Total Salvation

From “The Presence of the Future:
The Eschatology of Biblical Realism”
by George Eldon Ladd, 1911-1982

The presence of the messianic salvation is also seen in Jesus' miracles of healing for which the Greek word meaning “to save" is used. The presence of the Kingdom of God in Jesus meant deliverance from haemorrhage (Mark 5:34), blindness (Mark 10:52), demon possession (Luke 8:36) and even death itself (Mark 5:23). Jesus claimed that these deliverances were evidence of the presence of the messianic salvation (Matt. 11:4-5). They were pledges of the life of the eschatological Kingdom which will finally mean immortality for the body. The Kingdom of God is concerned not only with men's souls but with the salvation of the whole man.

The limitation of these physical deliverances illustrates the nature of the present Kingdom in contrast to its future manifestation. In the eschatological Kingdom, all "who are accounted worthy to attain to that age" (Luke 20:35) will be saved from sickness and death in the immortal life of the resurrection. In the present working of the Kingdom, this saving power reached only a few. Not all the sick and crippled were saved, nor were all the dead raised. Only three instances of restoration to life are recorded in the Gospels. Men must come into direct contact with Jesus or his disciples to be healed (Mark 6:56). The saving power of the Kingdom was not yet universally operative. It was resident only in Jesus and in those whom he commissioned (Matt. 10:8; Luke 10:9).

However, not even all who came into contact with Jesus experienced the healing life of the Kingdom; this physical salvation required the response of faith, it did not work ex opere operato.

"Your faith has saved you" (Marl: 5:34; 10:52).

A spiritual response was necessary to receive the physical blessing. The miracles of healing, important as they were, were not an end in themselves. They did not constitute the highest good of the messianic salvation. This fact is illustrated by the arrangement of the phrases in Matthew, chapter eleven, verses four to five. Greater than the deliverance of the blind and the lame, the lepers and the deaf, even than raising the dead, was the preaching of the good news to the poor. This “gospel" was the very presence of Jesus himself, and the joy and fellowship which he brought to the poor.

That salvation from physical sickness was only the external aspect of spiritual salvation is shown by a saying about demon exorcism. While this miracle was one of the most convincing pieces of evidence of the presence of the Kingdom (Matt. 12:28), it was preliminary to God's taking possession of the vacant dwelling. Otherwise, a man is like a house which stands in good order, clean but empty (Matt. 12:44, Luke 11:25). Unless the power of God enters that life, the demon can return bringing seven other demons with him and the man will be worse off that he was at first. Healings and demon exorcisms were the negative side of salvation; the positive side was the incoming of the power and life of God.

The bond between physical salvation and its spiritual aspect is illustrated by the healing of the ten lepers. All ten were “cleansed" and “healed" (Luke 17:14 f.).

To the one, a Samaritan who returned to express his gratitude, Jesus said, “Your faith has saved you" (Luke 17:19).

These are the same words used elsewhere of healing. Are we to suppose that the other nine were not really healed? Many commentators suspect confusion in the test. However, in view of the fact that these same words are clearly used of “spiritual" salvation (Luke 7:50), we may agree with those expositors who see a greater blessing bestowed on the Samaritan than on the nine. His “salvation" or wholeness was more than physical healing. It implied a sound spiritual state.

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