Saved in Three Tenses —Have been saved, are being saved, shall be saved
This lesson may seem to be a statement of the obvious. However what is obvious to some is not obvious to others.
—Three Times of Salvation
The Scriptures speak of being saved in three tenses and senses. In one place the scriptures say that we "have been saved" (past). In another place they say that we "are being saved" (present). In yet another place they say that we "shall be saved" (future).
All these statements are true. An understanding of how we are saved in three senses and tenses, helps to avoid wrong ideas about salvation, whilst helping us gain a true assurance of salvation.
1 We Have Been Saved (2Timothy 1:9)
Our Past Salvation
There is a sense in which God has already saved each and every Christian. In this sense salvation is equated with the forgiveness of sins.
Ananias said to Paul, "Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins"(Acts 22:16). So Paul, as soon as he obeyed, had his sins washed away. He was saved.
Paul said to the Corinthians, "You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified..."(1Corinthians 6:11)They were saved.
Paul says of God our Saviour, "he saved us..."(Titus 3:4-5). That's past tense, isn't it?.
A little earlier there in Titus, Paul says, "The grace of God has appeared bringing salvation to all men"(Titus 2:11)
2 We Are Being Saved (1Corinthians 1:18)
Our Present Salvation
There is a sense in which God is still saving each and every Christian. In this sense salvation is equated with the Christian's growth and perseverance.
Paul spoke to the Corinthians of "those who are being saved"(2Corinthians 2:15). Here we do not have past tense. We have the word "saved" used in a present and ongoing sense.
Paul tells the Philippians, "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is at work in you..."(Philippians 2:12-13). Here we see salvation presented as something being worked for by us in synergy with God. It is not all over and done with.
Note the implication of this question, "How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?"(Hebrews 2:1-3).
Another telling statement, "be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure..."(2Peter 1:10)
John says that "the blood of Christ cleanses us..."(1John 1:7). Past sins were forgiven when we became Christians, but further sins since then need to be forgiven too. Forgiveness and salvation continue as we walk in the light.
3 We Shall Be Saved (Romans 5:9-10)
Our Promised Salvation
There is a sense in which salvation is a future event. In this sense salvation is equated with the second coming of Christ.
Jesus said, "these (wicked) shall go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life"(Matthew 25:46). This is a future event.
As we saw at the introduction to this lesson, Paul twice says, "We shall be saved..."(Romans 5:9-10). This is neither past nor present, but future, isn't it?
Paul makes an interesting statement, "Our salvation is now nearer than when we first believed"(Romans 13:11).
The Holy Spirit is given "as a guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession..."(Ephesians 1:14). Here redemption and the eternal inheritance is something in view, something yet future.
Paul speaks of "the hope of salvation"(1Thessalonians 5:8). A hope of salvation implies a future salvation. If our salvation were altogether finished, then we would have no need any more to hold it as our hope.