Did you know that there are not one, but two salvations discussed in the New Testament Scriptures?
Yep, that's right. I'm going to show you.
And seeing this should raise important questions for us, which I'll explain.
Welcome to the 32nd post in my series of rethinking Christian eschatology. Because these posts build upon each other, if you've not already done so, I invite you to read the previous posts in this series before continuing here.
Salvation #1: Forgiveness of Sins
I imagine you are well aware of the salvation that was (and is) for the forgiveness of sins. That salvation is, after all, at the heart of the gospel and Christianity.
For example, consider these familiar, sweet words from Paul:
1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
(Eph. 2:1-10 NIV)
We could cite many other Scriptures which speak of this salvation, such as Mark 16:16, Acts 16:29-34, Rom. 8:24, and 2 Tim. 1:9.
Salvation #2: Salvation Accompanying Jesus' Second Coming
What is interesting, though, is how often the New Testament writers wrote to the first century Christians about another salvation—that salvation which would accompany Jesus' return.
To illustrate, consider these words of Paul written to the Christians in Rome:
8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
11 And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.
(Rom. 13:8-14 NIV)
Remember, Paul wrote these words to Christians—people who had already received the salvation that is the forgiveness of their sins.
There was another salvation which Paul said, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, was quickly approaching those to whom he was writing.
In the previously-quoted text, we can see Paul alluding to Jesus' teachings to the four apostles, which we previously studied:
34 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.
42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46 It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. 47 Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48 But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ 49 and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. 50 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. 51 He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
(Matt. 24:42-51 NIV)
Another example of this second salvation can be seen in Hebrews:
24 For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; 25 not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another— 26 He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. 27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, 28 so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.
(Heb. 9:24-28 NKJV)
Heb. 9:28 plainly references the salvation which would accompany Jesus' second coming.
Peter, also, wrote about this second salvation:
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 8 and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.
10 As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, 11 seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look.
13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
(1 Pet. 1:3-13 NIV)
We could easily keep going.
Virtually the entire message of 1 and 2 Peter centers on Jesus' second coming and the preparations for it.
When you read these two letters of Peter (and all the Scriptures, for that matter) with the perspective gained through this series of articles—which I have shown to be entirely based upon what the Scriptures teach—you will have a new depth of understanding of GOD's word.
And I have shown from passages like Malachi's prophecy how this is entirely consistent with the Prophets' writings:
1 “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty.
Note: Recall, this messenger was John the Baptist.
2 But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.
16 Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name.
17 “On the day when I act,” says the Lord Almighty, “they will be my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as a father has compassion and spares his son who serves him. 18 And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.
“Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. 2 But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves. 3 Then you will trample on the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I act,” says the Lord Almighty.
4 “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.
5 “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”
(Mal. 3:1-3, 16-4:6 NIV)
Malachi plainly discussed here Jesus' second coming (in judgment). And note how GOD promised the distinction between the righteous who would be protected from the wicked who would be destroyed. This is speaking of the second salvation of the New Testament.
When you realize that the primary audience of the New Testament writings were going to live to see Jesus' return, passages like the following from 1 Peter make far more sense than when we read them as general advice that applies equally to all Christians for all generations:
7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?
(1 Pet. 4:7-17 NIV)
To be sure, Christians of all generations, including ours, can and do benefit from these words of Peter. But these words held special meaning for the first recipients of his letter. Only when we see that can we properly appreciate what GOD was doing, has done and is doing now.
Recognizing Which Salvation Can be Tricky
Because the first century Christians received both salvations—the first to receive the salvation from sins through Jesus' blood, and the servants of GOD who received salvation from their violent tormenters, the rebellious Jews, as a result of Jesus' judgment on them—we must admit that it can be difficult to know which salvation is being discussed in certain Scriptures.
Sometimes it is clearly forgiveness of sins, such as Eph. 2:1-10.
In other places it is clearly the salvation accompanying Jesus' second coming and the judgment against the wicked, as in the verses I cited from 1 Pet. 1 and Rom. 13.
But in certain places, it isn't so clear which salvation is beind discussed.
When we see a reference to salvation in the New Testament, we should try to discern whether it is a spiritual or physical salvation (or both) that is being discussed.
Overlooking This 'Two Salvations' Truth Has Had Huge Consequences
There is one "salvation" passage that has proven especially problematic to many believers, particularly since the Reformation.
The combined mistakes of:
- Confusing a physical salvation reference as being a spiritual salvation, with...
- Some unfortunate prooftexting (i.e., snipping a Scripture from its context to make it seem to mean something different than it really means)...
