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In the Old Testament, the use of the word "salvation" was primarily about deliverance from "Philistine, famine, and plague". I can find no consideration anywhere that would indicate that "salvation" was about heaven when you are dead. 
There are other O.T. references to heaven when you are dead, but I am being quite specific about the language used, and I can find no link to "salvation" in that context.

Christians are encouraged to have great evangelical zeal to bring "salvation" to everyone as a prime reason for the church's very existence. However we now seem to have a totally different meaning for the word "salvation". Its primary meaning is now all about getting to heaven when you die. Little consideration is given to what happens today.

I don't want to get into debate with those church members who care for the poor and needy, or those who pray for the sick. That is not the point of this discussion. I am looking at the primary importances of the word, not individual cases. 

Bearing in mind that we have one author of the scriptures, and that is the Holy Spirit, why the change of emphasis. 




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Hi Francis,

I think salvation is about being delivered (released) from our sickness, bondage and death - to become divine. I personally don't hold to the Augustine view of original sin, and would go as far as saying even if there were no original or ancestal sin. Christ still would have come purely for our theosis.
Thanks for your thoughts Phoebe.
I suspect your comments will stir up some responses, particularly regarding original sin. However I shall play my hand close to my chest for the moment to avoid taking the discussion in another direction quite yet.
I can find no consideration anywhere that would indicate that "salvation" was about heaven when you are dead.

Heaven means different things these days. Some folk have a concept of Heaven that is more Elysian fields (with Jesus) than The New Heaven and New Earth.

To me Heaven is being in the presence of God. Forever. To me if I die right now, I go to be in Heaven, in the presence of God and would return with him in the Second Coming and dwell with Him forever in the New Heaven and the New Earth.

Now. Old Testament. Book of Job. I believe it is arguably the oldest book in the bible. Job 19:25 - 27.

To me, that's a man who believes he is saved and will be in Heaven.
In the OT, salvation is spoken in a variety of senses. It takes a very limited view of salvation to include only "going to heaven when you die." This idea itself is meaningless if we cannot fill in what it means to be "in heaven" or even what it means "to die." If we understand the words properly, we find that the OT and the NT have consonant understandings of salvation. Of course in the OT the idea is unfulfilled.

In the Psalms, for example, salvation includes deliverance from death—but death is seen not merely as ceasing to live, but rather living on in the abode of the dead apart from God. There is an eternality of substanceless existence apart from the beatitude of God's presence. So we read, "Do you work wonders for the dead? Or do the departed rise up and praise you?" (Ps 88.10). And "The dead do not praise the LORD, nor do any who go down into silence" (Ps 115.17). And "What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness?" (Ps 30.9).

The counterpunch to this devastation is the Psalmist's praise: "O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit....You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!" (Ps 30.3, 11,12).

Throughout the Psalms we see this sense of salvation. But this is not really the end of it, because these Psalms are principally Messianic: there is no profit in Christ's death if he goes down to the pit to be forgotten, to cease praising God. We find, therefore, that most of the commands to praise in the Psalms are directed to us from Christ himself: "Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together! I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears" (Ps 34.3,4).

Among the other messages in the Psalms is that where Christ leads, we follow. So we see in Psalm 22 that when Christ praises God for his salvation, so also do we: "I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you: You who fear the LORD, praise him!" (vv 22,23a). Indeed, our praise is grounded in the answer to Christ's prayer (cf He 5.7).

So I think it is an error to say that the OT doesn't speak of salvation in a way that is similar to the NT. There are certainly nuances to the word that we do not often explore in evangelism (to our detriment, and to the detriment of the hearer), but it is unfair to say that the two Testaments do not have a unified understanding of salvation. If we were to go further with this, we would see that all of the elements of the gospel as explored in the OT are brought out in the gospels.
In the Old Testament, the use of the word "salvation" was primarily about deliverance from "Philistine, famine, and plague". I can find no consideration anywhere that would indicate that "salvation" was about heaven when you are dead. There are other O.T. references to heaven when you are dead, but I am being quite specific about the language used, and I can find no link to "salvation" in that context.

I wanted to follow up quickly on this. The word "salvation" appears with different content in the OT but is realized through type, particularly Messianically. So we see the salvation of the king (2Sa 22, e.g.) as a figure of the salvation of the Messianic king, Christ. It is explicitly a Messianic concept in the Psalms, and as such is related to the justification of Jesus Christ.

We also see salvation linked to being in the presence of God apart from the wicked (as Frank mentioned, in Job; cf also Job 13:16).

So it is not entirely true to say that salvation and deliverance in the OT are exclusively rooted in the "Philistine, famine, and plague," although these elements in the OT narrative are also prevalent.
Thanks Frank and mem, good stuff.
However you should note that I was not in anyway proclaiming there was a difference between the OT and the NT books, in their root theology. They have the same author, and He never changed nor will He, nor will His theology.
I was simply pointing out that the OT has primary emphasis on deliverance from Philistine famine and plague, whereas the church extracts something entirely different from its collective reading of the NT. Why is this?

