is the Point of Salvation?
“Are you saved?”
That was the questioned posed to me during a call-in show that I was hosting. I
responded by asking, “What do you mean by that question?” The caller then
quickly retorted, “If you have to ask, that just shows that you’re not.” So for
the next hour I took phone calls from people: each with a different definition
of “being saved.”
How can that be? How
can we have so many views on “being saved”? This seems like something that
should be better defined, especially since many people will tell you the exact
point in time that they became saved. What does salvation mean? Are there
different ways to be saved? What is the point, the event, the place in time when
you are saved? Is salvation a condition or a process? And how does a person
Many Christians can tell you the exact date and time that they “became
saved.” Many Christians believe that when
you accept Jesus into your heart (or as your personal savior) then you are
saved. But what does THAT mean? The main Christian perspective of salvation
seems to be the necessity of knowing WHO the Messiah is. If this is true, how do
we reconcile the Old Testament and the New Testament views of salvation? Does the accepting
of, or having a knowledge of Messiah save us?
In the New Testament
the message seems to be that those who believe or accept that Yeshua is the
Messiah will be saved, while the Tanakh (Old Testament) seems to be silent on the
importance of knowing the Messiah’s identity. Why is this? Why does the New
Testament seem to stress belief in Yeshua, and yet, nowhere in the entire Tanakh
(Old Testament) do we even have a hint that salvation is tied directly
with knowing WHO Messiah is? If the identity was so central to salvation,
wouldn’t there be more importance placed on knowing the Messiah’s identity in
When Yeshua was asked about eternal life he didn’t stress the importance of
knowing who the Messiah was, rather he stressed the importance of keeping the
16 And, behold,
one came and said to him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may
have eternal life?
17 And he said to him, “Why do you call me good? There is none good but one,
that is, God: but if you will enter into life, keep the commandments.”
As we have discussed
earlier, the commandments or “laws” are God’s instructions for us. If we follow
those instructions our lives will go better. If we do not follow God’s
instructions then we are “missing the mark,” we are not on target.
The Hebrew word
chata and the Greek word hamartia mean “to miss the mark.”
They are usually translated into the English
word “sin.” In the original language, to live your life "without sin" does not
mean that you never make mistakes. Rather, it means that you are
focused on the objective; you do not "miss the mark".
This is much like when the Bible says
that Noah or Abraham were "perfect". The Bible is not telling us that
Noah and Abraham never made a mistake.
John describes sin in
1John 3:4 this way:
4 … sin is
transgression of the law
Once Israel had been
redeemed by God to be a “holy” or separated people, they were responsible to live
a life free from “sin.” Anyone who falls short, or
“misses the mark,” needs to be forgiven of those “sins.”
What exactly is the
process by which our sins are forgiven?
In Israel during
Temple times, there was a sacrificial system by which someone who had
unintentionally sinned could be forgiven.
26 And he shall
burn all his fat upon the alter, as the fat of the sacrifice of peace offerings:
and the priest shall make an atonement for him as concerning his sin, and
it shall be forgiven him.
But how does this
match with what is written in Hebrews 10:4?
4 It is not
possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins
The writer of
Hebrews knew the scriptures in the Torah that clearly state that when someone
who had sinned brought a sacrifice to the Temple, his sins were forgiven. He,
however, also knew that it was not the blood of an animal that forgave the sin,
because if a person could not afford an animal sacrifice even a meal offering
There were also
other ways to be “cleansed” from sin. One was to go into a ritual bath called a
“mikvah.” We read about this practice in the book of Mark.
4 John did
baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for
the remission of sins.
5 And there went out unto him all the land of Judea, and they of Jerusalem, and
were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.
It is NOT, however,
the ritual that saves a person. When a priest (or John the Baptist) would tell
someone one that their sins were forgiven, it was not ultimately because of the
ritual. No amount of sacrifice or ritual bathing is able to “save” someone
without having a humble attitude.
6 I desire mercy,
and not sacrifice, and knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.
18 The LORD is
near to them that are of a broken heart; and saves such as to be of a contrite
main point to realize is that there is nothing magic about ritual baths or
animal sacrifices. Although they may be part of a system or process, it is
our heart and soul (our attitude) that makes the difference.
saved" is not based solely on our experiences, feelings, or our acceptance of
Ultimately it is
totally in God's hands. He may choose to save us in any fashion that He
wishes, although the process is usually not without a certain amount work and
We also see evidence
that “being saved” is not just a point in time, rather it is a process that
takes us THROUGH a period of time.
