Is there salvation outside the church?

This question has a lot of implications and follow up questions for me. For example:

  • Who or what is salvation?
  • Who or what is the church?
  • What does it mean to be “outside the church?”

With the possibility of leaving those and other subsidiary questions unanswered, here goes…

I believe that there is salvation outside the church, but not salvation outside of Jesus Christ. I believe that part of the hope as Christians is that all things will be made new. There will be a new heaven and a new earth that are not like the one that we currently experience. I believe that all things being new includes all things and all people. Does this mean universal salvation? Well, I’m not sure, but I do believe that creation, re-creation and new creation comes through Christ.

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

— Revelation 21:1-5, TNIV

This is part of a series of posts responding to questions raised in The Secret Message of Jesus – A Book Discussion at Resurrection.

6 thoughts on “Is there salvation outside the church?

  1. re: universal salvation

    I tend to think of it this way- (reading the Alexandrian Fathers has tended to form this in me to some extent, as well as brushing up on some Orthodox theology lately)

    Because of the resurrection of the dead, all share in redemption. In a way, it is a continuation of God’s already present sustaining power- although we as humans have chosen to cut ourselves off from the source of life through our servering of our relatedness to God, yet apparently God is not willing for God’s creation to, as an inevitable consequence, fall into nothingness and non-being. Thus, even though we choose to not be related to God, God still sustains our existence.

    The resurrection of Christ and of the dead is ultimately the vindication of God over and against the destructive consequences of sin; that God’s love and power is greater than the power of sin and non-being, so to speak. Thus, all will be redeemed, because all will share in the resurrection. However, even though all share in the resurrection, not all will be related to God in the same way, and that relatedness, more than simply sheer existence or not, is the ultimate crux of eternity.

    I think Lewis’ vision of the Grey Town in The Great Divorce is a pretty poignant picture of this dynamic; moving further and further away from God and further and further into oneself, which could only lead into eternal misery.

  2. Shouldn’t quote Rev 21:1-5 and leave 21:7-8 out:

    Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” (Rev 21:7-8 TNIV)

    I don’t like those verses anymore than anyone else but they are what is written.

  3. I view the question as one about the nature of salvation. Is salvation primarily something about ME as an individual – going to heaven when I die, being right with God, etc.? When I read the NT I see that salvation also includes being joined together with the Body of Christ – not just the heavenly Jesus, but with the actual people, who like me, are redeemed sinners gifted with the Spirit. Put briefly, the church is part of what salvation is all about (think Ephesians 2:11ff). If I am without the church, I’m missing out on an essential part of salvation.

  4. deviant monk – Beautiful. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I resonate with what you put forward. It is our decision whether to respond to God now and into eternity. Thanks.

    kansasbob – That’s true those verses are the ones that follow. Do you have any further thoughts about implications?

    Richard H – I think you make a good distinction between the communal and individual. I did not consider this in the original post and recognize now that I should have addressed that initially. Thanks!

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