Section 6: Salvation — Part 1
Week 1: What Is Salvation?
Day 2: We Are Saved from More than Hell
Yesterday we discussed the fundamental human problem. Some see the problem as primarily horizontal. If we can just fix human institutions and relationships everything will be better. From a Christian perspective, though, our primary problem is vertical, not horizontal. Although we were created to enjoy God’s presence, sin has now placed us under his judgment. Rather than enjoying a loving relationship, we now live under the threat of eternal punishment. If we don’t find a way to fix that problem, nothing else really matters.
Once we know what the problem is, the natural question becomes: how do we fix it? But let’s slow down for a moment. Before we answer the question of how we fix the problem, let’s take a closer look at what we gain by fixing the problem. When God saves us, we are saved from something and to something. We’ll take a closer look at the “saved to” part of the equation tomorrow. Today we’re going to focus on what we’re saved from.
For many that probably seems like an easy question with an obvious answer – hell. Sin placed us under God’s judgment, which amounts to eternal punishment in hell. Salvation, therefore, is obviously avoiding hell. It’s true salvation includes the avoidance of hell, but salvation includes much more than a proverbial get out of hell free card. To equate salvation with not going to hell is to miss the extent of what God has done for us.
We Pay a Price Long Before Hell
In the Humanity section, we discussed the fact that we were created in God’s image. That image was severely damaged in the Fall. Sin now penetrates to the very core of our being and affects every aspect of our lives. We aren’t merely people who sin, we are sinful people. So, no matter how hard we try, we are no longer able to reflect God’s image the way were intended to. That means none of us is capable of being the person God intended us to be.
Sin has, thus, robbed us of our true selves. That’s why the Bible so often portrays sin as a power that dominates our existence and turns us into its slaves (Romans 6:12-14, 7:7-25, 8:1-8). So even before we get to hell, we’ve paid a huge price. Fortunately, when we put our faith in Christ, God rescues us from sin’s dominion. It no longer has the same power over us (Romans 6-8). Salvation, therefore, includes more than avoiding punishment. It includes rescue from the enslavement of sin.
Hell Involves Much More than Physical Torment
When we think of hell, we think mainly in terms of physical torment. And there’s no getting around the fact that the biblical picture of hell includes that. But hell entails more than intense physical pain. It entails the complete absence of God’s presence. That’s why Jesus cried, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me” on the cross. He had to endure complete separation from the Father in order to pay the penalty for our sin. Everyone condemned to hell, however, must endure that separation from God on their own.
We might be tempted to shrug our shoulders and think the physical pain is worse. After all, the image of fire that is never quenched and worms eating our flesh seems pretty bad (Mark 9:48). But consider this: When we say that hell involves the absence of God’s presence, we’re not just saying those in hell get a little lonely because they don’t have God to talk to. The Bible says God is the source of every good thing. His absence, therefore, means the absence of all joy, all love, all hope.
The human soul wasn’t created to endure that kind of existence. It was meant to enjoy God’s presence. To experience the complete absence of the blessing of God’s presence for even a moment would be unbearable. The pain of experiencing his absence for all eternity is, thus, beyond comprehension.
When we realize the punishment hell truly represents, we better understand what we’ve been spared. It’s true that God saves us from hell, but that’s a much bigger deal than we realize.
Try to imagine what a life devoid of all love, all joy, and all hope would be like.
What brings you joy in life? What gives you hope? What do you think the complete loss of all joy and hope would do to a person’s soul? What would going through all of eternity in that state be like?