Go Stand Speak Ministry’s (GSSM) primary focus is to promote biblical standard's in all areas of life and society through filmmaking, preaching, teaching and discipleship. The founder of Go Stand Speak Ministries is Pat Necerato. Pat is a filmmaker, entrepreneur and street preacher.
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Protestants generally agree on the basic facts about Jesus of Nazareth. His birth, life, death and resurrection are viewed as foundational principles for mostly all who consider themselves within the major camps and denominations of Christianity. There are many discussions that take place within and outside of those sects, but for the most part there is agreement on these facts.
One may ask, why are there so many church denominations or divisions? The answer is “doctrine”. The way one interprets scripture and establishes doctrines will not only dictate their beliefs, but their worldview and behavior as well. Doctrine dictates behavior. Doctrine dictates how we interpret the values, standards and propositions that we encounter within the world1 . As much as there may be agreement on who Jesus was, what he did and why he did it are subjects that contain much disagreement. Of course, there are all sorts of doctrinal aspects to the work of Christ and how it is accomplished and worked out in the Godhead. But what about the salvation he offers to his people? What do the scriptures say as it relates to this topic in the Old and New Testaments? This article aims to answer these questions, particularly what biblical salvation is and how it works itself out practically within the life of the believer.
We’re Not So Different After All (Or Are We?)
Unlike the basic facts about Jesus Christ, the message, meaning and extent of the gospel are major dividing lines within Christianity. Ask a Catholic, Protestant, Reformed, Arminian, Pelagian, Pentacostal, Emergent, Lutheran, Anglican, (or any other religious camp that calls itself Christian) the question, “What is the gospel?” and you will get a wide variety of answers. Take it a level deeper and ask, “What is salvation?” and surprisingly the answers become very united.
Ask Christians from just about any group about salvation and the notion of “getting in” or “getting to heaven” will usually be the common denominator in their answer. Christians in mostly all denominations, despite the scriptures saying very little about it, see “going to heaven” as the ultimate picture and expectation of their future. But is this what we read in the scriptures regarding the end result of salvation?
Where in The World is Heaven?
At this point we must distinguish and identify our terms. “Heaven”, the bible says, is a place where God dwells2 . God’s command center if you will, but a temporary one at that. In Revelation 21 and 22 we see heaven descending down and joining with the earth and God dwelling with man on the new heavens and new earth for all of eternity. So the locality and nature of heaven is temporary.
We also know that believers when absent from the body will be present with God, apparently in heaven, at the time of their death until the appointed time that Christ returns, raises the dead and institutes the final judgment3 . At which time believers and non-believers alike will be raised to live either eternally and physically on the new heaven and new earth, or, eternally and physically in hell, continuing in their separation from God forever. The scriptures speak not of a ghostly or intangible state, but rather resurrected man having a real (but changed) physical body4.
Heaven, as we read, is a temporary dwelling place for God and the believer. It’s a place where God dwells now, but it is not God’s ultimate destination for himself or for believers. This is critical to explore in terms of the doctrine of salvation and how salvation works out in the life of the believer. If salvation means more that just getting to heaven, what ramifications would that have on our worldview, doctrine and mission as Christians on this earth, not to mention the preaching of the gospel?
Why Heaven Can be a Dangerous Goal
One may say that the “getting to heaven” mentality is harmless. In the end, it’s all the same anyway. Or, an attitude that entails, “Who cares on how we end up, avoiding hell is the key.” Christians must be careful of these attitudes and positions. An improper understanding of the concept of heaven can potentially cause doctrinal imbalance, improper separation from the world or a careless attitude towards “non-Christian” affairs in the world, all of which can lead to a non-biblical worldview inconsistent with the operation and purpose of the bringing forth of God’s kingdom on earth.
For instance, dualism is one potential danger. In theology, dualism can refer to the relationship between God and his creation. It’s when the universe, although created good, has fallen and is now inherently bad under the influence of evil. There are now two mutually hostile forces or beings in the world, one being good (God), and one being evil (Satan)5. Out of this can come Gnostic tendencies, which is the belief that people should shun the material world and embrace the spiritual world. This principle is also at the root of pietism, monasticism, escapism or in the least, an unbalanced separation from the world. After all, if the world is useless and my goal is a disembodied existence in heaven, why care about taking dominion, confronting evil, better schools or caring for the poor? A typical response may be, “I won’t avoid or shun those things, but shouldn’t my focus be on heavenly things first and things of this world last?” This sort of response presupposes heaven is what really matters and my current existence in the world is second place at best.
