Hope of Salvation (in the Bible)
HOPE OF SALVATION (IN THE BIBLE)
This article concentrates on the evolution of Israel's yearning for a definitive deliverance from all its woes and the fulfillment of this hope for the new Israel, in the new order, free from sin and death and wrought by the victory of Jesus of Nazareth, the messiah.
in the old testament
Israelite ideas on salvation originated from the experiences of the chosen people during the exodus from egypt, the desert journey of the Israelites, and the constant wars waged against neighboring nations after they gained a foothold in Palestine. The earliest meanings given to words coming from the Hebrew root yš ' centered on the idea of a military victory over Israel's enemies (Jgs 15.18; 1 Sm 11.13). Yahweh was, ultimately, the one who gave Israel its victories by raising up skilled military
chieftains called rescuers or saviors (Jgs 3.9, 15) and by His presence at Israelite battles in the ark of the cove nant. He became therefore the savior above all saviors who led the armies of Israel out of the slavery of Egypt into the promised land through, for the Israelites, His greatest work of salvation (Ex 14.30). By the divine election and the covenant the Israelites were assured that He would remain their deliverer from all foes as long as they continued faithful to His pact and to the demands handed down to them in the Mosaic Law, especially in the Ten Commandments. The basic notion of salvation as a victory over one's enemies perdured in Israelite history down to the day when, after the multiplication of the loaves, the Jewish crowd wanted to seize Jesus and make Him their king (Jn 6.15), but in the meantime it had taken on other meanings that are concerned with the end of history [see eschatology (in the bible); day of the lord] and messianism. The development of determinants of salvation, as it occurs in the course of salvation history, is a complex matter that demands a step-by-step examination, beginning with the pre-exilic Prophets followed by Second Isaiah, the restoration period, and the Psalms.
Preexilic Period. In what could be a somewhat old Israelite tradition, the antimonarchist account of the institution of the kingship (1 Sm ch. 8; 10.17–27; ch. 12), Samuel recalls to assembled Israel the mighty works of Yahweh, who had delivered the Israelites from all past evils (12.7–11), and claims that God, their savior, is now being rejected by their demands for a national king (10.17–19). The Prophets emphasized much the same message during the crisis of the last half of the eighth century, leading to the downfall of the Northern Kingdom, Samaria, and to the desolation and vassalage of Judah. Israel and Judah had defected from their only true King, Yahweh, refusing to put their hope for deliverance in Him alone (Is 2.6–22; 7.17–25; 8.5–8; 17.10; 30.15, cf. 7.9). In Isaiah's intention, the salvation that Israel rejected was more than merely deliverance from enemy empires; it was a holiness and justice coming from the Holy One of Israel Himself, a participation in His grandeur and an intimate knowledge of Him (Is 2.1–5; 4.2–3;9.1–6; 11.1–9). The poem of Is 12.1–3 expresses beautifully this longing for a salvation that surpasses deliverance from political oppression. The Prophet Micah expressed a similar hope in Yahweh's salvation despite the universal rebellion against God that he saw all around him (Mi 7.1–7).
Among the Prophets of the eighth century, what the ordinary people longed for as a day of deliverance through Yahweh's power became a day of wrath, of dire punishment for the chosen people's defection from God (Am 5.18–20; Is 2.6–21; Mi 3.9–12; Hos 13.12–14.1). Salvation would be granted only a few escapees, the remnant of Israel (Is 4.2–3; Am 3.12; 5.15; 9.8b–10). About a century later, the dreadful day of the Lord (Zep1.14–18) is identified as a time when perhaps only the humble who observed God's commands would be sheltered from His anger; the hoped-for deliverance is no longer a rescue from oppressors, but from God Himself (2.3). This humble remnant, in contrast to the haughty rebels, "shall take refuge in the name of the Lord" and "shall do no wrong" but shall have a peaceful dwelling on the Lord's mountain (3.11–13). In this context, Yahweh is described as the mighty savior who will renew Zion "in his love" (3.14–18a), and, even if the following verses (18b–20) come from the period of the Exile, they are in the same tradition: Yahweh will "save the lame and assemble the outcasts" and "bring about their restoration." Jeremiah, with all his dire warnings, was in the same tradition. The salvation of Israel can come only from the Lord God (Jer 3.23); He alone is the champion who can save them (14.8–9). The deliverance for which Jeremiah hopes is not merely from the various tribulations afflicting the land; it is that of a new era when the people will be led by a new David whose symbolic name will be "The Lord our justice" (23.5–6). In fact, this deliverance will be a new covenant in which Yahweh's law will be written on the remnant's heart and their sins will be forgiven (31.31–34). The psalm of Habakkuk (ch. 3) recalls the tradition that God is a warrior-savior who, with all His cosmic power, will rescue His people from their foes; it adds very little to the evolution of the previous ideas about salvation, but it became an important antecedent and model for the apocalyptic traditions (see daniel, book of) and was popular in the qumran com munity. Ezekiel does add something, however, to the idea of salvation, the regeneration of Israel by their deliverance from their sins of apostasy and from their impurities (Ez 37.23; 36.29).
