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Salvation is the work of God in saving and securing a person from the power and consequences of sin . In a general sense, it is seen in lesser acts of deliverance by agents--"judges "--who intervene against oppression[1].

For the most part, though, the idea of deliverance goes back to the Book of Exodus, in which the people of the tribes of Israel were brought out of Egypt. The miraculous deliverance from bondage, certified by ten plagues upon the Egyptians[2], became a lasting metaphor for the very real spiritual deliverance from sin and all its consequences.

God had warned Abraham that the time in Egypt was coming[3], and when the time came he told Moses that He would save the Israelites because he had heard their cries for help[4]. The connection to physical and spiritual bondage is apparent in the inclusion of the reminder to the deliverance in the very first of the Ten Commandments[5] where the existence of God as savior is the basis for the understanding of what sin is.

Even before Moses, though, mankind was constantly failing to reach God's simple standards[6] that had been passed down through Noah[7]. Basically, the survivors of the flood had to have large families, build towns and not kill anyone in doing so. They had expanded dietary standards, with only blood being forbidden as food. They were to remember God, being assured that He was faithful to His promises[8]. It turned out that no one could free themselves from the power of the inborn rebelliousness[9].

Consequently, there needed to be a savior--someone immune from the inclination to sin. Since that could not be a sinful person, it had to be God Himself[10]. However, this salvation was not "free"; it came at a price. The promise of a special person to come was found first in the curse on the serpent--the "seed of the woman[11]. Throughout human history, the individual by whom God would save His people was narrowed down to a descendant of David, the great king of Israel. This person was Jesus of Nazareth, who was especially suited for the task[12].

Ancient laws and customs, especially those of the Hebrew people, laid down the requirements for redeeming a person or property associated with a family or tribe after it had fallen into the hands of another[13]. This happened for a variety of reasons, most commonly by debts incurred over time. When a debt could not be paid, a person often sold his land, and even himself or a family member, into slavery. The right of a kinsman to that person or property was to pay a price--a ransom--to the debt holder. In return the person or property was returned to the family.

As creatures made in the Creator's image[14] members of the human race have an obligation to obey Him. However, they also have the tendency to disobey. Each time they disobey, the sin accumulates its damage, with consequences that ultimately end in death[15]. Each person's sin not only hearts that person, but ultimately it effects God[16]. Since the penalty is so severe, God determined to pay the mounting debt incurred by those among humanity that only He knows, for sure, to be His own people. This payment would have to be after the manner of the vicarious sacrifices set down in the Law, especially as shown in the innocent animals slain on the altars His people had erected throughout the centuries[17].

The offering of an innocent animal in the place of a guilty person never actually canceled the consequences of the sin. All the millions of dead and burnt animals only illustrated the immensity of the problem. Even if a very good person gave his life in the place of a guilty man, that sacrifice would only cancel consequences of a single offense[18]. The weight of accumulating sins would still be on the pardoned criminal. For this reason, just as the smoking fire pot and flaming torch (representing God) went between the split animals while Abraham looked on[19], so God Himself takes the place of every one of those who believe in Him[20]. He does this through the person of Jesus Christ--God in the flesh[21]


There are several words in both the Hebrew and Greek that describe the concept and process of salvation. This section will explain how these concepts work together in the study of soteriology.

The main word translated as salvation is יְשׁוּעָה (yeshu`ah). This is a form of the verb יָשַׁע (yasha`), meaning to deliver, that is, to rescue. This is in the sense of to "save from harm". The noun form of this word is found 77 times in the Old Testament, and always in regards to Yahweh. There is no other Savior (וֹשִׁ֔יעַ) apart from the Creator, who made the universe[22]

In the New Testament, the word translated salvation is σωτηρία (soteria) (45 times) or σωτήριον (soterion) (5 times). This is from the noun form σωτήρ ("Savior") from the verb σώζω (sozo), which means "to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction".


This section will trace the "history of redemption" through the Bible--from the skins in the garden[23] to the new heavens and the new earth[24].

Merciful Provision[]

See main article: Fall of Man

In the beginning, there was but one prohibition--The Tree of Knowledge. God had specifically forbidden the eating of a tree that was said to provide a knowledge of good and evil. At that point, such knowledge was irrelevant because pure trust in the Creator meant Adam and Eve were free to simply live happily in fellowship with Him.

