Recently, I received a question on YouTube about the concept of salvation that gave me pause. This question made me realize that I believe something different about the salvation experience and I haven’t really heard anyone talk about it through this lens before, so I’m going to give it a shot.
Like most of the doctrine that we learned growing up, our concept of the salvation process was formulated within a framework that, in my view, cannot really be backed up with Scripture. In essence, you start out a sinner, you go down the aisle and say the sinner’s prayer and ask Jesus into your heart (neither of which is an idea found in the Word), and then you are saved. This framework made it easy for debates such as “once saved always saved vs. losing your salvation” to thrive in and confuse the church.
Except for when I was in my youth, I have always believed that you can lose your salvation, but I have to admit, both sides of the argument have some valid points and Scriptures to back up those points… if you follow the current doctrine within the learned framework.
But it has only been very recently that I’ve discovered that the framework is flawed.
I’m going to make a very bold statement here.
Just like the New Covenant is not in its fullness yet, none of us who are alive are really “saved” right now.
As heretical as that sounds, let me present to you some evidence to chew on for awhile. See if it doesn’t fit the idea of the salvation process a little better than what we’ve been trained in.
Selective Use of Shadows and Models
When borrowing concepts and describing events in the Old Testament, traditional christians and dispensationalists love to use vague terms like shadows and models. This makes it easy for them support their pet doctrines and leave out what they don’t want to deal with. One shadow/model that is conveniently overlooked is the story of Israel’s journey out of Egypt, through the wilderness and into the Promised Land. Oh, the story is told… but what it represents is ignored.
Why is this shadow/model so hastily skipped over? Because it doesn’t really line up with our current doctrines on the method or meaning of being saved.
Paul wrote of Israel’s trials:
Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.
This verse strongly supports the idea that the entire story of Israel’s initial journey from Egypt to the Promised Land is a shadow/model that we can refer to when considering our own salvation.
Israel Rescued from Egypt
When the children of Israel were slaves in Egypt, they were not only in physical bondage, serving with backbreaking labor, but they had whored themselves out to the idols of Egypt, putting themselves in spiritual bondage.
When addressing Israel’s youth in Egypt, the prophet Ezekiel said.
And they committed whoredoms in Egypt; they committed whoredoms in their youth:
Neither left she her whoredoms brought from Egypt: for in her youth they lay with her,
Yet she multiplied her whoredoms, in calling to remembrance the days of her youth, wherein she had played the harlot in the land of Egypt.
This plainly shows that Israel (symbolic of you and me – Ephesians 2:11-13) was not serving the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob while they were slaves in Egypt (symbolic of sin/the world system).
There are huge debates as to how long Israel was in the land of Egypt. Some say 3-4 generations, others say just 1, but this we do know: something happened between the time Jacob came into the land and the time of the Exodus. The Israelite slaves had completely forgotten the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
The following Scripture strongly suggests that they did not even remember His Name.
And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? What shall I say unto them?
If this is true… if Israel did not know or remember the name of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, then Moses had no clue who the God of his fathers was and he knew that the elders (as well as the entire nation) wouldn’t either.
But God wanted to save this nation of slaves, and it would be by grace.
The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
The goal of this favor… this grace… was to transform this group of slaves into His people.
But the LORD hath taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron furnace, even out of Egypt, to be unto him a people of inheritance, as ye are this day.
And say thou unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel; Cursed be the man that obeyeth not the words of this covenant, which I commanded your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, Obey my voice, and do them, according to all which I command you: so shall ye be my people, and I will be your God: that I may perform the oath which I have sworn unto your fathers, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, as it is this day.
He had a purpose and a plan for His people.
Let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness
The destination… the full realization of this salvation… was the Promised Land. Not just living in the Promised Land, but living in the Promised Land without any influence or persecution from the cursed, sin-saturated tribes that inhabited it at this point in history.
And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; and I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites.
So we have to ask ourselves, at this point in the narrative… was Israel saved? Even after coming out of Egypt and passing through the Red Sea… was Israel saved?
No, they were not.
Truly, the Father had rescued them from the clutches of their captors and would soon give them the opportunity to walk in covenant with Him, but they had yet to enter the fullness of their salvation. There was an interim process that needed to be endured before they could experience the intended salvation.
Ye have been rebellious against the LORD from the day that I knew you.
You see, YHWH had delivered the children of Israel out of Egypt, but He still needed to get the whoredom and compromise of Egypt out of Israel.
We can liken this to our initial encounter with the Most High. When we were still enemies of our Creator, He came down in His mercy, compassion and unmerited grace and offered us a chance to become His people.
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
But the process doesn’t end at that point.
From there, He takes us on a journey through the wilderness to rid us of our ways (Egypt), in order to take on His Ways.
Enter the Wilderness
Next, YHWH takes Israel through the wilderness for a time of purging and training in righteousness. The commandments He gave to Moses on the mountain were not just a bunch of rules that He wanted His followers to obey, they were HIS Ways…. HIS “derek” or pathway.
He made known his ways [H1870 – derek] unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel.