The “getting to heaven” view of salvation also can produce an “I’m in” mentality. On tenet of Dispensationalism6, a worldview and incorrect method of interpreting the scriptures, eliminates obedience to the law (antinomianism) and makes the ultimate purpose of the gospel to “get people out of here”, i.e., the “get me outta here gospel”, or save themselves from hell by accepting Jesus before the rapture. (The rapture is the notion that Christ will come to snatch the church out of the world and into heaven instantaneously, away from the coming time of tribulation7. This is an incorrect reading of several verses of scripture which we have no time or space to cover here).
So how does the bible define “salvation”? And if it doesn’t mean, “getting to heaven”, what does it mean? And how does this affect our doctrine, behavior and worldview as Christians? Let’s start with the “getting in”, i.e, getting saved part. We can then look at what the word salvation meant to the writers and hearers of the Old and New Testaments.
The Doctrine of “Getting In”
The Protestant doctrine of “getting in” started on October 31st, 1517. One could argue it began before that with Wycliffe, Hus, Savonarola and the likes but it made it’s greatest impact when Martin Luther had his major revelation and rightly claimed, taught and fought for the truth that Christians are saved by grace, through faith and not of works. He started the Great Reformation and was followed by the great thinkers such as Zwingly, Calvin and others, and the doctrine of justification took new shape. The emphasis went away from “works” (particularly the Romanist doctrine of earning or buying indulgences) and turned into more or less, “you don’t have to do anything, God does it - alone”. The Five solae became the mantra of the Reformed faith: Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone), Sola Gratia, (Grace Alone), Sola Fide (Faith Alone), Solus Christus (Christ Alone) and Soli Deo Gloria (To God Alone Be Glory). “Alone” became the popular catchword – and rightly so. The solas in their fundamental nature are correct. We are saved completely by God alone. He chooses us, calls us, justifies us and regenerates us, and by his ever-sufficient grace, saves us, and it’s all on the basis of what Christ did for us in fulfilling the covenant through his life, death and resurrection. Yes, let me say it again, God saves us through faith, and it is not of ourselves8in any way, shape or form. But in light of how this doctrine has played itself out over the past several centuries, and in light of the “get me outta here” mentality towards the meaning of salvation (which seems to be the prevalent concept in the mindset of most Christians,) one must ask two very important questions:
1. Are we reading a modern day, Reformation interpretation of salvation back into the scriptures?
2. Did the Reformers overplay their hand with the doctrine of “alone”?
The “Going to Heaven” Goggles
"Reading into the scriptures" or eisegesis, is the process of interpreting a text or portion of text in such a way that it introduces one’s own presuppositions, agendas, or biases into the meaning of the text9. It means you start with a subject (such as salvation or getting to heaven,) and then look for scriptures that pertain to the concept, then interpret your meaning into those scriptures before properly determining what the writer was intending to say and who his hearers were. We put on the “goggles” and all of a sudden, every scripture can be easily translated to mean what we’re looking for. Searching the scriptures for an isolated topic or issue is not wrong, but imposing a view into the scriptures incorrectly is. Reading scriptures that speak of rescue and imposing a concept of going to heaven into their meaning, is an example of eisegesis.
Interpreting the scripture in the context of the time period that it was written with the intent, culture, and audience in mind (known as the Grammatical Hermeneutical Method of Interpretation) is how we must determine the definition or meaning of a word in the bible. The Spirit quickens that truth. Our responsibility as faithful interpreters is to search the scriptures will all the means we have available. In our current day, access to archeological, historical and literary information and scholarship for the time period of Christ in particular, is quite large. It has grown even in the past several decades with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, not to mention the tremendous amount of additional resources and technology that has developed since the time of the Reformation. But even without research tools, the words “salvation” and “saved” can be seen in the Old Testament as referring mainly to one thing: rescue10. By looking at the political and religious climate of the New Testament writers, along with the Old Testament interpretation foremost in their mind, we must assume this is what they meant by the word “salvation” as well. The Jewish people were waiting for God to send the Messiah who would rescue them with power by defeating their enemies and usher in the kingdom of God by force. What they got instead was a different form of rescue with an objective that far exceeded their expectations and hope. The controversial message of rescue that Jesus and the apostles preached meant much more than a better afterlife for believers, it had a purpose and intention that would radically change the world. This is what led to their martyrdom and the beginning of the largest religious movement the world would ever see.