When the two sinned by willfully disobeying God in favor of the advice of Satan, they fully expected death upon meeting with God. However, God showed mercy by provided an animal, or animals, as a substitution for their own life[25]. The couple was saved from the consequences of that first sin. Adam would live after that for 930 years[26]. The significance of this provision was not lost on mankind, for the second born son, Abel, regularly sacrificed an animal to God[27]

Grace in the Eyes of God[]

See main article: Grace

The first mention of grace is found in the midst of what is said to be "evil continually"[28]. Grace is favor granted to someone considered worthy regardless of merit. The all inclusive language in the description of the world around Noah, there is no reason to believe that after 500 years that, even living in a community that included Seth, son of Adam, Noah would be much different. However, when later used of men, "to find grace in the eyes (lit. : "favor in the presence")" of a greater person meant that it was at that persons pleasure only whether the lesser person would be granted an audience[29].

In this case, the promises made in the garden were at stake, and God is by His nature faithful to his promises. Mankind was to be destroyed in judgment, but a way of escape was to be made available to those who believed His warnings (such as those given by Enoch[30], a man who had been so close to God that he had been taken out of the chaos years before[31]. Noah had apparently sought that closeness, and when God called, he had believed Him to be able[32].

Faith and Faithfulness[]

See the main article: Faith

Over time, mankind after the flood rejected God for their own ideas. However, God was faithful to his promise to Noah. It took a drastic move on God's part, but the tribes spread out, with some independently believing the true God (see Job and his friends, Melchizedek and Jethro, for instance). But even the family of Shem was mostly pagan[33]

However, there was something about the voice that Abraham, then known as Abram, heard which was convincing. Perhaps he had heard his ancestor Shem, or others, talk of the Creator. The miraculous scattering of the peoples had was certainly known in the house of Terah. For whatever reason, Abram listened. He didn't follow the commands perfectly, for he stayed with his father when he migrated out of Ur[34]. After his father's death, Abram headed out in faith to find the land that God had promised him.

God proved faithful to his promises, even though Abraham often failed in his trust of Him. Once Isaac was born, it still took an impossible demand to prove Abraham's faith--the command to offer the promised child up as a burnt sacrifice[35]! As is pointed out by the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, Abraham believed that God, the creator of the universe, was certainly able to raise the dead to life[36]. When the frightened son asked his father where the sacrifice was, Abraham assured him that "God will provide for himself a lamb". And true to His word, a ram was provided[37].

This faith, or trust, in God became the proof in those who truly were followers of God. These, and these alone, had the assurance that God keeps His promises. The Apostle Paul developed this theme throughout his ministry, echoing the teachings of Jesus Christ concerning what it "took to be saved"[38]. Paul's full "formula" included both grace and faith, but the "works" were the proof of salvation[39], just as with Abraham.

Deliverance from Bondage[]

Some descendants of Abraham, in the family of his grandson Jacob, ended up in Egypt for about 400 years. After Joseph had served as "prime minister" of the nation, subsequent leadership turned against the Hebrews to such an extent that they became slaves under cruel taskmasters[40]. This continued until once more a Hebrew rose to a place of power, albeit via clandestine circumstances[41].

This time, though, it was not a political move that was needed. Moses proved to be better suited to be a rebel leader, though it cost him 40 years of exile. When he returned, he and his brother Aaron showed the Pharaoh and his court the power of Yahweh against the supposed power of the false gods of Egypt. Through the miraculous plague of sudden death to millions of firstborn sons (future leadership) and then a clearing of a path on dry land through the Red Sea God fulfilled his promise and delivered millions of Hebrews out of the hands of their captives[42].

Salvation from bondage comes in many forms. In the time of the judges (see below), some people had to work for years to work off debt. In times of drought, they might even sell their land and move like Elimelech of Bethlehem did. He moved to the land of Moab with his wife Naomi, bringing their unmarried sons with them. Moving did not help, and all the males of the household died, leaving Naomi and her daughters-in-law without an inheritance[43]. One of those daughters-in-law, Ruth, loved her enough to choose to go back to Judah with her. This left open the right of the "kinsman redeemer" to claim the estate by marrying one of the women. Since Ruth was young and able to bear children, Boaz married her, preserving the house of Elimelech, a close cousin of his[44].

When God provided His written covenant with His people, His very identity as Savior was inscribed in the First Commandment. In bringing His people out of Egypt, God proved Himself to be the one true God. All the rest of the Law flowed out of that fact. The Law Giver had the authority inherent in being the Creator. He demanded respect based on His sovereign choice to be their Savior[45]

Anointed Champions[]

All the God-ordained offices in Israel required an anointing of oil along with a blessing from God. The word for "anointed one" in Hebrew is מָשִׁ֫יחַ (Messiah).

The first to be covered at length was the priest, especially the high priest. This takes up a portion of the book of Exodus and most of that of the book of Leviticus deals with the qualifications and service of the Levitical priesthood. This office was fulfilled in Jesus Christ, though being joined to Him, believers are a "kingdom of priests"[46].