Second Isaian (ch. 40–55; ch. 60–62). The themes of salvation, restoration, and creation are linked together in this masterpiece of consolation literature was intended to encourage the exiles who had returned to Yahweh during their banishment from the holy land. The justice of god, His justification or vindication of His people, brings about their restoration and salvation (45.21). He is their only savior, and His acts of salvation establish the fact that He is the only God (43.3, 8–13). His present act of salvation is a more glorious deliverance than even that of the Exodus; it extends to wiping away and forgetting Israel's sins (43.16–28). It is a new creation (41.19–20). It is a gratuitous salvation, not merited in any way (55.1–3), a free and merciful act of God at the sight of which "all the trees of the countryside shall clap their hands." It has as its goal Yahweh's dominion (52.7), which will be over all the earth and not over Israel alone (45.22; 49.6). It is a glorious freedom for lowly prisoners who in their gleaming mantles will be "oaks of justice" reflecting the glory of Yahweh (61.1–3). God has clothed his faithful one "with a robe of salvation" and wrapped him "in a mantle of justice" (61.10). That the poetic raptures of Second Isaiah instilled hope for a deliverance from evil that exceeded the realities of the return from the Exile is obvious from the disenchantment of the refugees during the restoration period.
Restoration Period. Zechariah attempted to bolster the hopes of the few thousand who returned to Jerusalem in ruins (Zec 8.7–13). The Isaiah school also kept proclaiming that the Judeans' disappointment would soon be ended by a revelation of God's salvation and justice (Is 56.1); and if it was delayed (59.1), it was because of the people's sins (59.2–15a). Yet a redeemer would come for those who repented (59.15b–20). In fact, because of the poverty and frustration of this period, the Isaiah school began to envision salvation beyond the confines of this life, when those who lie in the dust would awake and sing (Is 25.6–9; 26.17–19).
The Psalms. As one would expect, the prayers of Israel gave poignant expression to their longing for salvation. In them, the ideas abound of military victory, reconstitution of the nation centered on a new Jersualem, and violent vengeance against all their foes [Ps 75 (76).8–11; Ps 117 (118); 131 (132).14–18]. Salvation became more personal [Ps 7; 53 (54).3–5] and included freedom from illness (6.5) and any kind of distress [68 (69).2–5]. This personal deliverance evoked a desire for rescue from personal sins and for a more holy way of life [49 (50).22–23; 50 (51).3–14]. The spiritual descendants of Jeremiah and Zephaniah developed the longing for salvation on behalf of the just, pious men whose only hope was in Yahweh and whose earthly existence was miserable. Their delight was in the Lord, and salvation could come only by being near to Him [Ps 15 (16).7–11; 17 (18).21–31; 24 (25).4–7; 144 (145).17–20].
in the new testament
Rescue from evil through God's intervention into man's existence and human, experienced consciousness is proclaimed in the New Testament through the un-thought-of newness of the mystery of Jesus from Nazareth, the Messiah and the completely dominating Lord of the process of salvation that is still being accomplished. What Jesus said and did and how He died and was raised from the dead form the inner reality of this mystery; and His chosen pupils' elaboration and their understanding of it under the guidance of the Holy Spirit of God, His Spirit, leads the men who wish to listen to them into the fullness of truth (Jn 16.13).
