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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Salvation: or How to be Saved?

SALVATION: or How To Be Saved?

Before delving into the “ins and outs” of the meaning of the word “salvation”, let me state upfront exactly what salvation is at this current moment in time and likewise for the past two thousand years since the advent of Jesus Christ.

Since the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, to be saved or obtain salvation is to be a functional practicing citizen of the Kingdom of God.  In other words, a person is either called as an elect member of the Kingdom or that person is not.  People like to believe they make the decision to follow Jesus but a citizen of the Kingdom has to be called by God.  Jesus explained this truth (Matthew 22:14 & John 6:44) and Paul later restated it.

Matthew 22:14 KJV  For many are called, but few are chosen.

John 6:44-45 NET  No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.  (45)  It is written in the prophets, 'And they will all be taught by God.' (Is 54:13) Everyone who hears and learns from the Father comes to me.

Romans 8:28-30 NET  And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose,  (29)  because those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.  (30)  And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified.

2 Timothy 1:9 KJV  Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,

Jesus specifically says in John 6:44 that no one can come to Him unless God the Father draws or calls that person.  Roman 8:29 and 2 Tim 1:9 states this calling occurred before the world began and this calling was for His specific purpose and grace.

Those Who Died Before the Advent of Jesus
On the surface, it would appear that the billions who died prior to the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ could not be called by God to follow Him and the principles of the Kingdom of God.  However, the apostle Peter gives the answer to the problem that most of us have missed.

At the moment of His death, as His earthly body was still hanging on the cross, Jesus was made alive in the Spirit.  At this time, He entered the dimension of the dead (some refer to it as Hades, the grave, or Hell) and preached the Gospel of the Kingdom to the dead souls (or spirits).  In 1 Peter 4:6 it is implied the dead would be able to consider the spiritual implications of God’s standards.

1 Peter 3:18-19 KJV  For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:  (19)  By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;

1 Peter 4:6 NET  Now it was for this very purpose that the gospel was preached to those who are now dead, so that though they were judged in the flesh by human standards they may live spiritually by God's standards.

It may appear that the theology of being called by God versus other scripture verses contradict each other.  The statement consisting of “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” seems to be a more simplistic concept than the “citizen of the Kingdom of God” as outlined above.  The jailor featured in Acts 16:30 would have been called by the Holy Spirit according to the scriptures.  In the jailor’s situation the concept of believing could possibly include the Gospel and a submission of his services to the Kingdom of God.  There is much more to salvation than just claiming to believe.

Acts 16:30-31 KJV  And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?  (31)  And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

Romans 10:13 basically states that one only needs to call on the name of the Lord to be saved which is a variant of believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.  As an example, suppose someone said, “Hey Lord, I’m calling on Your Name, am I saved now?”  This statement will appear ridiculous to most people.  There is apparently a deeper meaning and understanding than just these particular words in 10:13 since other scriptures insist on a deeper meaning.  Unfortunately, many people only read one and two lines of scripture and believe they have the complete answer to the salvation issue.

Romans 10:13 KJV  For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Paul adds more detail to the process in Titus 3:5 by adding the mercy of God, a regeneration of our spirit, and the receiving of a token of the Holy Spirit.

Titus 3:5 KJV  Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

There are at least two examples of demons recognizing the identity of Jesus and it could be said they are calling the name of the Lord but not necessarily “calling ON” the name.

James 2:19 NET  You believe that God is one; well and good. Even the demons believe that — and tremble with fear.

Matthew 8:29 NET  They cried out, "Son of God, leave us alone! Have you come here to torment us before the time?"

The familiar Ephesians 2:8 verse gives much more depth and detail to the salvation experience issue.  One is saved by the grace of God through faith.  However that faith is not your personal invention but is given to you by God as a gift.

Ephesians 2:8 KJV  For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

The book of James has been stigmatized by some theologians for its assertion that works are a sign of salvation.  It has been said that Martin Luther thought the book should be omitted from the New Testament.

Ephesians 2:8-10 KJV  For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  (9)  Not of works, lest any man should boast.  (10)  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Of course, James was saying that a Kingdom citizen would be compelled by the Holy Spirit to perform good works as Jesus taught that principle.  It appears some people of his time were taking Paul’s phrase “you have been saved by grace and not by works” and claiming that good works were not necessary.

Dictionary Definition of “Saved”
The word “saved” is used 57 times in the KJV New Testament.  Below is a Greek dictionary definition.  Always keep in mind that Greek dictionaries are influenced by the opinions and theology of the authors.  There is no longer a 1st century Greek speaking individual to validate any definition.

