THE GOOD NEWS ABOUT CHRIST AND SALVATION
THE SAVING FROM DEATH
The reality of death is one of the most terrifying realities of this human existence. Moreover, no matter what we do or how hard we try to preserve our life, the inevitable will happen; we will die. However, will we remain dead? Is there life after death? In the following passage, Job answers this question:
"If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come [Job knew he would be resurrected]. You shall call, and I will answer you: you will have a desire to the work of your hands" (Job 14:14-15 KJV).
God the Father grants salvation to those who believe the good news message concerning Jesus Christ. But what exactly is salvation; why do humans need it; and how can it be acquired?
The saving from eternal death and being given eternal life is defined in the Bible as salvation.The prophets, Jesus Christ, the apostles, and the early church all proclaimed the good news message of salvation as the only hope of life after death.
In the introduction of his letter to the elect at Rome, the apostle Paul talked about the Gospel of Salvation through Jesus Christ:
"So, for my part, I am ready to preach the good news to you that are in Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the good news of Christ: for it is the power of God the Father to salvation to every one that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God the Father revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith (Rom.1:15-17 Para.).
God Wants All to be Saved
"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2.Pet.3:9 KJV).
The desire to save humanity was so great and so important to the God family, that Jesus Christ, the Creator God, came to earth and became the perfect sacrifice in order to remove our death sentence.
"Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1.Tim.2:4 KJV).
"For the Son of man is come to seek and save that which was lost" (Lk.19:10 KJV). See also Matt.18:11.
The Choice is Ours
Whether or not we die for eternity or live again forever after our physical death is entirely our choice, because God the Father and Jesus Christ earnestly desire that all people be saved from eternal death and become spirit-beings in the God family. However, the choice of life or death has been left up to each person individually. See Deut.30:19; 15-19; Rev.22:14-15.
Paul explains that because of Adam's violation of God's instructions, the death sentence through the law was imposed upon all humanity:
"Because of this, even as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, so also death passed to all men, inasmuch as all sinned; for sin was in the world until the law, but sin is not charged where there is no law. But death reigned from Adam to Moses, even on those who had not sinned in the likeness of Adam's transgression. . ." (Rom.5:12-14 Para.). For more details see our study paper about Genesis chapter 3.
THE SERIOUSNESS OF SIN
God the Father and Jesus Christ consider violation of God's law a very serious matter. The Violation of God's law at the time of Noah caused the destruction of the earth along with all of humanity except for eight individuals:
"And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him in his heart. And the Lord said, I will destroy whom I have created from off the face of the earth;. . . for I am sorry that I made them" (Gen.6:5-7 Para.).
The Father and Jesus Christ are righteous beings who inhabit a dimension of existence that they have designed as a perfect environment that provides conditions for perfect peace, harmony, and happiness. Because these are the conditions of their existence they will not tolerate, for very long, evil that brings the opposite of peace, harmony, and happiness anywhere in their vast kingdom. Herein lies the seriousness of evil behavior; it is repugnant to the Father and Jesus Christ and it is in opposition to their very existence.
Their solution to maintaining the purity of their dominion and their lifestyle in order that they may accomplish their goals is the removal of all who exhibit evil behavior and will not conform to their righteous way of life. Because humans are not immortal beings, they have only two options: 1) conform to God's perfect law and lifestyle and live eternally as happy productive individuals; 2) continue to violate the law of God and be terminated as a life form through death by fire.
"Do you not know that the unjust ones will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be led astray, idolaters, nor fornicators, nor adulteress, nor abusers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor covetous ones, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor plunderers shall inherit the Kingdom of God" (1.Cor.6:9-10 Para.). See also Gal.5:19-21; Eph.5:3-5; Jms.5:19-20; 2.Pet.2:1- 22.
"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;" (Rom.3:23 KJV).
"For the wages of sin is death. . ." (Rom.6:23 KJV).
Unless there is a way to escape the righteous judgment of the law there is no hope of life after death and all are doomed to die by fire:
"He that overcomes shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and the unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone: which is the second death" (Rev.21:7-8 Para.).
A WAY OF ESCAPE
"But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom.6:23 Para.).
Because God the Father and Jesus Christ knew that humanity would eventually come under the penalty of the law, their plan for the salvation of humanity included a method by which people may escape the death sentence.
Humanity was created with the ability to reason and weigh alternate courses of physical and mental action. In other words, humans were created with the ability to choose to do as they please, whether good or evil. Before God created humanity, he knew that they might choose evil over good, and that after choosing evil and seeing the results of such behavior, some would want to change and establish a positive relationship with him. Therefore, long before creating human beings, God formulated a sacrificial system in order to give humanity a way to be placed back into a harmonious relationship with him.