22 And you shall
be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endures to the end
shall be saved.
How does keeping the
commandments and “enduring till the end” fit in with salvation? Also, how does
that compare to other verses that indicate that our faith or belief is
sufficient for salvation?
Believe, and You
Shall Be Saved
One problem is that
any time you translate from one language to another, you have to do a certain
amount of interpretation. Although in our language the words “faith” or “belief”
mean “to have a knowledge of,” in the first century they meant more than that.
In Edward Nydle’s
Beginner’s Torah Lesson #6 he says:
To the average
Believer "faith" is a mental activity that involves intellectual assent to the
truth found in the Scriptures. It remains in the realm of the mind with no
action attached to it. We say a prayer and you are "saved" by faith. This is NOT
the Hebraic or Scriptural concept of belief. (Ya’akov-James 1:19-25; 2:12-26).
We have allowed the Greeks to redefine our Scriptural words to fit their
philosophy. Let us return to the Hebrew once again to obtain our word
definitions and meanings with the Hebrew mind-set.
The Hebrew verb AMAN means "faith, trust, believe, support,
nourish, make firm or lasting.” Notice it is a VERB. It is interesting that
the Hebrew words OMENET
(nurse) and OMENOT (pillars) come from this root. The Hebrew word –EMUNAH means
"faithfulness, trust, firmness, stability, support, to be reliable.” It is first
used in Shemot (Exodus) 17:12 concerning Mosheh’s hands being EMUNAH or steady
or firm so the battle could be won over the Almalikites. This required an action
on the part of Mosheh for deliverance to come to Yisrael.
So what does this
mean; are we then saved by our own works? Absolutely not! In Romans, Paul says
that we were saved while we were yet sinners. Just as the children of Israel did
not receive salvation from Egypt because of any works that THEY did, rather God
CHOSE them and redeemed them as a GIFT.
Salvation is not
something that can be earned. However, after being saved we must live life in a
saved condition, by following God's instructions (laws). In reality, being saved
has more to do with living your life TODAY than it has to do with what will
happen in an after-life.
But doesn't getting
saved mean that you're going to heaven?
The Kingdom of
We read in the New
Testament both John the Baptist and Yeshua saying, “Repent, for
the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
1 In those days
John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea,
2 And saying, Repent you, for
the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
17 From that time
Yeshua began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven
is at hand.
What does “the
kingdom of heaven” mean? We find this phrase 40 times in the Bible. They are ALL
in the book of Matthew. Why? Matthew is the most Hebraic of the Gospels. He was
careful to not over-use God’s name.
So rather than say
“kingdom of God” (like all of the other Gospels), he would replace the name of
God with “heaven.” This was not to say that this kingdom’s physical location was
IN heaven. Rather, this was the kingdom that was serving as a representative OF
heaven or God.
It is easy to
misunderstand what is being said because we often do not understand the culture
or context, and because we are working through translation and interpretation
When Yeshua said
that the kingdom of God was “not of this world,” did he mean that it was up in heaven?
In Hebrew the word “olam” is sometimes translated as “world.” In Jewish theology
the present age is the Olam Hazeh. The Olam Haba is “the World to Come.”
The World to Come is
not that of a different planet someplace, nor is it one of floating on clouds up
in heaven. It is a belief in an AGE to come, here on this planet, when Messiah
will rule. So the kingdom of God will be in an age to come.
But isn't the gospel
the story of salvation through Jesus?
If you were to ask
the average Christian what the gospel was, he would probably say it was the
story of Jesus dying for our sins so we can go to heaven when we die. But, is that really what
the “gospel” is all about? What is the gospel anyway?
The word “gospel”
means “good news.” What was the “good news” about?
And Jesus went
about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel
of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of
disease among the people.
And Jesus went
about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching
the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every
disease among the people.
gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a
witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
Now after that
John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of
the kingdom of God,
And saying, The
time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent you, and
believe the gospel.
Let us put the
phrase, “kingdom of God,” into context. What did that mean to people in the
first century? In modern language we might say, the “nation” of God. Is there a
nation that is “of God”? Is there a nation that God has chosen?
came to Israel
Both Houses of
Israel received salvation from Egypt. This was both physical salvation from
slavery and spiritual salvation.
2 The LORD is my
strength and might, and he has become my salvation: he is my God, and I
will glorify him; the God of my father, and I will exalt him.
6 You are a holy
people to the LORD your God: the LORD your God has chosen you to be a
special people to himself, above all people that are on the face of the earth.