Word Study Dictionary:  sōzō  sode'-zo  (saved)
Specifically of salvation from eternal death, sin, and the punishment and misery consequent to sin. To save, and (by implication), to give eternal life. Especially of Christ as the Savior.

The basic meaning of the verb sṓzō is to rescue from peril, to protect, keep alive. Sṓzō involves the preservation of life, either physical or spiritual.

Certain ministers, particularly Baptist preachers, will often exclaim that “once saved – always saved”.  There is a certain amount of truth in that statement but first it must be explained exactly what a saved person is saved from. 

Several early Church Fathers, the most prominent being Origen, believed in “universal reconciliation”, meaning all creation will eventually be conformed to the Glory of God.  Augustin did away with universal reconciliation and began the theology of eternal death and suffering within the Lake of Fire.  The eternal fiery hell theory has been proclaimed since Augustin and is today used as a weapon against the unsaved i.e. “believe in Jesus Christ or burn in hell forever”.

Two Resurrections
To my knowledge, the Bible teaches two resurrections.  The first will occur any day now (NO, there will not be a tribulation period as described by Tim LaHaye, although things are becoming somewhat lawless at the present) and the second will take place at the end of the thousand year Millennial Kingdom and is called the Great White Throne Judgement.

The first resurrection, at the return of Jesus Christ, will only include the elect overcomers of all past ages and a few still alive (”many as called but few are chosen”).  At His return, Jesus will receive His Jacob inheritance which is the fruitfulness promise first given to Abraham, then Isaac, Jacob, and finally Ephraim and Manasseh (who are mostly living in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, USA, Great Britain, and parts of Europe). 

An overcomer is essentially a person who forgives and lives by the principles and standards of the Jubilee which is forgiveness of all things.  It is a person living the principles of the Kingdom of God (i.e. the laws and standards of Jesus Christ).  It is one who is coming into a state of maturity in Him.  An Overcomer is putting on His Father’s mind and coming into agreement with Him.  He is learning to say “Amen” to all that God does, bearing witness to Him in all things, and not disagreeing with Him.  In essence an Overcomer is one who is coming to understand the Father and His ways.

All who are called are most likely saved in some manner, but Jesus stated that “many are called, but few are chosen”.

Matthew 22:14 KJV  For many are called, but few are chosen.

The Parable of the Great Banquet (Luke 14:16-24) tells the story of a certain man (Jesus) who prepared a great banquet (the Millennial Reign or Kingdom of God) and invited (or called) many people.  A servant of the man was sent to inform the called individuals that the great banquet was ready.  However, each invited (called) guest gave the servant some lame excuse and said they would not be able to attend.

This certain man became irate at this news and told his servant, Go out quickly to the streets and alleys of the city, and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.  After performing this task the servant replied, “Sir, what you instructed has been done, and there is still room”.  So then the certain man said to his servant, “Go out to the highways and country roads and urge people to come in, so that my house will be filled.

Luke 14:24 NET  For I tell you, not one of those individuals who were invited will taste my banquet!

Again, many are called, but few are chosen.

The chosen few will experience the first resurrection.  This group is referred to as the elect or the overcomers.  The remainder of the dead from Adam through the Millennium, which is the Kingdom of God, will be resurrected at the end of the 1000 years.

Like John the Baptist, Jesus preached the coming of the Kingdom of God.  It is my belief this Kingdom and the Millennial Reign are the same.  Only the dead overcomers and a few living overcomers will be resurrected at the return of Jesus to be teachers, administrators, and care takers of the Kingdom of God under the authority of the King  Jesus Christ. 

The second resurrection will consist of two groups of people.  The somewhat righteous individuals who have undergone a salvation experience of some type will represent the sheep on one side and the lawless individuals with no salvation experience will represent the goats on the other side.  Note in John 5:28 that all (i.e. everyone) in the graves (i.e. the dead - no live people mentioned) will come forth in a resurrection.  Those that have done good (the saved) will be judged out of the “book of life” (Revelation 20:12) and those that have done evil will be judged out of other books which are most likely the books of the Law of God.

John 5:28-29 KJV  Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,  (29)  And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

Revelation 20:12 KJV  And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

A few people mistakenly claim there are three resurrections but they are confusing the two groups (sheep and goats) of the second resurrection as two separate events.

