Salvation from the Old Evils
“And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for Him. To give His people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins” (v. 76–77).- Luke 1:76-77
When John the Forerunner was born, his father Zechariah sang a song about salvation (Luke 1:68–79). The New Testament thus opens with a tremendous stress on salvation, and so we need to have a good idea of what the concept means. In its most basic meaning, salvation means to be delivered from some clear and present danger, to be rescued from some threat or calamity.
In the Old Testament, which must be viewed as the background for the New, people celebrated God’s salvation when He delivered them from their enemies, or when He delivered them from some catastrophe, as in Psalm 107. When Jesus healed the sick and the broken, He was giving them salvation in this sense. In fact, the English word salve, related to healing, has the same root as salvation.
What is the great, ultimate threat that hangs over man like a sword of Damocles? It is the threat of God’s eternal judgment. It is the calamity of God’s wrath. It was the anger of God that called up enemies and calamities against Israel in the Old Testament, and ultimately it was God’s anger from which the people needed to be saved. It is impossible to understand the biblical concept of salvation unless we come to grips with the reality of the wrath of God.
God’s holy and righteous character demands that He be intolerant of sin and rebellion. God’s fury against rebellious humanity is completely justified and is taught throughout the Bible. The Old Testament shows salvation from enemies and calamities. God is the ultimate enemy of sinners, and the great calamity that awaits humanity is to fall into the hands of an angry God who is a consuming fire. The depth of the riches of the doctrine of salvation is seen when we realize that God saves us from His own wrath by pouring out that wrath on His Son.
Thus, Zechariah in his song starts by rejoicing that God is redeeming and saving Israel from their enemies (Luke 1:68–75). He then moves to the deeper thought that God is saving the people by forgiving their sins (v. 77). Only when God, through His tender mercies (v. 78), forgives our sins can we have peace with Him, and salvation from His righteous wrath.
The popular myth about God is that He is all love and no wrath. Such a “god” is a mere idol. The God of the Bible, before whom we shall all stand, is righteous, and does not tolerate sin. Open your ears this week and notice how often you hear God mentioned. Is He the righteous God of the Bible or an idol?
Passages for Further Study
Colossians 1:13–14; 2:10–14
1 John 1:9