We have all heard the sermons and evangelistic messages: Trust in Jesus and go to heaven; reject Him and go to hell. The message is short and easy to understand. It fits on bulletins and gospel tracts.
While this message is true and biblical, it does not give the complete picture of salvation. Boiling the message down to this short and easy-to-convey message can oversimplify the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection. As a result, many Christians live confused as to how salvation affects their everyday life. Some may even become discouraged, thinking they will not start to live until they die. They trudge through the years, wondering why they have a longing for heaven but are devoid of intimacy with Christ.
These individuals are missing the complete teaching of Scripture about salvation. What is eternal life? What did Jesus accomplish on the cross? Why should our longing for Christ be intertwined with our longing for heaven? If we look more closely at why Jesus went to the cross and what He taught about eternal life, we will understand how salvation changes our present and future.
Sin and Separation from God
To understand salvation, we must first grasp why we need saving. Adam and Eve, the first humans, disobeyed God. They sinned by eating the fruit from the tree, which they were instructed not to eat (Genesis 3:11-13). As a result, all people inherited a sinful nature from Adam and Eve (Romans 5:12). Also, everyone freely chooses to do wrong, just as our first parents did (Romans 3:10).
Sin ruptured the close relationship that Adam and Eve had with God in the Garden of Eden. Since the Lord is perfect and holy, He cannot tolerate sin. Later, the sacrificial system the Lord set up pointed to Jesus’ sacrificial death (Hebrews 9:13-15). In the death of lambs and bulls, the Israelites saw the hideousness of their sin and how it affected others.
Therefore, we are separated from God because of our sins. We cannot have a personal relationship with the Lord due to our sinfulness. Because of our wrongdoing, we not only deserve punishment but have lost access to the One whom our hearts long for – the One we were designed to glorify and love.
God the Son, Jesus Christ, came to earth to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). He lovingly laid down His life to free us from bondage to sin. On the cross, Jesus bore our sins and paid our sin debt in full (1 Peter 2:24). Those who trust in Him are no longer hellbound. Instead, they are children of God and have a secure place in heaven (John 1:12).
Lots of Christians are familiar with that truth, but some are not as knowledgeable about how Jesus’ sacrificial death brought reconciliation. Entering a relationship with God is available to all who believe, but it costs the Lord everything. On the cross, Jesus endured the anguish of the Father turning away from Him since He bore all the sins of the world (see Matthew 27:46). Innocent and without sin, He took the punishment we deserve and satisfied the Father’s holy wrath against sin (2 Corinthians 5:21).
As a result, we who were once cut off from God can have a relationship with Him. This is what the Lord has been working on ever since the fall of Adam and Eve: to restore and reconcile sinful humankind to Himself (see 2 Corinthians 5:19 and Colossians 1:19-22).
The Biblical Meaning of Eternal Life
Eternal life, therefore, is more than living forever. It is about living forever in a relationship with the Lord. Christ restored us to the Father so we can have a close relationship with Him – a relationship for which we were created. According to Jesus, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3, NIV).
The moment we place faith in Jesus’s death and resurrection, we have eternal life, which is an everlasting relationship with the Lord. We do not have to wait until we die to enjoy this gift. Each believer can take joy in this eternal relationship by spending time with the Savior. To know and love Him now and forever is a gift worth celebrating.
Since eternal life begins at salvation, we can be assured that our life matters. As Paul described in 2 Corinthians 5:15, “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (NIV). Jesus saved us from sin, death, and hell, but also saved us for Himself. We are meant to live for Him.
Despite how some evangelists or tracts depict the Christian life, we are not just sitting by and waiting to die but living with a sense of purpose because we know Jesus. Our relationship with Him changes everything. He wants to be involved in every part of our lives, even what we would classify as the ordinary or simple parts. Eternal life gives rich meaning to our lives on earth.
Scripture tells us that eternal life involves living forever with the Lord. That life starts at the moment of salvation and extends into eternity. We can live with purpose and joy because we possess the gift of eternal life now.
How Salvation Affects Everyday Life and Our View of Heaven
Christ did not save us so we could sit on the sidelines of life. He commanded us to make disciples of all nations, helping people to know the gospel and have a vibrant relationship with Him (Matthew 28:18-20). The Lord invites us to join Him in the work He is doing in the world to draw people to Himself. Other people need to know the good news of Jesus’s death and resurrection so they, too, can receive the gift of eternal life.
Believers also have the task of demonstrating the love of Christ through their actions. The love we have received from Him compels us to feed the poor, shelter the homeless, fight for justice, and care for orphans and widows. In our world of sin, darkness, and suffering, there are many opportunities to shine our lights and bring glory to the Father (Matthew 5:16).
Finally, understanding the biblical truth about salvation and eternal life, we can see why a longing for heaven should be intertwined with a longing for Christ. The more we spend time with the Lord here, following Him in obedience and growing in spiritual maturity, the more we anticipate being with Jesus in heaven and, eventually, on the new earth. A life spent with a focus on being with Christ in heaven leads to fruitful living now.
Heaven and So Much More
Jesus’ death on the cross gave us a place in heaven and much more. He died to give us a new life now – an abundant life that is overflowing because we have an everlasting relationship with the Lord. We need to return to the teaching of Scripture that shows us that salvation affects our lives now and for eternity.
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Yuri_Arcurs
Sophia Bricker is a freelance writer who enjoys researching and writing articles on biblical and theological topics. In addition to contributing articles about biblical questions as a contract writer, she has also written for Unlocked devotional. She holds a BA in Ministry, a MA in Ministry, and is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing to develop her writing craft. As someone who is passionate about the Bible and faith in Jesus, her mission is to help others learn about Christ and glorify Him in her writing. When she isn’t busy studying or writing, Sophia enjoys spending time with family, reading, drawing, and gardening.
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