Salvation is a topic that seems to estrange outsiders from the Christian faith. I often hear of people who struggle with believing in a God who would send people to Hell. Christians are very quick to say that you must believe in Jesus before your physical moment of death or spend all eternity in Hell, but if you believe in Jesus before death, you will spend eternity with God in Heaven. While Scripture is clear that belief in Jesus is required for salvation, I wonder if our view of salvation is too narrow. I’m not saying we should ignore the importance of salvation, but I am suggesting that we may not understand it as fully as we often claim we do.
Is it possible for us to truly understand how God chose to save His people? I believe that whatever God does regarding judgment, it is both fully merciful and fully just. It makes Him sound small if we say that we fully understand salvation and the order of events that must take place in order for someone to be saved. We already struggle to explain how God’s followers in the Old Testament are saved. How can we fully understand exactly when and how salvation occurs now? Romans 10:9 (ESV) says “…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” However, do we truly know the timeline of when belief must occur to be saved? Romans 6:5 states, “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” Jesus walked the earth for a little while before he ascended into Heaven. If our resurrection will be like His, could that mean that we may walk the earth before ascending into Heaven? I’m not saying I would want to take that risk. I’m just saying that I dont think we understand it as well as we often like to think we do.
There is also debate about whether someone can lose their salvation after believing in Christ. If someone follows Jesus for a while and suddenly turns and renounces their belief in God, we don’t know for certain if they lose their salvation. There are good arguments on both sides of whether salvation can be lost.
I am by no means arguing that it does not matter when you are saved or that we should stop evangelizing because people have plenty of time to be saved. I believe God purposefully made it ambiguous. I would simply argue that we do not fully understand God’s power or plan for salvation, and perhaps we should not focus on salvation as a means to stay out of Hell when we discuss our faith with those who are not believers. I think we should avoid “fire and brimstone” messages and focus on who God is and why He is worth following. To say that we can comprehend what He has planned makes Him seem like His intelligence is on our level. I believe His knowledge is far greater than we can imagine and that we only hear snippets of the truth. When we speak with others about God’s plan for salvation, it would make more sense to say that whatever He chooses will be completely just and merciful, fully loving and fully right.