Shew me thy ways [H1870 – derek], O LORD; teach me thy paths.
Once Israel (and the mixed multitude – Exodus 12:38) entered into covenant with the Creator at the foot of the mountain, the terms (conditions) of that covenant went into effect immediately. The Father expected the future citizens of His Kingdom to live in the manner He prescribed for them – both before and after they entered the Promised Land.
In like manner, the Father expects us to live out this life according to His Ways, walking His paths and submitting to His training and discipline. We are expected, both before and after, to live like citizens of His Kingdom, guarding His Sabbaths and Feast days, as well as the rest of the commandments.
And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles.
And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD.
Persistent disobedience to His commandments will give us the same fate as the children of Israel.
An entire generation would die in the wilderness, having never reached the Promised Land. They refused to hold to the values of the Kingdom, choosing instead to cling to their idolatry (Egypt – their own ways) instead.
Thus they never entered the Promised Land… they were not saved.
The Promised Land
We know that once Israel entered the Promised Land, it wasn’t the end of the story. There were still nations to eradicate and idolatry to overcome. YHWH was on their side to accomplish this, but Israel chose instead to be lazy, fearful and idolatrous… so the promised Kingdom was not fully realized… yet.
Thousands of years later, John the Baptist’s father Zechariah would prophesy of the fullness of this salvation.
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, and hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; as he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; the oath which he sware to our father Abraham, that he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.
He knew that the promised salvation would include being free to worship and serve the Creator without any fear of persecution.
The New Covenant would also tell of the fullness of this salvation.
Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD:
The fullness of this salvation would include YHWH’s Torah written by YHWH Himself onto our hearts and minds. Not only that, when this New Covenant is fully realized, EVERYONE will know of YHWH and His Ways… and ALL sin is forgiven and forgotten!
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
Even better, when our salvation is fully come, there will be no death, no pain, no sadness… this will be salvation in every sense of the word!
But We’re Saved by Grace Through Faith! It’s a Gift!
If I could list the top 3 most misunderstood verses in the Bible, I think this one would probably be in the top spot.
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Through decades of false teaching and careless reinforcement by those who love to cherry pick verses out of Paul’s epistles, most read into this verse the lie that salvation is something effortless. That God does everything and we don’t have to do anything. As long as we say the magic sinner’s prayer, we can just kick back and coast until we die or the pre-Trib rapture happens.
But upon closer inspection, we can see that this actually lines up perfectly with the shadow/model of Israel’s 40 year journey from Egypt to the Promised Land.
First, you need to understand who Paul was writing to – the Ekklesia of Ephesus. We’ve already confirmed in earlier posts that these were true disciples, known to be of the sect of the Nazarenes who guarded the words of the Most High. Unlike the first generation Israelites who fell in the wilderness, these were people who were doing their best to obey the commandments (all of them) in the middle of a pagan society. They were not gentile christians who were seeking for ways to avoid them because, darn it, they were simply too difficult and too Jewish. Unlike in modern christianity, they would have heard the Tanakh (Old Testament) read in the synagogues every Sabbath, and would have understood what Moses meant when he said:
For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden [pala – H6381 – too difficult] from thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.
Modern day christianity teaches that unmerited favor is a constant throughout the Christian’s life. This, too, is false.
Unmerited favor does have a part to play in your salvation. Just like the children of Israel were given unmerited favor when God rescued them out of Egypt (Deuteronomy 7:7-8), we too are given this kind gift, when we are given the opportunity to follow Him. We were His enemies (James 4:4). We didn’t deserve ANYTHING good from Him. But YHWH, in His great goodness, in His awesome love, reached down and said, “Hey… come over to this side! Be a citizen of my kingdom!”
For further insight into this analogy, check out my article “The Truth About the Free Gift of Grace.”
The bottom line is, we needed His unmerited grace because we were evil, black-hearted and destined for the pit. Nothing we had ever done would make God think, “Oh I just gotta get this awesome fellow/lady into my kingdom! He/She is so cool!”
Sorry to break the news to you… but you and I just weren’t that deserving.
But if we are to walk with the King, we must walk in covenant with Him or it’s all for nothing. We, as believers in Messiah, are to do our best to walk according to the terms of the New Covenant, with His teaching and instruction (Torah – see Jeremiah 31:31-34) written on our hearts. As we grow and mature in Him, obeying His commands becomes easier and we find ourselves understanding and comprehending His love in greater measures.
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous.
But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.
For some reason, the following logic always seems to elude us.
If you are a citizen of a kingdom, you should walk according to the dictates of that particular kingdom that you are a part of.
In the same way, once you say “Yes” to the Good News and decide to follow the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, you need to be willing to follow the dictates of His Kingdom or you are going to have problems. The Father will not accept those who profess a love for Him and His ways and yet still hold on to Egypt in their hearts.
Make no mistake about it… like the first generation, you too can die in the wilderness. That’s why Paul warns us:
Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
We absolutely MUST work out our own salvation. God is right there with us, working in us “to will and to do according to His good pleasure,” but we need to agree and to act in harmony with Him. He does not want lifeless automatons who have no choice, He wants willful citizens in His Kingdom – sons and daughters who obey Him with love in our hearts.
