One of the overarching themes of the Old Testament is God’s redemption of his people (and boy, do they (we) need it). Chapter
six four of Richard Middleton’s book A New Heaven and a New Earth sketches this Old Testament view of salvation. But, and this is an important but, salvation in the Old Testament is, without exception, salvation aimed at earthly human flourishing in community. This is in line with the creation mandate for humans to be God’s image bearers on earth. To rule, subdue, and create. Humans were created to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth and subdue it, to till and keep God’s sacred space. Male and female we were created for this. But human rebellion and sin prevents the fulfillment of this calling.
This chapter lays out some key points in Middleton’s argument to reclaim biblical eschatology and grasp the impact of the anticipation of a new heaven and a new earth. It is hard to over estimate the importance of the Old Testament view of God’s salvation to the New Testament view of salvation. Certainly our tendency is to underestimate its importance and chase rabbit trails instead.
[W]e are prone to miss the amazing scope of God’s redemption, and especially its full-bodied, this-worldly character, if we do not read the New Testament with the worldview of the Old Testament as our basis and guide. And I found that the more I understood the Old Testament (which was Scripture for Jesus and the early church), the more depth and complexity I saw in the New Testament, and the more meaningful it became. (p. 78)
Although it is possible to learn much from the New Testament alone, much that is important is missing without the story behind the story of Jesus. The biblical view of salvation is one of those topics that can be seriously distorted. Salvation is not limited to forgiveness of sins or to an assurance of heaven when we die.
[Salvation as] being made right with God through forgiveness of sins … is not wrong, but it leaves out a great deal. … Salvation is much wider than that; it cannot be limited to forgiveness of sins or escaping judgement. In the Bible, salvation is a comprehensive reality, both future and present, and affects every aspect of existence.
The most fundamental meaning of salvation in Scripture is twofold: it is God’s deliverance of those in a situation of need from that which impedes their well-being, resulting in restoration to wholeness. Wholeness or well-being is God’s original intent for creation, and that which impedes wholeness – sin, evil, and death in all their forms – is fundamentally anti-creational. Both the deliverance of the needy and their full restoration to well-being (in relationship with God, others, and the world) are crucial to salvation, and the term may be used for either or both together. (p. 79)
Middleton defends this view by looking at salvation in the Old Testament. The story of the exodus from Egypt is the paradigmatic example of God’s deliverance. God rescued Israel from oppression by the Egyptians and shaped, formed, and established them as his people. The following elements played key roles in the exodus and throughout Scripture. Continue reading