Are You "Saved"?

 What is salvation? How can I be saved?

Perhaps you have been asked, "Are you saved?" Or perhaps you have wondered, "Am I saved?" or "How can I be saved?" To help answer these questions, let's start with John 3:16,17:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

Two outcomes, two possibilities exist for each of us: we will either perish - we'll be dead forever - or we will receive eternal life and we'll live forever. To be "saved" means to be spared from perishing, by receiving the gift of eternal life.

 It is obvious that believers in Christ, throughout history, have subsequently died. Would they have died if they had actually received eternal life? Of course not. So, am I saying no one has been saved yet? No: Jesus is the exception. Jesus was resurrected to eternal life and is the only man ever to have been resurrected to eternal life. Jesus is also the only person that has ever gone to heaven. Jesus said:

And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. (John 3:13)

Jesus had eternal life when He was resurrected. No one else has been resurrected to eternal life yet and no one else is immortal yet. The apostle Peter confirmed this when he said even David - "a man after God's own heart" - was still in the grave:

 Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day . . . For David is not ascended into the heavens. (Acts 2:29, 34)

The apostle Paul described when the faithful would receive immortality: it will be at their resurrection, just as Jesus received immortality at His resurrection. Paul begins by describing our present mortal physical bodies, and the immortal spiritual bodies the faithful will receive at their resurrection:

So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. (1 Corinthians 15:42-44)

 Paul continued, saying we must have an immortal, spiritual body - like Jesus had after His resurrection - in order to enter the Kingdom of God:

Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. (1 Corinthians 15:50-53)

At resurrection, the faithful who have died and are "asleep" in death will be raised from their graves with immortal spiritual bodies. At the same time those faithful who happen to be physically alive will also - in the "twinkling of an eye" - receive immortal spiritual bodies. Paul continued:

So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. (1 Corinthians 15:54)

This, then, is when we are saved: saved from death, saved from perishing. This is when the faithful receive the ultimate grace from God: eternal life. Revelation 20:6 reflects this truth:

Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

All those in the first resurrection receive eternal life at that time. Having received eternal life, they are no longer subject to death of any kind. They will have been saved permanently from perishing in the second death - death from which there is no further hope of life or resurrection or existence. Now that is the real eternal security. As John 3:16 showed, we either perish, or, we receive eternal life and are thus saved from perishing.

So, when does the first resurrection occur? Paul said it would be at the "last trump" or last trumpet sounding. The book of Revelation shows this last trumpet (the last of seven symbolic trumpets) announces the return of Christ. The resurrection occurs at the return of Christ to Earth. At His return the faithful will be raised with immortal spiritual bodies, just as Jesus was raised. Paul wrote of the timing of the resurrection of the faithful:

But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. (1 Corinthians 15:23)

In a letter to the Thessalonians, Paul gave this description of the resurrection of the faithful:

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:16,17)

This would be a good time to mention Jesus' statement to Nicodemus that in order to enter the Kingdom of God, we must be "born of the spirit." Just as Paul said, we must have an immortal, spiritual body to inherit the Kingdom of God.

There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. (John 3:1-8)

Jesus showed that those who are born again or "born of the spirit" are like the wind, able move without being seen. Jesus was "born of the spirit" upon His resurrection. He was able appear to the disciples, and disappear, even when they were in a closed room.

Before moving on there is something to clarify about resurrections: there are two types of resurrection. One is a resurrection to eternal life with an immortal, spiritual body. The other is a resurrection back to physical mortal life. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the grave (see John chapter 11), Lazarus was resurrected to physical life. Lazarus was not raised immortal: he later died another normal, physical death.

As we have seen, the faithful who are "asleep" in the grave will be in the first resurrection, which occurs when Jesus returns. Having received eternal life, from then on they will never die and will never need to be resurrected again. There will be another general resurrection for the rest of the dead many years later, after the "thousand years" mentioned in Revelation 20:6. This later resurrection is often called the second resurrection. Revelation 20:5 describes it:

But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished.

The Bible does not state whether those in the second resurrection are raised to physical life or to immortal life. From context, though, it appears they are raised for a time of testing and judgment as described in subsequent verses. That being the case, it would make sense that they are raised to mortal, physical life. However we have no reason to exclude the possibility that some in the second resurrection are raised to immortal life, like those in the first resurrection.