When we look back, we will see that when He saved us, He gave us a chance to become a part of His kingdom because of His divine mercy and grace, not because of anything that we ever did… but what did we do with that grace? Did we appreciate that unmerited grace, repent and change our ways? Or did we trample it?
Friends, you can’t candy-coat the following verses to His people (not sinners).
For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth (see Psalm 119:142), there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins (see 1 John 3:4), but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.
It is vital to your eternal destination that you be teachable and re-evaluate any doctrine that you have based on Ephesians 2:8-9 because the current interpretation being pushed simply does not line up with the rest of the Bible.
What About “Now is the Day of Salvation?”
One also might be quick to mention what Paul stated in his second letter to the Corinthians:
“…behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation…”
It’s a favorite go to verse that is supposed to assure us of our “saved” state, but in truth, it is yet another instance of cherry picking to satisfy a false doctrine. You see, Paul was quoting a small part of Isaiah 49, but this little phrase is nested within a greater (and entirely different) idea.
Read and study Isaiah 49 starting with verse 1, and follow it through to the end of the chapter. Who is being spoken to here? Israel!
You see, what most christians are never taught is that, after the great and dreadful Day of YHWH, nations will come, learn from, pay respect, and serve the Elohim of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Thus saith the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, (who is his Holy One? – Yeshua!) to him whom man despiseth (someone other than God and His Son), to him whom the nation abhorreth, to a servant of rulers, Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of the LORD that is faithful, and the Holy One of Israel, and he shall choose thee.
In this “day of salvation,” once YHWH has both “heard” and “helped” Israel, they will:
- Be preserved;
- Be given for a covenant of the people (this is an entire post series on its own);
- Establish the earth;
- Cause to inherit the desolate heritages;
- Say to the prisoners – Go forth!
- Say to those in darkness – Show yourselves!
- They (both Israel and those they minister to) will “feed” in the “ways.” (H1870 – derek)
If we analyze the points above, it becomes apparent that these things haven’t happened yet – they are obviously for a future time. Meanwhile there is this “day of salvation” that occurs.
The Hebrew word for “day” [H3117 – yowm] can mean a literal day, but it also means “a span of time.” Since it makes no sense, either contextually or logically, for this to be a 24 hour day, it is safe to assume that the correct definition of “yowm” in this verse means a span of time. We are in that span of time now, where He is helping His workers with the ministry of reconciliation, whereby they are entreating people to be reconciled to YHWH.
We’re living in this “day of salvation,” where God is reaching out to the lost in His grace and mercy, but people are not saved just yet. As long as they are physically alive before His return, they have to deal with persecution, sin, sickness and death.
This is the “day of salvation” or “time of salvation” spoken of by Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians. It is the “acceptable time” or time that He is accepting people.
So what do we do in this time of acceptance? What is our role in the time of salvation spoken of by Paul and Isaiah? For the answers to these questions, as well as the full context of “now is the day of salvation,” read 2 Corinthians 5:9 – 7:1. It is too long a passage to include in this post, but you can get a pretty good idea of the answer from its first and last verses.
So whether we are at home or away from home, our goal is to be pleasing to him. For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of the Messiah, so that each of us may receive what he deserves for what he has done in his body, whether good or worthless.
Since we have these promises, dear friends, let’s cleanse ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit by becoming mature in our holy fear of God.
The children of Israel’s “time of salvation” was when they were wandering in the wilderness. God was saving them from their disobedience, idolatry and carnal lusts, preparing them to be citizens of His Kingdom.
Like the children of Israel, we too are in the process of being saved in this “day of salvation” and, like the children of Israel, there is a potential for those who are disobedient to die in this desert. At the same time, UNLIKE the children of Israel, we have no clue what that salvation entails. Our idea of salvation is a ticket to heaven and an escape from hell, while their idea of salvation (both in the OT and NT) was New Jerusalem coming to earth and an eternal kingdom ruled by the Messiah.
We are not saved . . . yet
So, we’re not there yet, brothers and sisters. The full realization of our salvation will not happen until either we die and are with Him or the Kingdom comes. Only then will we be able to declare that we are truly saved. Only then will we see who else is truly saved.
Meanwhile, we should follow the advice of the writer of Hebrews:
Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
This is great advice for us while we are still on a journey through the wilderness. We still have the potential to fall, just like the first generation, and never enter our Promised Land… so we work out our own salvation “with fear and trembling,” knowing that the Ultimate Sacrifice has taken away the penalty of our sin (transgression of the Torah – 1 John 3:4) by His grace.
Let us not be like the person who was drowning at sea. . . whose Savior threw him/her a lifeline. If we follow His instructions, He’ll safely pull us into the boat… but we need to take action and keep holding on to that line! Let’s act like His people NOW and ensure our spots in the Kingdom. If we choose to let go of that lifeline, we’ll be just as doomed as we were before He gave us a chance.