The Announcement That Changed the World
Some of the first words of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark are, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel”11. Why did Jesus publically proclaim this? Was he urgently offering his listeners a way to get to heaven or a way to escape hell at the time of death? What was the full intent of his message? The reason Jesus may have chosen these words was because he was announcing the imminent arrival of the kingdom of God, i.e., Jesus’ reign, God’s reign. He was, in essence, announcing a major change of government. Not politically per say, but cosmically. God’s reign over the entire cosmos, over all nations, as King, was about to begin. So why did he choose these words? Because all those that thought otherwise about the arrival of the Messiah, those who were insisting that God would bring in the kingdom through military rebellion exclusively for the Jewish people, were reading the scriptures incorrectly. The King was here and the kingdom was being ushered in, but his plan and people were going to be different then what was expected. Those that do not conform to his new plan, or become a part of this new age (or come under his reign,) will not be saved. They’ll be left in the existing age, which is now overlapped with the new age, which will be completely faded out at the resurrection of Christ. Those refusing to repent and believe this gospel will perish permanently at the time of their bodily resurrection12.
All the Old Testament prophesies and promises of complete deliverance for the people of God were about to be fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. The old age was going to gradually fade away and the new age, where a new King would reign, was about to begin. But again, it’s going to look much different then how the Jewish people have imagined. Instead of another Judas of Maccabaeus storming the gates against the Seleucid Empire, proclaiming “No King but God”, the kingdom of the Messiah is of a different sort and kind of infiltration. It’s through a reign of love, law, suffering and humility that he would rule. He would come, satisfy sin, save his people, defeat death, send the Holy Spirit, and rule with a rod of iron through his human agents on earth.
Jesus announced this rule in various terms such as “the kingdom of heaven”, the “kingdom of God”, the “gospel of the Kingdom” all in combination used over 110 times in the scriptures. These terms were not referring to heaven, the location. They were not offering an improved state of personal development, self-help or any other “me” centered benefit (although one’s nature and character will begin to change upon entrance of the kingdom). Jesus wasn’t offering a new religious experience (although that may happen when one is called into the kingdom). He was making a statement and announcement that the true King, God, has arrived in fulfillment of his promise to Abraham and he is calling his true family, the true Israel, to rule, reign, inherit and have dominion over the earth through and by his Kingship. In other words, the true Messiah was here. God was finally doing what he promised all along. He was rescuing a worldwide family of adopted children through the new Adam, bringing salvation and creating a new world for his Son, the Mediator, King and Priest to rule and reign over. It was beginning then and there and this salvation was what the scriptures were pointing to and what the people of Israel had been waiting for. It was now all happening in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The Big Picture: Operation “Rescue”
The people of Israel were not waiting for an escape out of the world, to go off to a spiritual existence with God in heaven. They were waiting for God to rescue them and to finally bring his rule down on earth and rule the nations through the nation of Israel. (Of course, God had opened the gates to all nations, not just the geo-political nation of Israel. Entrance or identification is no longer by Torah observance but through faith in the Messiah Jesus. More on this in a minute.)
So here’s the point: When the people of God frame the word salvation around the big picture of the rescue of the world, they begin to view the concept of personal salvation more faithfully to its meaning in scripture. Scripture speaks of no plans for God to completely destroy the world in exchange for a purely spiritual existence. It actually speaks of just the opposite13.
Salvation according to the scripture means rescue. But rescue from what? And how does this relate to the life of the believer? It is rescue from this present age, which is focused on evil, sin and the dominion of Satan, (all of which are passing away,) and deliverance into the new age of the kingdom of God. There is a great continuity with this age and the next. Just as eternal life begins at the time of a person’s calling into the body of Christ, so does his rescue from this present age. He, like the creation, is gradually moving towards the ultimate consummation and realization of full renewal when Christ returns, raises the dead and delivers the kingdom over to the Father in total completeness. However, just as eternal life begins now and is continuous for the believer, separation from God begins here and is continuous for the non-believer14. He gradually moves more and more away from being like Christ. His nature becomes more corrupt, hardened and his sinful life leads unto death, only to be raised for judgment and ultimately eternal punishment in hell. The new age, which began on the first Easter Sunday, in the power of the risen King, is reversing the curse of Adam and restoring God’s creation back on course towards its final consummation when Christ returns and institutes the kingdom in its fullness. More importantly, it is restoring man back as a full image bearer of God, able now to properly reflect his image and glory to the world, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Christians are the agents of this restoration, not doing it themselves, but working towards it in the power of the Holy Spirit. Biblical salvation is not being taken from the world but being saved and transformed for the world15. The Holy Spirit allows believers to be the new, true Israel (everything God intended Adam and the Jewish people to be from the beginning), representing God to the world. Since the ethnic separation is gone and the curse of law is abolished, the invitation goes beyond ethnic Israel and is open to all people from every nation. Since salvation is not about getting taken away from the world and is about Christ rescuing his people for the world, then logically our focus in explaining salvation and proclaiming the gospel should reflect this rescue. But how? Where should our focus be in these areas? The scriptures are clear. The focus and hope is on resurrection.
