Today we will begin a section on past, present, and future salvation. But don’t be confused by these terms. If you have, by faith, accepted Christ as your Savior, then you are saved. These are just technical terms for the process of that salvation you’ve received. All Scripture is taken from the ESV Bible unless indicated. All italics within Scripture is mine.
D. Past, Present, & Future Salvation
1). Past Salvation=Justification–To justify is to prove or show to be just, right, or reasonable (or righteous). Justification is the act, process, or state of being justified by God; shown to be not guilty. It is a divine act of God, based on the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, where a sinner is pronounced righteous, forgiven. Justification involves two concepts: forgiveness of sins, and the gift of righteousness. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Only God can do this. “And those whom he called he also justified …” (Rom. 8:30). It is at this point where you are saved from damnation and have acquired eternal life!
2). Present Salvation=Sanctification–Sanctification has three parts too, and these are past, present, and future.
Past Sanctification is closely related to justification. If you have been justified, then you have been sanctified. “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11). Those who have received the Holy Spirit through faith have been declared holy by God. To be holy means 1) that we are cleansed from all sin, and 2) that we are set apart to a sacred purpose, consecrated to the service of God. We’re marked as holy, and are required to be morally “holy” (Lev. 11:44). We are separated from sin and impurity, and dedicated to God’s will and use. “Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. 21Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work” (2 Tim 2:20,21). We are able to do this and live the righteous life that God requires because of Christ’s saving action (John 17:19). He did God’s will so that we could too. “And by that will [God’s will of Jesus’ death] we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:10). According to Heb. 10:14, we are “made perfect forever” by Christ’s sacrifice. The author means “perfect” in regard to God’s will for our holiness, or the restoration of our lost holiness, rather than “perfect” as in a sinless life.
Present Sanctification refers to a current state of growing in divine grace, growing and continuing in holiness. We’ve given ourselves completely to God and we will, if we are truly saved, continue to walk in a holy way. “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18). “[L]et us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1). Here are a couple of questions we as Christians, and those who profess to be Christians, must ask of ourselves. Are we letting God have His way with us? Do you think we are? Can people see God in our lives more and more each day? In Philippians 3:10–12, Paul speaks of not having yet obtained (human) perfection, but that we are to continually strive for it, letting Christ be our example as we are commanded. To perfect holiness is to be one with Christ, and to walk with Him daily.
Future Sanctification is where we are made perfect, and it takes place in two stages, the first being at death: “But you have come … to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect” (Heb. 12:22,23). The “assembly of the firstborn” refers to believers in general who make up the church. They’re “spirits” because they are waiting for the resurrection of their bodies; righteous means they were declared righteous/holy by God. Examples are Noah and Abraham––they were made perfect when they died, as all Christians will be. The second stage is at resurrection: “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed … . For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed” (1 Cor. 15:51,52). “[W]hen [Christ] appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2b). The italicized words indicate that we will finally be made truly perfect!
Sanctification is where we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, transformed to be like Christ, completed at death––it is a work of God’s grace combined with human responsibility.
Next time we will discuss “future salvation”! I pray you have a wonderfully blessed day.