Tuesday, March 22, 2011

1 Peter 1: Salvation-Now & Then

1 Peter 1:3-5, 8-9 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a SALVATION ready to be revealed in the last time.... Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the SALVATION of your souls.

The apostle Peter uses the word "salvation" (Greek: soteria) three times in these few verses (v.5,9 &10). It is a loaded word that inspires hope and joy as we anticipate the "salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (v.5). 

We evangelical Christians speak often of getting people "saved" but what we often mean is getting them out of hell into heaven--as the German evangelist Reinhard Bonnke has famously defined salvation as "plundering hell to populate heaven." But to the Jews (Old & New Testament), the word "salvation" is not just some kind of spiritual and disembodied existence -- a kind of life AFTER death. Rather salvation is life BEFORE death because salvation encompasses the spiritual, personal, communal, political and environmental transformation of this dying planet Earth into a glorious new Earth with new people fully re-embodied with immortal bodies! Salvation means freedom from spiritual oppression (demonic powers), emotional depression (tears and sorrows), bodily sicknesses and diseases and environmental degradation. It means a new spiritual environment where God's presence is everywhere experienced, a new psychological well-being to love and obey God, a new resurrection body that is alive and whole, free from deterioration and decay and a new political-social-ecological environment that is fully submitted to God's rule and reign through Jesus Christ. It's will be the fulfillment of the Lord's Prayer: "Your Kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is heaven." It will be heaven on earth when this salvation is "revealed in the last time (at the second coming of Christ)."

Peter spoke about salvation in two-dimension: 
(1) a future inheritance ("salvation ready to be revealed"): one that is universal and will come into existence when Jesus returns, an "inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you"; and
(2) a present inheritance ("the salvation of your souls"): one that is personal and is already ours, which we have received and experienced "with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory" (v.9).

So, we are blessed NOW with personal salvation (individual transformation) and we will be blessed once again in the near FUTURE with universal salvation (global transformation). Thanks be to God!

Father, what hope you have given to us - both for the present and for the future. As the hymn-writer puts it: "If life on earth be sweet, what will Thy glory be?" Amen.