As Christians who live in history, as believers who occupy time, we want to make sure we understand the tenses of the verbs that describe our salvation.
Before the foundation of the world, He has chosen us. That is in the past. His past choice concerns our future—that we should be holy and blameless. Because the gospel has been preached in the world, we have redemption, and we have it as a present possession. In addition to this, we have obtained an inheritance. We obtained this inheritance because we were predestined according to His grand purpose. He did this so that we should be to the praise of His glory, in the future.
What has been said and done by God is the basis for what is currently ours, and that is the basis for what lies before us. The headwaters of the river of salvation are in the past. They lie before ancient times. In one sense, the river has no mouth, for it runs everlastingly. In another sense, the river widens as it goes until it empties into the ocean of God’s infinite pleasure.
There is a way of setting the life of holiness before the believer so as to make them think that it is a mountain that must be climbed. But actually the mountain of God’s foreordaining grace is behind us, and the river runs down it, carrying us to His great sea of kindness. The effort we exert is given its force because of what lies behind. Through this effort we obtain what lies ahead of us, but we must never forget that it is the river that carries us. And the troubles we encounter are nothing but patches of white water.
Living in the light of God’s grace to us is something that cannot be managed unless we get the tenses of salvation right. We look forward to glory because the glory was bestowed on us, individually and by name, before the world was made.