On the one hand, the Bible urges Christians to be fully confident that we are saved, and on the other, to work out our salvation with "fear and trembling." Yet it also seems we are not "saved" yet until the judgment day. How can a disciple have a soft heart to these warnings in the Bible, taking them very seriously, and at the same time be fully confident in his or her salvation? -- Peter Billings (Fukuoka, Japan)

Salvation in the Bible is past, present, and future. It is past because in a (timeless) sense Jesus died for us before the creation of the world (Revelation 13:8; see 1 Peter 1:20). It is present because we receive forgiveness and cleansing on a daily, ongoing basis (1 John 1:6-10). And yet it is future because we must persevere in order to make it to heaven (Hebrews 3:14). It is all three!

Salvation, on our end of the matter, entails (1) hearing the Word, (2) believing, (3) repenting, (4) being baptized, and (5) persevering. Sometimes in our preaching we fail to preach grace, yet at others we miss the mark in not urging one another to a holy and God-fearing life à la Philippians 2:12.

I would also point out that we are saved before Judgment Day, and in fact when we die our destiny is sealed, even though Judgment Day may be many years, centuries, or even millennia away. Judgment is not investigative - a time when God figures out where we really stand based on our lives - but rather declarative: the time at which our guilt or innocence (in Christ) is officially and irrevocably proclaimed. In the meantime, Peter, keep your heart soft (Proverbs 4:23)!

For more on this subject, you may enjoy my exposition of 1 John, in James, Peter, John, Jude: Life to the Full (1995, 2006) available in the Books and Audio section of this website. [Note: this book is out of print 2008-2012.]

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