If you’re a Christian, born-again by the spirit of God (John 3:7-8), then the minute you came to know Christ as your Savior and Lord, God “began a good work in you” (Philippians 1:6a). What work did God begin when you trusted in him? The work of salvation. In the New Testament, salvation is actually something that is described in three tenses: past, present, and future.
1. Every true Christian has been saved from the penalty of sin
Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast.”
This verse speaks of salvation in the past tense, as something that God has done for us, not as a result of our works, but according to the riches of his grace. Thankfully, God gives us salvation as a free and unmerited gift to all who trust in His Son as their Savior. Jesus died and rose again so that we could be saved from the penalty of sin. Sin’s penalty is death. And therefore God demands that blood be shed in order for the penalty to be paid. That’s why Jesus died. His blood was shed for us, and when we put our faith where God has put our sin—upon Jesus who died on the cross—then we are saved from the penalty of sin. God clears our past record.
2. Every true Christian is being saved from the power of sin
Salvation is not only a past event in the life of every believer, but it is also a present ongoing reality.
1 Corinthians 1:18 – “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
We have been saved from the penalty of sin. But the presence of sin remains in us, that is in our sinful nature (the flesh), and so we need God’s power to help us battle our sinful nature, which daily pulls us away from God. Thankfully, we have a power in us, the power of the Spirit of God, which is greater than our sin. One of the crucial things that God is doing in the life of every believer is to sanctify them, to make them more like Christ, by his power.
2 Corinthians 3:18 – “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness.”
God’s present work of salvation means that with each passing month and year we are becoming more like Jesus Christ. The Bible calls this part of the salvation process sanctification. The power that sin has over us is loosened as we daily surrender to Christ, and let God have his way in us.
3. Every true Christian will be saved from the presence of sin
In what sense is salvation a future event? First, salvation is a future event in the sense that we will be saved from the wrath of God when he judges all people.
Romans 5:9 – “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!”
God’s wrath or anger against sin was taken out on Jesus. So, all who are in Christ, are saved from God’s future wrath at the judgment.
Second, salvation is a future reality in the sense that we will be saved from the indwelling presence of sin. This will only happen when the Lord returns for us.
1 Corinthians 15:50-53 – “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.”
When Jesus returns (at the rapture), every believer (dead or alive) will be given a glorified resurrection body. This body will be immortal. It won’t be tainted by the effects of the indwelling presence of sin. What a day that will be. What a future we have to look forward to!
So, if you are a believer, you can talk about salvation in three tenses with confidence. You can simultaneously say these three things:
- “I am saved from the penalty of sin.”
- “I am being saved from the power of sin.”
- “I will be saved from the presence of sin.”