Thus far we have looked at the why, what, who, how, and where of salvation. It is time now to look at the “when” of salvation. The “when” of salvation within the Bible is, unfortunately, the most confusing subject for Christians to recognize. At first blush, that claim of confusion might strike you as an odd claim. If so, please read the claim again: “The ‘when’ of salvation within the Bible is the most confusing subject for Christians to recognize.” The key to that sentence is the “…within the Bible…” part.
Keep in mind that, though you may have had the good fortune to say the words “I got saved when…” at one point in your life, the Bible devotes few pages within its 66 books towards the dispensation that you and I live in and towards the gospel message, the offer or terms of salvation, that you and I are to place our faith in. In fact, only the 13 Pauline epistles are devoted to the dispensation of the grace of God and to the gospel of our salvation. That leaves an enormous amount of content within the Bible that is devoted to other groups and to other gospel messages.
We’re now looking at the question of “when” salvation is delivered. From the start, we must recognize that whenever the “when” of salvation is mixed together with the why, what, who, how, or where of salvation, error will occur. In order to demonstrate that point, it is best for us to look at an example. Let’s take the word “salvation” itself as our example.
And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and the children of Israel cried out unto the LORD.
Within Exodus chapter 14, the Israelites had recently left Egypt and they were following Moses. The Israelites looked up and there was the Egyptian army coming after them. The Israelites were afraid and the children of Israel cried out to the Lord. The verses that follow tell us that the people murmured complaints towards Moses during this dire situation. We then read in verse 13:
And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever.
We have a passage of Scripture here where Moses stated, “you’re going to see the salvation of God today.” There is a time element provided within this passage. Salvation was being offered and it was a salvation that could be obtained that very day. We, however, need to apply the various questions that we have been asking all throughout this series – why, what, who, how, where, and when – to this passage of Scripture.
Why did the Israelites need salvation? A: The Israelites were in a no win situation and only God could help them. If God had not intervened, surely they would have all died a most painful death.
What is the salvation that the Israelites are looking for? A: The answer to this question is found towards the end of verse 13 – to see the Egyptians no more. The Israelites want to be saved from the Egyptian army that is coming to kill them. That is the salvation that they are looking for. We must recognize that this is not a salvation concerning the forgiveness of sins, eternal life, redemption and justification. This passage is speaking to salvation from the Egyptian army – it is a physical deliverance from the Israelites’ oppressors.
Who is the Saviour within this passage? A: The Lord is the Saviour within this passage.
How does salvation work within this passage? A: The answer to this question is found within the verses that follow verse 13 – salvation works when God parts the Red Sea and the Israelites walk across the dry ground, with God then closing the Red Sea back upon the Egyptian army. That is how salvation works within this passage.
Where are the terms of salvation found within this passage? A: The answer to this question is deduced from the text. The terms provided were “walk across on dry ground or you will not be saved from the Egyptian army.” “Israel, if you want your salvation, you are going to have to walk on the dry ground through the Red Sea and make your way to the other side.”
Our final question, the focus within this chapter, is “When are the Israelites saved within this passage?” A: The answer to this question is quite obvious – when they get to the other side of the Red Sea. God put the restrained water back down on top of the Egyptian army and the Israelites received salvation.
Thus the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore.
At the end of Exodus chapter 14, the Egyptians are dead upon the seashore and that proved the salvation that was offered to the Israelites. This salvation was delivered to them that very day. We were able to apply and answer each one of our salvation questions (why, what, who, how, where, and when) to this salvation example provided to us within Scripture. We do have a problem, however.
That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
If we are trying to make salvation clear, with salvation being defined as we did in Chapter 2 – eternal life, justification, forgiveness of sins, reconciliation, peace, righteousness, redemption – and we are trying to figure out when it is that salvation is delivered to us living in the 21st century, we would be wrong to look towards Exodus chapter 14 to find a salvation verse and then say that we can be saved today based off of that Old Testament passage. This is due to the very simple reason that the salvation we were analyzing within the Exodus 14 passage is not the salvation that saves us today. The book of Exodus does not provide us a salvation that reconciles us to our Creator, and it does not inform us how it is that we can gain a salvation that is eternal.
When do we have salvation? We are not asking “when are we delivered from our enemies at the Red Sea?” We are asking about the solution to our sin problem. There are plenty of salvation stories within the Bible that are not speaking to the eternal salvation that we hold so dear. When does a man get his sins forgiven so that they are not a problem to him any longer? When does a man get his death penalty paid for so that he no longer has to suffer the condemnation and judgment that is guaranteed to those who are not reconciled to God? When is man’s fallen standing before God restored permanently? That is the salvation that we are interested in.