Within the law, the office of king[47] was presented as an inevitable necessity in a world where powerful men ruled. Ideally, and eventually, only God Himself would rule in the person of the Messiah Jesus Christ. The whole book of Genesis tells the story of how God used some of the weakest heroes to preserve the genetic line -- Seth, Shem, Abraham and the rest. Eventually, King David would provide the link from the tribe of Judah to the Messiah.

The office of prophet was filled by people of many families, including priestly and royal lines. The Hebrew people break their "prophets" into the "Former" and "Latter" prophets, beginning in the Book of Joshua. As the first champion for the people in the Promised Land, Joshua (Heb: יְהוֹשֻׁ֣עַ = Yah is salvation) dutifully serves as both "judge" and "prophet". The judges that followed him all served as "saviors" for the people. Another prophet, late in the history of Israel, would show the sinful nation the meaning of salvation, starting with his name "Hosea" (Heb: הוֹשֵׁ֙עַ֙ = "salvation"). His wife sold herself into prostitution, but Hosea was told to buy her out of that sinful lifestyle. This was a picture of what God's deliverance is all about[48].

All three offices, prophet, priest and king, were fulfilled in the life and continuing ministry of Jesus Christ[49][50].

Work of God[]

The act of salvation is a Trinitarian matter, for God works mysteriously in the lives of those who will believe. This is best shown in the letter to the Ephesians by the apostle Paul[51].

God the Father[]

Throughout the Bible, God sorted through mankind to save those who He saw as special[52]. This group was both a physical and a spiritual "nation" which will one day inhabit and/or be the New Jerusalem[53].

In his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul greets them as "saints" (Gr: ἁγίοις = set apart, i.e., different). He claims the authority of one "sent from" (Gr: ἀπόστολος, from the verb ἀποστέλλω). In his call to them ministry[54], Paul was bound by duty to do only what God told him to do, the revealed will of God[55].

Having faced the resurrected Jesus, the apostle followed His example[56], for to do otherwise was not an option. Like his Lord, his will was bound to that of God, the Father[57]. In following the commands of God, Paul set an example to others. But the greater truth is that the hidden will of God is being worked out in and through his chosen vessels[58].

Later in this letter, Paul explains that God, in calling saints unto Himself, does it by first choosing to favor them, then save them through the work of Jesus in order that His will be accomplished[59]. In another place, Paul reveals that from start to finish, God works in choosing, calling, sanctifying and glorifying everyone for whom Jesus died[60].

God the Son[]

Way back in Genesis, in cursing the serpent, God had indicated that victory over sin would come by way of the "bruised heel" of the "seed" of the woman[11]. This is an interesting concept, for the "seed" (זָ֫רַע) is usually considered as coming from the man. Some translations have "offspring" here, which seems to obscure the distinction. Though not result of the male seed[61] the only begotten of the Father[62] would be the kinsman redeemer[44] -- fully human -- and so fulfill the prophets.

In the very first mention of Jesus in the New Testament, the effective work of the Son of God is clearly laid down. In the command to name the child to come, the angel states the meaning of the name: "He shall save"[63]. This salvation was not just "offered" but was accomplished when the ransom was paid "for his people" who had rebelled and deserved death[64]. Jesus told his opponents on the occasion of a celebration in the home of Zacheus (Heb: Zachaiah), a tax despised tax collector, that his own ministery was to "seek and to save" those who He knew to be "lost"[65]. This didn't set well with his opponents, but the truth was that they had lost their way and didn't know it.

In the beginning, before He had created the universe[66], the Son had determined to save a portion of sinful mankind. But first, he had to live among them[67]. Like a shepherd looking for a lost sheep[68], Jesus went from the comfort of His heavenly home to find the one out of a hundred who needed his help[69]. He sought a treasure worth everything, even his life[70] for those His father had given could not be denied a place in the Kingdom[71].

Every miracle (Greek: σημεῖον, a sign) Jesus performed was a testimony to the need for a savior. From the rich religious leader[72] to the poor Samaritan women[73],Jesus asked searching questions of those he came in contact with. In so doing He showed that any sort of person could be saved, but it would not be a universal work of omnipotence to bring all into the Kingdom. The kingdom would be populated by "saints" (Greek: άγιον`, separate, different or differentiated) who had once been "sinners"[74].