"Then Abel brought the first lamb born to one of his sheep, killed it, and gave the best parts of it as an offering. The Lord was pleased with Abel and his offering, but he rejected Cain and his offering. Cain became furious, and he scowled in anger. Then the Lord said to Cain, Why are you angry? Why that scowl on your face? If you had done the right thing, you would be smiling, but because you have done evil, sin is crouching at your door. It wants to rule you, but you must overcome it. Then Cain said to his brother Abel, Let's go out in the fields. When they were out in the fields, Cain turned on his brother and killed him" (Gen.4:4-8 GNB).
God told Cain that if he had done the right thing, he would be smiling. But what was it that Cain should have done? The answer is obvious when we see what the apostle John says to Christians about Cain's behavior:
"The message you heard from the very beginning is this: we must love one another. We must not be like Cain; he belonged to the Evil One and murdered his own brother Abel. Why did Cain murder him? Because the things he himself did were wrong, and the things his brother did were right" (1.Jn.3:11-12 GNB).
Here is what the writer to the Hebrews says that Abel did right and Cain did wrong:
"It was by faith that Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain. Through his faith he won God's approval as a righteous man, because God himself approved of his gifts. Because of this act of faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead" (Heb.11:4 GNB).
It was through a more excellent sacrifice that Abel obtained the witness that showed he was a righteous individual (i.e., in right-standing with God). Why was Abel's sacrifice more excellent than Cain's? And how did the act of offering the correct sacrifice cause Abel to continue to speak to us?
THE SHEDDING OF BLOOD
Without the shedding of blood there can be no atonement for sin; unless a life is sacrificed to pay the penalty for violating the law, sin cannot be set aside nor forgiven:
"For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it for you upon the altar to make an atonement for your lives: for it is the blood that makes an atonement for one's life" (Lev.17:11 Para.).
"And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission" (Heb.9:22 KJV).
Cain was unwilling to diligently follow God's instructions and was a sinner before God. However, Abel was willing to obey God and was righteous in God's eyes. Cain would have been smiling if he had given the proper sacrifice (Gen.4:7).
Abel's sacrifice was more excellent than Cain's because Abel offered a firstling of his flock. Abel knew that someday the Creator God would come to earth and offer himself as a perfect sacrifice, and through this perfect sacrifice he would have his sins taken away, never to be remembered again. Abel offered the proper sacrifice, which was symbolic of Christ's sacrifice. His sins were then covered and he was put back into a harmonious relationship with God. Through his faith in this sacrifice (a type of Christ), Abel still speaks to us.
Prior to Christ, when someone violated God's law, their fellowship with him was interrupted and their access to him was barred. In order to deal with this situation, God designed the priesthood and the sacrificial system. The priest functioned as a mediator and bridge-builder between people and God by means of the sacrificial system. By offering a correct sacrifice, the breach of the law was repaired and fellowship with God was restored.
The Ancient Israelites
In the agreement that God made with the nation of Israel at Mount Sinai, he promised that, if they would keep his law (Deut.5:29-33; 30:15-20), they would be righteous and sinless before him. However, as we have already shown, it was impossible to maintain a perfect relationship with God before the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
It is very important to understand how those who lived prior to Christ maintained a good relationship with their Creator, because it is a good relationship with God the Father that ensures a person salvation under the terms and conditions of the new agreement.
SALVATION THROUGH JUSTIFICATION
A major part of the good news message that Jesus Christ brought concerning salvation has to do with the new method by which a person can establish and maintain a harmonious relationship with God the Father.
There are many scriptures that speak of the necessity to be justified before God in order to obtain salvation. But just what does being justified mean? Because being justified is necessary in order to obtain salvation, it is vital to understand exactly what justification is and how to obtain it.
The Word Justify
The English word 'justify', as used in the Old Testament, is translated from a Hebrew word that means 'to render just or innocent', 'free', 'justify', or 'to be righteous'. The words 'justification' and 'righteousness' connote being made free from sin and being placed in right-standing before God.
It will help in this aspect of the gospel message to understand that the words 'justification' and 'righteousness' as used in the New Testament, are derived from the same Greek word and are used interchangeably.
Both the Hebrew and the Greek words for 'justification' and 'righteousness' are used to convey the same basic meaning of being made right with God and being sinless before him.
