Evangelicals are accustomed to thinking about salvation almost exclusively as a past event. This comes through in a lot of our language about conversion. For example, it is not uncommon for us to ask others when they were saved. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with thinking of salvation as something that happened to us in the past. In fact, Scripture encourages us to think in such terms, for if we are truly converted to Christ, we can look back on our conversion as that point at which we passed from death to everlasting life, life that can never be lost because Jesus has guaranteed it forever (John 5:24; Heb. 10:14). If we have trusted in Christ alone, we have been declared worthy of eternal life in Him, and we lack nothing that is required for life in the presence of God.
Yet while it is appropriate for us to think of salvation as a past event, we cannot do justice to the way God's Word describes salvation if we think of it exclusively in past terms. There is a sense in which we are waiting for future redemption. Just consider today's passage. Though we have been reconciled to God in Christ Jesus, there is still a sense in which we shall be saved in the future (Rom. 5:10). But how is this possible if we have already been saved?
The answer is to understand that references to past salvation in the New Testament are positional, and references to future salvation are experiential. Positionally, we have been saved. Our legal position before God is one of righteousness, and it will be forevermore. Here we think of the justification language of Scripture. However, we have not yet enjoyed the full experience of all the benefits of salvation. Our bodies still decay and die. We are not yet free of sin; its presence remains with us (2 Cor. 4:16; 1 John 1:8–9). Until these things are no longer true, there is still a future experience of salvation that awaits us. We are saved in the hope that we will be saved in the future, that we will experience glorification.
Of course, the key point to remember in all this is that the positional ensures the full realization of the experiential. Thus, Paul says that we can be certain that we will enjoy all of the benefits of redemption. God already did the "hard" part, and that was to effect a legal change in our status without compromising His perfect justice. He found a way to reconcile Himself to His inveterate enemies. Once this was done, allowing us to share in the glorified humanity of Jesus is easy. We will participate in His glorification, in His possession of indestructible flesh, never to fear the scourge of death again (Rom. 5:10–11).
We can be confident in our future salvation because of the surety of our past salvation. The position we enjoy in Christ today ensures that we will fully experience all of His benefits tomorrow. This is the good news of the gospel—that God has guaranteed our salvation, that there is nothing we need to do or even can do to make our inheritance even more secure than it is right now. Let us rest in that fact and look forward with eager anticipation to the hope of glorification.