God Has a Wonderful “World” for Your Life16
Physical resurrection, on a new heavens and new earth, is the believer’s ultimate destination. Rather than getting snatched away off to “heaven”, the afterlife consists of a physical existence on a new heaven and earth17. The scriptures speak about how important are bodies are, our work is and our labor are, and how we work with Christ for the establishment of this new world and existence which he has planned since the beginning18. We are not only told that what we do here and now means something very significant for the resurrected life, but we are told that the resurrected life starts at the conversion of the believer. Believers in Christ are new creations in anticipation of the new creation.
Believers will rule and reign and even the earth groans in anticipation of the renewal of all creation19. Resurrection in scripture nowhere stresses a future, permanent, disembodied existence away from this world, but rather a real, physical, renewed and glorified existence for this world. Although, now we see through a glass darkly on what we will become, the chemistry of that nature will have a true physical aspect. All of our faculties and members will be fully transformed.
The apostles not only wrote about this resurrection focus, but their actions showed it as well. They saw the gospel as much more than a personal encounter with God. To them, it meant that all aspects of the cosmos would be impacted. Eternal life for the apostles meant being rescued from the current age and this rescue took place immediately upon a person’s belief in Christ. Being in Christ meant their old man and the old world were crucified with him. They were new creatures and part of that fulfillment of the promise which was made ages before, was now being brought forth by God through his faithful Son, Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. Faith in Jesus brings the believer into the covenant of Abraham and right there and then, their new life in the new age, in the new kingdom under the new rule of the new King, begins.
This rule was more than a personal rule over their own intellect, emotions, spirit and affairs. It was more than a spiritual experience or feeling. It was the reality of the resurrection and what it meant in context of Christ’s rule and transformation of the world. It meant Christ’s Kingship was a true enthronement. It wasn’t just over the personal conscience of a believer; it threatened the reign of earthly rulers and kings as well20. It was because of this gospel message that the apostles were persecuted. If they had been simply proclaiming a new religious experience or just a way to avoid hell and get into heaven in the afterlife, the Romans certainly wouldn’t have persecuted them, or quite frankly even cared much about their message. Their message would have been no threat to Caesar’s rule. But the true gospel is.
This small concept of God being a “ticket to a better afterlife in heaven” would have been shallow and borderline blasphemous to the writers of the scriptures. They did not see God as an insurance agent, he is the God of Abraham who rescued them time and time again from all their enemies. He is the God of David who promised, through his seed to put one last ruler on the throne, but this time, the gifts of the King include the Holy Spirit, which will cause the believer to believe. He was the God who would save his people himself, with his own arm and write his law on their heart and finally cause them to follow God in truth, with a new heart. This rescue happened at the cross and through the resurrection of Christ.
It’s easy to see how the proclamation of this message is a threat to all earthly rulers and tyrants. Christianity’s gospel is about a King taking rule over every aspect of the world. This goes far beyond a better, spiritual afterlife for believers. It is a gospel of here and now. It’s for today, extending to all aspects of civil, personal and church government. There is no escaping his dominion. This is the message that was preached and got the apostles persecuted and beheaded. Salvation is about rescue, renewal, restoration and redemption. Not just for our personal souls, but for the world God created. Each believer, by the power of the Holy Spirit, is called to play a part here and now in this restoration project.
Where The Power Lies
This is why the gospel is stated as the power of God unto salvation21. The gospel is not a method of getting saved. It’s the powerful announcement about the good news of the Savior. However, when the royal announcement of the enthronement of the resurrected Christ is proclaimed, people get saved. When we announce the message of the gospel, not as an insurance policy but as a command of allegiance to the new King, the end result is Christians who are now expecting to work out their salvation with fear and trembling toward God’s purposes and kingdom. Rather than sit back with an “I’m in” mentality towards their own purposes and kingdom, personal salvation becomes part of the larger framework of God’s purposes for his creation and people, not the actual framework itself.
This is not to say that the personal experience of the individual believer being rescued is some insignificant aspect of salvation. That is absolutely not the case. The elect are the object of God’s love and they encounter this love in many ways throughout their life. They are the temple of the living God. Their labors and works are not only purposeful towards the building of the kingdom, but there is joy in being used by God. There is a pleasure in being his rescued child that transcends understanding.
