Someone who reads the Bible reflectively cannot help but realize that the theme of salvation is talked about in different tenses. Sometimes, salvation is talked about in the past tense, the present tense, and the future tense.
Here is an example for each of the three tenses:
Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV) “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
1 Corinthians 1:18 (ESV) “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
Romans 13:11 (ESV) “Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.”
So, what are we to make of this?
- Are we saved (past tense)?
- Are we being saved (present tense)?
- Or are we going to be saved (future tense)?
All three are true!!!
Here’s a simple explanation of how we are to understand the three tenses of salvation…
We have been saved from the penalty of sin.
This refers to the time when we first believed in Jesus. We trusted in Him to forgive us and save us. That was a point in time experience where we were saved, once and for all, from the penalty of sin. Our sins were placed on Jesus on the cross and we will never, ever again be confronted with them by God because Jesus has forgiven us once and for all. We are no longer afraid of the punishment for the sins we have committed because Jesus paid our sin debt.
The biblical word for this is: Justification.
We are being saved from the power of sin.
This refers to the continual work of breaking free from sin’s grip on us and becoming more like Jesus. This is God’s job and our job (Philippians 2:12-13). If we have truly been justified (saved from the penalty of sin), then it will be demonstrated by our pursuit of holiness (being saved from the power of sin).
The biblical word for this is: Sanctification.
We will be saved from the presence of sin.
This refers to the time when God calls us to our Heavenly home and we are, once and for all, taken away from the presence of sin. No longer is it an internal struggle or an external nuisance. We are forever removed from the presence of sin and we are able to enjoy the Lord forever in the beauty of holiness.
The biblical word for this is: Glorification.
So, when you are reading Scripture and it talks about salvation, determine which tense is being discussed. You will be able to make much more sense of the text with this knowledge.