There are many in the Christian churches who do not have a clear grasp of salvation in Jesus Christ. No one has taught them that salvation involves a past, present, and future reality. The Bible teaches that we have been saved, are being saved, and will be saved. This is what I call the golden chain of salvation: Justification, Sanctification, and Glorification.
We can simplify these theological terms by saying that we are forgiven, cleansed, and perfected. Each phase of salvation is rooted in us accepting the free gift of righteousness by faith in Jesus Christ.
First, justification is a legal declaration of righteousness by faith in Jesus Christ. In essence, this is our ticket to heaven. The cleansing and perfection by the power of the holy spirit depend on us being forgiven for our sins. No one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again, and no one can be born again without the assurance of salvation.
Furthermore, sanctification is the internal righteousness of cleansing from the power of sin that is granted to us by the indwelling Holy Spirit. But the problem is that our human natures constantly get in the way of a perfect obedience to the laws of God. Even at our best performance, we are still light years away from the perfection that the law demands. However, the Holy Spirit continues to work in us to clean us up and gives us the power to overcome deliberate and habitual sins in our daily walk with Him.
Finally, glorification is the final state of sinless perfection that will be granted to Christians at the second coming of Jesus. God cannot allow sin in Heaven. He grants us the final perfection of our bodies, minds, and spirits. We will be reborn with a sinless human nature the way Adam and Eve were perfect in the Garden of Eden.
We have been saved because we have been completely forgiven for all sin the moment we put our trust in Jesus Christ. This part of salvation is full and complete. It is a free gift for all who put their faith in Jesus. This allows us to have peace with God and enjoy the assurance of salvation. It is essential to understand that all who are saved must have faith that they can never be lost while trusting in the merits of Jesus Christ.
We are being saved because the Holy Spirit lives in our hearts. He works to transform us into the image of Jesus Christ. While we are not saved by obedience to the law, our motivation for obedience is love and gratitude for having been forgiven for sin. The law that once condemned us is now our guide to receive the full blessing and maturity of loving obedience.
We will be saved because we are still confined to sinful bodies and struggle daily with our sinful natures. One day God will grant us all the sinless natures that will allow us to stand before God in our own sinless perfection. Until then, we must be covered by the righteousness of Jesus.
“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” ~ Romans 8:29-32, ESV