God the Holy Spirit[]

The lives that were saved by Jesus on the cross were spiritual, not physical, lives[75]. This was made clear when Jesus was talking to Pontius Pilate: "My kingdom is not of this world"[76]. One of the reasons that the crowd outside was mad at Jesus was because he had not delivered them from Roman tyranny. The leadership, on the other hand, hypocritically called out, "we have no king but Caesar"[77]. Therefore, when it comes to eternal salvation, it is not by the works of a man, physically, that anyone is released from the bondage of this world[78]. It is a spiritual act, by the Spirit of God--that is, the Holy Spirit.

God's Handiwork[]

See main article Sanctification.

It is clear from the record of mankind that those who were saved, in every case, were those that had some relationship to their savior.  The first use of the word in the Old Testament the patriarch Jacob considers the future of the tribe of Dan, which he saw as reflection of himself in his younger days, a conniving schemer[79].

This brings a spontaneous declaration of thankfulness to Yahweh, his personal savior (ישׁוּעָתְךָ֖). In saying "my savior", Jacob is remembering how God saved him, first from his father-in-law (and uncle) Laban, and finally from the army of his brother Esau[80]. Though the promised heir, he had proven to be unworthy of the honor. God spent the course of twenty years before finally changing his nature and his name when he wrestled with him[81].

About 400 years later, Moses would remind his fellow Israelites that though the mighty Egyptian army was bearing down on them, Yahweh would provide a way for them to escape. And it was a spectacular rescue of millions of people in a very short time. The deliverance had finally come[82]. The whole thing was memorialized in a song personalizing the LORD's salvation for each and everyone of them[83]. Sadly, a generation later, this physical deliverance would prove to have been rejected by all the adults who had rejected God in unbelief.[84]

For the next 400 years, from Joshua to Samuel, God's hand was evident, but mostly through human means. However, it was Samuel's mother, Hannah, that finally acknowledged her need for a personal savior. And that savior was Yahweh[85]. The first king of Israel's scattered tribes was an unregenerate man named Saul. He had been anointed by Samuel only after the people demanded a king to fight there battles for them. In the course of battle, even he swore by Yahweh as the One by whom salvation came. Human agency of his son Jonathan had not been known[86].

The family line of David would bring the Savior in the flesh, and David was prolific in declaring that it was God who was his personal Savior. In the historical account, David is cited as having called upon the LORD as his savior in three passages[87]. A partial list of psalms that speak of "my Savior" and "your Savior" includes six references in Psalm 119[88]. David, a type of Christ, knew well of the salvation of Yahweh.

The prophet Isaiah spoke of personal salvation over twenty times, most family when he spoke in poetic majesty of the messenger who would declare the saving work of Yahweh[89]. Over and over again, the salvation of Yahweh was proclaimed. Very few paid heed. But those who did listen, and obey could declare with a repentant Jonah, "Salvation is of the LORD[90]. The proof of that came when the pagan city of Nineveh repented in a day, saving the city from judgment.

Throughout the Old Testament, God wrought miracles with ordinary men and women that He saved from the bondage of Sin. Their faith changed them. A prostitute in Jericho, a cowardly farmer in Manasseh, and flawed kings in Jerusalem all were changed by God[91]. In saving them, the LORD changed the course of History.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans concerning the need for a basic change in human nature in the midst of a pagan nation. The general pagan, as opposed to the Jews living in Rome, had no direct knowledge of Yahweh. For this reason, all kinds of sinful behavior was incorporated in worshiping gods of their own making. When this happened, they willingly went headlong into destruction[92]. In contrast, Paul was unashamed to speak of the Gospel, the only way of salvation and change[93]. From there, he expands on the danger of sin and the promise of salvation[94]. Pointing all the way back to Adam, Paul shows from Scripture that everyone is a sinner in the need for change that only comes through Jesus Christ[95]. At the end of the argument, Paul brings it all together, showing that believers can live with assurance that they are saved[96].

Since all mankind is in a fallen state, it is impossible for anyone, on their own power to save themselves. However, there will be innumerable people who are saved in heaven[97]. Paul calls those who are saved the "handiwork" of God[98], the result of God gracefully showing mercy on multitudes so that He can show the world His glory. Just as the Psalmist can look out into the night sky and see God's creation as evidence of God's glory[99], so much more will the angels be in awe of what God has done with His people.