When an elect individual hears the gospel message announced, that natural man’s eyes become opened spiritually22. His enmity with God and his vile position before a holy God becomes clear. He becomes regenerated, repents and flees to Christ in obedient faith, clinging to him with more than a casual assent, but with full trust and surety as his new King, Ruler and friend. This not only brings blessings of eternal security but forgiveness of sins, reconciliation with God, and in turn the individual experiences the personal peace that comes with the knowledge of being an adopted child of the Messiah. The entire point of salvation in a nutshell, could be summed up like this: There is more. It’s not over when we’re united to Christ, it has just begun. The believer’s job is not to sit back, relax and flee from the world. He is to engage his new King with his whole heart. He is to connect with the world as a new person, with new passions and a new purpose: to serve his King and others until the appointed time of his own death or the King’s return. He works for now and the future. He sees the Spirit work, redeeming, renewing and restoring this world by the power of God, with a firm eye toward his new hope, the resurrection. The believer knows the King carefully selects his labors, and although tried by fire, they will reveal themselves to be true and authentically applied to His Kingdom for all of eternity.
Eliminating Lopsided Salvation
It’s easy to see how, when we overemphasize “getting to heaven”, it can potentially create a lopsided view of the gospel. If it’s presupposed that the gospel is primarily an insurance policy from hell, heaven is the ultimate destination, this world means nothing to God and getting us to avoid hell is God’s number one priority, then why not translate the gospel to mean, “get to heaven”? As was just explained, this is not the case. Heaven is not the ultimate destination, the world does mean something to God and God’s purpose for the believer is much more than just being pulled from the flames of an eternal abyss. God tremendously values man’s involvement in his restoration project, so much so that he thought it important enough to send his own Son to accomplish redemption for the elect to give them a significant involvement in the process.
Alone But Not Alone, The Doctrine
This leads to the next question posed, “Did the Reformers overplay their hand with the doctrine of “alone”?” We can see the emphasis of “God alone” everywhere in Christian teaching. A quick look at the past several centuries of Western Christian literature, sermons, media and especially in present day preaching, reveals this. First, there is an overwhelming weight on personal or devotional type teachings from the scriptures. “Grace alone”, “I can do nothing”, “Let go and let God” and many other “it’s all God” phrases are the theme of many books, creeds and church pulpits. Propagating or “spreading” the gospel is primarily focused on ways and tactics to convince people to accept Jesus, avoid hell, or simply to get to heaven when they die. In and of themselves, (and within their proper doctrinal perspective,) these motivations and topics are not wrong, but sometimes are improperly presented and emphasized. However, when the announcement of God’s rescue, redemption and renewal plan for the world, and the significance of the believer’s involvement in the process, become the foundation of the gospel message, salvation gets put in its proper biblical perspective. It’s true that any believer and lover of Christ will naturally gravitate towards seeing God’s grace in everything, but not placing it in the larger framework imposes an improper meaning and intent of the gift of grace.
Even Covenant Theologians23, who practically have all the dots laid out before them for God’s big picture plan of salvation, seem to only hint at the fact that God’s promise to Abraham was more than just a family, but a renewed, transformed land (the earth) as well. The full extent of Covenant Theology is God fulfilling his promise of grace to Abraham through the complete salvation of the world in all its economy, through God’s one elect family, by the power of the Holy Spirit, seated in the person and work of Christ.
Man has an obligation to be a covenant keeper. Not just to sit back with check marks next to the precepts of God’s law, but to get involved in God’s purposes with his whole being. He is to be the renewed human in Christ and proving this by taking his part in the big picture of the covenant through getting involved.
Has the Romanist doctrine of works based salvation caused us to over-defend the concept of God saving us “alone” so much so, that it’s gotten us far away from the true intention of the covenant? Have we invented a wrong perception of “synergism24” causing a fear of emphasizing good works as part of salvation?
Man working with God to earn his salvation is never mentioned in the writings of the scriptures. The scriptures teach that God saves alone. But “works” as a sign of one’s membership in the covenant is mentioned. This is what James means when he speaks of justification by works. He is not speaking of working to become a Christian but proving that you are a Christian by your works.
A Final Judgment, for Believers?
