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Note: This blog post is part of a series titled "Defining Key Biblical Concepts." To view all parts, click the link below.
A century ago, Edgar Goodspeed, professor of Biblical and Patristic Greek at the University of Chicago, published his translation of the New Testament (1923). One day while he was sitting on a park bench, a young lady walked up to him and asked him, “Sir, are you saved?” He looked at her and noted her earnest concern to save the lost, and he responded, “Do you mean was I saved, am I being saved, or will I be saved?”
The young lady, of course, did not know what he was talking about, so he explained to her how all three things are asserted in the New Testament.
The point is that there is more to the idea of salvation than most people understand. It can be said that we were saved when Jesus died on the cross and was raised from the dead. Again, we may date salvation to the moment that faith appeared in our hearts. But then there is a life of faith, wherein we are being saved—as a process, not as a single moment of time. And finally, there is a goal to be achieved, after the process has been completed.
The Feasts of the Lord
There are three salvations which, together, make up a complete salvation. These three are called Justification, Sanctification, and Glorification. All three salvations are expressed in the three main feasts of the Lord, if we understand their significance.
Passover is the point in time where we have faith in the blood of the Lamb. It is the point where we are saved in our spirit (justified by faith), because the Spirit of God indwells the Most Holy Place of our temple. We are brought out of the house of bondage—our “Egypt”—and begin the process of salvation in our wilderness journey to the Promised Land.
The second salvation is sanctification, which comes through Pentecost. The main feature of the wilderness journey is our Pentecostal experience, which Israel itself saw when the fire of God came down on Mount Sinai and spoke the Ten Commandments. Presumably, as in Acts 2:6, the people—including the mixed multitude—all heard the voice of God speaking in their own language.
All of their encampments in the wilderness contained Pentecostal lessons by which our souls are being saved. In other words, our salvation breaks through the veil separating our Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. The baptism of the Holy Spirit brings the glory of God from the Most Holy Place into the Holy Place, where it affects our Lampstand (light of revelation), the Table of Showbread (the revelation of the Word), and the Altar of Incense (prayer life).
The process of salvation does not end with Pentecost. Pentecost is how God processes us in our daily walk with God until such time as we are changed into His likeness. That transformation is the goal, the end point. It occurs, Paul says, “in a moment [atomos, an atomic change], in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:52). The twinkling of an eye—that is, a blink, indicates a moment of time, not a lengthy process.
This moment is where the glory of God breaks through the door of our temple and appears in our Outer Court, which is the realm of the body. Romans 8:23 calls it “the redemption of our body.” When this occurs, we will have a full salvation of spirit, soul, and body through the outworking of the three feasts of the Lord: Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. The final salvation is pictured in Israel’s entry into the Promised Land.
The term salvation is from the Hebrew word yeshua (or yasha), which many will recognize as Jesus’ Hebrew name. He is our Deliverer, the One who delivered Israel from the house of bondage, who delivered Israel in the wilderness, and who delivered them finally when they entered the Promised Land.
The Judges were also deliverers, types of Christ, who delivered the Israelites from various captivities throughout the book of Judges. These can also be called saviors/saviours, such as we see in Obadiah 21 KJV, “saviours shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau.” The NASB reads, “deliverers will ascend Mount Zion to judge the mountain of Esau.”
So when we say that Jesus is our Savior, the term indicates that He delivers us from the enemy. This can refer to deliverance from captivity to a nation such as Babylon, or on a deeper level, this is deliverance from sin and death. Paul tells us that death is the last (or ultimate) enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26).
Most Christians in the past 1500 years have been taught that salvation is about being delivered or saved from a burning hell. They define “death” in terms of hell rather than mortality. We will reserve that for a later study. For now, we must ask, What are we being saved from? What are we being delivered from? A more positive question is, What are we being saved into?
The obvious answer is that we are being saved from death and into life. This is the great “change” that takes place with salvation in its three stages. Justification saves us in the sense that we “reckon” ourselves—that is, the “old man”—to be dead (Romans 6:11 KJV). To reckon is to “consider” (Romans 6:11 NASB) the old man to be dead, even though in reality, he yet lives. This is neither a pretense nor a lie but a legal reality.
The words “reckon,” “consider,” or “impute” come from the Greek word logizomai, which is defined in Romans 4:17 KJV as where God “calleth those things which be not as though they were.” The illustration is when God said to Abraham, “I have made thee a father of many nations,” even though Abraham had no children yet.
So also, we reckon the old man of flesh to be dead, calling what is not as though it were. The NASB renders this in a more positive light, saying, “God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist.” Whenever God speaks, things are brought into existence. In other words, existence originates with and depends upon the word of God. Words are creative. Hence, when we declare, or reckon, the old man of flesh to be dead, it becomes a reality that is established in the courts of heaven, awaiting a full manifestation in the earth at a later time.
