What happens the moment you accept God’s Son, Jesus Christ, as your Savior and Master? Many people believe you have received eternal life that instant. But the truth is that the road to eternal life is a life-long journey, and eternal life is only one portion of the bundle of blessings that come with salvation for a faithful Christian. Here, let us explore the various stages of salvation and its everlasting blessings and privileges.
Stage 1: Justification
Pretend that today, you have accepted Christ as your Savior and Lord by acknowledging your sins, confessing them and seeking for God’s forgiveness, and willingly submitting to God’s will and commandments to govern the rest of your life. The moment you repent by turning to Christ, you have been justified by your faith.
Justification through faith is to receive the declaration of righteousness. God declares you as righteous, with all your past sins forgiven, when you put faith in His Son. Your plate of sins has been wiped clean. As a result, you have become a new creation with a new beginning: “The old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17, WEB)
Stage 2: Reconciliation
Justification brings reconciliation. Prior to accepting Jesus Christ into your heart and life, you had been an enemy of God due to your sinful lifestyle (Colossians 1:21; Romans 5:10). But once you are justified through faith, you have been reconciled with God, where the wall of hostility between God and you has been broken down.
Because you have been justified and reconciled, you are now blessed with the peace with God. “Peace with God” is an essential and foundational element of fellowship with God. You cannot have a relationship with God without peace. Such peace is also the peace that helps you to remain at peace during life’s hardships. This peace is granted by God, not developed by yourself. Only when you are justified and reconciled will you possess such peace.
Stage 3: Adoption
As someone who has been justified and reconciled, you have now been adopted as a child of God. It is from this moment onward that you can call God “Abba” (“Father”) (Romans 8:15). Thus, while God is the Creator of every person, He is the Father of only those who have accepted His Son. Sonship comes only through Jesus Christ.
As God’s adopted child, you have become the heir of God and a co-heir with Jesus Christ. The heir of God will be glorified together with Jesus Christ (Romans 8:17). Glorification is the final stage of salvation, which I’ll touch upon later.
Stage 4: Sanctification
Upon adoption into God’s family, your new life has begun according to God’s will. At this stage of salvation, God will gradually and steadily mold you into the person He wants you to be. He will develop in you the fruit of the Holy Spirit, which is Christ-like qualities that include love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). This is progressive sanctification, the process of setting you apart for God’s holy use and purpose by conforming you to Jesus’ spiritual image (Romans 8:29; 1 Thessalonians 4:7).
The first three stages–justification, reconciliation, and adoption–are all works done exclusively by God. But the process of sanctification is team work: you have to work with God to achieve God’s will in your life. You have to cooperate by obeying His voice and allowing Him to lead your life.
How will God lead you and guide you in following Him? He will lead you through His Holy Spirit, which He has given to you upon your acceptance of His Son for your salvation. The Holy Spirit will regenerate you, mature you spiritually, and sanctify you for good works (Titus 3:5; Ephesians 2:10).
As the Holy Spirit leads you, you have the choice to obey or disobey it. God does not take away your free will. Therefore, it is up to you whether you will live according to God’s will as a true child of God, or rebel against Him.
Listen to what Jesus said: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will tell me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, in your name cast out demons, and in your name do many mighty works?’ Then I will tell them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you who work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:21-23)
Yes, the sanctification stage of salvation is one crucial stage! If you fail to do the will of God and deliberately go on sinning after you have accepted Jesus Christ,then a “certain fearful expectation of judgment” awaits you:
“For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and a fierceness of fire which will devour the adversaries. A man who disregards Moses’ law dies without compassion on the word of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will he be judged worthy of, who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and has counted the blood of the covenant with which he was sanctified an unholy thing, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, ‘Vengeance belongs to me,’ says the Lord, ‘I will repay.’ Again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:26-31)
“For concerning those who were once enlightened and tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the age to come, and then fell away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance; seeing they crucify the Son of God for themselves again, and put him to open shame. For the land which has drunk the rain that comes often on it, and brings forth a crop suitable for them for whose sake it is also tilled, receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and thistles, it is rejected and near being cursed, whose end is to be burned.” (Hebrews 6:4-8)
Indeed, you have been justified by your faith. But understand that faith without works is dead: “What good is it, my brothers, if a man says he has faith, but has no works? Can faith save him? And if a brother or sister is naked and in lack of daily food, and one of you tells them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled’; and yet you didn’t give them the things the body needs, what good is it? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead in itself. Yes, a man will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without works, and I by my works will show you my faith.” (James 2:14-18)
Even the demons believe in God (James 2:19), but are they going to receive salvation? No, unless they repent and prove their faith is genuine by works.
Read what God’s Word says about faith and works working together for justification:
“Wasn’t Abraham our father justified by works, in that he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith worked with his works, and by works faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him as righteousness’; and he was called the friend of God. You see then that by works, a man is justified, and not only by faith. In the same way, wasn’t Rahab the prostitute also justified by works, in that she received the messengers, and sent them out another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, even so faith apart from works is dead.” (James 2:21-26)
Sanctification will last your entire lifetime. Like a child who cannot physically mature overnight, you will reach spiritual maturity gradually, as you live and learn from God’s principles in the Bible. Whenever you sin, you will have to confess your sin to God, who will forgive you (1 John 1:9).
By living according to God’s will, you will experience immeasurable joy as you fellowship with your Creator and His Son: “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in the darkness, we lie, and don’t tell the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:5-7)
“Wherein [in God’s salvation] you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been put to grief in various trials, that the proof of your faith, which is more precious than gold that perishes even though it is tested by fire, may be found to result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ–whom not having known you love; in whom, though now you don’t see him, yet believing, you rejoice greatly with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” (1 Peter 1:6-8)
Stage 5: Glorification
When Jesus returns to Earth at his second coming, he will be revealed in all his glory (Luke 9:26). Upon his arrival, all the Christians who have ever passed away will be resurrected to meet him in the sky (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
Jesus “will change the body of our humiliation to be conformed to the body of his glory.” (Philippians 3:21) Thus, upon your resurrection as a Christian, you will be revealed in gory just as our Lord Jesus Christ (1 John 3:2). You will be raised incorruptible, for “this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality… then what is written will happen: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.'” (1 Corinthians 15:53, 54)
This, my friend, will be the final stage of your salvation. You have first been justified, sanctified, and now glorified. As a new glorified individual, you will never experience or know again pain, sickness, suffering, or death (Revelation 21:4). Instead, you will live in love, peace, and security in the presence of your Creator, Yahweh God Almighty, and His Son, Jesus Christ, your Savior, for all eternity (Revelation 21:3; Revelation 22:3-5).
This is why “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which will be revealed toward us.” (Romans 8:18)
Therefore we ought not to faint at our current sufferings and hardships; even though we are decaying outwardly, yet we’re being spiritually renewed day by day, for “our light affliction, which is for the moment, works for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory; while we don’t look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)
Let’s all pray that upon our death, we will be able to echo apostle Paul’s words: “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the course. I have kept the faith. From now on, there is stored up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that day; and not to me only, but also to all those who have loved his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8) In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen!