Years ago, singer-songwriter Bob Dylan made this confession and experienced a flurry of chaos-- critics who thought he was crazy and insincere Christians who wanted a piece of him. Dylan backed away from his remark, but one thing remains-- to be "saved" means something.
Interestingly, the Bible doesn't describe salvation as a one time event-- "yep, I got my ticket punched for heaven." Rather, Scripture speaks of salvation as a dynamic work of God with a past, present, and future. Asbury Seminary's Ben Witherington observes, "For Paul salvation entails a good deal more than the experience of becoming a new creature in Christ. That is but the beginning of the salvation process, which is not complete until the believer is completely redeemed and conformed to the image of Christ at the (final) resurrection."
Consider the following verses:
Here, salvation is a fully accomplished, completed event-- made real because of the historical event of Jesus' death on the cross. Our future hope is guaranteed. As Dr. Harold Hoehner of Dallas Seminary says, "The Good News is not, 'Believe in Jesus and your sins will be forgiven. No, the Gospel is this: Your sins are already forgiven. Will you believe?'"
"...We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved..." --Romans 8:23-24 (NIV)Present and Ongoing
In this tense, salvation is something we possess now and enjoy now. Believers are experiencing the goodness of God and have reason to celebrate. Interestingly, Newsweek writes in its September 10 edition about spiritual memoirs. From Augustine in 397 to Brian Welch of Korn and Stephen Baldwin in this age-- people have a testimony of God's grace. Another way to look at this aspect of salvation theologically is sanctification.
"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." --1 Corinthians 1:18 (NIV)Future
Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel that I preached to you, that you received and on which you stand, and by which you are being saved..." --1 Corinthians 15:1-2 (NET)
The Christian's salvation is right now, but it is also not yet. Writes Bruce Demarest of Denver Seminary, "Christ has inaugurated the new aeon, but it has not yet arrived in its fullness... Glorification thus concerns the final event in the salvation of true believers that began in eternity past with God's elective decision. It is the fitting conclusion to our spiritual journey in which God's glory is becoming progressively revealed." In glorification, our position in Christ (declared completely pure) and our experience of Christ (living completely pure) are wholly realized.
"And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified." --Romans 8:30 (NIV)
"And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed." --Romans 13:11
"But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body." --Philippians 3:20-21 (NIV)
"Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him." --Hebrews 9:27-28 (NIV)
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time." --1 Peter 1:3-5 (NIV)