Past, Present, and Future Salvation

The apostle Paul gives an important exhortation to the Church in Phil. 2:12,13; “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” There is a major difference between working for our salvation, which we can’t do, and working out our salvation, which we must do if we desire to fulfill our calling.

Many evangelical Christians are not aware that salvation, as applied to the believer, is presented in Scripture as past, present and future. In other words, the Bible teaches that we have been saved (Eph. 2:4,5,8; Titus 3:4,5), we are presently being saved (1 Cor. 1:18; 2 Cor. 2:15), and we will someday be fully saved (Rom. 5:9,10; Rom. 13:11). No Christians have, or can experience, the totality of their salvation until they are absent from their physical bodies and clothed in resurrected bodies in the presence of God. We have not realized our salvation from the “coming wrath” (1 Thess. 1:10), but we have the assurance that when that wrath comes, we will be saved from it. “Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession — to the praise of His glory (Eph. 1:13,14). Even though we are presently working out our salvation, we have the assurance of complete salvation in the future. “Marked with a seal” and “guaranteed” are powerful assurances from God. Meanwhile we are working out our salvation as we conform to the image of God as theologian Charles Hodge explained in The Way of Life (Paulist Press, 1987, pp. 217, 218):

A state of salvation is a state of holiness. The two things are inseparable because salvation is not mere redemption from the penalty of sin, but deliverance from its power. It is freedom from bondage to the appetites of the body and evil passions . . . ; it is an introduction into the favor and fellowship of God, the restoration of the divine image to the soul, so that it loves God and delights in His service. Salvation, therefore, is always begun on earth.

Dr. Neil

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