Different Definitions for "Saved" and for "Salvation"

Many professing Christians will tell you they have been "saved." But as we've seen, no one except Jesus has been resurrected to eternal life. No one else will be resurrected to eternal life until Jesus returns . . .  that is when they will receive immortal, spiritual bodies and that is when they will be saved from perishing.

So, why would anyone think they're already "saved" in this mortal life? It's because we're working with different definitions of the word "saved" . . . "saved" has taken on different meanings. The resulting confusion has led many to misunderstand their calling and their Christian life. Believing they have been "saved," many go on to assume they have what they call "eternal security": they believe that because they have been "saved" there is no possible way they can fail their calling. This is seductively easy to believe and it is completely incorrect. It misleads many into a false sense of security . . . a false comfort zone. Shortly I will provide you with numerous scriptures to prove it.

First, though, let's look at other definitions of "saved," so that we understand what is going on. Another use of "saved" is in reference to our redemption to God, when we first repent and turn to God. At that time we're saved - saved from being hopelessly condemned to die for our past sins - by Jesus' death on our behalf. Why were we hopelessly condemned? Because we have all sinned against God. Our sins have alienated and separated us from God. In addition our sins have earned us the proscribed penalty for sin: death:

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (the apostle Paul, in Romans 6:23)

We are hopelessly bound to be separated from God and to permanently die - to perish - unless we repent and unless the death penalty is paid. If we pay the penalty ourselves, well, that's the end of us. God, however, has offered His Son Jesus to pay the death penalty on our behalf. If we'll repent, we'll find the death penalty for past sins has been paid for us. There is now hope for us: we are no longer hopelessly condemned to perish in death. No longer hopeless cases, God can and will work with us: we have been reconciled, or justified, or redeemed to God. As we remain repentant and are willing to obey, He will dwell in us and lead us to continued repentance and overcoming; we have entered a life-long growth process called sanctification.

. . . I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. (2 Corinthians 6:16-18)

If we are faithful to the process and endure to the end, we are promised the gift of eternal life, to be received at our resurrection at His return.

We have been saved - saved from hopelessness of certain death for our past sins - by Jesus' death on our behalf, if we have repented and turned to God.

We are being saved - saved from slavery to sin - as we abide in Him for our ongoing sanctification.

We shall be saved - saved from ever perishing - when we actually receive immortal spirit bodies at our resurrection at His return, if we remain repentant and faithful.

So we have several definitions for "saved." Our redemption to God makes possible a life-long process of sanctification. Sanctification - if we persist in it - makes possible the ultimate "saved," where we are saved from perishing by the receipt of eternal life at our resurrection when He returns.

As you can see, a process has been outlined here. First we hear the word of God, then we have faith and believe, then we repent and are redeemed to God, then He dwells in us and sanctifies us, then we are saved from perishing when we receive immortal, spiritual bodies at our resurrection at His return. It is important to understand that "saved" and "salvation" can mean different things in different contexts. In some verses "saved" refers to redemption. In other verses it refers to actually receiving the gift of eternal life at Jesus' return. Knowing and understanding the different uses of saved and salvation will help clarify the meaning of the verses I'll quote shortly.

Verses for Clarification and Understanding

Unfortunately many have been taught that the first "saved" - our justification or reconciliation or redemption - is the same as, or somehow guarantees - the second "saved": our receipt of eternal life at our resurrection when He returns. That is simply not true. We can by our own choice or neglect drop out of the salvation process after starting it. We can abandon our sanctification. If we abort our salvation process we will not receive our salvation - the promised gift of eternal life. In a few New Testament verses "saved" is used in reference to our redemption, and this use can mislead you into thinking your salvation is complete when you are redeemed. As I promised earlier, here are some verses proving that redemption does not guarantee we will receive eternal life. Included are some verses illustrating the uses and meanings of saved and salvation. Other verses show a clear order of events: redeemed or justified or reconciled first; saved later.

Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. (the apostle Paul, in Romans 5:9,10)

Just as we've seen, the faithful are "now justified . . . reconciled to God by the death of his Son." But Paul did not tell the Romans they were saved; rather, he told them they "shall be saved," in the future. Paul clearly separated redemption from being "saved"; they are different, and happen at different times! This is what the early church believed and it is distinctly different from what many churches teach today! As we've seen, to be saved is to be saved from perishing; we'll be saved from perishing when we actually receive immortal spiritual bodies at the resurrection at His return.

But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ. (Paul, in 1 Thessalonians 5:8,9)

The faithful have "the hope of salvation." Paul did not say they already possessed salvation. Rather, they were "appointed . . . to obtain salvation" in the future. The salvation to be obtained is to be saved from ever perishing, by receiving eternal life, at the first resurrection.

Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:13)

The apostle Peter reminded them to hope, to endure to the end so that they could receive the "grace" to be brought to them at "the revelation" - the return - of Jesus. The ultimate grace - gift - from God is the gift of eternal life which we'll receive at His return.

But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they. (Peter, in Acts 15:11)

Peter was addressing a gathering of apostles and other leaders in the early church. Clearly he did not tell them they were saved, as many today teach and believe. He told them they shall be saved, referring to salvation from ever perishing via the receipt of eternal life at Jesus' return. "Even as they" was a reference to Gentile believers.

Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. (Paul, to the Philippians, in Philippians 2:12)

Did Paul tell them they were saved, or that they already had salvation? No. He urged them to strive, to continue to repent and overcome and grow, to pursue their sanctification passionately.

Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:10,11)

Did Peter say our calling and election were already "sure", that they had "eternal security"? No, he urged them to be diligent. The reward: to enter into the Kingdom of God. As we saw earlier, from both Jesus and Paul, we will be able to enter the Kingdom at Jesus' return when we are "born of the spirit" and have immortal, spirit bodies.

He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. (Jesus, in Revelation 3:5)

Redeemed, our names are written in the "book of life," but the ink isn't dry. Jesus wasn't bluffing: He can blot our names out of the book of life. If our names are not found "written in the Lamb's book of life" we "shall in no wise enter into" the New Jerusalem - the Kingdom of God (from Revelation 21:27).

 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. (Hebrews 6:4-6)

Clearly we can "fall away" after we have been redeemed and entered sanctification. We would not have been warned about falling away if it were impossible to fall away. We don't have "eternal security" just because we have been redeemed! We can "fall away" after we've been redeemed. Yes, even after receiving the holy spirit - after being made "partakers of the Holy Ghost" - we can still fall away!

I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. (Jesus, in John 15:1-6)

Jesus' analogy illustrates our sanctification. When we are redeemed we become a branch: we are connected to the vine, Jesus, our source of spiritual life. During our life-long sanctification, we must continue to abide in Him our spiritual source; we are to stay connected and stay responsive as He leads us and shows us the ways we need to grow: repent, overcome and change. As Jesus showed, it is possible for a branch to fail to abide in Him, by choice or neglect. If we "abide not" we wither and die, spiritually speaking. Dead branches are gathered and "burned": they perish, they do not receive eternal life. Dead branches have aborted the process of salvation, and will not receive eternal life.

Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled. (Hebrews 12:14,15)

We can "fail of the grace of God"; we can choose to turn back or walk away from or ignore the redemption and sanctification that has been provided by God's grace. We can choose to separate from Him, to separate ourselves from the vine.

The apostle Peter warned that even after escaping "the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord" we can become re-entangled in sin. Those who fall away in this manner are in a worse spiritual condition than before they chose to turn from sin:

For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire. (2 Peter 2:20-22)

In the parable of the sower (Mark chapter 4), many of the seeds that sprouted failed due to shallow soil or because they were overwhelmed by "thorns," by "the deceitfulness of riches" and "the cares of this world." Perhaps those who teach "eternal security" would like to rewrite the parable, and say that all the seeds that sprouted made it, none failing.

For many are called, but few are chosen. (Jesus, in Matthew 22:14)

Was Jesus wrong? Again, many of the seeds that sprout do not make it.

