Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. -- Matthew 10:28 (ESV)
In other words, every human has a soul that lives forever, but his body will eventually die whether naturally or unnaturally. People tend to be more concerned for their bodies (survival on Earth), but Jesus is more concerned about our souls (eternal salvation). The lifespan of our bodies is less than a blink compared to the lifespan of our eternal souls.
Francis Chan illustrate this with a rope. The short tip of the rope is coloured which represents our present life on Earth. The rest of the imaginary eternal rope represents the remaining eternity of our existence. Whatever happens on the tip of the rope is no match compared with the remaining rope (eternity). Salvation means to be saved from spending eternity in hell.
Unfortunately, there are many controversies about salvation, but the Bible is clear that:
- You must at least believe (trust) that:
- God exists (Hebrews 11:6)
- God is just (Ezekiel 18:29-32)
- Jesus is the Christ (Messiah) (John 20:31; 1 John 2:22-23)
- Jesus is the Son of God (John 3:16; John 6:47; John 20:31; 1 John 5:5-10)
- Jesus is the Lord (Romans 10:9)
- Jesus was sacrificed for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:2-3; Isaiah 53:4-6)
- Jesus was risen from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:1-8; Romans 10:9, Ephesians 1:13)
- Jesus is the only Saviour (John 14:6; 1 Timothy 2:5; Matthew 7:13-14; Acts 4:12)
- You must repent from you sin which requires that:
- You must be convicted of your sins (2 Corinthians 7:10, Isaiah 3:9, 1 John 1:8, Matthew 3:7-8)
- You must confess your sins (Proverbs 28:13, 1 John 1:9, Psalm 32:5)
These may be considered the minimum requirements for salvation in the extreme case where someone is about to die, for example one of the criminals who were crucified with Jesus, believed, confessed and repented, but he did not have a chance get baptized, yet Jesus told him "you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:39-43).
However, if you live long enough, you should also:
- Destroy your idols (Jonah 2:8-9; Isaiah 27:9; Luke 16:13, Matthew 6:24)
- Get baptized (Mark 16:16; Acts 19:4) into a new life (Colossians 2:12-14, Acts 22:16, Acts 2:38, 2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 6:3-14)
- Receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38-39; Romans 8:9; John 3:5-6; John 16:13)
- Live the new life to the end (Romans 6:13; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27) in righteousness, don't backslide into rebellion
- Always seek God's presence by worshipping Him in faith with obedience, testimonies, serving His Kingdom
- Audience: Israelites who already knew the commands and statutes (laws), but choose to be disobedient and follow foreign idols.
If a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions that he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness that he has done he shall live. -- Ezekiel 18:21-22 (ESV)
Purpose: Ezekiel, warns the Israelites to turn away from their sins and to obey the statutes (laws).
Repentance is more than just "feeling sorry". You need to "turn away" from you old lifestyle of committing sin.
Audience: Israelites who had listened to John's preachings. The content of his preaching is not revealed, but we can assume he taught them what the "Repentance" and "kingdom" meant. We can assume that these people already "believed" otherwise John would not have "baptized" them (Matthew 3:7-8).
In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand"
Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
-- Matthew 3:1-2,3:5-6 (ESV)
Purpose: John was leading the Israelites to salvation and was preparing them for their Jesus' ministry.
Audience: Like John, Jesus was also addressing the Israelites.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying,
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
-- Mark 1:14-15 (ESV), Matthew 4:17
Purpose: Mark only gave a summary of the events, so we can conclude that this single sentence was not the full sermon of Jesus. However, the main points Mark highlighted was that Jesus said that the people had to "repent" and "believe in the gospel". In other words they need to trust what Jesus taught them was true.
Audience: His eleven disciples.
Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. -- Mark 16:14-16 (ESV)
Purpose: The issue here was that the disciples did not believe that Jesus had risen. So the point Jesus made that "whoever believes" that he had risen (and is baptized) will be saved. If you do not believe Jesus had risen, then you cannot believe Jesus' sacrifice was sufficient, then there is no point for repentance, then you cannot be saved. These things the disciples already knew, so Jesus did not have to re-explain these steps to them. It is also important that Jesus commanded his disciples to also baptize their followers.
Audience: A multitude of mixed nations in Jerusalem (Acts 2:5-6)
“Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.”
So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
-- Acts 2:36-41
Purpose: The people were amazed at the sign of the Spirit (Acts 2:12), then Peter took the opportunity to preach the Gospel to them (Acts 2:14). So after witnessing the works of the Spirit and hearing Peter's teaching, they believed and wanted to know what they need to do to get saved too. That is why Peter left out the "believe" part because he already had his audience attention.
Audience: Jews who witnessed how Peter healed a lame beggar.
Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. -- Acts 3:19-21
Purpose: The Jews were amazed at the wonder they saw (Acts 3:10), this caught a crowd's attention and Peter used to opportunity to preach to them (Acts 3:11). Peter left out the "believe" part again, because these Jews were already believing in God and had just witnessed the power of God. He did not have to convince them to believe in God, but he had to warn them to repent from their sins.
Audience: Philosophers who were curious to know what foreign God Paul was about to introduce. (Acts 17:19-21)
The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead. -- Acts 17:30-31
Purpose: Paul uses the opportunity to warn the Greek about God's coming judgement if they do not repent from their idols and sins. At this point they were not interested to get saved yet, that is why it was pointless to reason with them about faith, baptism, and so on. However, this warning caught some people's attention and lead the separately to salvation (Acts 17:34) of which the details were not recorded.
Audience: Paul and Silas' jailer who were forced to be in their company, because he had to guard them against escaping. The jailer supposedly already heard their message (Acts 16:23-24), prayers and hymns (Acts 16:25) and after the earthquake (Acts 16:26) he most have noticed they were different from the other prisoners. The jailer almost took his own life (Acts 16:27-29), which probably lead to realize that he is not saved.
Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
And they said, “Believe [in] the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.
-- Acts 16:30-32
Purpose: Paul and Silas told the jailer that it is not them who can save anyone. He had to believe (trust) the Lord Jesus. The next verse did not record the full details of "the word of the Lord", but we can assume that the jailer and all who were in his house were taught about the Lord and how he could save them.
... and [the jailer] was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed [in] God. -- Acts 16:33-34 (ESV)
(Note the word "in" was added by the translator in both passages)
Audience: Believer reading Paul's letters.
For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. -- 2 Corinthians 7:10
Purpose: Paul was writing a follow-up letter on his previous letter that caused a lot of "grief" (2 Corinthians 7:6-9).
Audience: Believers reading John's message.
For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
This is he who came by water and blood — Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify:
- the Spirit and
- the water and
- the blood;
and these three agree.
-- 1 John 5:4-8 (ESV)
Explanation of the metaphor:
|Spirit||The Spirit gives believers a clear conscious that they are indeed saved. (Ephesians 1:13-14)|
|water||Like water washes believers bodies at baptism, they are also washed from their sins. (Acts 22:16)|
|blood||The blood of Jesus' when he was sacrificed that proof that he paid for the sins. (1 Peter 1:19)|
Purpose: John addresses the concerns of the antichrist (1 John 2:18, 1 John 4:3) and many false prophets (1 John 3:1). The purpose of his message is to identify true believers who are already saved and to differentiate them from a false antichrist or prophet.