the Book of Revelation…

rapture exposed

So I just finished Barbara R. Rossing Book The Rapture Exposed. WOW! I’m not usually one to revert to such vague expressions of excitement, but her book answered so many questions! In one of my early post I refer readers to investigate the possibility that the “Rapture” is a heretical teaching. However, in my own quest these sources only served as a accelerant in my quest for truth in this subject. So I stumbled across Rossing book and was curious in a very cautious way. Nonetheless, I decided read the book. I was worried the book would be judgmental and condescending in tone, authors who stand-alone in the wilderness often have this attitude. Yet, Rossing did not. Her book is very level headed and inviting. She does, admittedly direct many of her attacks against rapture enthusiasts Hal Linsey and Tim Layhe. In all fairness though they have set themselves up as the gurus of Bible Prophecy and End Times Chorology.

Not to give too much away, because I recommend the book to all, Rossing deals with the historical rise of dispensationalism beginning about 170 years ago with John Darby, and flourishing with the popularity of the Scottfeild Reference Bible. Rapture theology now permeates American Cuture, even our politics. But what I love about her book is that she doesn’t waste extensive time arguing the historical rise of dispensationalism, rather deals with Rapture theology head on, biblically, theologically, and its effects of culture and society. (Her epilogue debunks several of these “rapture” passage.) Yet, for me this book was much more than a theology against the Rapture. Rossings book was a theology for a complete and full unveiling of the character of God. One of the main points she affirms over and over again in her book, almost to the point of redundancy, is that revelation is a story of hope, where God comes to dwell with man on Earth amongst our pain and brokenness rather that snatching us always from reality.

Furthermore, as a pacifist, the book of revelation has always been a thorn in my theology against a violent militarist God who calls his people to war and kill evildoers. I can deal with the Old Testaments conquests, understanding the life and message of Jesus was inviting us to live in a new kingdom, the Kingdom of God. And as citizens of this new kingdom we are called to live under its rules, we are to live selflessly, peaceably, and worshiping God and loving others. The prophet Micah exclaims this new kingdom would be a place where its people took their instruments of war and turned them into instruments of cultivation and agriculture. And although the Kingdom of God is seen in tension between “already” here and “not yet” here we are invited citizens. Then, came the book of Revelation; this dark and gloomy, blood and guts, sadistic steamroller vision of God who comes to trample of the heads of the unrighteous in warlike fashion.

I had previously dealt with this issue by remarking God can do what ever he wants, but he has called us to live peaceable lives… This however, as true as it may be, stood in as a contradiction to a God who had previously came and suffered in nonviolent resistance. Why would the he in round two come back swinging?

This is what surprised me most about Rossing book. Rossing exposed the error in traditional views of the Book of Revelation. Revelation was not a God who is coming back to wage war with violence, but a God who has already won the war when the Lamb of God was slaying.  Moreover, as followers we “conquer only by [our] testimony and faithfulness—not by making war or killing.”(pg 121) Rossing argues that the John paints a picture in revelation of a God who acts in every way contrary to the Roman militaristic way of life. The Kingdom of God is in fact upside down from the way the kingdom of this world operates. By submitting oneself self to death on the cross Jesus conquered the Kingdom of this world and made a public spectacle out of it.  His death mocked the system of this world and stripped it of its power.

Revelation is not about a militaristic God, but a nonviolent God who loves the world, even enough to die for us and dwell among us forever.

Thank you so much Rossing. I read your book in two days… I could not put it down!

For everyone else out there please pick up the book and read it, even if you disagree with everything I have just said. If nothing else you’ll get a glimpse into the oppositions camp.

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