He saves us by His death from all our sins: Past, present, and future. We all have broken God’s law, and the wages of sin is death (see Romans 6:23). Jesus Christ never sinned, so as a sinless “second Adam,” He was able to die as a substitute for all human sinners. Therefore God was able to preserve His righteous law and government by punishing the breaking of the law while offering a pardon to those who had broken it.
The apostle Paul said that Jesus redeemed us from the curse of the law (see Galatians 3:13). The word redeemed means to buy back a slave in the marketplace. Mankind was in bondage to the curse of the law, which is death. Under this analogy, the death of Jesus was the “ransom” needed to set us free from the bondage of the law, sin, and death.
So in one sense, Jesus is our substitute; in another, our ransom. In yet another, His is our hilasterion (translated “propitiation”) or mercy seat, a reference to the lid or covering over the ark of the covenant. When the mercy seat was covered with the blood of a sacrifice, the law’s condemnation against the people was shut out before God. Jesus Christ is our complete and only covering.
Our salvation has three parts. First, at the moment we receive Christ in faith, His death cancels completely all of our sins. This is called “justification by faith” (see Romans 3:24-30, Galatians 2:15-21). In Christ our position before God is sinless. We are totally absolved from all past sins, just as if we had never sinned. This is salvation of our spirit.
Then as we walk with Jesus day after day, we have present salvation, and we grow in holiness. We enter into the state of sanctification, where we become freer from sin and more like Jesus. Paul said that we change from one degree of glory into another, even as by the Spirit of the Lord (see II Corinthians 3:18). The goal of the Christian is to grow up into Christ. This is our ongoing salvation.
The third part of salvation is future, where we will lose these bodies which are always being pulled by sin, and we will get brand new bodies (see I Corinthians 15:42-44). This salvation is also called glorification. So salvation is total. It is a matter of the past, present, and future.