Although both the Bible and Christians speak of being “saved,” no one is actually “saved” yet (don’t panic…keep reading). A quick look at Scripture shows that there are some verses that say we have salvation, and some that say it is future. Ephesians 2:8 is an example of a verse that says we have already been saved: “…you have been saved, through faith….” As for verses stating that our salvation is still in the future, Romans 13:11 says, “…our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” Likewise, Romans 5:10 says, “we” (not unbelievers) “…shall be saved by his life” (KJV), with the verb “saved” being in the future tense. 1 Thessalonians 5:8 calls the Christian’s helmet the “hope of salvation.” We hope for it because it is still future.
So, which is it? Are we saved now, or is salvation something we have to wait for? It is clear that we are not saved now in the sense that we have been rescued from the possibility of death or the consequences of sin in this fallen world. Christians still wrestle with sin, and many die each year. When we are actually “saved,” which means “rescued” from sin and death, there will be no more sin or death, and we will have new, perfect bodies. At that point, our salvation will be fully realized. Until then, what we have is the guarantee of salvation.
It is important to know why God sometimes says we are saved now. There is an idiom in both the Hebrew and Greek language of the Bible that when something will absolutely happen in the future, it can be spoken of in the past tense, as if it has already happened. Scholars refer to that idiom as the “prophetic perfect.” For example, in the New International Version, Jude 14 says, “…See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones.” However, other versions, such as the more literal New American Standard Bible or English Standard Version, read the Lord already “came” with his holy ones, and the Greek text does in fact read “came.” The future coming of the Lord will absolutely happen, so via the biblical idiom it is spoken of in Jude as if it has already happened. Similarly, our being seated in heaven with Christ is so certain that Ephesians 2:6 says we are already there with him even though other verses and our experience teach us that we are still on earth. When it comes to being rescued from sin and death, our salvation is so certain that many verses idiomatically say it has already happened. Other verses are literal and speak of it as being in the future. We are not “saved,” rescued, from this world yet, but we will be.
Knowing the above information, we can rightly answer the question posed above as to why God never says a Christian cannot lose his salvation. The answer is that no one already has salvation to lose. Nevertheless, our future salvation is not in danger, and God tells us that very clearly and decisively. One way is by telling us that it is guaranteed. The presence of God’s gift of holy spirit born inside us is “…a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession…” (Eph. 1:14; cp. 2 Cor. 1:22, 5:5, which also say our future is guaranteed).
A guarantee is a guarantee. We may not be saved now, but we have the absolute guarantee that we will be. God also gives us that same message in other ways, such as by using the word “birth,” which communicates that something new and permanent came into being. By the way, the fact that the reality of our salvation is still future is also why God says our redemption is future (Rom. 8:23; Eph. 1:14, 4:30), our adoption into God’s family is future (Rom. 8:23), and our glorification is future (Rom. 8:17; Col. 1:27).
One last point. If we are not saved now, should we speak of ourselves as being saved? The Bible refers to Christians as being saved and so we can also, as long as we understand the truth of what we are actually saying and do our best to communicate that truth to others.