The Word Tenses of Salvation

Let us consider several passages that speak of salvation — from varying “time” vantage points.

Future Salvation

In the Great Commission, according to Mark’s record, Jesus said: “He who believes and is baptised shall be saved…” (Mark 16:16). This passage speaks of the sinner who has never known Christ, but who learns of the Lord, believes his gospel, and, based upon penitent faith, is immersed in water.

What is the result? He “shall be saved.” The verb is a future tense form, the salvation being contingent upon the obedience specified. It is regrettable that so many repudiate this very clear declaration.

First, the text negates the false notion of “universalism,” i.e., the idea that all people will be saved ultimately. Second, it refutes the Calvinistic theory that “election” is “unconditional.” Third, as noted already, it contradicts the erroneous idea that salvation is by “faith alone”; rather, “works” [obedience] also are involved in salvation (see James 2:24). [Note: J.H. Thayer described the “works” in James 2 as having to do with “the conduct of men, measured by the standard of religion and righteousness” (Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark, 1958, p. 248).]

Past Salvation

Writing from a different time perspective, Paul reminded Titus that as a result of his kindness and mercy, God “saved us, through the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:4-5).

The verb here is a past tense form. It refers back to the salvation received when one submitted to the “washing” (baptism – cf. Acts 22:16) of “regeneration,” (the new birth – John 3:3-5). This was a result of the “renewing” instruction of the Holy Spirit, operating through the gospel message (Ephesians 6:17). At the point of our baptism, all our past sins were pardoned forever.

Present Salvation

Contrary to the belief of many, the salvation process does not end with our conversion to Christ. One’s redemption is not a “done deal” that never can be forfeited.

In a letter to the church at Corinth, Paul wrote: “Now I make known unto you, brothers, the gospel which I preached unto you … by which also you are saved” (1 Corinthians 15:1-2). The Greek verb rendered “are saved” is a present tense form; literally, “are being saved” (see also 1:18, ASV footnote.). Salvation is a continuous process as we faithfully live the Christian life.

Future Final

Paul once stated that: “our salvation is nearer than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11). Later, he would tell Timothy, “The Lord will deliver me from every evil work, and will save me unto his heavenly kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:18). The apostle Peter would speak of Christians “receiving the end [goal] of your faith, even the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:9).

Scripture References

Mark 16:16; James 2:24; James 2; Titus 3:4-5; Acts 22:16; John 3:3-5; Ephesians 6:17; 1 Corinthians 15:1-2; Romans 13:11; 2 Timothy 4:18; 1 Peter 1:9; 1 Peter 3:21; 1 Peter 1:5; Hebrews 5:9

Jackson, Wayne. “The Word-tenses of Salvation.” Access date: March 4, 2019.

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