At the beginning of this chapter, I claimed that the “when” of salvation within the Bible is, unfortunately, the most confusing subject for Christians to recognize. What Christians need to understand is that within the Bible, salvation is either finished, complete, and possessed by the individual, or it is promised to them as something that they can obtain in the future. Those are the only two options available for salvation.
Within all the pages of Scripture, you either have salvation finished, complete, and possess it, or you are waiting for it to come. There are no other options. What most Christians realize is that the salvation that they are provided is a salvation that is finished, complete, and in their possession. I used the word “most” because there are those Christians that believe that one can lose their salvation. This minority group’s error comes from not rightly dividing the Scriptures and through their applying of verses that speak to Israel’s salvation as opposed to rightly applying verses that speak directly to members of the Church, the body of Christ.
For the Christian, there is no such thing as almost saved, partly saved, sort of saved, or kind of saved. As a person living within the dispensation of the grace of God, you either have salvation or you do not. Once an individual has salvation, they cannot, by definition, lose it. Thus, when asking the “when” question concerning salvation and the Christian, the answer is “now”. Outside of one exception, if one were to search for the two words “are saved” within the Bible, they would find that the statement “are saved” is only used in Paul’s epistles. Just through exploring these two words (“are saved”), we can gain an appreciation for the finished, complete, and possessed salvation that the Christian enjoys:
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
1 Corinthians 1:18
By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:2
For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life.
2 Corinthians 2:15-16
Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved)
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it.
Recognize that this verse speaks about the nations that are saved and that it is not speaking to individual salvation within the dispensation of the grace of God. We also need to recognize that this verse is found chronologically after Israel’s salvation. Israel’s salvation happens before Revelation 21:24 and thus we must keep in mind that there will be people, nations, that will be saved after Israel is saved.
Outside of the keyword search for “are saved” within the Bible, there are a number of additional compelling verses within Paul’s epistles that emphasize that the Christian’s salvation is finished, complete, and in their possession.
And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.
Paul states that we have now received the atonement. This is the reconciliation that you have with God – we have received it “now”. Let me state as a reminder that salvation within your Bible is always either finished, complete, and possessed or it is promised to someone as a future possession. Our salvation, as Christians, is finished, it is “now”.
And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
1 Corinthians 6:11
Within Paul’s two letters to the church at Corinth, Paul is talking to the most carnal and base group of people that he dealt with as believers during all the years that he was in ministry. There were baser sorts that he dealt with that were not believers, but the Corinthian’s behavior, despite being called “brethren” by the apostle Paul, was shameful in many ways. Within 1 Corinthians 6, despite all of the sin that Paul discusses within his two letters, he states that they are washed, they are sanctified, they are justified, and that they are made right with God. Everything that Paul states is present tense. The fact of the matter is that the Corinthians were not acting like Christians, but yet Paul tells us that they were saved. All those who state that you can lose your salvation argue that you will lose your salvation by acting like the Corinthians. Paul states that they’ve got salvation. It’s secure. Despite their sinful conduct, the Corinthians didn’t lose their salvation and Paul actually states that they were washed, that they were sanctified, and that they were justified – all present tense. So their sins apparently could not affect their standing with God. Their sins did not affect the salvation, the forgiveness of those sins, that they had from God. They were eternally secure.
Ephesians chapter 1 contains exciting verses that speak, present tense, to the believer’s complete salvation. “Who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings,” “he hath chosen us in him,” “he hath made us accepted,” “we have redemption,” “we have obtained an inheritance,” “ye were sealed” – the entire chapter speaks to the Christian’s present possession of salvation. Paul is talking about a present state or present condition, that is our salvation.
In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:
In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,
And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins
God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:
And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
He made us alive from the dead. He has forgiven our sins. This is the salvation that applies to the Christian living in the dispensation of the grace of God. He hath forgiven you. He hath quickened you already. You are already alive forevermore. You are already forgiven forevermore. You have salvation now.
And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled
Thus the offer God has given us today, within this dispensation, is salvation delivered free and clear upon belief in the good news, the gospel, the terms that Jesus Christ died for our sins and resurrected for our justification and eternal life. Christ did all the work. Do you believe that or not? Those are the terms that are put forth to you and they determine whether you will spend an eternity in Hell or an eternity in Heaven.
As we pause for a moment to reflect upon the truth that, as believers in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, we presently have hold upon eternal life, we are reconciled to God our Father, we can live at peace knowing that we are secure, and we have a hope in understanding that we will soon rule and reign with Christ in the heavens – with all of that in mind, we must ask ourselves why it is that there are those within Christendom who claim that a Christian can lose their salvation. Surely this group can show us from Scripture why it is that they believe that. And indeed they believe that they can.
 Ephesians 3:2
 1 Corinthians 15:1-4
 Romans 4:25
 Rom 8:17; 2 Tim 2:12