Keep Your “Hope of Salvation” Bright!
“Have on . . . as a helmet the hope of salvation.”—1 THESSALONIANS 5:8.
1. How does “the hope of salvation” help in endurance?
THE hope of being saved can help a person to hold on even in the direst of circumstances. A shipwreck victim afloat in a life raft can endure much longer if he knows that help is on the way. Similarly, for thousands of years, hope in “the salvation of Jehovah” has sustained men and women of faith in times of trouble, and this hope has never led to disappointment. (Exodus 14:13; Psalm 3:8; Romans 5:5; 9:33) The apostle Paul likened “the hope of salvation” to “the helmet” of a Christian’s spiritual armor. (1 Thessalonians 5:8; Ephesians 6:17) Yes, our being confident that God will save us protects our thinking faculties, helping us to keep our senses despite adversity, opposition, and temptation.
2. In what ways is “the hope of salvation” basic to true worship?
2 “Hope respecting the future was not a characteristic of the pagan world,” the world surrounding the first-century Christians, states The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. (Ephesians 2:12; 1 Thessalonians 4:13) Yet, “the hope of salvation” is a basic element of true worship. How so? First, the salvation of Jehovah’s servants is tied in with his own name. The psalmist Asaph prayed: “Help us, O God of our salvation, for the sake of the glory of your name; and deliver us.” (Psalm 79:9; Ezekiel 20:9) Moreover, having confidence in Jehovah’s promised blessings is essential to having a good relationship with him. Paul put it this way: “Without faith it is impossible to please him well, for he that approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” (Hebrews 11:6) Furthermore, Paul explained that the salvation of repentant ones was a key reason for Jesus’ coming to earth. He declared: “Faithful and deserving of full acceptance is the saying that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” (1 Timothy 1:15) And the apostle Peter referred to salvation as ‘the end [or, end result] of our faith.’ (1 Peter 1:9) Clearly, it is proper to hope for salvation. But what really is salvation? And what is required to attain it?
What Is Salvation?
3. What sort of salvation did Jehovah’s servants of ancient times experience?
3 In the Hebrew Scriptures, “salvation” usually means rescue or deliverance from oppression or from a violent, untimely death. For instance, calling Jehovah “the Provider of escape,” David said: “My God is my rock. . . . My place for flight, my Savior; from violence you save me. On the One to be praised, Jehovah, I shall call, and from my enemies I shall be saved.” (2 Samuel 22:2-4) David knew that Jehovah listens when His faithful servants cry for help.—Psalm 31:22, 23; 145:19.
4. What hope for future life did pre-Christian servants of Jehovah entertain?
4 Pre-Christian servants of Jehovah also entertained the hope of a future life. (Job 14:13-15; Isaiah 25:8; Daniel 12:13) In fact, many of the promises of rescue found in the Hebrew Scriptures were prophetic of a greater salvation—one leading to everlasting life. (Isaiah 49:6, 8; Acts 13:47; 2 Corinthians 6:2) In Jesus’ day, many Jews hoped for everlasting life, but they refused to accept Jesus as the key to realizing their hope. Jesus told the religious leaders of his time: “You are searching the Scriptures, because you think that by means of them you will have everlasting life; and these are the very ones that bear witness about me.”—John 5:39.
5. What does salvation ultimately mean?
5 Through Jesus, God revealed the full scope of the meaning of salvation. It includes release from the rulership of sin, from bondage to false religion, from the world under Satan’s control, from the fear of man, and even from the fear of death. (John 17:16; Romans 8:2; Colossians 1:13; Revelation 18:2, 4) Ultimately, for God’s faithful servants, salvation by God means not only deliverance from oppression and distress but also the opportunity to have everlasting life. (John 6:40; 17:3) Jesus taught that for a “little flock,” salvation means their being resurrected to heavenly life to share with Christ in Kingdom rule. (Luke 12:32) For the rest of mankind, salvation means a restoration to the perfect life and relationship with God that Adam and Eve enjoyed in the garden of Eden before they sinned. (Acts 3:21; Ephesians 1:10) Everlasting life under such paradisaic conditions was God’s original purpose for mankind. (Genesis 1:28; Mark 10:30) How, though, is a restoration to such conditions possible?