God is Our Salvation
"Look to me, and be you saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else" (Isa.45:22 KJV).
"Lead me in your truth, and teach me: for you are the God of my salvation; on you do I wait all the day" (Psa.25:5 KJV).
In order to obtain salvation, we must have our sins forgiven and our death sentence removed. Because it is impossible for us to forgive our own sins or remove our own death sentence, it must be done for us. The only being who can forgive sins and remove the death sentence is God the Father because he is the Sovereign of all that exists. Therefore, it is he who must declare us sinless and worthy of saving. The question is not, will he save us; rather, it is how does he save us?
The Righteousness to be Revealed:
"So says the Lord, Keep justice and do righteousness: for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed" (Isa.56:1 Para.).
Jesus the Righteous
Jesus was the only truly righteous human who has ever lived. He perfectly kept all the commandments, precepts, and principles of God for his entire life without ever sinning. He did not deserve to die, but he chose to die for us so that we could have our sins forgiven and live (see 1.Pet.2:21-24):
"Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? No: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law" (Rom.3:27-28 KJV).
Is it because of a person's efforts to obey God's law that they are declared righteous before God? Absolutely not! All that is required to become righteous is that a person truly believe the things concerning Jesus and the message that he brought from the Father, because Jesus met all the righteous demands of the law for us:
"Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yes, we establish the law" (Rom.3:31 KJV).
When a person has had their sins forgiven, their death penalty removed, and declared righteous through faith in Jesus Christ, does the law cease to apply to that person? Does the sacrifice of Christ eliminate that person's requirement to practice the law? The answer is an emphatic NO! After one is declared righteous before the Father and guiltless under the law, the law still exists in its totality. What has happened is that the penalty for the violation of the law has been satisfied by the death of Christ for the one who has faith in Christ.
The law has been shown to be valid through the death of Christ. After one is justified, the law is made a part of one's very being and must be obeyed. The law is still valid, violation of the law will still bring eternal death if repentance is not forthcoming and the blood of Christ is not applied to wipe away the sin and its penalty. The elect of God establish the law; in that, they show its validity through their acceptance of and faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as their salvation from the penalty for their violation of the law of God. See Rom.6:15-16.
A careful study of the Bible reveals how to become righteous and be saved from eternal death. The righteousness Isaiah foretold was the righteousness of the life and sacrifice of Christ. It is through belief in the perfect sacrifice of Christ and his righteousness that a person may obtain righteousness and salvation.
As we have read, righteousness is defined as the obeying of God's law. What is the righteousness that Isaiah foretold would be revealed (Isa.56:1)? The answer to this question is found in the writings of Paul:
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God to salvation to everyone that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For in it is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith" (Rom.1:16-17 KJV).
Romans 3:20-26 KJV
"Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;" (vs.20-21).
Paul said that a person cannot be justified by their efforts to keep the law, because God has revealed a method to become righteous apart from the deeds of the law.
"Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ to all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:" (vs.22-24).
Under the New Covenant, the way to become innocent of any wrongdoing and to be justified is through faith in the redemptive power of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ:
"Whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believes in Jesus" (vs.25-26).
It is through the righteousness of Jesus Christ that a person may be declared righteous before God the Father. It is because Jesus Christ sacrificed his life blood that we can have our sins forgiven, our death sentence removed, and be made innocent before the Father.
JESUS, THE ONLY WAY TO SALVATION
The Bible tells us that the only way to obtain salvation is through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ our Creator, Redeemer, and Savior. Without belief in Jesus Christ, no one can be saved from eternal death.
"I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no savior" (Isa.43:11 KJV).
"Thus says the Lord, your redeemer, and he that formed you from the womb, I am the Lord that makes all things. . ." (Isa.44:24 KJV).
"I the Lord am your Savior and your Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob" (Isa.60:16 KJV). See also Isa.45:21; Hos.14:4. "For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost [humanity]" (Matt.18:11 KJV).
"For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. . ." (Lk.9:56 KJV).
"He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believes not shall be damned" [condemned] (Mk.16:16 KJV).
The apostle Paul said, "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief" (1.Tim.1:15 KJV).
"Be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him does this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:10-12 KJV).
Jesus Christ holds the key to our salvation because he is our Savior. It is through his sacrifice and intercessory authority with the Father that we can have our sins forgiven. It is through his sacrifice that all of humanity past, present, and future may obtain salvation:
"For God [God the Father] has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ" (1.Thes.5:9 KJV).
Jesus Christ was not only sent to pay the penalty for our sins but also to save us from eternal death and show us how to obtain eternal life:
"Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me" (Jn.14:6 KJV).
