When religious people talk about having "got saved" the language sounds strange to the uninitiated. Outside the sphere of religion if someone gets saved we conclude that one's life has been saved. Maybe the lifeguard saved one from drowning, or the firefighter pulled one from a burning building, or the Heimlich maneuver saved one from choking. To be saved is to be rescued from an otherwise tragic outcome.
But in regard to religion the question is posed, "Saved from what?" According to Romans 5:8, believers in Christ are saved from God's wrath. All have sinned and are therefore deserving of condemnation (Rom. 3:23; Eph. 2:3). Our sins had separated us from God, but "when we were God's enemies we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son..." (Rom. 5:10). So Jesus died to bring us back into a relationship with God.
But first the sin barrier standing between ourselves and God had to be removed. Jesus' death on the cross paid the penalty for our crimes against God. Christ took the penalty for our sins in our place (Isa. 53:5). Since the price has been paid with his blood, we are now justified (acquitted) of all our wrongs (Rom. 3:23-25). The innocent has died so that the guilty might be freed, saved from God's wrath against sin. The wrath has now been poured out at the cross.
It is good news that Jesus died to save us from God's wrath. The gospel (which means 'good news') is the power that God uses to save (Rom. 1:16). This gospel, Paul summarized as the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (1 Cor. 15:1-8). Yet before these events occurred we are told that Jesus preached the gospel of the kingdom (Luke 8:1). Can Luke and Paul be reconciled? Does the gospel consist of a cross and an empty tomb or is it the message of God's kingdom?
There is really no contradiction, since it was through Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection that he won the decisive victory for God's kingdom. Jesus "disarmed the powers and authorities...triumphing over them by the cross" (Col. 2:15). At the cross and the tomb, Jesus delivered the decisive blow against Satan's kingdom. Through the shedding of Christ's blood, he purchased sinners, redeeming them from slavery to sin and Satan. He also delivers us from slavery to the fear of death (Heb. 2:14-15).
Redeemed from slavery at the price of Christ's blood, believers are now delivered out of the dominion of darkness and brought into the kingdom of the Son God loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Col. 1:13-14). Now brought into God's kingdom, our lives are under new management. We now live within the realm of God's rule as we submit to his will.
So what does it mean to have come into God's kingdom? It certainly has something to do with eternal destiny, but what are its implications for the here-and-now? Is salvation only relevant when life is over or have we been saved from more than eternal condemnation becauase of our sins?
(the photo is of the annual sand sculpture done by a local artist each Easter season)