The previous article dealt with the two rival seeds that contend with one another throughout time until the culmination of the salvation of humankind. We are now in the fourth installment of this series and yet we’ve never actually stopped to ask the question: What is our salvation?
Of what does the salvation of Mankind consist? If you think the answer is obvious, then think again. I did, and I did. I can assure you that after giving this much thought, I’ve realized it is perhaps the single most misunderstood and misconstrued of all the basic teachings of Christianity.
If you were to ask your average Protestant that question, you’d likely hear that salvation means going to heaven if you are good. Conversely, if you are bad, you go to Hell. If you ask a Catholic, you’ll get a similar answer, with the addendum that if you’re not good enough to merit heaven, but not bad enough to deserve condemnation in Hell, you go to Purgatory, which is a sort of clearing house, like Ellis Island was back in the day.
For these groups, resurrection is of the body, because the soul never dies, being immortal and all.[i] Of course, belief in an immortal soul means that there is no hope for, nor reward of, everlasting life, since by definition, an immortal soul is everlasting. It seems that for the majority of those in Christendom, salvation—as the real estate community would say—is all about “location, location, location”. This also means that for the bulk of those professing to be Christians, this planet is little more than a proving ground; a temporary residence in which we are tested and refined before going to our eternal reward in heaven or our eternal damnation in Hell.
Ignoring the fact that there is no sound Scriptural basis for this theology, some disregard it on a purely logical basis. They reason that if the earth is a proving ground to qualify us for a heavenly reward, why did God create the angels directly as spirit beings? Don’t they have to be tested too? If not, then why us? Why create physical beings if what you’re looking for, if what you want to end up with, are spiritual ones? Seems like a waste of effort. Also, why would a loving God willfully subject innocent beings to such suffering? If the earth is for testing and refining, then man wasn’t given a choice. He was created to suffer. This doesn’t fit with what 1 John 4:7-10 tells us about God.
Finally, and most damning of all, why did God create Hell? After all, none of us asked to be created. Before we each came into being, we were nothing, non-existent. So God’s deal is essentially, “Either you love me and I’ll take you to heaven, or you reject me, and I’ll torture you forever.” We don’t get the chance to simply return to what we had prior to existence; no chance to return to the nothingness from which we came if we don’t want to take the deal. No, it is either obey God and live, or reject God and be tortured forever and ever.
This is what we might call Godfather theology: “God’s going to make us an offer we can’t refuse.”
Little wonder that a growing number of humans are turning to atheism or agnosticism. Church teachings, rather than reflect the logical rationale of science, expose their true foundation in the mythologies of ancient peoples.
Over my lifetime, I have had lengthy discussions with people of all the major and many of the minor faiths in the world, both Christian and non-Christian. I have yet to find one that is completely in line with what the Bible teaches. This should not surprise us. The Devil does not want Christians to understand the true nature of salvation. However, his many competing groups have the problem of any organization with a product to sell. (2 Corinthians 11:14, 15) What each one has to offer the consumer has to differ from its competitors; otherwise, why would people switch? This is product branding 101.
The problem all these religions face is that the real hope for salvation is not the possession of any organized religion. It is like the manna that fell from the sky in the wilderness of Sinai; there for all to pick up at will. Basically, organized religion is trying to sell food to people who are surrounded by it, all for free. Religionists understand that they cannot control people unless they control their food supply, so they proclaim themselves the “faithful and discreet slave” of Matthew 24:45-47, the exclusive food purveyor of the flock of God, and hope that nobody notices they are free to get the food themselves. Unfortunately, this strategy has worked for hundreds of years and continues to do so.
Well, on this site, no one is trying to govern or rule another. Here we just want to understand the Bible. Here, the only one in charge is Jesus. When you have the best, who needs all the rest!
So let us look at the Bible together and see what we can come up with, shall we?
Back to Basics
As a starting point, let us agree that our salvation is the restoration of what was lost in Eden. If we hadn’t lost it, whatever it was, we wouldn’t need to be saved. That seems logical. Therefore, if we can properly understand what was lost back then, we’ll know what we have to get back to be saved.
We know that Adam was created by God in His image and likeness. Adam was God’s son, part of God’s universal family. (Ge 1:26; Lu 3:38) The Scriptures also reveal that the animals were also created by God but were not made in his image nor likeness. The Bible never refers to the animals as God’s children. They are His creation only, whereas humans are both His creation and His children. Angels are also spoken of as God’s sons. (Job 38:7)
Children inherit from a father. God’s children inherit from their heavenly Father, which means they inherit, among other things, everlasting life. Animals are not God’s children, so they do not inherit from God. Thus animals die naturally. All God’s creation, whether part of his family or not, are subject to Him. Therefore, we can say without fear of contradiction that Jehovah is the universal sovereign.
