Three Phases of
The thought that any individual was forgiven before he or she believed in Christ and made confession of sin is indeed very difficult for some to grasp. Unfortunately, the thought that everyone has already been saved or redeemed from the curse of the law is considered almost blasphemous to a staunch Arminian. This attitude arises out of an ignorance of the three phases of salvation, or a failure to see the significance of the distinct phases.
The Bible speaks of salvation in three verb tenses—past, present, and future. We shall take a look at a few examples.
And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the
end shall be saved (Matthew 10:22, emphasis supplied).
And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that
endures to the end shall be saved (Matthew 24:13, emphasis supplied).
He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved (Mark 16:16, emphasis supplied).
Many additional texts use the future tense in reference to the plan of salvation. In fact, in most cases where the KJV uses the term saved, it is preceded by the words shall be, which puts the term in the future tense. Perhaps because of this, many have generally failed to recognize the other two phases of the plan of salvation.
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, NKJV, emphasis supplied).
For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and
among those who are perishing (2 Corinthians 2:15, NKJV, emphasis supplied).
These renderings may come as a surprise to those accustomed to using the Authorized King James Version. That translation tends to obscure verb tenses. Thus, it fails to make clear that the term saved, in the two verses cited above, is in the present continuous tense. However, a review of the original Greek text reveals that the New King James Version is accurate.
The second phase of salvation is also spoken of without using the term save in other passage of the Bible. For example:
Now unto him that is able to keep [save] you from falling, and to present you
faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy (Jude 1:24).
The Lord knoweth how to deliver [save] the godly out of temptations (2 Peter 2:9).
These verses refer to what is involved in the second phase of salvation—salvation from sinning. This concept is consistent with Matthew 1:21: “Thou shalt call His name Jesus: for He shall save His people from their sins.”
Now we need to take a look at examples of the phase of salvation which has proven to be the most controversial among those who promote a provisional view of the atonement. The Bible clearly teaches salvation in the past tense as an already accomplished reality. For example:
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner,
but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who
has saved us and called us with a holy calling…who has abolished death and brought
life and immortality to light through the gospel (2 Timothy 1:8–10, NKJV, emphasis
Even when we were dead in trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ
(by grace you have been saved) (Ephesians 2:5, NKJV, emphasis supplied).
These two passages clearly show that salvation from the curse is an already accomplished reality. The Greek tense is aorist. It refers to an event which happened once for all at a specific point in time, in the past. Internal evidence suggests that these two passages of Scripture apply to the believer, as well as to the non-believer. Note, for example, that 2 Timothy 1:8–10 first says God “saved us,” then it says He “called us.” Who does He call? Is it not unbelievers—those not already followers of Christ? When He abolished death, He saved the world, believers and nonbelievers alike. This does not mean that everyone will be saved, in the future tense. The salvation was accomplished for all, and all are therefore “called.” Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17). We have all been saved from the first condemnation. A second condemnation also exists—condemnation to eternal death in the lake of fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. Jesus did not redeem mankind from that condemnation.
Identifying the Three Phases
Salvation in the past is referred to by the expression justification of life (Romans 5:18). That means corporate universal justification, which is applicable to all. All “have been saved” from the curse. Salvation in the present is referred to as “justification by faith” (Galatians 2:16). Justification by faith is the process which produces sanctification and victory over temptation. This present salvation is only applicable to those who have faith and are therefore “sanctified by faith” (Acts 26:10). Salvation in the future is called “glorification” (Romans 8:17, 30). This will only be applicable to those who “keep…the faith” (Revelation 14:12).
This third phase of salvation is the final and irrevocable phase of salvation which most Arminians have in mind when they use the term saved. A more accurate use of terms would be to use the expression eternally saved in referring to the third phase, since the Bible uses the term saved in all three verb tenses. Here we find that Arminianism is not fully in harmony with Scripture.
That one come to grips with the three phases of salvation is absolutely imperative. One must also be clear that these are three phases of salvation and not three phases of the gospel. In Christ, we “have been saved” from the penalty of sin (Ephesians 2:5)—an historical fact. All of humanity has been redeemed from the curse of the law. The first phase of salvation, which God has already accomplished “in Christ,” constitutes the root of the gospel. The second phase of salvation is in the present—“justificationby faith,” which is unto eternal life. This produces sanctification, which is called the fruit of the gospel. Paul referred to it as “the fruit of the spirit” (see Galatians 5:22). The third phase of salvation is yet future—“glorification,” which is the hope of the gospel. Paul referred to that phase of salvation as “the blessed hope” (Titus 2:13).
