Is salvation about more than just the afterlife?
Salvation is often presented as the means by which to get to heaven after one dies. It is true that we must be saved in order to go to heaven, and the hope of eternity with Jesus is central in salvation. But salvation bears fruit in our earthly lives. Salvation is not simply a ticket to a better future, it is a change that takes place and has an effect now.
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Ephesians 2:8–9 is often used to demonstrate that salvation is by God's grace and received through faith, not works. We are forgiven our sins and reconciled to God because of what Jesus did on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:17–21), not because of any merit in ourselves. When we are saved, we are freed from the penalty of sin and granted eternal life (John 3:16; Romans 6:23). Eternal life speaks to both quality and quantity of life, and it begins when we are saved. Our time on earth is but a foretaste of all God has in store for us, but it is very much affected by our salvation. We see evidence of this right in Ephesians; Ephesians 2:10 tells us, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Clearly God has a plan for our lives on earth.
Second Corinthians 5:17 says that all who are in Christ are new creations. Jesus said that He came that those who believe in Him "may have life and have it abundantly" (John 10:10). In John 15, He talks about abiding in Him and bearing fruit. Many times Jesus calls His followers to obedience, linking it to our showing love for Him and experiencing joy in Him. In John 17 Jesus prays for His followers and specifically mentions sending them into the world. In Matthew 28:18–20 Jesus gives the Great Commission. Paul echoes the fact that believers have been "given the ministry of reconciliation" in 2 Corinthians 5. Obviously salvation affects us. We become new, we bear fruit, and we share God's message of hope and forgiveness with others.
When we are made new and bear fruit, we actually experience a more satisfying life on earth. Our entire perspective changes when we are saved. We begin to see the darkness of this fallen world for what it is, and we recognize the light of God. We are freed not only from eternal death because of sin, but the enslaving power of sin in our own lives. Certainly believers still struggle with sin (1 John 1:8–9), but we also know the joy of forgiveness and can experience the Holy Spirit's transforming and enabling work to help free us from sin. We gain a godly perspective on this world and can therefore endure. Rather than attempt to seek meaning through earthly pleasures or worldly success, we rest in the fact that we are loved by the One who created us and sustains this world. We can more fully appreciate things like beauty and joy because we know the One from whom they proceed and also recognize that our earthly experience of them is a mere shadow of what will one day be. We also experience God's peace and His enabling.
When we are saved, we are invited into relationship with God. Much more than just a destination for our afterlives, we are called children of the living God (John 1:12–13). We have access to our Father through prayer (Hebrews 4:14–16). In Jesus we have someone who understands our weaknesses and sympathizes with us (Hebrews 4:14–16). We also have the Holy Spirit who reveals truth to us and enables us to live (John 14:16–17; 16:13–15).
Salvation frees us from condemnation, secures us firmly in God's love, makes us heirs of God, and very much affects our lives on earth (Romans 8). It is because we are saved that we can know truth, experience freedom, join in God's work in this world, and rest assured that our hope in Him will be fully realized. Salvation is about the afterlife, but it is also about so much more.
"Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen" (Ephesians 3:20–21).
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