The Harvests
The barley is the first harvest of the growing season.  The barley is the first fruits and is represented by the first resurrection consisting of the elect overcomers.  The second harvest is wheat.  Jesus’ teaching or parable of the wheat and tares (Matthew 13:24-30) represents the second resurrection.  The tares are not removed until the harvest is occurring when they are easily recognizable and cam then be bound together and burned in the fire.  The wheat is then threshed until it consists of only wheat seeds. 

At the White Throne Judgment the threshed wheat receives minor discipline to make them pure while the tares will be burned by the refining and purifying judgment of God which is metaphorically described as the fire of God in the scriptures and as the Lake of Fire in the last chapters of the Revelation.

Luke 12:49 NET  "I have come to bring fire on the earth — and how I wish it were already kindled!

Matthew 25:31-34, 41 KJV  When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:  (32)  And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats:  (33)  And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.  (34)  Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:   (41)  Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting (aionios) fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

Aionios is considered by many to be a mistranslation that should be “for an age”.  More detail for be given later in a section entitled Aionios.

In another story or parable, Jesus referred to the second resurrection and metaphorically describes the kind or type of punishment (or judgement by the fire of God) various levels of the unlawful will receive.  The evil slave will be metaphorically cut in two and assigned a place with the unfaithful (perhaps atheists, agnostics, Muslims, Kabbalist Jews, Luciferians, or Satanists).  A saved individual who was aware of the law but didn’t perform it will receive a severe beating.  (Note that a beating was a type of punishment for wrongdoers in the Mosaic Law).  Those unaware of the Law (such as perhaps an Amazon Indian) but still performed a few unlawful acts will receive a light beating.  The more one knows of the Law and refuses to perform it the more severe the punishment in the judgment of the fire of God .

Luke 12:46-48 NET  then the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not foresee, and will cut him in two, and assign him a place with the unfaithful.  (47)  That servant who knew his master's will but did not get ready or do what his master asked will receive a severe beating.  (48)  But the one who did not know his master's will and did things worthy of punishment will receive a light beating. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required, and from the one who has been entrusted with much, even more will be asked.

I Never Knew You
An interesting and perhaps problematic scripture occurs in Matthew 7:21.  Many commentators have misunderstood these verses to indicate that very few individuals will be saved and be raptured to heaven.  Actually no one will be raptured to heaven and according to the universal reconciliation principle everyone will eventually be redeemed although it may take several thousands of years.

Again, the main preaching point of Jesus was the coming Kingdom of God (or Kingdom of Heaven as identified in the book of Matthew).  Most of the resurrection teaching of Jesus focused on the first resurrection with the second resurrection hinted at twice.  Paul almost entirely devoted his resurrection teaching to the first one with only a hint of the second which can be found in Acts – not his letters.

Acts 24:15 KJV  And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.

In verse 7:21 below, Jesus is referring to the overcomers of the first resurrection entering into the Kingdom of Heaven as a glorified entity.  Many others, who think they should have glorified bodies will be told they were called but not chosen.  They were Church people with a token of the Holy Spirit and apparently performed some good deeds perhaps because they were basically good people, but otherwise they were significant violators of the Law of God and were not deemed an overcomer.

Matthew 7:21-23 KJV  Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.  (22)  Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?  (23)  And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Everyone else alive at the return of Jesus will continue living as normal people within the Kingdom age.  Technological advancements will continue without the covering up and control of any government.  Many diseases and physical problems will be cured and lifespans will increase. 

It is often said by preachers: “being good will not save you” and “doing good works will not save you” and there may be some truth in those statements.  However, being good and doing good works will not place you in the first resurrection but it might place you on the side of the sheep and wheat at the second resurrection.  As noted in this article, “the one who did not know his master's will and did things worthy of punishment will receive a light beating” an individual caring for his fellow humans whether from ancient Africa or the jungles of South America will fare much better at the final judgment.  There is no wrong in doing right even if a person has never heard of the Laws of God.

The research that has been done to write this article has changed my understanding about salvation considerably.  There will eventually (soon I hope) come a time during the Millennial Kingdom where everyone will know and understand the Laws of God.  Most people will fervently attempt to live the standards of the Kingdom of God.  However, many will reject it in their heart because there will be a rebellion at the end of the Millennium by a large group called God and Magog.

Revelation 20:7-9 NET  Now when the thousand years are finished, Satan will be released from his prison  (8)  and will go out to deceive the nations at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to bring them together for the battle. They are as numerous as the grains of sand in the sea.  (9)  They went up on the broad plain of the earth and encircled the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and devoured them completely.

