Question: "Does salvation affect more than just the afterlife?"
Answer: We often emphasize how salvation impacts the afterlife but neglect to consider how it should impact our lives right now. Coming to Christ in faith is life’s watershed in so many ways—once we are saved, we are set free from sin and given a new life and a new perspective. As John Newton put it, “I once was lost but now am found, / Was blind but now I see.” After salvation, everything changes.
In the Epistles we also find a consistent emphasis on daily living. According to Ephesians 2:10, the reason we are saved is not just to spend eternity in heaven but “to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” These “good works” are to be done here, in this world. If our eternal salvation isn’t reflected in our daily lives, there is a problem.
James wrote his letter to encourage an applied faith. Our salvation ought to result in a controlled tongue (James 1:26) and other changes in our lives. Faith that purports to exist apart from the evidence of good works is “dead” (James 2:20). Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 2:12 that we should “live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.” A life that is surrendered and obedient to God is a natural outgrowth of salvation. Jesus taught that we are His servants, placed here to carry on His business while we await His return (Luke 19:12–27).
In the book of Revelation, God sends letters to seven churches (Revelation 2—3), and in each case there are specific areas of daily living that are either commended or condemned. The church of Ephesus was recognized for their labors and patience, and the church of Smyrna was commended for faithfulness in trials and poverty. On the other end of the spectrum, the church of Pergamos was rebuked for tolerating false doctrine, and the church at Thyatira was rebuked for following a false teacher into sexual sins. Obviously, Jesus considered salvation something that should affect one’s daily life, not just the afterlife.
Salvation is the beginning point of a new life (2 Corinthians 5:17). God has ability to restore and rebuild what was destroyed by sin. In Joel 2:25, God promises Israel that, even though He had brought judgment upon them for their sins, He is able to “restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten” (ESV), when Israel repents and returns to Him. A similar restoration is promised Israel in Zechariah 10:6. This is not to say that getting saved makes everything happy and trouble-free in this life. There are times that God chooses to allow hardship as a reminder of the high cost of sin or of our need to rely on Him more. But we face those trials with a new outlook and strength from above. In fact, the hardships we endure are actually gifts from God to cause us to grow in faith and to equip us to be a blessing to others (2 Corinthians 1:4–6; 12:8–10).
In Jesus’ ministry, everyone who came to Him in faith was forever changed. The demoniac of Decapolis went home an evangelist (Mark 5:20). Lepers rejoined society, cleansed and rejoicing (Luke 17:15–16). Fishermen became apostles (Matthew 4:19), publicans became philanthropists, and sinners became saints (Luke 19:8–10). By faith we are saved (Ephesians 2:8), and the change that salvation brings starts now.