The Three Tenses of Salvation

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The thought of salvation ought to fill us with gratitude and praise!

What is salvation? In the New Testament, the word “salvation” or “saved” comes from the Greek word sozo, which refers to rescuing or delivering from danger. It is used of physical deliverance (; ), healing (; ), and release from demonic possession (). However, the use I want to look at in this post is in its spiritual sense – the deliverance from sin.

As mentioned in a previous post, the angel announced to Joseph concerning Mary: “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (). Why did He receive this name? It is because the name “Jesus” reveals what he is going to do, it literally means “Jehovah will save.” Salvation is exclusively found in the only One who can save, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. ). There is only one salvation and one way in which it can be received (cf. ). When it comes to this salvation, we need to understand it as it is presented in Scripture – a salvation in in three tenses (past, present and future).

Past: Saved from the Penalty of Sin (Justification)
When people speak of salvation in Christ, this is the primary aspect of salvation that they refer to. In his letter to the Ephesians Paul said, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (, cf. ; ). He we see salvation in the past tense (“have been saved“). This refers to the once and for all work in which God delivers a sinner from the penalty of sin. The basis of this deliverance is God’s grace (), purpose () and mercy (). The means in which we take hold of it is not works or deeds, but faith in Jesus Christ. If you are a Christian, know that you have been saved from the penalty of sin.

Present: Being Saved from the Power of Sin (Sanctification)
The Christian’s salvation does not end with past deliverance from sin’s penalty. In addition to this past reality of deliverance, the Scriptures teach that God is also saving us in the present (“being saved” ; ). This second aspect of salvation is the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in delivering God’s people from the power of sin. We call this work sanctification. Child of God, know and understand that you are being saved from the power of sin.

Future: Will be Saved from the Presence of Sin (Glorification)
The final aspect of salvation fills us with hope and anticipation. It promises that when God saves, He will one day deliver them from the presence of sin (; ). The writer to the Hebrews stated, “so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (). What we are now is not what we will be, and this hope ought to drive us to the pursuit of holiness (cf. ).

After considering the “three tenses of salvation”, I want to be clear, there is only one salvation, but this salvation consists of three parts and they are inseparable. It is a salvation that originated in eternity past and is consummated in eternity future. Paul sums it up well when he writes,

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” ().

25 And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.”

30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”

21 for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” 22 Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.

23 and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.”

36 And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had been healed.

21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,

who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,

he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,

who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,

he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,

18 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.

15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing,

Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

11 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.

28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

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Andrew Courtis

Andrew Courtis

ANDREW - Serves as Pastor of Hills Bible Church. I am married to Dianne and we have three children (Kate, Emma and Jack). I was born and raised in Melbourne, moved to Adelaide to undertake theological studies (BMin.), and have completed additional studies with the Australian College of Theology (MATh.). I have served in pastoral ministry in both Melbourne and Sydney and am a qualified school teacher. I am committed to expository preaching and making the word of God known and understood.