Salvation is a notion that Christians often meditate about. We think about what it will be like. We know from the Bible that Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead and we know that the salvation is by our faith. It comes as a gift from God. In Revelation we find some description of the Heavenly Jerusalem, the place where all of the saved will be dwelling and living in the close presence of God, forever. Today we read Revelation 21 chapter and I would like to read verses 10-14 and 22-23 where the apostle John talks about the vision of what it would be like. Hence, let us read:
10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. 13 There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. 14 The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. 22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.
When we read about the Holy Heavenly Jerusalem everything looks just perfect and it seems that all of us would be happy to get there. Being with Jesus the entire eternity and living the fullness of being saved by grace. I would need to notice one thing about the experience I had in my life while talking to various Christians from various denominations. I saw that not many of them feel the certainty of being saved by grace. Especially in Orthodox Church where I belonged for a long period of time of my life almost 12 years ago, I remember that many people believe that they are not saved by grace. Intentionally I use present simple here like it is used in the Bible, as it says you are saved, indicating something that has already happened. I also remember some brothers and sisters talking about their fear of hell. Sadly, but how can we love our sweet Jesus believing that he would count us as goats and not as sheep. Some people tend to create wrong interpretation of who will be judge in the future. We will be judge by our acts but people who have faith in Jesus and those who believe that Jesus took away their sins and died for them the only way they would be judged by act is the act of their faith. If we did the act of faith which we confess in the holy mass saying I confess my baptism for the forgiveness of our sins it means that we are forgiven. And this is the beauty of our faith. This is the power of Jesus` love. He saved us while we are still sinners. In the day of the Big Judge we will be judged and divided into those who believed and those who did not believe. We are all sinners. And normally we would all be sent to hell as with human deeds we cannot reach heaven and get salvation. But those who believed were given power to become God`s children. And as a children of God why should we be afraid?
Doing religious things like lighting a candle, burning the incense, kissing the orthodox icons or taking blessings from statues which I see sometimes in some churches might be helpful. It makes us more focused to prayer. But God does not need it. We need it. It seems that people naturally have this tendency to do some rituals in order to feel that they deserve something. In today`s reading we also read a part talking about the rituals that were mandatory in the Old Testament. Take a look (Acts 15:1, 2):
Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.
To those living in the time of the Old Testament, when there were many customs and rituals that had to be done in order to potentially gain salvation and earn God`s mercy the idea of being saved by grace was probably hard to believe. But, now we live in the time according to the New Testament. Jesus came, took our sins, died for us and resurrected. Why do we still doubt?
Another interesting thing that I heard many times while preaching about the salvation through God`s grace and mercy is the ironic idea saying: `If you are saved by grace, it means you can be a very sinful person and still be saved`. I usually reply: `Technically yes, but practically no. Because you cannot lie God. If you truly believe in the Son, your father is heavenly Father and in your heart lives Holy Spirit and if you are truly saved you will not be doing sins`. This will not necessary mean that we are magically sinless and perfect. Still we would be doing sins because this is our sinful nature but our soul will be feeling differently each time we do something that opposes God. If a child loves his parent he would feel bad each time when he makes a mistake. This is why we have repentance and confession. If we accept Jesus as our Savor we would love Him and look what Jesus says about those who love Him, John 14:23-29:
23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. 25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. 28 “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.
A person who loves Jesus will be loved by the Father, the Holy Spirit had been sent at the day of Pentecost and we are all sealed with the Holy Spirit. Sealed for the day of Salvation. Let us never doubt in God`s love and His promises to His children. Love God and love people above all the other commandments those are the greatest.