We also see many scriptures that speak of a final judgment according to works for the believer as well25. These are rarely taught or spoken of in the context of works required of the believer. What did the New Testament writers mean to imply with these verses? Could it be that they are writing with the assurance of the power and work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer in mind? We know they’re not speaking of earning justification or salvation, but there is a stress on accountability for the life led and a warning to those who disobey. This is because after calling, justification and regeneration, all of which are a work of God alone, the new man in Christ is then commanded to work with God. Not as a possessed robot but as a free willed human being making conscious choices to obey or disobey his Master and King. As the believer gets sanctified these choices please God more and more. The key is that man is required to be involved and obey. There is no such thing as “once saved always saved”. A better phrase would be “once saved, always saving’. God will complete the work to the end but there is a present involvement in the process by the believer unto the end.
The biblical concept of a final judgment according to works is obviously true. God knows the final verdict, which is why he communicates it as an absolute declaration in the present. The surety of Christ’s work is the guarantee and the gift of the Spirit is the vehicle, that brings us definitely to that verdict to its completion. The final verdict has a personal aspect, but also a cosmic one too. The final verdict over creation is when God’s covenant faithfulness is triumphantly displayed in his renewal of the entire fallen world through Christ the King and Mediator. Not only is the believer’s justification part of that consummation, but his salvation is as well.
Yes, You’re In - But You’re Not Done
Is this an appeal for a works based salvation or a works based final justification? It is not. Justification is a one time, judicial act on the part of God alone26. It’s a declaration that someone is in the covenant based on the work of Christ alone. No one can earn their way into a right status with God, it is declared and gracefully given by God on the basis of Christ’s faithfulness. It meant the same in the Old Testament. The followers of the Torah didn’t earn their way into the covenant. Their obedience to the Torah proved they already were in, i.e., belonged to the true, visible covenant people. Even if an outsider was accepted, the works of the law (the Torah) is what proved that he was a part of the people of God. The Jewish people were waiting for God to establish his kingdom on earth, and again, only those belonging to the nation of Israel would be “rescued” when God interceded. The Torah observers would be the way to identify who these people were. Never would someone vow to become Jewish, receive circumcision and then think, “I’m in” it’s done. No, rather now they must prove that membership by obedience. Not earning favor or earning salvation through works, but proving they were believers by being covenant keepers.
Salvation is never earned by keeping the covenant through works, but works show you are a covenant keeper. If salvation were by earning covenant membership through works, God would not be faithful to his own part of the covenant (which is to fully provide all that is necessary for our salvation on his own) and Christ’s life and work on the cross would not have fully satisfied God’s justice. Man would have something to do with that satisfaction. Our adoption would not be legally complete and the enmity between God and man would be contingent on man’s effort. All of these ideas being false principles opposed to scripture.
However, since Christ is the surety of the covenant, the verdict “not guilty” can be declared over the sons of Adam (Old Testament believer and New) in the present, in anticipation of the final verdict, because the second Adam (Christ) faithfully obeyed his part in the contract with the Father, enabling the Father to legally fulfill his promise to the elect, from all of history and for those in the future. The obligation on the part of the elect is to, once they are rescued and renewed, reflect the glory of God into creation by being a covenant keeper. Even though believers do not earn a right status before God through meritorious works, there is still work to be done on the part of the believer.
Due to the fear of a “works righteousness” salvation, which the scripture never speaks of, Protestant salvation theology tends to lean towards on the “I’m in and I don’t have to do anything” mentality and, “I just do it because I’m commanded to” or “Because I love God”. This is all fine and well, however this sort of attitude lends itself to an inward focus and not towards God’s overall purpose. Salvation should not overemphasize getting “me” out of this world and into heaven. It’s not about my religious experience or making my world better. It may include all these things, but when they are the object of salvation, they contribute to an unbiblical, apathetic attitude towards the impact of the rule and reign of Christ over creation. The believer misses the force of the gospel. It’s imperative that the concept of Christ rightfully ruling as King is proclaimed, but also that he is delegating his rule into this world, in every spectrum of life and society, through the works of his human agents by the power of the Holy Spirit. Just as Satan attempts to do from his abode through his agents as well27.
Balance is Key
The overemphasis can easily go in the opposite direction. Building for the kingdom of God can quickly turn into building the kingdom of God. Social justice or the “Social Gospel” does this. It puts a prominent focus on “works”, so much so that the issues of economic inequality, poverty, alcoholism, crime, racial tensions, slums, bad hygiene, child labor, inadequate labor unions, poor schools, and the danger of war become the vehicles for bringing forth the kingdom of God28. None of these things are bad in and of themselves but many social programs violate God’s commandments in the name of “love”. The obedience of God’s law must be the ultimate standard for any social, civil or personal initiative and the gospel does not negate this.