In the Life and Teaching of Jesus. The kingdom that Jesus proclaimed to be at hand is God's manifested conquest of all evil, i.e., disease, enmity, cosmic chaos, sin, and death through the salvific death and Resurrection of the son of man. He is the one who "took up our infirmities, and bore the burden of our ills" (Mt 8.17). This Palestinian peasant's power to cure the sick, to transcend such an adamant force as humanly devised social hatred and bring salvation to the hated dogs, the Gentiles (Mt8.5–13; Mk 7.24–30; Lk 10.25–37), to command the sea to be calm (Mt 8.23–27), to conquer the power of evil spirits (8.28–34), to forgive sins while curing paralysis (9.1–8), and to raise men from the dead (9.18–26; Lk7.11–17) resulted from His complete submission to the Father's will that the Son should die on behalf of all mankind so that man's sin could be taken away and he could enter into everlasting life, free from all evil (Jn 1.29; Mk8.31–33; 9.29–31; 10.32–34, 42–45; 14.34–36). Jesus was completely innocent of any rebellion against God; yet He identified Himself by His baptism with the sinfulness of all mankind. He lined up with John the Baptist's repentant sinners, who were preparing themselves for the ultimate coming of God's kingdom by symbolically taking a bath as they confessed sorrow for their sins in view of the coming kingdom. Jesus came up out of the water, having fulfilled all justice; the heavens were opened; the Spirit came upon Him; and He was proclaimed by God to be His beloved Son, His unique Son, in whom He was pleased (Mt 3.1–17). This is the salvation preached and lived by Jesus the Messiah—God's pleasure with the new humanity created by Jesus' willed solidarity with man's sin, prefigured by His baptism and effected by His laying down His life for His sheep (Jn 10.11). The justice of God was thereby satisfied through His own gracious plan, and man was saved from the realm of sin, death, and the prince of this world (Jn 12.31–32). Jesus had lived up to His name; He had saved His people from sin (Mt 1.21).
In the Apostolic Preaching. The most difficult thing for the Disciples of Christ, so steeped in the Jewish tradition of a victorious Messiah-Savior, to understand was the death of Jesus on the cross. Yet this death was at the exact center of God's idea of salvation in contrast with the traditional Old Testament view. So it was that, after His Resurrection, Jesus had to teach them that the Messiah had to suffer before entering into His glory (Lk 24.25–27, 44–49). The doctrine of the cross, i.e., the mystery of the Messiah's death, revealed once for all God's power in saving men not from an external oppressor, but from themselves, from the slavery to sin within them (1 Cor 1.18). Salvation came from believing in the favor that Jesus won for man by His cross (Acts 2.37–41; 11.14;15.1, 11). Jesus' own deliverance from death through the Resurrection the Father gave Him was merited by His submission and thus became the cause of eternal salvation for all who obey Him (Heb 5.7–10). The exaltation of Jesus proclaimed Him to be the all-powerful Lord of the universe (Phil 2.5–11) in whom everyone who wants to be saved must believe (Acts 16.17, 30–31; Rom 10.9–13). Because of the grace of justification that Christians already enjoyed, they were living a new life in Christ for God (Rom 6.1–11), but they still waited for the ultimate revelation of the glory of God's sons at the Lord's parousia (Rom 8.18–39). Then they would enjoy the salvation of living forever with Jesus in the kingdom of His Father (1 Thes 5.9–11; 1 Corinthians ch. 15). Every Christian was assured that he would be delivered from every evil and preserved for God's heavenly kingdom (2 Tm 4.18) because, once justified by Christ's death, he would be saved by the life that Christ lives now with His Father (Rom 5.9–10; Col 3.1–4). Indeed, "God our Savior … wishes all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, himself man, Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all, bearing witness in his own time" (1 Tm 2.4–6; Ti 3.3–7).
See Also: redemption (in the bible); rebirth (in the bible).
Bibliography: Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, tr. and adap. by l. hartman (New York 1963) 2101–07. a. richardson, The Interpreteers' Dictionary of the Bible, ed. g. a. buttrick (Nashville 1962) 4:168–181. c. lesquivit and p. grelot, Vocabulaire de théologie biblique, ed. x. lÉon-dufour (Paris 1962) 987–994. f. bammel et al., Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart (Tübingen 1957–65) 2:584–590.
[j. e. fallon]