So the complete plan of salvation includes three phases: the gospel, the fruit of the gospel, and the hope of the gospel. The Arminian generally has no problem with the concept of salvation in the present—with justification by faith which produces sanctification. Arminians also have no objection to the concept of salvation in the future—glorification at the coming of Christ. However, there is strong objection to the idea of salvation in the past—“justification of life,” or corporate universal justification, which constitutes the root the gospel.
Thus, the most unfortunate of all possible outcomes has developed: Arminian Christians are willing to preach the possibility of salvation in the present and the possibility of salvation in the future, but they are not willing to preach salvation in the past tense, which is the very foundation of the gospel. All that follows this first phase of salvation is the inevitable outflow of believing in what happened in the first phase. We have nothing, apart from believing that we were justified by the blood of Christ at Calvary, and that phase of salvation took place for all men before we believed.
This development is indeed terrible. Without a clear understanding of this aspect of the plan of redemption, the genuine fruit of the gospel cannot appear in the present, and we cannot have a “lively hope” in Christ (1 Peter 1:3) for the future. Without this understanding, we continue to remain in bondage, under a sense of condemnation, because we have not fully realized that “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law” (Galatians 3:13). Or worse, we are deceived into a false sense of security believing our performance is good enough to meet God’s requirement and free us of condemnation.
We must come to grips with the meaning of the gospel as clarified by the message of the latter rain, if authentic Christian character is to be developed and real progress is to be made.
The Sanctuary Presents Three Phases
The sanctuary and its services, given to Israel in the wilderness, is the master model of the plan of salvation. It provides the most detailed representation of all that would be accomplished by Christ as our Redeemer, High Priest, and conquering King. The earthly sanctuary was the type. The actual plan of salvation, involving the cross of Calvary and the heavenly sanctuary, is the antitype. The term used to refer to God’s saving activity in the sanctuary model is atonement. In harmony with the three phases of salvation presented throughout the Scriptures, there are three phases of atonement represented in the earthly sanctuary service. The sanctuary calendar, its rituals and services, and its major architectural features were all designed to bring into focus three distinct phases of the process of salvation.
The sacrifice which occurred in the first phase was the most essential element of the sanctuary model. A symbolic representation of the sacrifice of Christ, it became the focal point not only of the sanctuary service but of the entire Bible. Abel, Job, and Abraham offered sacrifices long before the sanctuary model was given to Israel. Although there were various
types of sacrifices presented in the sanctuary, with but one exception, this ceremonial ritual was always conducted in the outer court.
The shedding of blood and its application to the horns of the altar in either the outer court or the first apartment of the tabernacle (see Leviticus 4:2, 25) symbolically represented the first phase of atonement. The application of blood in the outer court or in the first apartment of the tabernacle took place throughout the year.
The second major symbolic representation brought to view in the sanctuary service was the application of the blood within the second apartment on the Day of Atonement. On only one day each year, called Yom Kippur—the Day of Atonement—was the high priest instructed to minister in the second apartment. This constituted the second phase of atonement.
Finally, the third and last division of the sanctuary service (representing the third phase of the plan of salvation), involved the symbolic representation of atonement on the head of the scapegoat. This ceremony also took place only on the Day of Atonement. The final phase of atonement was unique, in that it was not a blood atonement, because it did not represent the sacrifice of Christ. The scapegoat represented the adversary— the enemy of God and man. Since this phase of atonement does not provide forgiveness, the scapegoat was not killed. The atonement on the head of the scapegoat was designed to show that Lucifer bears responsibility for sin.
Thus we see three major divisions in the process of atonement in the typical service. They represented three distinct phases of atonement. These three phases of atonement, symbolically represented in the earthly/typical service (daily atonement, Most Holy Place atonement, and atonement via the scapegoat) represented the three phases of actual atonement in the antitypical sanctuary service, which has its fulfillment from A.D. 31 to 1844, from 1844 to the second advent, and from the second advent to the third advent. These three phases of atonement form the foundation for the three phases of salvation. That one understand the three phases of atonement presented in the sanctuary service is essential, if one is to fully comprehend the three phases of salvation. This more complete understanding of the plan of salvation is essential to understanding the gospel clearly. Ultimately, it is to be God’s last message to the world through the Seventh-day Adventist Church—Adventism’s “raison d’etre.”
For centuries, the Jewish nation had been praying for the Messiah to come. They expected Him to come as a conquering king, not as a “man of sorrows” (Isaiah 53:3). Their failure as a nation to identify the three phases of the Messiah’s coming led to their national rejection of Him. At His first appearing, He was to come as a babe. Then at His second appearing, He is to come as a King, and finally, at His third appearing, He is to come as the Judge of all the earth. We face a danger similar to that which overtook the Jews. A failure to recognize the three distinct phases of the Messiah’s plan of redemption will result in a final rejection of Him. Understanding the three phases of the plan of salvation is essential to
understanding the message of the latter rain.