Lector: In the last post here, it was pointed out that if there is anything at all that we have to do to “get right with God,” even if it is simply “trusting Jesus,” then salvation would be by works and not grace since it would be a transaction between us and God. So how does one get saved apart from some sort of transaction?
Auctor: The only way for that to work would be if faith came after salvation. The faith one has would be faith that Christ has already saved them, in other words.
Lector: So then what does faith do for us if we’re already saved?
Auctor: Why it saves us, of course.
Lector: Ah, of course, it… wait, it does what? If we’re already saved how do we get saved again?
Auctor: Because “salvation” isn’t always the same thing as salvation. The same word can mean different things.
Lector: So “salvation” means two different things then?
Auctor: Actually it can mean many more than just two things, but for what we’re discussing here it actually refers to three different things.
Lector: Do tell.
Auctor: Well, to begin with, there is ontological salvation. This is the salvation I already referred to, the salvation that God gives us even before we begin to have any faith. This salvation happened to all of us in Christ apart from anything we have done or will do, and is salvation from the absolute perspective. When Christ died for our sins, everyone’s sins were dealt with once and for all, and we have all been saved, ontologically speaking, in Him, because He died for our sins, was entombed, and was roused the third day.
Lector: That’s a pretty bold statement.
Auctor: It is.
Lector: How do you justify such a claim?
Auctor: It’s not my intention to even try to do so right now, that would too big a tangent at this point. For now it’s enough to remember that if God doesn’t save us apart from anything we do then salvation is a transaction.
Lector: Okay. So what about faith?
Auctor: That applies to the second sort (or stage) of salvation, what I refer to as noological salvation. While ontological salvation is (among other things) the promise of immortality at some point in the future, noological salvation is freedom from the power of sin by being given knowledge of our ontological salvation and truly believing it. Faith, in other words. When someone comes to realize that God is at peace with them because of what Christ did, and that there is nothing they have to do to please God or earn His forgiveness, they are freed from the power of sin, which is the law or religion, and one can say that they have been saved “noologically,” or saved from a relative perspective, and have been brought into membership in the body of Christ.
Lector: Ah, I see. But you mentioned three different types of salvation. What’s the third one?
Auctor: That would be what I refer to as eschatological salvation, the physical experience of salvation which occurs at our resurrection and/or vivification, when the mortal puts on immortality and we can finally enjoy the full salvation that we had all along in Christ.
Lector: Interesting. So we’ve been saved, we’re being saved, and we will be saved, all at the same time.
Auctor: That’s one way to put it. As long as we remember that there is nothing that we ourselves do to gain any of these salvations.
Lector: But what about faith? If we have to have faith to have what you called noological salvation then isn’t that still a transaction?
Auctor: Not if the faith is given to us by God. Remember, we’re saved by grace through faith, and that is not of ourselves but is a gift from God. The only way that it can be a gift is if God gives us the faith. If we have to build that salvific faith up, it would be a work.
Lector: Even if it’s just the amount of a mustard seed?
Auctor: Even that would still be a work. We don’t have to worry, though. Only God can give us the faith that is necessary for the freedom that is noological salvation; we couldn’t possibly muster it up on our own anyway.
Lector: But what about all the passages in the Bible that seem to tell us not everyone will get saved? Jesus even said that those who don’t believe are condemned already.
Auctor: As I mentioned, there are many types of salvation; the three we’ve just discussed aren’t the only salvations taught about in Scripture. Jesus was actually referring to a fourth sort of salvation there, one which I call circumcision salvation. To understand this, it’s extremely important to know that Jesus was talking about something quite different from the salvations we were just talking about, although there is some overlap between the way this one ultimately plays out and what I referred to as eschatological salvation, since those saved in this manner will also eventually experience immortality, although not right away and not at the same time as those in the body of Christ. When Jesus walked the earth, He came only for the lost sheep of the house of Israel. The Gospel He was proclaiming was the Good News of the Kingdom, which was the Good News that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, meaning it was ready to begin on earth — specifically in Israel — and it was indeed already in their midst in the person of its Messiah and future king, meaning Himself. The salvation His Jewish audience was looking forward to was to get to live in that kingdom when it begins in Israel, but the only ones who will get to live in Israel when the kingdom finally fully begins there are those who believe that He is their Messiah, as well as the Son of God, and follow this belief up with good works, which are required under this type of salvation since, unlike our salvations, this particular salvation actually is somewhat transactional. The people who get this sort of salvation are brought into membership in what Paul referred to as the Israel of God.
Lector: But if those Israelites who don’t believe the Good News that Jesus was teaching, and don’t follow this belief up with good works, won’t get saved, what happens to them?
Auctor: While it’s true that many people won’t get to live in the kingdom in Israel at that time, because they haven’t been saved under this form of salvation, even those who miss out on eonian life on earth — which just means life during the impending eons, and is the actual term Jesus used but which was mistranslated as “eternal life” in some Bible versions — were still saved ontologically through what Christ did on the cross, so they’ll all still experience eschatological salvation at the end of the eons, when Christ abolishes the final enemy: death.
Lector: But what about the passages that tell us some people will end up in hell for eternity?
Auctor: The “hell” passages are very misunderstood by most people. It would be too large of a tangent to get into detail on the topic here, but suffice it to say, the Hebrew and Greek words that were translated as “hell” in some English Bibles aren’t referring to the inescapable torture chamber most people think of when they hear the word, and most of the references apply only to Israelites, and only during a specific period of time that hasn’t even begun yet as well. At the end of the day, though, for death to be abolished, as Paul promised it would be, nobody can remain dead any longer, so everyone who died (even a second time in the lake of fire) will have to be made alive. Which is exactly what Paul told us would happen when he explained that, just as because of what Adam did, all are dying, thus also, because of what Christ did, all will be made immortal, even though each will experience this immortality in their own order: first the body of Christ, then the Israel of God, and finally all the rest, when death is finally 100% abolished.
Lector: I see. I recognized that some of the things you said were references to specific passages of Scripture, but I’m assuming there were scriptural references I missed in there as well. Do you have any resources available I can refer to in order to confirm that what you just said actually is taught in the Bible?
Auctor: Of course. I wrote an entire book on the topic, and it’s available for free on my website for anyone who wants to learn the scriptural basis for everything I just told you. You can find it at: https://concordantgospel.com/ebook
Lector: Thanks. I’ll be sure to check it out.
Auctor: No problem at all.