Also, although it might be interesting to debate what 'heaven when we die", means to each of us, that is not my purpose. For the sake of this discussion it is sufficient to consider heaven as entering into close fellowship and living presence with Jesus and with the elect saints.

I also agree that the OT Messianic verses, like psalms, carry an eternal message, However the message of the various prophets, when speaking AT THAT TIME, to the leaders and to the people is not generally about eternal issues. Nor do we see these prophets being burdened to warn people about a terrifying afterlife, as opposed to a joyful afterlife.

Today, we can read the complete OT and get an overview, and from that overview extract bits that we think satisfy an eternal perspective. However those alive prior to King David only had Moses' Law and various history books (KIngs Ruth Job etc) to learn from.
These writings, however, give little evidence of an "eternal salvation" perspective. It is obvious that they had some understanding of eternal life, but IT WAS NOT THE CENTRE OF THEIR SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE. Nor is there any evidence of them trying to get others saved, so they too would have heaven as their future.
Where are the OT evangelists, all concerned for the eternal welfare of the masses on their way to hell, where are they?
To expect eternal salvation from sin, and it's corruption and attendant bondage to death was in fact the spiritual experience of all of those who "died in faith, not having received the promises". Spiritually, they were not looking for literal salvation from Philistine, famine, and plague.

(Note: they did look for literal salvation from those things also — I'm just saying that their hope on the literal level should not be construed as the limits of their spirituality.)

Rather, spiritually, they "looked for a city with foundations, whose builder and maker is God." They "confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims in the earth[, ]...declar[ing] plainly that they seek a...better country, that is, an heavenly."

Additionally, I agree with Phoebe's statement above. :)
Francis, I agree in general with your observation about the use of the word 'salvation.' The entire book of Genesis makes no mention of an afterlife. The closest it comes is that Jacob, when told of the death of his son Joseph, says he will not meet him again except in the grave (sheol). The Mosaic law was given to regulate civil society, not as a guide for people to follow in order to gain heaven, as later came to be believed.

Nevertheless, the OT does get around to the afterlife, and I find it particularly clear in Psalm 23, which ends 'and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.'


Frank said:
I can find no consideration anywhere that would indicate that "salvation" was about heaven when you are dead.

Heaven means different things these days. Some folk have a concept of Heaven that is more Elysian fields (with Jesus) than The New Heaven and New Earth.

To me Heaven is being in the presence of God. Forever. To me if I die right now, I go to be in Heaven, in the presence of God and would return with him in the Second Coming and dwell with Him forever in the New Heaven and the New Earth.

Now. Old Testament. Book of Job. I believe it is arguably the oldest book in the bible. Job 19:25 - 27.

To me, that's a man who believes he is saved and will be in Heaven.

Thanks Frank
If we dig long enough we will certainly find eternal life referred to in a few OT passages. However we have to be very astute to spot them. Most of the OT is a historic account of the outworking of God and man's relationship ON EARTH. Compare this to the way the church interprets Christ's message. To the church the whole reason for being is to rescue men from ending up in an eternal hell.
If this was seriously God's objective in scripture, then why is it not abundantly clear throughout ALL of the bible.
Have we missed something from the OT or are we projecting something into the NT.


Rayner Markley said:
Francis, I agree in general with your observation about the use of the word 'salvation.' The entire book of Genesis makes no mention of an afterlife. The closest it comes is that Jacob, when told of the death of his son Joseph, says he will not meet him again except in the grave (sheol). The Mosaic law was given to regulate civil society, not as a guide for people to follow in order to gain heaven, as later came to be believed.

Nevertheless, the OT does get around to the afterlife, and I find it particularly clear in Psalm 23, which ends 'and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.'

Thanks Rayner
You are right.
The Mosaic law was given to regulate civil society".
Therefore it is perfectly accurate to say that the purpose of the Law was not about getting people to heaven when they die!
If that is true
HOW DOES AN O.T. PERSON GET TO HEAVEN?
HOW DOES AN OT PERSON GET SAVED? (is there a difference?)
WHY DOESN'T GOD SHOW SOME WORRY IN THE O.T. ABOUT THAT PROBLEM?
Originally, God offered eternal life by means of the tree of life. After Adam disobeyed choosing knowledge of good and evil, God withdrew the tree (Gen 3:22) and no longer offered eternal salvation in the OT. God focused on bringing people back to obedience to living by His righteousness principles while preparing a chosen nation to bring forth a Messiah who would again offer eternal salvation. For example Abraham's faith produced not salvation but righteousness. The Mosaic law required obedience but not with salvation as a goal. OT glimpses of eternal life, such as in Psalm 23, seem to be simply expressions of faith, but not promises from God. We have to look in the NT for hints (not clearly spelled out) about how OT folks get saved.

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