There are many who challenge the Orthodox Church on the question of salvation. We are asked, “Are you saved?” The normal Orthodox response is something along the lines of “I was saved. I am saved. I am being saved.” For Orthodox Christians the question of salvation is a question not of a single moment in time, but a process of the heart. I recently offered a sermon, “Are you saved? I hope so.” You can watch it here.
But what if salvation wasn’t about eternal life? What if you lived forever whether or not you were saved? It really all depends upon what you are hoping to be saved from in the first place. Are you hoping to be saved from death? Then that part was already accomplished when Christ died and resurrected. Maybe you are hoping to be saved from the struggles of life? Every day Christ saves us from the struggles of life. Even in our most severe pain, Christ reminds us that pain is only temporary and comfort is just around the corner.
Here is today’s Gospel Reading: John 5:24-30 (RSV) - The Lord said to the Jews who came to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself, and has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment. I can do nothing on my own authority; as I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of the Father who sent me."
Maybe you want to be saved from hell. That is a different story. Physical salvation is guaranteed to all who hear the word of God, as we hear in today’s Gospel “all who are in the tombs will hear his voice.” Once we are in our tomb we will hear God’s voice. What will matter then is whether or you not you want to hear His voice, whether or not you desire to see His face, whether or not you have chosen to love Him. Whether we experience His voice as salvation or hell will depend only on our heart, and how our heart has governed our life.
This is the truth we celebrate when we proclaim Christ is Risen! This is the Good News, that Christ has conquered death. I guess the “not so good news” is that salvation is more than just eternal life.