This Learning Activity is the result of a question that was emailed to this website and as I replied to the question it struck me as being important enough to include it permanently in the Learning Activities. Here is the question that was asked.
Question: If Jesus had not come back yet salvation would not exist. Is this correct? Thanks Ed.
Answer: I would say your question about the interaction of the Second Coming and the completion of the salvation event is a resounding YES! Salvation was completed for mankind when Christ returned at His Second Coming! If Christ has not yet returned then salvation is not yet completed! That is a most interesting fact that people who are still waiting for the Second Coming have no appreciation of! Here are some biblical passages that support my statement. Support begins in the Book of Leviticus.
During the Old Covenant there was a man appointed as the high priest to perform priestly duties in the Holy of Holies section of the Mosaic Tabernacle and later in the Jerusalem Temples. These special activities were part of the annual Day of Atonement. In Leviticus 16:2 this passage appears: “and the Lord said to Moses, Tell Aaron your brother not to come at all times into the holy place within the veil, before the mercy seat which is upon the ark, lest he die; for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat.” This passage is followed by exacting instructions on the manner in which entry into that area of the tabernacle was to be conducted with regard to garments of clothing, sacrifices and offerings. God made it very clear as to how that activity would take place and the phrase “lest he die” in the passage gives the impression that these activities were extremely critical to perform in the correct manner and could result in physical death if not precisely followed. Proof of this is given to us in Leviticus 10:1, 2, where we read: “Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer, and put fire in it, and laid incense on it, and offered unholy fire before the Lord, such as he had not commanded them. And fire came forth from the presence of the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord.”
So critical were these activities, and God was obviously serious about the Old Covenant high priest discharging his duties impeccably, that the Israelites waited anxiously for the high priest to come out from the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement that would indicate to them that the high priest had been accepted by God and their sin was covered over for another year! No other humans, including other priests, were allowed in the facility during this activity!
Of course we New Covenant Christians know that we don’t have any earthly priests involved in our relationship with God and that Jesus is our eternal High Priest. As such He came to earth the first time to fulfill everything that was written in the old writings that were about Him and the fulfillment of the high priestly duties was one of the many items He did complete. He suffered, died on the Cross, was buried and then resurrected on the third day, appeared to many individuals and then ascended into heaven taking His blood into the heavenly Holy of Holies. Just as the Israelites waited for their high priest to exit from the earthly Holy of Holies, Christians must have Christ Second Coming return to take place just as Jesus had told His original group of disciples it would. Without the Second Return there is no assurance of salvation!
“But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Therefore his is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death occurred which redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant” (Hebrews 9:11-15).
“so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:28).
“who by God’s power are guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5). The “last time” being spoken of here is a reference to the ending of the Old Covenant in AD 70.
The above understanding also gives clarity to other passages such as: “…For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11b). Here we have Paul writing to the believers in Rome that they (including himself) had not yet experienced salvation and he is writing this letter early AD57! Jesus had already died on the Cross in AD33 1/2 but yet Paul says their salvation is nearer now than when they first believed! See what clarity the passage now has for us? And they were just 13 years away from the Second Coming at the time he wrote that passage! The Scripture is wonderful when God gives us the true understanding of what He is saying to us.