Let’s say that we believe God’s amazing love is most clearly seen in the death of Jesus because Jesus died for us as powerless, godless sinners that were the enemies of God. Let’s also say that we embrace Christ’s death for our sins. What difference does it make in our lives that God loved me enough to send Jesus to die for my sins?
“Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” Romans 5:9-11 (NKJV)
This passage lays out a past, present and future tense in the results of God’s love as seen in the cross of Jesus Christ. What I mean is that Paul explains that something has happened and that something will happen. Look at what he says.
We have been justified. Paul says that we have been justified through Jesus’ blood. Justification is when God declares a believing sinner to be righteous because of Jesus’ sinless life, sacrificial death and victorious resurrection. It’s important to understand that justification isn’t God saying that we really weren’t guilty. No, we were/are very guilty. Justification isn’t God saying that our sin really wasn’t that bad. No, it really was that bad. We really were powerless, godless sinners that were the enemies of God. Instead of these things, justification is God crediting Jesus’ righteousness to our accounts.
Our justification is all based upon Jesus. Jesus lived a sinless life and fulfilled the Law. This was something that we could not do. Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. Our sins earned the wage of death. Jesus died on the cross as our substitute. On the cross, God poured out all of His just wrath against our sins. When Jesus had taken all of God’s just wrath against sin, Jesus died. Jesus victoriously rose from the dead to declare that He was the Son of God who had the power and right to forgive sins.
When we repent of our sins and believe on Jesus, God transfers our guilt for sin to what Jesus did on the cross and transfers Jesus’ righteousness to us. At this point, God declares that we are righteous through faith in Jesus. It is God declaring us righteous because of Jesus and what He has done. It isn’t a righteousness that is based on our good deeds or our own goodness or really on anything that we have done. Instead, it is a righteousness that is based on Jesus Christ and what He has done. This is justification.
We have been reconciled to God. The word “reconcile” means “Brought into friendship from a state of disagreement or enmity” In other words, we go from being the enemy of God, to being the friend of God. Jesus’ death brings an end to the hostility and then turns us into the friend of God. That is pretty awesome. I mean it is one thing just to bring hostilities to an end. However, it is something entirely different to turn enemies into friends. Yet this is exactly what happens when we embrace Christ’s death as our source of righteousness. This reconciliation is only available through Jesus.
In a way, I think a part of what this means is that we are brought back to the relationship we were supposed to have with God. Humans were created to have a love relationship with God. However, through our sin we have wrecked this relationship. God wasn’t content to leave us in this place of a wrecked relationship with Him so He sent Jesus to pay the penalty for our sins, end the hostility and bring us back to the place we were supposed to be. Through Christ, we can confidently say that we are the friends of God.
We will be saved from the wrath to come. What does it mean that we will be saved? I thought we were saved when we believe. This can be confusing unless we recognize that salvation is used in the New Testament in the past, present and future tenses. In the past, we were saved. This refers to the justification. In the present, we are being saved (1 Corinthians 1:18). This refers to sanctification. Sanctification is the process where we are changed from glory to glory into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). In the future, we will be saved. This refers to glorification. Glorification will happen at the end of all things. This is when we are finally and fully delivered from the presence, power and punishment for sins. This is also when we will finally be like Jesus (1 John 3:2).
Scripture teaches that when the end of all things comes, God will pour out a measure of His wrath upon the earth. This is partially described in both books of Thessalonians. It is more fully described in Revelation 6-19. After this, God will finally and fully pour out His wrath on sinful man for all eternity in hell. This is described in Revelation 20:11-15. This is the certain future for all those who reject Jesus. If you’ve ever read about the Tribulation period, or the way hell is described in Scripture, then you know that these will not be pleasant times at all. They will be worse than our minds can comprehend.
To be perfectly honest, the idea of God’s wrath is a terrible and fearful thing to contemplate. However, those who have been justified and reconciled through Jesus’ death, should not fear the wrath to come because we will be saved from it. Through Jesus, we will be saved from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10). The way Paul expresses this in these verses is pretty neat. The idea is that if God would reconcile us while we were His enemies, how much more will He save us from the wrath to come since we are His friends? God has already justified us on the basis of Jesus death on the cross. When the final judgment comes, it will only confirm what has already happened.
Those that have genuinely believed on Jesus Christ for their salvation have been justified and can take such great comfort from the words of Paul, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1 (ESV)