When we view salvation in context of the covenant, we find that it is impossible to separate the political, religious and spiritual realms from the jurisdiction of King Jesus. The whole entire cosmos and creation is legally His and all areas of life are part of his renewal project for the believer to partake in.
This truth should not create a desire for an escape from the world, rather, it should put an emphasis on my election in Christ, on my citizenship in the Kingdom, in my identity with the church of Christ and ultimately motivate me to be involved in sanctification, including my whole duty as a renewed human in the kingdom of God. Salvation calls us to be a fully restored human being in a real world that is headed for glory, knowing the whole reason for my existence is to reflect God’s glory as I participate in his overall and triumphant, victorious purposes for his creation. Yes, God has a wonderful world for your life but you’re commanded to participate in bringing it forth. It’s by his power and for his purposes but we’re not to sit back and safely wait for a trip to heaven, we must get up and get involved.
I understand this may not be the usual way we discuss “heaven” or “salvation”, but I challenge you to read the scriptures, particularly the gospels, with the big picture mentioned above in mind. (I also recommend you consider some of the suggested reading materials below for further clarification on this topic as well.) Some may ask, “How does all this work out in our evangelism and preaching?” The answer to that could fill an entire book in and of itself, but even a quick reflection of the “announcement” of Christ as King as mentioned above, rather than a “method” of getting to heaven, reveals a glimpse of how this could lay a different groundwork for the hearer of the gospel, especially towards the worldview the new Christian convert will develop.
Often times we wonder why the church as a whole tends to separate themselves from the evils of the world, retreat from confronting evil or basically not get involved in civil and social issues or confronting evil. Could part of the problem be that our gospel presentation and the worldview it communicates is overemphasizing the wrong things about salvation and not fully communicating what it really entails? This is more than just the tenets of Lordship Salvation or Dominion Theology. They have some very good starting points in my opinion. However, it’s simpler and much more than following a particular theology. It’s about communicating who Jesus Christ (i.e., the Messiah) is, not just to us personally, but the big picture of his victory over sin and death, which launched his renewal project for the entire cosmos (i.e., his faithfulness to fulfill the covenant and promise made to Abraham which was the inheritance of the world). When our personal salvation is framed within this picture, our perspective and mission becomes clearer as we discover that we must get actively involved in the project and become gradually renewed at the same time, towards the same goal of transformation, and ultimately glorification in Christ. To be continued!
For More Information on
Go Stand Speak Ministries,
or email: gostandspeak @ gmail.com
Recommended for further reading:
He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology, by Th.D. Kenneth L. Gentry
The Greatness of the Great Commission, by Kenneth L. Gentry
Paradise Restored: A Biblical Theology of Dominion, by David Chilton
Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, by N.T. Wright.
The Apostolic Preaching And It’s Developments: Three Lectures with an Appendix on Eschatology and History, by C.H. Dodd
Footnotes and Quoted Sources:
1. Greg L. Bahnsen, Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended, The American Vision (2009)
2. 1 Kings 8:30; Psalm 2:4, Psalm 115:3; Psalm 123; Acts 7:49; Hebrews 8:1 and others.
3. 2 Corinthians 5:8; Luke 23:43
4. I Corinthians 15:50-52.
5. Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Baker Pub. Group (May 1996), 334
6. Dispensationalism causes “withdrawal into individualistic, reactionary moral rules which produce socio-political impotence”. Bahnsen, Theonomy in Christian Ethics, Pg 21
7. 2003 Holman Bible Dictionary, Pg. 1366
8. Ephesians 2:8-9
9. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eisegesis (Date of access: 1/10/14)
10. Exodus 14:13, Judges 15:18, 1 Samuel 11:13, 1 Chronicles 16:35 and many others.
11. Mark 1:15
12. Galatians 1:4, Acts 2:40
13. 1 Corinthians 15: resurrected body and significance of our work for the Lord; 6:19-20: importance of the body in the resurrection; Revelation 21, Romans 8:22: creation is renewed.
14. John 5.24; Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Westminster John Knox Press (January 1, 1960), Chapter XVIII
15. N.T. Wright, The Road to New Creation essay; http://ntwrightpage.com/sermons/Road_New_Creation.htm (Date of access 1/10/14)
16. After preaching this sermon, a friend came up to me afterwards and told me sarcastically, “God has a wonderful world for your life”. It’s a play on the seeker sensitive phrase, “God has a wonderful plan for your life.” I thought the title fits this message perfect. Thanks Mike Stockwell. ☺
17. Revelation 21 & 22
18. 1 Corinthians 3; 6; 15:58
19. Romans 8:23
20. Psalm 2
21. Romans 1:16
22. John 3:3
23. Covenant Theology, in a nutshell, is a Calvinist conceptual overview and interpretive framework for understanding the overall flow of the Bible. It uses the theological concept of covenant as an organizing principle for understanding the theology of the scriptures.
