I have heard many talk about the “scarlet thread that runs throughout the Bible,” this thread being God’s plan of redemption through the blood of Jesus Christ. It is common to hear people say, “The Bible’s theme is redemption,” and those who say that would be correct. But in our praise of the Bible’s reality of redemption, we may completely neglect the purpose for which we were redeemed!
So many people are living as if Jesus’ entire goal in going to the Cross was to save them from hell when, in reality, that is just the beginning. They stop at redemption and never live as redeemed. They get bored and think, “Now what?” Many are living as if they just have to wait around until Jesus gets back.
From Genesis to Revelation the theme is redemption, but the purpose of that redemption is relationship—to bring man back into the presence of God.
We are constantly thanking God for His redemption (as we should be!) but in the meanwhile many of us are neglecting to partake of the very thing that this redemption has enabled for us. We can become so caught up in trying not to lose the importance of the past work of the Cross that we overlook the present work that the Cross has enabled—namely, fellowship with God and the ministry which that relationship empowers and sets us apart to do.
There are two main things that God’s work of redemption enabled: it enabled man to enter God’s presence, and it enabled God’s presence to enter man. It has enabled us to enter into fellowship with God and for God to fill us with His fullness and power through the indwelling and anointing of the Holy Spirit. As the Apostle Paul says,
“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:14-19).
That you may be filled with all the fullness of God… this is the end goal of salvation. Jesus’ work of redemption provided the bridge over the bottomless chasm of sin, but crossing over that chasm is not the end of the journey—it’s the beginning.
That Which Was Lost
Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10). The question we have to ask is, What was lost? “Well, we were lost” some might say. Yes, we were, but I think there is more to it than that. To show what I mean, we have to go back to the beginning.
When Adam and Eve sinned, they heard God walking in the Garden in the cool of the day and they hid themselves. Then God called out to them and looked for them (Genesis 3:8-9). What this section of Scripture implies is that God walking in the garden with Adam and Eve was most likely a regular occurrence—if not a daily one. But when Adam and Eve sinned, they were thrown out of the garden, and they could no longer walk with God. The relationship between God and man—that is what was lost. And subsequently, man’s dominion was lost as well.
After the Fall, we constantly see God making provisions for man to come back into His presence. From the tabernacle, to the sacrificial system, to the Law of Moses, all the way up to Jesus’ death on the Cross, God was making a way back into His presence.
When Jesus died on the Cross, the temple veil was torn in two. That ancient separation between God’s manifest presence and mankind was rent from top to bottom. It was as if God was shouting to the world, “Walk with Me again!”
Now, it may seem to some that I am downplaying the importance of the Cross. That is not what I am suggesting or implying in the least! On the contrary, when we enter into relationship with God and enter into His manifest presence, we are magnifying the work of the Cross by partaking in the gift that Christ’s work has purchased for us.
During one of the many enlightening conversations about The Lord that my dad and I have had over the years, he said something on this subject that struck me so powerfully. His statement has stuck with me, and it will continue to do so.
My dad said he had been thinking about the temple and the sacrifices that were made there. He said, “Can you imagine walking into the temple courtyard and experiencing the assault that must have come upon people’s senses! There were dead animals all over, blood was flowing endlessly across the ground, and the loud noises of sheep bleating and oxen moaning must have been deafening at times. Not to mention the smell! The smell of blood and animal carcasses must have been overpowering.” My dad stopped a moment before continuing then he said, “I guess my point is this… you couldn’t ignore the sacrifice.”
“You couldn’t ignore the sacrifice.” That phrase was eye opening for me. When the people brought their sacrifices to the temple to make atonement for their sins so that God could dwell among them, it was utterly impossible to ignore the sacrifice that had to be made so that they could dwell with God. It was utterly impossible for the sacrifice to go unnoticed. How often do we come before God meanwhile failing to recognize the incredible sacrifice that had to be made so that we could enter into His presence?
In no way am I suggesting that we downplay the significance of the Cross. What I am suggesting is that many of us may be missing the very goal of the Cross. By participating in the relationship that Jesus’ sacrifice facilitated, we are magnifying His work of redemption.
To illustrate my point, imagine that a friend of yours is having a birthday and you bought them an extravagant gift. This gift cost you everything you had, but you will stop at nothing to show your friend how much they mean to you. For lack of a better example, say that the gift is a priceless diamond necklace (I realize that there will be holes in this analogy, but we’ll go with it for now). You arrive at the party, hand them the gift, and watch with excitement as they open it. They are stunned by the extravagance and beauty of the gift you have given them. They will not stop thanking you. They go around telling everyone at the party, “Look at this incredible gift I have received!” After awhile, you notice that although your friend received the gift with joy and continues to endlessly thank you for the gift, they aren’t even taking it out of the jewelry box. They aren’t even wearing it. They aren’t using it. They do nothing but continually thank you for the gift.
The party ends and the gift stays in its box. Your friend brings out the necklace from time to time in order to admire its beauty and worth, but it never gets used for its true purpose—to be worn. Are we treating the gift of salvation in the same way?
What is more glorifying to the gift giver? Endlessly thanking them for the gift, or actually using it? Thankfulness is necessary, but the ultimate indicator of our thankfulness is what we actually do with the gift. The best way to thank God for the gift of Jesus’ atonement is to actually participate in the activity that this work has made available.
This Is Eternal Life
As I said at the beginning, many are living as if being rescued from Hell is the entire goal of salvation. Well, what even is Hell? As well as Hell and Heaven being literal places, Hell is complete and utter separation from the presence of God. What is Heaven? It’s the complete and unhindered manifest presence of God. So, even in saving us from Hell, God’s purpose was to bring us back into His presence. But didn’t Jesus say that whoever believes in Him won’t perish but will have eternal life? Wasn’t that His goal in coming to earth? Yes, it was. But what is our definition of eternal life?
Eternal life is not simply living forever. It is much more than that. Jesus says in John 17:3, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” Knowing God—that is eternal life. Jesus says in John 10:10, “I have come that you may have life, and have it more abundantly.” The thing we must realize is that Jesus is The Way, The Truth, and The Life (John 14:6). So in the end, the purpose of redemption is, and always was, about God bringing man back into relationship with Himself.