Let’s reiterate: Everything that exists is the creation of God. He is the Sovereign Lord of all creation. A small part of his creation are also considered to be His children, God’s family. As is the case with a father and children, God’s children are fashioned in his image and likeness. As children, they inherit from Him. Only members of God’s family inherit and thus only family members can inherit the life that God has: everlasting life.
Along the way, some of God’s angelic sons as well as His two original human children rebelled. This did not mean God ceased being their sovereign. All creation continues subject to Him. For example, long after his rebellion, Satan was still subject to God’s will. (See Job 1:11, 12) While given considerable latitude, rebellious creation was never completely free to do whatever it wanted. Jehovah, as Sovereign Lord, still set the limits within which both humans and demons could function. When those limits were exceeded, there were consequences, such as the destruction of the world of Mankind in the Flood, or the localized destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, or the humbling of one man, such as King Nebuchadnezzar of the Babylonians. (Ge 6:1-3; 18:20; Da 4:29-35; Jude 6, 7)
Given that the governmental relationship of God over Man continued to exist after Adam sinned, we can conclude that the relationship that Adam lost was not that of Sovereign/Subject. What he lost was a familial relationship, that of a father with his children. Adam was cast out of Eden, the family home that Jehovah had prepared for the first humans. He was disinherited. Since only God’s children can inherit God’s things, including everlasting life, Adam lost out on his inheritance. Thus, he became just another creation of God like the animals.
“for there is an outcome for humans and an outcome for animals; they all have the same outcome. As the one dies, so the other dies; and they all have but one spirit. So man has no superiority over animals, for everything is futile.” (Ec 3:19)
If man is made in God’s image and likeness, and is part of God’s family, and inherits everlasting life, how can it be said that “man has no superiority over the animals”? It cannot. Therefore, the writer of Ecclesiastes is speaking of ‘fallen Man’. Burdened with sin, disinherited from God’s family, humans truly are no better than animals. As the one dies, so the other dies.
The Role of Sin
This helps us to put the role of sin into perspective. None of us chose to sin initially, but we were born into it as the Bible says:
“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, so also death was passed on to all men, because all sinned.” – Romans 5:12 BSB[ii]
Sin is our inheritance from Adam, by being genetically descended from him. It’s about family and our family inherits from our father Adam; but the chain of inheritance stops with him, because he was thrown out of the family of God. Thus we are all orphans. We are still God’s creation, but like the animals, we are no longer his sons.
How do we get to live forever? Stop sinning? That is simply beyond us, but even if it were not, to concentrate on sin is to miss the bigger issue, the real issue.
To better understand the real issue concerning our salvation, we should take one last look at what Adam had before he rejected God as his Father.
Adam walked and talked with God apparently on a regular basis. (Ge 3:8) This relationship appears to have had more in common with a Father and son than with a King and his subject. Jehovah treated the first human pair as his children, not his servants. What need does God have of servants? God is love, and his love is expressed via the family arrangement. There are families in heaven just as there are families on earth. (Eph 3:15) A good human father or mother will put the life of their child first, even to the point of sacrificing their own. We are made in God’s image and so, even while sinful, we portray a glimmer of the infinite love God has for his own children.
The relationship that Adam and Eve had with their Father, Jehovah God, was to be ours as well. That is part of the inheritance that awaits us. It is part of our salvation.
God’s Love Opens the Way Back
Until Christ came, faithful men could not rightfully consider Jehovah as their personal Father in more than a metaphorical sense. He might be referred to as the Father of the nation of Israel, but apparently no one back then thought of him as a personal father, the way Christians do. Thus, we will find no prayer offered in the pre-Christian Scriptures (the Old Testament) wherein a faithful servant of God addresses Him as Father. The terms used refer to him Lord in a superlative sense (The NWT often translates this as “Sovereign Lord”.) or as Almighty God, or other terms that emphasize his power, lordship, and glory. Faithful men of old—the patriarchs, kings, and prophets—did not consider themselves to be children of God, but only aspired to be His servants. King David went so far as to refer to himself as the “son of [Jehovah’s] slave girl.” (Ps 86:16)
All that changed with Christ, and it was a bone of contention with his opposers. When he called God his Father, they considered it blasphemy and wanted to stone him on the spot.
“. . .But he answered them: “My Father has kept working until now, and I keep working.” 18 This is why the Jews began seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath but he was also calling God his own Father, making himself equal to God.” (Joh 5:17, 18 NWT)
So when Jesus taught his followers to pray, “Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified…” we was speaking heresy to the Jewish leaders. Yet he spoke this fearlessly because he was imparting a vital truth. Eternal life is something that is inherited. In other words, if God is not your Father, you don’t get to live forever. It is as simple as that. The idea that we can live forever only as servants of God, or even friends of God, is not the good news that Jesus declared.
