I appreciate the comments on the last post.
A few thoughts on the subject matter of salvation.
I agree with Nathanael when he says that salvation in the Old Testament must include the idea of salvation from exile. Nehemiah 9:36 makes this clear. "We are servants to this day [in our own land]." Isreal viewed themselves as still in a state of spiritual exile. While they had returned to their land geographically, they still remained in a spiritual exile. The parable of the prodigal son is an excellent example of such a belief.
For too long we have viewed the parable as a simple story about the great love of God. But look at the paralells. A son [Israel] tells his father [God] to give him the inheritance [saying in essence that he wishes his father were dead]. He goes off to a far country [exile], and ends up with the most humbling of jobs [feeding pigs for Gentiles]. When he returns the father welcomes him back into the family [God welcoming the sinners, and the nation of Israel back into his family]. It is a picture of the radical forgiveness of God. The wrong people are getting into the kingdom, those who rejected God. The older brother [the Pharisees] cannot comprehend how the father could welcome the son. [He kills a fatted calf, far too much meat for a single family, it was the entire community that would celebrate the return of the son].
So Luke 15 is a beautiful picture of Isreal, exile, and return. Jesus tells the story with these obvious implications.
Evangelicals have wrongly assumed that Christ came to die on the cross for the primary reason of being substitutionary atonement for our sins. While I do agree that Christ's death on the cross does offer a covering for our sins, I also believe that His death is far more well rounded.
The death of Christ on the cross must be seen primarily through the lens of faithfulness to His covenant. In Jesus we have the beginnings of new creation [i.e. John 1, and Genesis 1. See also Luke 24:31, and Genesis 3:7]. Jesus saw Himself as fulfilling the vocation of Isreal [Isaiah 52-53], not simply as a covering for our individual sins.
This understanding of salvation keeps us from a "get out of hell" salvation, and helps move us forward to a more holistic understanding. For the Jews Jesus offered salvation from exile, and restoration. However, it came in a most unusual way. The kingdom was established [Mark 1:15], but it did not look as they imagined it would.
This also leads to our understanding of justification, but more on that at a later date. This is getting long already.