At Mount Sinai, God
sanctified the entire nation of Israel as his chosen people. Christians
can understand a personal and individual salvation, but a NATIONAL salvation is
a much harder concept to grasp. In fact, that does not even seem possible. And
yet that is what we see happening with the children of Israel.
God redeemed the
children of Israel out from slavery in Egypt, not because they were such a good
and obedient people. But, while they were still in slavery (sin) God redeemed
them, saving them from death through putting the blood of a lamb on their
doorposts, and now, as a purchased people, they were expected to be obedient to
God’s instructions, (law).
By being obedient to
God and striving to observe everything that God has told them, they are not
EARNING salvation. Rather, they are obligated to follow God’s instructions
because they ARE a saved and chosen people.
2 For you are
a holy people unto the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you
to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all people unto himself, above all
the nations that are upon the earth.
It is curious that
many Christians believe that a Jew is trying to achieve salvation through works,
and that a Jew’s attempt to keep the law is evidence of that. Nothing could be
further from the truth.
The point of salvation for a Jew is the deliverance, as
a nation, from slavery in Egypt. Not because of anything that they had done, but
because of God’s great mercy.
Salvation is a Gift
from God. It does not depend on how good WE are. No amount of law-keeping can
save us. However, once we ARE saved, it DOES matter how good we are, and obeying
God’s laws are extremely important, because we do not have a condition of “once
saved, always saved.” We CAN lose our salvation. There is a parable told by
Yeshua in the book of Matthew that illustrates that point.
23…The kingdom of
Heaven is like a certain king, which would take account of his servants.
24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought to him, which owed him ten
25 But forasmuch as he had nothing to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold,
and his wife, and children, and payment to be made.
26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have
patience with me, and I will pay you all.
27 The lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and let him go, and
forgave him his debt.
28 But the same servant went out and found one of his fellow servants, which
owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took [him] by the
throat, saying. Pay me what you owe me.
29 And his fellow servant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, “Have
patience with me, and I will pay you all.”
30 And he would not; but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the
31 So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came
and told their lord all that was done.
32 Then the lord, after he called him, said to him “O you wicked servant, I
forgave you all that debt, because you wanted me to.
33 Shouldn’t you also have had compassion on your fellow servant, even as I had
pity on you?”
34 And his lord was angry, and sent him to prison, till he paid all that he
35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also to you, if you from your hearts
do not forgive your brothers trespasses.
Once God gives you a
gift, retention is not a guarantee. We know that King David prayed that God
would not take His spirit from him (as had happened with King Saul). King David
did not take for granted God’s gifts to him. So once God has saved us from the
penalty of sin, (which is death), and has given us the GIFT of eternal life in
the “World to Come,” we have an obligation of obedience to God. We must not take
for granted what God has given us. Yet, that is exactly what Israel did,
beginning with King David’s son Solomon.
1 Kings 11:11
11 So the
Lord said to Solomon, since this is your attitude, and you have not kept my
covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear
the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant.
As we read earlier
God split the kingdom in two, and caused most of the children of Israel to go
into captivity, losing their identity until the end of the age.
3 The ox
knows his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel does not know, my people
do not consider.
4 Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel
to anger, they are gone away backward.
5 Why should you be stricken any more? you will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.
6 From the sole of the foot even to the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.
7 Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers.
Israel was taken
into captivity, and another people (later known as the Samaritans) were brought
in by the Assyrians as replacements. The smaller
kingdom in the south, however, retained its identity and salvation from God.
8 And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city.
9 Except the LORD of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.
In the book of Hosea,
the prophet tells us that
because Judah would retain the knowledge of God, they would be saved; but
because Israel lost the knowledge of God the House of Israel would be destroyed.
But I will
have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by the LORD their
God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor
6 My people are
destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I
will also reject you from serving in my priesthood. Because you have forgotten
the Torah of your God, I will also forget your children.
It was the
House of Israel that was cut off while the House of Judah was saved. Yeshua
himself acknowledges this when talking to a Samaritan woman at a Jacob's Well.
22 … we know
what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews)
It is through the
faithfulness of the remnant of Israel (Judah, the southern kingdom) that Messiah
will come and the House of Israel (the northern kingdom) will be saved.
But how do you begin to find a people that have disappeared from history, let
alone save them?
There has been much
speculation over the passing of history as to where the northern kingdom has
gone. Has it already
returned? If so, WHERE is Messiah?
Before we answer
that question we must ask an even more important question: WHAT is Messiah?