"This parable spoke Jesus to them: but they understood not what things they were which he spoke to them. Then said Jesus to them again, Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief comes not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep" (Jn.10:6-11 KJV). See Jn.6:39-40; 11:25-26; Rom.1:16-17.
Please read John 14 and 15 before reading the rest of this study paper, because these two chapters contain very important information about how to obtain salvation.
SALVATION IS A GIFT FROM THE FATHER
God the Father is expanding his family (Jn.1:12; 1.Jn.3:1-2, 2.Cor.6:1; Heb.2:10) and his intent is to share all he has throughout eternity with beings just like himself (1.Cor.2:9). To accomplish this, he has set in motion a plan through which he will give eternal life within his Family and Kingdom to all who will accept his way of life.
Salvation cannot be earned, purchased, or otherwise obtained by our own power or efforts. The power to save a person from eternal death and impart eternal life and immortality is God the Father's alone (1.Sam.2:6), and this he will freely do through Jesus Christ for those who meet his terms and conditions:
"For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph.2:8-9 Para.).
JESUS THE GIVER OF LIFE
"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give to them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand" (Jn.10:27-28 KJV).
"And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one that sees the Son, and believes on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day" (Jn.6:40 KJV).
The apostle Paul also spoke of the hope of life after death and a resurrection from the dead:
"But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom.6:22-23 KJV).
Paul understood that the material things of this life are worthless and that the real prize to be sought in life is the knowledge of how to obtain eternal life and immortality:
"Yes doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable to his death; If by any means I might attain to the resurrection of the dead" (Phil.3:8-11 KJV).
JESUS CHRIST IS THE HOPE OF THE DEAD
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes on him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved" (Jn.3:16-17 KJV). See Mk.16:16; 1.Jn.4:9-10; Rom.8:7-18.
After Christ's death and resurrection, the apostles taught the hope of the dead through the sacrifice of Jesus and a resurrection:
"And as they spoke to the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold [i.e., jail] to the next day: for it was now evening" (Acts 4:1-3 KJV).
"But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" (1.Cor.15:20-22 KJV).
"He who believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he that does not believe shall be condemned" (Mk.16:16 Para.).
"For God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ" (1.Thes.5:9 KJV).
Prior to the coming of Jesus, all of humanity were awaiting the death sentence to be carried out as punishment for the violation of God's law. But now we may have our sins forgiven and be made totally innocent before the Father through the sacrifice of Christ.
Because Jesus Christ offered his life as the final and supreme sacrifice for the sins of mankind, there is no longer a need for animal sacrifices to be performed for justification; however, there is still a need for the forgiveness of sin through Jesus Christ:
"But God commends his love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life" (Rom.5:8-10 KJV).
Escape The Death Sentence
All people need the Father's intervention in order to live again after physical death, because all will eventually die a physical death. Furthermore, unless there is forgiveness of one's violation of the Father's physical and spiritual law, one must die the eternal death as the penalty for breaking his law. Therefore, there is no hope of eternal life unless it comes from the One who has the authority and the power to remove the death penalty.
The good news from the Father is that he has both the authority and the power to remove one's death sentence. He has the authority because he is the Sovereign of all that exists and he has the power (i.e., the means) through which forgiveness may be accomplished in order to satisfy the righteous demands of the law.
The Means Of Forgiveness
The extremely good news is that forgiveness of sin can be accomplished by going directly to God the Father through the authority of Jesus Christ. All we have to do is ask to be forgiven. The Father will then forgive and forget the sin because of the supreme sacrifice of his Son. This is the way God has chosen to give us salvation from eternal death. For those who accept the call of God during the gospel age of salvation and follow his way of life, the reward is eternal life, immortality, and tremendous joy and happiness forever in the Father's family and kingdom. See also our study papers concerning baptism.
God the Father wants everyone to repent of sin and obtain salvation. He has set before humanity the choice of life and death, and each person must eventually choose which they desire (Deut.30:15-20):
"In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory" (Eph.1:11-12 NIV). See Rom.8:24; Gal.3:1-8;1.Cor.9:18; 2.Cor.9:13; 10:14; Phil.1:27
Now that you have this knowledge, may God give you the wisdom and strength to act upon it in a positive manner.
For those who are being called to salvation in this age, the apostle Peter says,
"Repent, and be baptized . . . and you shall receive the gift of the holy spirit" (Acts 2:38 KJV).
By B.L. Cocherell, file b1w7