If you have ever been in Southern California for any length of time, you may have seen this spectacular, historic landmark. It is one of two giant red neon signs over Los Angeles that say, “JESUS SAVES.”
They were first installed on the downtown campus of The Bible Institute of Los Angeles, (BIOLA) in 1935 by the congregation of the Church of the Open Door under the pastorate of Dr. Louis Talbot.
In 1959, during the pastorate of Dr. J. Vernon McGee, BIOLA was relocated to La Mirada. The original location of the Church of the Open Door was taken over by Dr. Gene Scott, the arrogant, obnoxious, cigar-smoking pastor and televangelist known as “The Cussing Preacher of Faith Church.” That facility was torn down in 1988.
Gene Scott salvaged the signs and installed them on his newly acquired location in the former United Artists Theatre on Broadway. After he died, his widow assumed his pastorate and moved one of the signs to her relocated facility in Glendale. The other sign still shines from its current location on top of the United Artists’ newly renovated Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.
In 1954, Pricilla Owens wrote the song, JESUS SAVES, for a missionary service in her church, in Baltimore.
That phrase, JESUS SAVES, is the heart of the Gospel. Salvation is a gift from God. You cannot be saved by your good works, your church membership, or your sacrificial offerings. (Eph. 2:8,9)
“…for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
And Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)
The first stanza of the hymn alludes to Jesus’ instructions to “go into all the world and preach the gospel.” (Mk. 16:15)
The second stanza is a reference to the Year of Jubilee. In Mosaic Law, every 50th year, slaves were set free. Spiritually speaking, that’s what happens where the Gospel is preached; sinners are set free from the bondage of sin.
If I tried to summarize the Gospel in just two words, I doubt that I could do better than the message of those neon signs. And today, despite an obnoxious preacher and a giant Hollywood corporation’s upscale hotel, the message, “JESUS SAVES,” is still boldly proclaimed in bright red neon lights over Los Angeles every night.