...has had potentially catastrophic consequences, keeping countless souls outside of the kingdom of GOD.
Here's what I'm referring to...
Romans 10:9-13 is frequently quoted by many believers as an explanation of what a person must do to have their sins forgiven.
Here are those verses:
9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
(Rom. 10:9-13 NIV)
At first glance, these verses do seem to clearly teach faith-only salvation (i.e., that a person's sins are forgiven by Jesus the moment they believe).
The problem is, though, in this context, Paul was discussing the salvation that accompanied Jesus' second coming, not that of the forgiveness of sins. The two salvations were interrelated in the first century, because those who were Christ's then were saved from GOD's wrath at Jesus' coming in judgment.
After explaining the salvation from sins that is possible through faith in Jesus (Rom. 5-8), in Rom. 9:1, Paul began an important discussion of who the real Israel is (spiritual Israel) and how he wished his physical countrymen would turn to Jesus for salvation (spiritual and, as a result, physical):
1 I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit— 2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, 4 the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises.
(Rom. 9:1-4 NIV)
He then explained how it is those who have the faith of Abraham who are Abraham's true descendents, and thus the true Israelites:
6 It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. 7 Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 8 In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.
(Rom. 9:6-8 NIV)
It is this same subject that Paul was discussing in the next chapter, from which Rom. 10:9-13 is snipped:
1 Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. 2 For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. 3 Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.
5 Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law: “The person who does these things will live by them.” 6 But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: 9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
(Rom. 10:1-13 NIV)
Note that, starting in v.5, Paul began a series of quotes from the Old Testament Scriptures.
- “The person who does these things will live by them.” is a quote from Lev. 18:5, which says, "Keep my decrees and laws, for the person who obeys them will live by them. I am the Lord."
- "Who will ascend into heaven?", "Who will descend into the deep?" and "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart" are quotes from Deut. 30:12-14, which says:
11 Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 14 No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.
(Deut. 30:11-14 NIV)
Note: These instructions from Moses are on the heels of the promises GOD had given in Deut. 30:1-6 about the eventual scattering and gathering of Israel as a result of their sins. As I've shown, the Prophets clearly foretold this gathering would occur in the time of Jesus (see Isa. 11; Jer. 30-31, for example).
- "Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame" is a quote from the LXX version of Isa. 28:16, which says:
16 therefore, thus says the Lord: "Behold, I lay for the foundations of Zion a costly stone, a chosen and precious cornerstone for its foundations, and whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame.
(Isa. 28:16 OSB)
- "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" is a quote from Joel 2:32, which we've studied extensively, and says:
28 “And afterward,Note: Recall that Joel 2:28-32 prophesied what would happen in the last days, per Acts 2:14-21. We have seen from our studies that "the last days" referred to the end of the old covenant and physical Israel as GOD's people.
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions.
29 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
30 I will show wonders in the heavens
and on the earth,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
31 The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
32 And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved;
for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem
there will be deliverance,
as the Lord has said,
even among the survivors
whom the Lord calls.
(Joel 2:28-32 NIV)
It is evident from these quotes of Deut. 30 and Joel 2, as well as the extended discussion beginning in Rom. 9:1, that Paul was discussing the timeframe of Jesus' second coming.
Immediately after these statements, Paul resumed discussing the physical vs. spiritual Israel:
14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
16 But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. ...
(Rom. 10:14-16a NIV)
This same discussion continued through the end of Rom. 11:
28 As far as the gospel is concerned, [the rebellious Jews] are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, 29 for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. 30 Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, 31 so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. 32 For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.
(Rom. 11:28-32 NIV)
It was Jesus' second coming, through the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 A.D., which served humanity the physical proof that the old system of things—the old heaven and earth/land (see Matt. 5:18; 2 Pet. 3), along with its covenant—had disappeared.
If every believer from past generations had realized that the New Testament spoke of two salvations and that Paul was referring to the salvation from the wrath accompanying Jesus' return in Rom. 10:9-13, innumerable believers would have plainly seen the essential role that baptism plays in the salvation process, as I wrote about previously.
Instead, countless believers died never having been immersed in water specifically for the purpose of having their sins forgiven. I pray GOD's mercy on their souls, and yet I fear the worst for them, having not obeyed His will in their lives and never undergone GOD's divine transformation process from the physical-only realm into the spiritual kingdom.
1 and 2 Thessalonians were key Scriptures I had to understand in my private studies before I embraced my current perspective as being unquestionably what the Scriptures taught.
Got questions or comments? Leave them below. (I'm truly happy to help. But please, carefully read the entire series first.)