24. Synergism is the position of those who hold that salvation involves some form of cooperation between divine grace and human freedom.
25. Romans 2: 1-16, 14:10, 12; 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, 1 Thessalonians 3 19-20 to name a few.
26. Hodge, Justification by Faith Alone, Trinity Foundation (1995) Chapter 5
27. Gentry, Greatness of the Great Commission, Inst. for Christian Economics; Revised edition (November 1990)
28. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_Gospel (Date of access: 1/10/14)
I’ve just completed the 5 month task of storyboarding the entire film. What is “storyboarding”?
Wiki says… "Storyboards are graphic organizers in the form of illustrations or images displayed in sequence for the purpose of pre-visualizing a motion picture, animation, motion graphic or interactive media sequence. "
How does the process work?
First, I map out each frame of the entire story. (I used a software program called “Storyboard Artist Studio” which a generous ministry supporter donated to our film.)
Here are some screenshots to give you an idea (click the image for an enlarged view):
I framed and sequenced every shot, “coverage” and all, within the software. This not only allows me to be ultra prepared to shoot and discuss the vision with the crew, but it lets me think through all the movement in the scene, how it will play out in real time and play the movie that’s in my head to see if what I’m thinking will really work or not.
I broke the storyboard files down into Act I, II and III then, after about 20-30 run throughs, I made tweaks and printed them all out. (This is me, happy to finally get these babies done…)
With over 3500 frames, this took up about 1200 printed pages with 3 frames per page. Next I ran through the pages manually, made notes and made changes. Finally, the next step, is to complete the “animatic”.
Wiki says, an animatic is: …At its simplest, an animatic is a series of still images edited together and displayed in sequence with a rough dialogue and/or rough sound track added to the sequence of still images (usually taken from a storyboard) to test whether the sound and images are working effectively together.
I began the animatic by exporting all the 3500 frames into FinalCut Pro. Taking the frames and timing them, adding dialog boxes, transitions, etc., and trying to simulate the action as much as possible without actual actors moving, talking and other audio.
It’s amazing how much “cutting” and trimming is done within the animatic compared to just the storyboard.
The cool thing, is the animatic reveals a general idea of what you can expect to see when filming (not to mention giving you a timing, shot, theme and design blueprint for the crew when pre-production time comes.)
But that’s not all… Once the animatic is done, the “real” storyboarding begins. An authentic storyboard artist will then take the animatic and the storyboards that I’ve created, and re-do them down to the umpteenth detail, down to clothes, make-up, shadows, lighting, set design, mood, character uniqueness, etc.
Once these are done, they become the “set bible” - meaning, we’ll use them as the basis of the entire production. Keeps everyone on the same page, a smooth production (yeah right) and most importantly, the vision of the film crystal clear.
But while we’re waiting we are able to get some amazing endorsements and powerful promotional tactics in place.
I’m also in the process of storyboarding the entire film.
BTW, if you know of any people with dough ($) that would be interested in seeing our investment package, please let me know. Our goal is $2M for production by January 1 and we’re offering an awful lot to investors.
Here is an old review written in 1889 by the Congregational Review: This is a thoroughly readable and at the same time instructive and stimulating book. Mr Pike wields a facile pen and knows what he is writing about His descriptions of open air preaching and preachers are extremely graphic and his practical suggestions as to the most effective ways of carrying on the work are likely to be very useful especially to beginners. The work indeed forms a kind of manual of lay preaching for the guidance and encouragement of all who are engaged in that important branch of Christian service. Seeing that the numbers who are employed in this way is so large it is all the more necessary that some effective help of the kind should be given to them and in giving it Mr Pike has rendered a valuable service to the cause of Christ.
New website shows you how to start a pro-life ministry
I stumbled upon a very neat website about starting a pro-life ministry. See it here: http://www.startaprolifeministry.com It takes you through, step by step, on how to begin visiting your local abortion clinic to save lives, counsel mothers and share the gospel. It has the steps of preparation, brochures, sidewalk counseling, teaching videos, how to deal with authorities and the law, the preaching the gospel, etc. If this is something you’ve considered doing, I highly recommend you check out the site. Again, it’s: http://www.startaprolifeministry.com