(The opposition Jesus and his followers experienced when they claimed to be children of God is ironically not a dead issue. For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses will often be suspicious of a fellow Witness should he or she claim to be an adopted child of God.)
Jesus is our savior, and he saves by opening up the way for us to return to the family of God.
“However, to all who did receive him, he gave authority to become God’s children, because they were exercising faith in his name.” (Joh 1:12 NWT)
The importance of the family relationship in our salvation is driven home by the fact that Jesus is often called, “the Son of Man.” He saves us by becoming part of the family of Mankind. Family saves family. (More on this later.)
That salvation is all about family can be seen by scanning these Bible passages:
“Are they not all spirits for holy service, sent out to minister for those who are going to inherit salvation?” (Heb 1:14)
“Happy are the mild-tempered, since they will inherit the earth.” (Mt 5:5)
“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit everlasting life.” (Mt 19:29)
“Then the King will say to those on his right: ‘Come, you who have been blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the world.’” (Mt 25:34)
“As he was going on his way, a man ran up and fell on his knees before him and put the question to him: “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit everlasting life?”” (Mr 10:17)
“so that after being declared righteous through the undeserved kindness of that one, we might become heirs according to a hope of everlasting life.” (Tit 3:7)
“Now because you are sons, God has sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, and it cries out: “Abba, Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave but a son; and if a son, then you are also an heir through God.” (Ga 4:6, 7)
“which is a token in advance of our inheritance, for the purpose of releasing God’s own possession by a ransom, to his glorious praise.” (Eph 1:14)
“He has enlightened the eyes of your heart, so that you may know to what hope he called you, what glorious riches he holds as an inheritance for the holy ones,” (Eph 1:18)
“for you know that it is from Jehovah you will receive the inheritance as a reward. Slave for the Master, Christ.” (Col 3:24)
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it is sufficient to prove the point that our salvation comes to us by way of inheritance—children inheriting from a Father.
The Children of God
The way back into God’s family is through Jesus. The ransom has opened the door to our reconciliation with God, restoring us to his family. Yet, it gets a little more complicated than that. The ransom is applied in two ways: There are the children of God and the children of Jesus. We will look at the children of God first.
As we saw at John 1:12, the children of God come into being by virtue of putting faith in the name of Jesus. This is much more difficult than it might seem at first glance. In fact, very few accomplish this.
“But when the Son of man comes, shall he indeed find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8 DBT[iii])
It seems safe to say that we’ve all heard the complaint that if there really is a God, why doesn’t He just show himself and be done with it? Many feel that this would be the solution to all the world’s problems; but such a view is simplistic, ignoring the nature of free will as revealed by the facts of history.
For example, Jehovah is visible to the angels and yet many followed the Devil in his course of rebellion. So believing in God’s existence didn’t help them remain righteous. (James 2:19)
The Israelites in Egypt bore witness to ten astonishing manifestations of God’s power after which they saw the Red Sea part allowing them to escape on dry ground, only to close up later, swallowing their enemies. Yet, within days they rejected God and began to worship the Golden Calf. After doing away with that rebellious faction, Jehovah told the remaining people to take possession of the land of Canaan. Again, rather than take courage based on what they’d just seen of God’s power to save, they gave way to fear and disobeyed. As a result, they were punished by wandering in the wilderness for forty years until all the able-bodied men of that generation died off.
From this, we can discern that there is a difference between belief and faith. Nevertheless, God knows us and remembers we are dust. (Job 10:9) So even men and women like those wandering Israelites will have the opportunity to become reconciled with God. Nevertheless, they will need more than another visible manifestation of diving power to put faith in him. That being said, they will still get their visible evidence. (1 Thessalonians 2:8; Revelation 1:7)
So there are those who walk by faith and those who walk by sight. Two groups. Yet the opportunity for salvation is made available to both because God is love. Those who walk by faith get to be called the children of God. As for the second group, they will have to opportunity to become children of Jesus.
John 5:28, 29 speaks of these two groups.
“Do not be amazed at this, for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear His voice 29and come out—those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.” (John 5:28, 29 BSB)
Jesus refers to the type of resurrection each group experiences, whereas Paul speaks of the state or status of each group upon resurrection.
“And I have a hope in God, which these men themselves also accept, that there is going to be a resurrection, both of the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Acts 24:15 HCSB[iv])
The righteous are resurrected first. They inherit everlasting life and inherit a Kingdom that has been prepared for them since the beginning of human procreation. These rule as kings and priests for 1,000 years. They are the children of God. However, they are not children of Jesus. They become his brothers, because they are heirs alongside the Son of Man. (Re 20:4-6)
Then the King will say to those on his right: “Come, you who have been blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the world.” (Mt 25:34)
For all who are led by God’s spirit are indeed God’s sons. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery causing fear again, but you received a spirit of adoption as sons, by which spirit we cry out: “Abba, Father!” 16 The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 If, then, we are children, we are also heirs—heirs indeed of God, but joint heirs with Christ—provided we suffer together so that we may also be glorified together. (Ro 8:14-17)
You will, of course, notice that we are still speaking of ‘heirs’ and ‘inheritance’. Even though a Kingdom or government is referred to here, it doesn’t stop being about family. As Revelation 20:4-6 demonstrates, the lifespan of this Kingdom is finite. It has a purpose, and once accomplished, it will be replaced by the arrangement God is purposed from the start: A family of human children.