Some commentators claim that Ezekiel 38 and 39 is the same invading group as the one listed in Revelation 20:8 and the two prophecies are the same.  The Gog and Magog invasion of Ezekiel has already been fulfilled by the converted Khazarian Jews from Russia (along with Edomites and Persian Jews) who invaded and destroyed the Palestinians of Canaan and declared an unlawful state of Israel in 1948 (and they continue to destroy the Palestinians).  They are of the linage of Japheth and Japheth’s descendant named Ashkenaz.  Thus they are called Ashkenazi Jews.  It may be that the Gog and Magog uprising toward the end of the Millennium are the descendants of Ashkenazi Khazarian Jews, although they will not call themselves Jews during the Kingdom of God era.  It is said that Jerusalem will be destroyed prior to the return of Jesus Christ which will fulfill the destruction of the invaders as described in the Ezekiel prophecy in chapters 38 and 39.

Aion or Aionios
The doctrine of eternal punishment rests on the meaning of two Greek words: the noun aion (αιων) and its adjective aionios (αιωνιος). The noun aion is used in several different ways in the New Testament. The way that concerns us here is its use in phrases like eis ton aiona (εις τον αιωνα - literally to the eon) and eis aionas aionon (εις αιωνας αιωνων - literally to eons of eons). In traditional translations these phrases are translated as “for ever” and “for ever and ever”.  For example, “The smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever” (Revelation 14: 10-11). The adjective aionios has traditionally been translated eternal or everlasting. We find both the positive phrases eternal life, eternal inheritance etc and the negative phrases eternal fire, eternal judgment, eternal destruction (lostness) and eternal punishment.

Several phrases in both the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament Hebrew) and the New Testament show that often eis ton aiona cannot be translated for ever and actually be considered sensible.

He shall be your servant for ever' (Deut 15: 17).
Will you take him as a slave for ever?' (Job 41: 4).
That he may appear before the Lord and stay there for ever' (1 Sam 1: 22).
Its smoke shall go up for ever' (Is 34: 10).
The earth with her bars was about me for ever' (Jonah 2: 6).

No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you' (Mat 21: 19).
You will never (aion) wash my feet' (John 13: 8).
I will never eat meat again' (1 Cor 8: 13).

All these phrases are clearly limited in time. Many of them imply for life.
The following phrases in the New Testament show that aionios cannot always be translated eternal:

The mystery hidden for long ages past' literally 'hidden to aionios times' (Rom 16:25).
Before the beginning of time' literally 'before aionios times' (2 Tim 1: 9 and Titus 1: 2).

The Greek word aionios is also used to translate this Hebrew word olam in the Septuagint.  The Hebrew noun olam does not mean an age. Rather it comes from a verb root alam meaning to hide. The word olam implies hidden time. The phrase to olam looks forward as far as can be seen to the future time horizon, beyond which everything is hidden. The phrase from olam looks backward as far as can be seen to the past time horizon, beyond which everything is hidden.

When we look at the New Testament we find that the noun aion and the adjective aionios are used in exactly the same way. They look backwards or forwards to the time horizon, beyond which we cannot see. These words refer to the hidden spiritual realm, which is before, throughout and after time.

The things of God belong to a realm that is beyond time (or without time).  Eternal life, or we could say, aeonian life does not simply mean life that goes on for ever and ever. Rather it means spiritual life that is experienced in a dimension without time.  In a similar manner Aeonian judgment is not one that goes on forever as if God was counting time, rather it is a judgment that takes place in a spiritual dimension that is without time.

Lastly we will examine the phrase “eternal (aionios) judgement” in Hebrews 6: 2.  The root meaning of judgement is “separation”. The flesh must be separated from the spirit. It is a process that we should experience in this life. We should judge ourselves, if we do not want to be judged, and we must put to death the deeds of the flesh that we may walk in the spirit. If we are not willing for judgement now, it must come later.

Hebrews 6:1-2 KJV  Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,  (2)  Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.

The picture that now emerges from this section is not a fiery hell of unmitigated, unending torment.  Rather it is a place of judgement for correction (purifying the flesh from the spirit).  We should begin to visualize a loving Creator who will not be content with his created people until they are ultimately purged, purified, and cleansed of every sin.  He is taking infinite pains over their perfection. In our mind, His purposes may be long in their outworking, although we cannot comprehend a dimension without time, but in the end they will be perfectly accomplished.

1 Timothy 4:10 NET  In fact this is why we work hard and struggle, because we have set our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of believers.

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