Grace and Works, and What We Must Do

There is nothing we can do to earn redemption, sanctification and eternal life. No amount of works or good deeds can ever earn these: they are given to us free, by the grace - the goodness and love - of God. While there is nothing we can do to earn His grace, that does not mean there is nothing we must do. Unfortunately many are misled or confused on this point, having been taught that Jesus "did it all for you on the cross." But Jesus said there is something we must do:

Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. (Jesus, in Luke 13:3 and 5)

Yes, we must repent and continue to be repentant. Our redemption, our sanctification - and ultimately our salvation - depend on it.

He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy. (Proverbs 28:13)

In Revelation 2 and 3 Jesus advised and made promises to the faithful. Two words of advice are repeated over and over: repent, and overcome. Yes, we are called to make tough choices, to repent and to overcome as He leads us. As we do this we will grow to become more and more like Jesus; we will become the "new creature" the apostle Paul wrote about. As we abide in Him, and He in us, we show the "fruit of the Spirit":

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (Paul, in Galatians 5:22,23)

Doing good works is not the purpose of a Christian life. The essence and purpose of a Christian life is to become a changed person, a person that has a right relationship with God, first, and with his neighbor and self, second. Jesus summarized as follows:

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:37-40)

As we grow, as we are sanctified, we are changed. As we are changed, we do good naturally and automatically, out of love for God and man. We are called not to just act differently, but to be different.

So, why does God want us to become changed people? Is there a purpose for this?

God has a Plan

God has a plan; He has declared "the end from the beginning":

. . . for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure. (Isaiah 46:9,10)

Creation is part of God's plan. We learn from John 1:1-3,14, Colossians 1:16, Ephesians 3:9 and Hebrews 1:1-3 that all things were created through Jesus, the Word, who was with the Father "before the world was":

And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. (John 17:5)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made . . . And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-3,14)

Today, the salvation process is a continuation of the creation: God through Jesus is creating sons and daughters fit for eternal life. He is creating His family right now. Our redemption, our sanctification and our future entry into His Kingdom with eternal life are all part of His plan to create sons and daughters. Our redemption - if we'll repent - was planned from the beginning: Revelation 13:8 describes Jesus as "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world"; Jesus' death to provide redemption was planned from the beginning. Hosea, an Old Testament prophet, spoke of the plan to "ransom" and "redeem" us from death:

 I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes. (Hosea 13:14)

God was determined to provide a ransom for us, to make redemption available for us. So He said "repentance" - a change of His own mind and heart about ransoming and redeeming us - "shall be hid from mine eyes." He would not even consider changing His mind about His plan to provide a ransom and redemption for us.

Our spiritual growth - our sanctification - is a continuation of the creation process. Through sanctification He helps us develop a right relationship with Him and our fellow man, and instills in us the virtues desired for us to be part of His eternal family.

Jesus finished making a ransom available on the cross, but His work is not done. Jesus has not retired: He is at work right now. He is the potter; we are the clay. Note what He says in Revelation 3:19:

As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

Our sanctification - through our ongoing relationship with Jesus - "yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby." (from Hebrews 12:11)

Our salvation - our entry into His Kingdom with eternal life - was planned "from the foundation of the world." The setting of the following verse is at the resurrection of the faithful at Jesus' return:

Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. (Matthew 25:34)

The final three chapters of the Revelation - the last book of the Bible - show that after Jesus returns He and the resurrected faithful will rule right here on Earth for a thousand years, teaching all nations to "beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (Isaiah 2:4). Following the thousand years there will be a short time of judgment, followed by the removal and destruction of all who have chosen evil and cannot be part of God's plan. After the evil have been destroyed, and all His children are immortal, God will create a new universe - a "new heaven and a new earth" as described in Revelation 21:1,2. God will then live with his sons and daughters forever:

And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away . . . He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. (Revelation 21:3,4 and 7)

The gospel - the good news from God - is that He has a plan in place to destroy evil, to establish His everlasting Kingdom, and to create family - sons and daughters - to live with Him forever. What lies beyond that? The apostle Paul wrote:

 Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. (1 Corinthians 2:9)

We can be part of His plan, if we are willing. You can be part of His plan, if you are willing. Jesus has opened the door to salvation for all, equally, "For there is no respect of persons with God." (Romans 2:11)