What a churchy word. Sorry, I don’t know how it can be helped. But salvation from what? Maybe that’s a better question. The short answer is: perma-death. Like a once-and-for-all worm-food type arrangement where you are done. Forever. That’s what atheists take on faith, but it’s a belief that I don’t find very compelling. Yes, according to the Christian tradition, everybody dies, even Jesus. Which is pretty grim and not very fun, but thankfully Christianity doesn’t stop there. “Salvation” in the Jesus tradition is that death ultimately is not a permanent thing, and that somehow people are literally, physically raised from the dead, not in some sort of putrid zombie mode, but full restoration, like when you pull an old ’56 Corvette chassis out of the junkyard and fully restore it to fully functioning condition that is better than new. Of course that’s a flawed analogy, but I think it’s somewhat useful.
To get more technical and churchy about it, “salvation” is the redemption of the whole human, mind, body and spirit. It is offered freely to all people who do not consciously reject Jesus as messiah and savior, who by his own self-sacrifice restored the relationship between God and humanity. God gives salvation only by grace (free gift) through Christ (Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8, 9). It does not come through doing, thinking, or believing the “right” things. It’s not even limited to being a Christian (I mean, come on, what about people who’ve never even heard or understood Jesus, or everybody who ever lived and died before Jesus came ’round?). Salvation is not a feature of doing or believing the right thing about everything but by the free, ubiquitous grace of Jesus alone. So in its broadest sense, salvation is the equivalent of perma-life, which means that ultimately death is overcome and that humans get to live forever with God in a restored and perfect relationship, creation, and community. Pretty cool, eh?
Jesus accomplished our redemption through his death on the cross as a sacrifice for us (Rom. 3:23-25; 1 Pet. 2:24). Theologians have worked at different ways of understanding this sacrifice and its relationship with salvation, but what is important to know is that however it worked, it worked, and has indeed brought perma-life. Jesus physically rose from the dead, defeating death, justifying and sanctifying us before God, and granting his followers life without end (Rom. 4:25). Well, there’s a little speed-bump when you die the first time, and nobody knows if you immediately get whisked off to heaven or if you’re in some sort of limbo-like sleep state until Jesus comes back to clean things up, but the point is that the death we are used to on Earth at present is not the final word. The bottom line is that Jesus saves, and that’s pretty awesome.