Let us not think like physical men. The kingdom these children of God inherit is not as it would be were men involved. They are not awarded great power so that they can lord it over others and be waited on hand and foot. We have not seen this type of kingdom before. This is the Kingdom of God and God is love, so this is a kingdom based on love.
“Beloved ones, let us continue loving one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born from God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love has not come to know God, because God is love. 9 By this the love of God was revealed in our case, that God sent his only-begotten Son into the world so that we might gain life through him.” (1Jo 4:7-9 NWT)
What a wealth of meaning there is to be found in these few verses. “Love is from God.” He is the source of all love. If we do not love, we cannot be born from God; we cannot be his children. We cannot even know him if we do not love.
Jehovah will not tolerate anyone in his kingdom who is not motivated by love. There can be no corruption in His Kingdom. That is why those who make up the kings and priests alongside Jesus must be thoroughly tested as their Master was. (He 12:1-3; Mt 10:38, 39)
These ones are able to sacrifice everything for the hope before them, though they have scant evidence upon which to base this hope. While now these have hope, faith and love, when their reward is realized, they will not need the first two, but will continue to need love. (1 Co 13:13; Ro 8:24, 25)
The Children of Jesus
Isaiah 9:6 refers to Jesus as the Eternal Father. Paul told the Corinthians that “‘The first man Adam became a living soul.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” (1 Co 15:45) John tells us that, “For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted also to the Son to have life in himself.” (John 5:26)
Jesus has been given “life in himself”. He is a “life-giving spirit”. He is the “Eternal Father”. Humans die because they inherit sin from their forefather, Adam. The family lineage stops there, since Adam was disinherited and could no longer inherit from the heavenly Father. If humans could switch families, if they could be adopted into a new family under the lineage of Jesus who can still claim Jehovah as his Father, then the chain of inheritance opens up, and they can again inherit everlasting life. They become children of God by virtue of having Jesus as their “Eternal Father”.
At Genesis 3:15, we learn that the woman’s seed wars with the seed or offspring of the Serpent. Both the first and the last Adam can claim Jehovah as their direct Father. The last Adam, by virtue of being born of a woman in the lineage of the first woman can also claim his place in the family of man. Being part of the human family gives him the right to adopt human children. Being a Son of God gives him the right to replace Adam as the head of the entire family of Mankind.
Jesus, like his Father, will not force adoption upon anyone. The law of free will means that we must freely choose to accept what is offered without coercion or manipulation.
The Devil doesn’t play by those rules, however. Over the centuries, millions have had their minds warped by suffering, corruption, abuse, and pain. Their thinking ability has been clouded by prejudice, lies, ignorance and misinformation. Coercion and peer pressure have been applied from infancy to shape their thinking.
In his infinite wisdom, the Father has determined that the children of God under Christ will be used to clear away all the detritus of centuries of corrupt human rule, so that humans can have their first real chance at becoming reconciled with their heavenly Father.
Some of this is revealed in this passage from Romans chapter 8:
18For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Ro 8:18-25 ESV[v])
Humans who are alienated from the family of God are, as we’ve just seen, like the beasts. They are creation, not family. They groan in their bondage, but yearn for the freedom that will come with the manifestation of the children of God. Finally, by means of the Kingdom under Christ, these sons of God will act as both kings to rule and priests to mediate and heal. Humanity will be cleansed and come to know the “freedom of the glory of the children of God”.
Family heals family. Jehovah keeps the means of salvation all within the family of man. When the Kingdom of God has accomplished its purpose, humanity will not be under a government as subjects of a King, but instead will be restored to a family with God as Father. He will rule, but as a Father rules. At that wondrous time, God will truly become all things to everyone.
“But when all things will have been subjected to him, then the Son himself will also subject himself to the One who subjected all things to him, that God may be all things to everyone.” – 1Co 15:28
So, if we are to define our salvation in a single sentence, it is about becoming once again part of the family of God.
For more on this, see the next article in this series: The Children of God.
[i] The Bible doesn’t teach the immortality of the human soul. This teaching has its origins in Greek mythology.
[ii] Berean Study Bible
[iii] Darby Bible Translation
[iv] Holman Christian Standard Bible
[v] English Standard Version