Justification is rooted in the death of the old man, for Paul says (literally) in Romans 6:7, “for he who has died is justified from sin.” This gives us legal perfection, though we are not yet perfect. Though we yet sin, God recognizes us as being perfect ahead of time, because it is so registered in the divine court. Nonetheless, this justification and deliverance is only the first part of salvation, for it is not complete until we are actually perfected.
Sanctification is our journey from “Egypt” to the Promised Land. In this second stage, we “die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31). It is not enough to reckon ourselves dead through our Passover experience of justification. We must continually die, because the old man is not really so dead after all. We die daily during our entire sanctification experience in the wilderness journey. This is the second phase of salvation, or deliverance from sin and death.
The final phase of salvation is the glorification of the body, which occurs in a moment of time as we enter the Promised Land. Glorification is what we are being saved into. It is the inheritance that God has promised to us. It is not “heaven” per se, but is a heavenly condition, where heaven comes to earth and is fully manifested in our body.
When we are fully like Jesus, having a glorified body like He had after His resurrection, then we can say that we are truly saved in full, having been delivered from sin and death.
The Two Covenants
The Promised Land given to the Israelites was the land of Canaan. But this was only a type and shadow of a greater inheritance that God intended to give. Israel’s entry into Canaan did not deliver them from sin, as biblical history shows. A land inheritance is good, but unless we inherit our own land—our body that is made of the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7)—we will fall far short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
We must never think that real estate represents the inheritance of salvation that God promised to those who believe in Him. At best, it can only represent a step toward full salvation. It can only be a dim picture—a type and shadow—of “better promises” (Hebrews 8:6) yet to come.
The book of Hebrews ties these “better promises” to the “better covenant” in the same verse. This refers to the New Covenant that is “better” than the Old Covenant under Moses.
The Old Covenant was based on the promises of men to God, who vowed in Exodus 19:8, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do!” The New Covenant is based on the promises of God to men in Hebrews 8:10,
10 For this is the covenant that I will make the with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
This New Covenant is a one-sided promise of God. The Old Covenant said, “IF you will indeed obey” (Exodus 19:5). The New Covenant said, “I will” and “they shall be.” Whereas the people found it impossible to fulfill their vow to God, God is able to fulfill His vow to us. This is not merely a vow to make salvation available to all, but a promise to save all in the end.
We see this clearly in the restatement of God’s vow at the end of Israel’s wilderness journey, where He made a second covenant with them (Deuteronomy 29:1). He told Moses to gather together all of the people, including women, children, and foreigners among them. Then he told them in Deuteronomy 29:13-15,
13 in order that He may establish you today as His people and that He may be your God, just as He spoke to you and as He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 14 Now not with you alone am I making this covenant and this oath, 15 but both with those who stand here with us today in the presence of the Lord our God and with those who are not with us here today.
This was a covenant on the order of what God promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Most of us know that the New Covenant was based on the promise given to Abraham. The New Covenant actually preceded the Old Covenant with Moses. The difference was that God made a promise to Abraham, and Abraham simply believed that God was able to do what He said He would do (Romans 4:21, 22). The Old Covenant with Moses was very different, in that it required the people to obey God in order for the covenant to be valid and for the people to receive the benefits of that covenant.
The Old Covenant put the responsibility upon man to do something (“works”) to receive salvation and deliverance. The New Covenant put the responsibility upon God to change the hearts of men so that they would become His people and that He would be their God.
Most Christians today are attempting to be saved by fulfilling their own vow to God. For this reason, many are plagued with guilt when they discover that they are incapable of fulfilling their vows that they made with good intentions. They struggle (as I did in my early life), trying desperately to be perfectly obedient to God, yet failing daily to achieve the glory of God. Many then question their salvation.
Once they receive the revelation that their salvation is based upon God’s vow and not their own, a great burden is removed from their shoulders, and they thank God for His goodness. They see then that God intends to save everyone—not only those who stood in God’s presence to hear God’s oath in the days of Moses (Deuteronomy 29:14), but also “those who are not with us here today” (Deuteronomy 29:15).
The vast majority of people were not there that day yet are still beneficiaries of God’s promise. We ourselves are included in that number and are among those to whom God made this oath to make us His people and to be our God.
As with Abraham, we are required only to believe that God is able to fulfill His promise to us, for we read in Romans 4:21, 22,
21 and [Abraham] being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform, 22 therefore it was also credited to him as righteousness.
The promise of God is assured. The whole earth will indeed be saved, as God promised. But our salvation is timed according to our faith that God is able to fulfill His oath to us. This is Abrahamic faith. This is New Covenant faith. God has promised to put His laws into our minds and write them in our hearts. This does not always occur during one’s lifetime. In fact, most people never have such faith during their lifetime on earth. But there is an age to come, in which the dead will be raised, wherein God will indeed fulfill His promises to the vast majority of mankind.
The only real question is whether or not we believe this or if we think that God is unable to fulfill His promise to restore the entire earth to the purpose for which it was created.
Note: This blog post is part of a series titled "Defining Key Biblical Concepts." To view all parts, click the link below.