  1. Judges 2:16 (Link)
  2. Exod. 7:14--12:32 (Link)
  3. Gen. 15:13-16 (Link)
  4. Exod. 6:5-14 (Link)
  5. Exod. 20:2 (Link)
  6. Rom. 5:14 (Link)
  7. Gen. 9:1-7 (Link)
  8. Gen. 8:21-23 (Link)
  9. Psalm 14:3, 53:3; Rom. 3:10, 12 (Link)
  10. Isaiah 43:3,11 (Link)
  11. 11.0 11.1 Gen. 3:15
  12. Mat. 1:21 (Link)
  13. Lev. 25:25-49 (Link)
  14. Gen. 1:26-27; Isa. 43:7; Eph. 2:10 (Link)
  15. James 1:15; Rom. 6:23a (Link)
  16. Deu. 30:19; Ps. 51:4 (Link)
  17. Gen. 4:4, 9:20, 12:7-8; Job 1:5; etc. (Link)
  18. Heb. 9:8-12 (Link)
  19. Gen. 15:17 (Link)
  20. John 3:16; Rom. 5:8 (Link)
  21. Isa. 7:14; Mat. 1:20; John 1:12-14 (Link)
  22. Exo. 20:2, 11 (Link)
  23. Gen. 3:21 (Link)
  24. Rev. 21:1-4; 22:1-4 (Link)
  25. Gen. 3:21 (Link)
  26. Gen. 5:4 (Link)
  27. Gen. 4:3 (Link)
  28. Gen. 6:5-8 (Link)
  29. Gen. 18:3; 19:19 (Link)
  30. Jude 1:14 (Link)
  31. Ge 5:22; Heb 11:5 (Link)
  32. Heb. 11:7; 2 Peter 2:5 (Link)
  33. Josh. 24:2 (Link)
  34. Gen. 11:27--12:3; 15:7 (Link)
  35. Gen. 22:1-5 (Link)
  36. Heb. 11:17-19 (Link)
  37. Gen. 22:8, 13 (Link)
  38. Matt. 19:25; Mark 10:26; Luke 18:26; Acts 16:30. (Link)
  39. Eph. 2:8-10 (Link)
  40. Exodus 1:8-11 (Link)
  41. Ex. 2:10; Heb. 11:24-26 (Link)
  42. Ex. 14:27-21 (Link)
  43. Ruth 1:1-5 (Link)
  44. 44.0 44.1 Ruth 4:1-9
  45. Isa. 43:3, 11 (Link)
  46. Ex. 19:6; Rev. 1:6 (Link)
  47. Deu. 17:14 (Link)
  48. Hosea 3:1-5 (Link)
  49. Rev. 1:5 (Link)
  50. Heb. 1:1-4; 8:1 (Link)
  51. Eph. 1:1-14 (Link)
  52. Ex. 19:5; Deu. 14:2; Ps. 135:4; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 2:9 (Link)
  53. Rev. 3:12, 21:2 (Link)
  54. Acts 9:1-8 (Link)
  55. Eph. 1:1 (Link)
  56. Mat. 26:42 (Link)
  57. 2 Thes. 3:7-9 (Link)
  58. Eph. 1:11-12 (Link)
  59. Eph. 2:8-10 (Link)
  60. Rom. 8:28-30 (Link)
  61. Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:23; Luke 1:35 (Link)
  62. John 3:16; 1 John 4:9-10 (Link)
  63. Matt. 1:21 (Link)
  64. Rom. 5:8 (Link)
  65. Luke 19:10 (Link)
  66. John 1:1-3, 10 (Link)
  67. John 1:10-13 (Link)
  68. Matt. 18:12-13; Luke 15:-7 (Link)
  69. John 3:13; 6:33, 38 (Link)
  70. Matt. 13:46 (Link)
  71. John 6:37 (Link)
  72. John 3:1-21 (Link)
  73. John 4:5-26 (Link)
  74. Matt. 9:13 (Link)
  75. John 1:12-13 (Link)
  76. John 18:33-38a (Link)
  77. John 19:15 (Link)
  78. Eph. 1:13-14 (Link)
  79. Gen. 27:36; 49:18 (Link)
  80. Gen. 31:52; 32:9-12 (Link)
  81. Gen. 32:24-30 (Link)
  82. Ex 14:13 (Link)
  83. Ex 15:2 (Link)
  84. Deu. 32:15 (Link)
  85. 1 Sam. 2:1 (Link)
  86. 1 Sam 11:13; 14:45 (Link)
  87. 2 Sam. 22; 23; 2 Chron. 16 (Link)
  88. Ps. 119:41, 81, 123, 155, 166, 174 (Link)
  89. Isa. 52:7 (Link)
  90. Jonah 2:9 (Link)
  91. Heb. 11:31-32 (Link)
  92. Rom. 1:22-32 (Link)
  93. Rom. 1:16-17 (Link)
  94. Rom. 3:9-26 (Link)
  95. Rom. 5:18-19 (Link)
  96. Rom. 8:28-38 (Link)
  97. Rev. 5:9 (Link)
  98. Eph. 2:10 (Link)
  99. Ps. 19:1 (Link)