It’s in the nature of the word and its synonyms. Deliverance. Rescue. Escape. In all of these examples, salvation implies not facing certain consequences, be it physical harm, emotional discomfort, or some sort of displeasure. In the spiritual world, the term “saved” refers to being rescued from an eternity in hell. It is the ultimate salvation, and it shouldn’t be minimized.
But as drastic as the “from” of salvation is—avoiding hell—I think the “to” of salvation is even greater. A person shoved out of the way of an oncoming car is saved from injury, but they are left on the sidewalk. Aside from maybe a lesson on looking both ways before crossing, they have gained nothing. A person cured from a disease or illness is restored to “normal health”. A football team who survives a loss on a shanked field goal at the end of the game often still finds itself competing in overtime. These are all examples of being saved from. Being saved to brings an abundance of benefits beyond what one had before finding oneself in need of saving.
When God offered Christ as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, He did it to save us from eternal death in hell. But that is only the beginning. Because God also saved us to eternal life in heaven. It doesn’t stop there. He could have cordoned off a section of heaven for His rescued people, giving them a reasonably nice place to spend eternity. And maybe chosen a few really devout, kind-hearted people to have a rare visit to His side of heaven. But that’s not what happened. Scripture tells us that He adopted us as His sons (Ephesians 1:5) and made us heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). He has promised us every spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1:3) and given us everything we need for life and godliness (II Peter 1:3).
Think back on the example of a fireman who rescues a young woman from a burning building. He carries her down the ladder and over to an ambulance where she gets some medical attention. And then the fireman goes back to work. Now imagine if that fireman, having rescued the young woman, took her into his lavish mansion, gave her run of the house, and included her in his will…on equal terms with his children. That is, on a much smaller scale, what God has done for us. He has not only saved us from hell, but has also saved us to a personal relationship with Him—a relationship that we are told is like a child and his daddy (Galatians 4:6)—and the promise of an eternity in heaven that our wildest dreams can’t touch.
Jesus told Nicodemus that, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NIV) We often see the “eternal life” aspect of John 3:16 as a contrast to the “shall not perish” portion. And it is. But it is also so much more. It’s also a summary of the abundance of benefits (benefits made known in dozens of other verses in the New Testament) beyond what we ever had or ever could dream of having without God. Being saved from is indeed great. Being saved to is even better.