The Basis for Salvation—The Ransom
6, 7. What is Jesus’ role in our salvation?
6 Everlasting salvation is possible only through Christ’s ransom sacrifice. Why? The Bible explains that when Adam sinned, he “sold” himself and all his future descendants, including us, into sin—thus necessitating a ransom if mankind were to have any valid hope. (Romans 5:14, 15; 7:14) That God would provide a ransom for all mankind was foreshadowed by the animal sacrifices under the Mosaic Law. (Hebrews 10:1-10; 1 John 2:2) Jesus was the one whose sacrifice fulfilled those prophetic pictures. Jehovah’s angel announced before Jesus’ birth: “He will save his people from their sins.”—Matthew 1:21; Hebrews 2:10.
7 Jesus was born miraculously to the virgin Mary, and as the Son of God, he did not inherit death from Adam. This fact along with his course of perfect faithfulness gave his life the value needed to repurchase mankind from sin and death. (John 8:36; 1 Corinthians 15:22) Unlike all other men, Jesus was not condemned to die because of sin. He purposely came to earth “to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” (Matthew 20:28) Having done so, the now resurrected and enthroned Jesus is in a position to give salvation to all who meet God’s requirements.—Revelation 12:10.
What Is Required to Gain Salvation?
8, 9. (a) How did Jesus answer a rich young ruler’s question about salvation? (b) How did Jesus use this occasion to teach his disciples?
8 Once, a rich young Israelite ruler asked Jesus: “What must I do to inherit everlasting life?” (Mark 10:17) His question may have reflected the prevailing Jewish thinking of his time—that God demands certain good works and that by performing enough of those works, one can earn salvation from God. But that kind of formal devotion could spring from selfish motives. Such works failed to provide a sure hope of salvation, since no imperfect human could really measure up to God’s standards.
9 In answer to the man’s question, Jesus simply reminded him that he should obey God’s commandments. The young ruler quickly assured Jesus that he had kept them from his youth on. His response moved Jesus to feel love for him. Jesus said to him: “One thing is missing about you: Go, sell what things you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, and come be my follower.” The young man, however, went away grieved, “for he was holding many possessions.” Jesus thereafter emphasized to his disciples that excessive attachment to this world’s goods gets in the way of attaining salvation. He added that no one can gain salvation by his own efforts. But Jesus went on to reassure them: “With men it is impossible, but not so with God, for all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:18-27; Luke 18:18-23) How is salvation possible?
10. What conditions must we meet to obtain salvation?
10 Salvation is a gift from God, but it does not come automatically. (Romans 6:23) There are certain basic conditions that each individual must meet to qualify for that gift. Jesus said: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” And the apostle John added: “He that exercises faith in the Son has everlasting life; he that disobeys the Son will not see life.” (John 3:16, 36) Clearly, God requires faith and obedience from each individual who hopes to obtain everlasting salvation. Each one must make the decision to accept the ransom and to follow in Jesus’ footsteps.
11. How can an imperfect person gain Jehovah’s approval?
11 Since we are imperfect, it is not our natural inclination to obey and it is impossible for us to obey perfectly. That is why Jehovah provided a ransom to cover our sins. Nevertheless, we must continually strive to live in accord with God’s ways. As Jesus told the rich young ruler, we must keep God’s commandments. Doing so brings not only God’s approval but also great joy, for “his commandments are not burdensome”; they are “a refreshment.” (1 John 5:3; Proverbs 3:1, 8) Still, it is not easy to hold on to the hope of salvation.
“Put Up a Hard Fight for the Faith”
12. How does the hope of salvation strengthen a Christian to resist immoral temptations?
12 The disciple Jude wanted to write to early Christians about “the salvation [they held] in common.” However, the prevailing bad moral climate obliged him to counsel his brothers to “put up a hard fight for the faith.” Yes, to gain salvation it is not enough to have faith, to stick to the true Christian faith, and to obey when everything is going along smoothly. Our devotion to Jehovah must be strong enough to help us resist temptations and immoral influences. Yet, sexual excesses and perversions, disrespect for authority, divisions, and doubts were taking a toll on the spirit of the first-century congregation. To help them combat such tendencies, Jude urged fellow Christians to keep clearly in mind their objective: “Beloved ones, by building up yourselves on your most holy faith, and praying with holy spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love, while you are waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ with everlasting life in view.” (Jude 3, 4, 8, 19-21) The hope of gaining salvation could strengthen them in their fight to remain morally clean.
