Three red flags on the three tenses of salvation


There is a very interesting point about God that Paul brings up in our New Testament.  This is the fact that our God has a strange habit of calling things that are not as they were. 

As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed–the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.[1]

Because I believe this, it tends to bring me into conflict with other believers.  Just as much as many believers understand and confess that God gives life to the dead, I believe God calls things that are not as if they were. 

Believers say they are saved, have eternal life, are adopted as sons and so on.  They do this for good reasons because they see in scripture where it states these things.  But how many Christians confess they are waiting for their salvation, their adoption, their eternal life and so on?  Almost none, although scripture teaches this as well.

Calvinist though have a very interesting way of handling this apparent duality of having and not having found in our scripture.  They say there are three tenses of salvation, although there is no verse or text that teaches this.  But they say we have been saved, are being saved and will be saved.

Have been saved comes from scripture that teaches names have been written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world.  The lamb of God was slain from the foundation of the world, our reward has been prepared for us from the foundation of the world, the promise of our gospel is from before the foundation of the world and so on.  So hats off to them, they recognize that God did not decide to send His Son after giving it some thought when Adam sinned, as so many preachers seam to coin it.  So this is their first tense of salvation.  Have been saved.

They, like most believers, see the very present tense of are saved, bring saved, are children of God, have been adopted, have received eternal life as the second tense of salvation.  They say this is being saved.

The third tense of salvation deals with those scriptures that teach we wait for our salvation, our adoption as sons, eternal life and so on.  This they say is the last tense of salvation, that we will be saved.

At least some thought has been given to it, since most in the church do not even consider these supposed tenses of salvation.  They go on being Samericans worshiping what they do not know and could care less to study out God’s word. 

Are the Calvinist correct in their understanding of salvation?  Is there really three tenses of salvation?  Does this doctrine contradict scripture or does scripture teach it?

First of all, scripture does not teach there are three tenses of salvation.  Any honest dialogue would confess that this teaching is implied.  Implied by scripture would be the assumption.  It is assumed by us there is some reasonability of accuracy in this doctrine to deal with the duality of having and waiting found in our gospel.

In order to accept the three tenses of salvation though we have to ignore what I would consider to be foundational truths of our gospel.  Number one on my list is faith.  We all know and probably can quote Hebrews 11:1.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.[2]

The three tenses of salvation runs into problems at the fundamental understanding of what we hope for.  How can we hope for what we already have and are already getting? 

Continuing to read past Hebrews 11:1 shows the ancients were commended for hoping in what they did not have nor did they receive what they hoped for.  Yet with the three tenses of salvation we say we don’t hope in what we do not have, we hope in what we have and are continuing to have.  If the ancients were commended in their hoping, not in what they had or were receiving, only in what they did not have, what do we have to commend to us in for faith?  So this is my first red flag on the three tenses of salvation.

Paul speaking of hope ask a very interesting questions to the believers.  He ask, what man hopes for something he already has?  This is a rhetorical question based on simple common sense.  The answer is nobody would hope for what they already have.

For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.[3]

This scripture is so key to understanding what we brag about in Hebrews 11:1.  Who does hope for what they already have?  Do we not know, do we not understand hope that is seen is no hope at all?  If our hope is seen, how can our so called hope be faith?  But if we do not have it yet our hope is true hope and our faith is true faith based on a real hope, and we wait for it patiently.  In this way we follow our biblical example of those who had true faith and a real hope.  Not an implied assumption of already possessing, which deviates from our biblical model of faith.  So this is my second red flag on the three tenses of salvation.

What does scripture teach about the duality we see concerning our salvation, our adoption, our eternal life and so on?  If it is not biblical to hope for what you already have, if it is not biblical to call faith hoping in what you have, what is the answer to this conflict of possessing and not possessing in our gospel?  Do we posses what is clearly spoken of in our gospel as being posses by us here and now or not?

Interestingly Paul saw no problem with this situation.  He didn’t handle it by teaching the three tenses of salvation.  He simply let us know that our God is a God who calls things that are not as if they were.  So when He or another writer speaks of things in the here and now in our gospel, it is our hope in what God imparts to us by speaking what is not as if it were.  That is unless we are greater than the man of faith our father Abraham  This is the third red flag I have on the three tenses of salvation.

For example, the very idea of imputed righteousness that we have means credited righteousness.  We are credited because we do not have.  It is as if we do, when we really do not.  It is credited.  We are treated and in a relationship with God as if we do when we do not.  We are credited.  When we finally receive our crown of righteousness then we will no longer be credited we will posses.

So what is more biblical?  To say we have three tenses of salvation and we hope for what we have?  Our faith is hoping in what we see and posses? 

Or is it more biblical to say we like those before us hope in what we do not have?  Is it more biblical to say our faith is based on our hopes in the promises of God that we wait to be fulfilled, not in what we have?  Is it more biblical to say God calls things that are not in our gospel as if they were? 

So what do you let God call that which is not as if it were in your gospel?  Or is it more biblical to say, not in my gospel you don’t?


[1] Romans 4:17

[2] Hebrews 11:1

[3] Romans 8:24-25

2 thoughts on “Three red flags on the three tenses of salvation

  1. Pingback: 1 Peter chapter one and the three tenses of salvation « The Gospel According to the Gospel

  2. Pingback: Sanctification, the blood, forgiven, imputed righteousness and salvation « The Gospel According to the Gospel

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