What Does Salvation Mean?
Q: I am most interested in knowing where you stand on the issue of salvation. What does salvation mean to you? to the Catholic church?
A: The term “salvation” is used different ways in Scripture. Sometimes, especially in the Old Testament, it refers to delivery from temporal ills (war, famine, death, etc.). However it also means, especially in the New Testament, delivery from sin, eternal death, eternal punishment to the holiness, life, forgiveness, and joy that God gives. This is the highest meaning of salvation, the primary kind of salvation which we as Christians are to seek, and it is the kind of salvation Christians (Catholics included) normally speak about.
Sometimes Scripture speaks of salvation in the past tense, indicating that there is a sense in which we have already acquired it (e.g., “by grace you have been saved,” Eph. 2:8), sometimes it speaks of it in the present tense, as something we are currently acquiring (e.g., “you greatly rejoice … receiving as the fruit of your faith the salvation of your souls,” 1 Peter 1:8-9), and sometimes it speaks of it as a future gift yet to be received (e.g., Jesus’ “He who endures to the end will be saved,” Matt. 10:22, or Paul’s, “our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed,” Rom. 13:11).
When salvation is spoken of in the future tense, it refers to the complete and full salvation mentioned above. When it is spoken of in the present or the past tense, it refers to the legal title we acquire to salvation and to the partial participation in that salvation which we currently enjoy (for example, we currently have complete forgiveness of all the sins we have committed, but only partial holiness and joy compared to what we will have in heaven, and we do not yet have our immortal, glorified physical life at all as we are still in a mortal, unglorified physical state).
For more information, see the file, “Salvation Past, Present, and Future.”