13. How can we show that we have not missed the purpose of God’s undeserved kindness?
13 Jehovah God expects exemplary moral conduct on the part of those to whom he will grant salvation. (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10) Holding to God’s moral standards, however, does not mean becoming judgmental of others. We are not the ones to decide the eternal destiny of our fellow humans. Rather, God will do so, as Paul told the Greeks in Athens: “He has set a day in which he purposes to judge the inhabited earth in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed”—Jesus Christ. (Acts 17:31; John 5:22) If we are living by faith in Jesus’ ransom we have no need to fear a coming day of judgment. (Hebrews 10:38, 39) The important thing is that we must never “accept the undeserved kindness of God [our reconciliation to him through the ransom] and miss its purpose” by allowing ourselves to be tempted into wrong thinking and conduct. (2 Corinthians 6:1) Additionally, by helping others to gain salvation, we show that we have not missed the purpose of God’s mercy. How can we help them?
Sharing the Hope of Salvation
14, 15. Whom did Jesus assign to publish the good news of salvation?
14 Quoting the prophet Joel, Paul wrote: “Everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved.” Then he added: “However, how will they call on him in whom they have not put faith? How, in turn, will they put faith in him of whom they have not heard? How, in turn, will they hear without someone to preach?” A few verses later, Paul points out that faith does not come spontaneously; rather, it “follows the thing heard,” that is, “the word about Christ.”—Romans 10:13, 14, 17; Joel 2:32.
15 Who will bring “the word about Christ” to the nations? Jesus assigned that work to his disciples—those who have already been taught that “word.” (Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20; John 17:20) When we engage in the Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making work, we are doing just what the apostle Paul wrote about, this time quoting Isaiah: “How comely are the feet of those who declare good news of good things!” Even if many do not accept the good news we bring, our feet are still “comely” to Jehovah.—Romans 10:15; Isaiah 52:7.
16, 17. What two-fold purpose does our preaching work serve?
16 Fulfilling this commission serves two important purposes. First, the good news must be preached so that God’s name will be magnified and those who want salvation will know where to turn. Paul understood this aspect of the commission. He stated: “In fact, Jehovah has laid commandment upon us in these words, ‘I have appointed you as a light of nations, for you to be a salvation to the extremity of the earth.’” Hence, as disciples of Christ, each of us must have a share in taking the message of salvation to the people.—Acts 13:47; Isaiah 49:6.
17 Second, the preaching of the good news lays the foundation for God’s righteous judgment. About that judgment, Jesus said: “When the Son of man arrives in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit down on his glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” Though the judging and separating will be done “when the Son of man arrives in his glory,” the preaching work is providing people today with the opportunity to recognize Christ’s spiritual brothers and thus to work in support of them for their own eternal salvation.—Matthew 25:31-46.
Maintain “the Full Assurance of the Hope”
18. How can we keep our “hope of salvation” bright?
18 Our active participation in the preaching work is also a means to help us keep our hope bright. Paul wrote: “We desire each one of you to show the same industriousness so as to have the full assurance of the hope down to the end.” (Hebrews 6:11) May each of us, then, put on “as a helmet the hope of salvation,” thus remembering that “God assigned us, not to wrath, but to the acquiring of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:8, 9) Let us also take to heart Peter’s exhortation: “Brace up your minds for activity, keep your senses completely; set your hope upon the undeserved kindness that is to be brought to you.” (1 Peter 1:13) All who do so will see their “hope of salvation” completely fulfilled!
19. What will we consider in the following article?
19 In the meantime, what should be our view of the time that remains for this system? How can we use that time to gain salvation for ourselves and others? We will consider these questions in the following article.
Can You Explain?
• Why must we keep our “hope of salvation” bright?
• What does salvation include?
• What must we do to receive the gift of salvation?
• What does our preaching work accomplish in line with God’s purpose?
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Salvation means more than just deliverance from destruction