Ok, I admit I’m a bit of a grammar geek, but have you ever thought of the proper ‘tense’ of salvation? Is it past? present? future? We’ll, I’ve given it some thought and here is what I’ve come up with:
The ‘Tenses’ of Salvation
“I have been saved.”
Verb tense – Past Perfect Progressive – action has been completed and continues
Salvation is a ‘once for all’ action. To state that we ‘have been saved’ is to affirm that the gift of salvation, once received, is not easily lost. Now theologians like to argue (and argue and argue about almost everything) about whether one can actually lose their salvation. One side argues that you can reject Christ and choose a life of sin again, thereby renouncing and losing your salvation. The other side argues that someone in this state was never actually saved. In practice, it’s a ridiculous argument because either way the person is lost. But the truth of both sides is that salvation is not something that we have to seek anew each day. God does not save us one minute only to turn from us in the next. Once God has saved us, he does not turn from us. Salvation is complete and continues on in our lives.
“I am being saved.”
Verb tense – Present Perfect – action is ongoing in the present
Though salvation is a ‘once for all’ action, it is not just a one time action. We are continually being saved. Our daily lives are a continual process of God freeing us (saving us) from the bondage to sin. We are not just saved once, but when we put our trust in Jesus as Savior He begins the process of saving us from the sinful, selfish lives we lived before. Salvation is not just one moment in time, but a continual process of God shaping us. We often us the term “sanctification” for this process of God working in us to make us new and “justification” to mean the initial step of salvation by putting our faith in Jesus. The reality is these are inseparable and that God both has and is still continually saving us and making us into a new creation through Jesus Christ.
“I will be saved.”
Verb tense – Future Perfect – action will be completely fulfilled at some future point
Finally, salvation is not just some past or present action, but a future hope. Though Christ works in us and the Holy Spirit guides us, we continue to struggle with our weak human natures. Though we move on towards perfection and hope that God will perfect us in this life, our ultimate perfection will come in eternity. Our salvation is not only something that God gives us as freedom from sin, but also a pardon from the eternal damnation due us because of our sin. God is Holy, and our Holy God cannot allow sinful man in his presence. To do so would destroy us! But God gives us salvation from our sin eternally and allows us into His presence. We may talk of salvation as ‘fire insurance’ and do so with a bit of disdain for the term, but it is a reality that we must continually be aware. Through Jesus we are free from the penalty of sin which is eternal death. Through Jesus we will be saved eternally.