“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
Notice here that Jesus does not say, “no one gets to heaven except through me,” but “no one comes to the Father except through me.” You might think this is nothing more than a slight semantical difference, but really it represents a huge gap between today’s popular evangelical teaching and the message proclaimed by the apostles in the first century.
I wonder how many of us ever stop to think about what God’s purpose was for humanity before man fell into sin. The way most people talk you’d think God created man just so He could save him. But there was a will, a purpose, and a mission all before sin ever came into the picture, and it was planted firmly in the earth. God did not originally create man with the purpose of getting him to heaven one day after he died.
God’s purpose for man was, and still is, found in the earth!
Then consider the general concept most people have of what is called “eternal life”. Popular opinion says eternal life is an endless existence in heaven. But where does this idea come from? A better translation of that phrase would be “the life of the ages.” This alone puts a whole new spin on things. Here again we may take the words of the Lord Himself on this subject:
“This is eternal life, that they know You the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3)
So Jesus plainly states that eternal life is knowing God, or in other words being one with God. Nothing about living forever in heaven. To have eternal life is to possess the life of the ages, which possession begins here and now.
All this leads me to believe that we have somewhat overlooked the point of things when it comes to the nature and goal of our salvation. For instance, when the angel spoke to Joseph did he tell him to “call him Jesus, for he will save his people from hell?” No! He said, “call him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins!” (Matthew 1:21) Yet the popular evangelical gospel being preached from most pulpits every Sunday spells out a very simplistic gospel which says little more than this: “God is holy and you are a sinner. Jesus endured God’s wrath in your place so one day when you die you will have Jesus’ perfect righteousness trasmitted to your account and you’ll get into heaven.” And it is precisely this kind of partial gospel that is failing to bring forth the full purpose of God in the earth. It may get people to an altar, it may give them an assurance that one day they’ll go to heaven when they die, but it is not producing a people in the earth who are conscious of God eternal purpose for their being here and who are living towards the realization of that purpose with every ounce of their being.
What am I trying to say? Simply that salvation is not merely a matter of dodging hell and getting to heaven one day where we’ll have a blissful endless existence on streets of gold. It’s about being delivered from the power of sin unto a possession of the life of the ages, which life we have in union with the Lord who indwells our spirits here and now… that through our fellowship with Him in the church we may make a way in the earth for the bringing in of His kingdom in resurrection!
May the Lord hasten that glorious day!