What Does “Salvation” Mean?
Scripture speaks of the salvation of believers in three tenses. Christians have been saved, they are being saved, and they will be saved. In redemption accomplished, Christ truly and really saved His people when He died and rose again. In the application of redemption, believers are being saved as Christ intercedes for them, sustaining them through their pilgrimage and enabling them to persevere in the faith. At the consummation, believers will experience the full application of the salvation wrought by Christ in the resurrection.
Almost no word so well captures the heart of the message of Scripture as does the word salvation. It appears more than 170 times in our English translations of the Old and New Testament. The related word, saved, appears approximately one hundred times throughout the pages of Scripture. But what is salvation? What does it mean for someone to be saved? The Scriptures provide us with several distinct answers to this question. The Bible reveals that God saves believers from their sin, the power of Satan, death, and the judgment to come. Taken together, these four aspects of the work of redemption help us understand the full-orbed biblical teaching about the salvation that God provides through the person and work of Christ.
In his birth announcement concerning the coming Christ, the angel Gabriel told the Virgin Mary that the Redeemer would be called “Jesus” because He would “save his people from their sin” (Matt. 1:21). Since sin is man’s great problem, we needed One who would save us from its guilt and power. Jesus is such a Savior. Since He is God (John 1:1–4; Rom. 9:5), He can conquer our greatest enemies: sin, death, and Satan. Since He is man (John 1:14; Rom. 1:1–4), He can represent all those for whom He died. On the cross, Jesus became the atoning sacrifice for the sin of His people. All the sins of the elect were imputed to Christ on the cross (2 Cor. 5:21). Jesus died to deliver men and women from the guilt of their sin. Additionally, Christ died to break the power of sin in the lives of His people (Rom. 6:1–11). Because of the death of Christ, God has forgiven His people all their trespasses (Col. 2:13; Eph. 1:7).
God’s Word also reveals that Jesus died to save His people from the evil one. Since Satan was the one who led our first parents in rebellion against God, he needed to be conquered by the Redeemer. There is a close connection to our sinful bondage and the power of the evil one. The Apostle John explained that Christ came to destroy the works of Satan. He wrote: “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.