“Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:28)
“. . .obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. . . . brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:9, 13)
“Christ will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are eagerly waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9:28)
There is a sense in the New Testament that Christ’s work, even for our salvation, was not quite complete at the cross. There are numerous passages in the New Testament similar to the ones above, which lead to a legitimate question for futurists as to whether believers today are saved or not. Sadly, futurists miss the timing of the fulfillment of these proclamations and explain away the good news of Christ’s completed work of salvation in the past.
Christ’s perfect life and death on the cross paid the penalty for our sins (Romans 5:9-10; 8:1-4; 1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Hebrews 9:12-22; Revelation 5:9; etc.). His resurrection provides our hope for eternal life (Romans 5:10b; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4; 2 Timothy 1:10; Revelation 1:18; etc.). But, there is more to the story, which theologians refer to as “already, but not yet.” 
The cross was the pivotal point of history. But his PAROUSIA SEALED OUR SALVATION. Consider these passages, which I encourage you to look up: Matthew 24:13; Mark 10:30b; Luke 21:28; Romans 8:18-25 (note mello in the Greek, meaning “about to” in verse 18); 11:25-27; 13:11; 1 Corinthians 15:26, 51b, 52b; Galatians 5:5; Ephesians 1:7-14; 4:30; Philippians 1:5-6; Colossians 3:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:17; 5:2-9; 2 Timothy 4:8; Titus 2:13-14; Hebrews 1:14 (mello); 9:8-11 (mello), 26-28; 1 Peter 1:3-21; 5:4; Revelation 11:19; 12:10; 15:8; 22:3. Other passages could be included on this list.
If you look up each of these passages, especially in a literal translation, you will see that the Bible uses certain terminology about what was about to happen to LIVING, first-century believers, as related to their salvation—at Christ’s Second Coming (Greek, Parousia—that is, “presence”). These texts use such terminology as: salvation, an end to sin, day of redemption, adoption as sons, crown of glory/righteousness, will be changed/transformed, eternal life/clothed in life, caught up with Christ, sanctuary to be opened. This coming transformation for the first-century Christians would happen in conjunction with the culmination of the last-days’ events in AD70. Its imminence is confirmed by over 100 passages in the New Testament. It would happen while many of them were still alive—in their literal generation.
The “already, but not yet” is particularly evident in the book of Hebrews as the writer jumps back and forth between the cross and the soon-expected Parousia to finish the work of salvation. Also, notice how Peter also jumps back and forth between the cross and the Parousia in 1 Peter 1:3-26. It is also noteworthy that the Old Testament writers often did not make a clear distinction between the two comings of Christ in this regard. Examples include: Daniel 9:24-27; Isaiah 9-11; 61:1-2; and Zechariah 12-14. I noticed the same thing as I read the writings of Eusebius, the fourth century AD church historian. These writers saw the two advents as connected in substance with very little separation in the time of their occurrence.
Actually, the Bible speaks of three elements of the timing of our salvation: (1) at the cross, (2) at the point of our belief, and (3) at the Parousia. This is acknowledged even by futurists, but they miss the timing of the Parousia. This is a gross error, given that Jesus himself, as well as every New Testament writer, affirmed that the timing of the Parousia would be in the generation of those living in the first century!
What are the possibilities for the meaning of the above passages about salvation at the Parousia? There are several possibilities.
- One possibility is that these passages refer to physical salvation from the Great Tribulation. Some have proposed that a literal rapture took the first-century Christians bodily to heaven at the Parousia and thus “saved” them. However, this literal rapture view creates many more problems than it solves. For example, Jesus’ instructions to flee to the mountains to avoid the tribulation (Luke 21:21) would make no sense if the real plan was to rapture them off the planet. Daniel E. Harden, in his highly recommended book Gathered Into the Kingdom, effectively eliminated the literal rapture view as a serious possibility. Salvation in the Old Testament is indeed sometimes about physical salvation from calamity or restoration from the Exile, but in the New Testament we find that salvation is about spiritual salvation/justification/redemption.
- There is another possible version of the physical salvation idea that could be referred to in these passages. This is that the first-century Christians would be freed from persecution by the Jews and Romans as a result of the Jewish-Roman War that culminated in AD 70. The idea here is that the war decimated the Jewish persecutors and distracted the Romans from further persecution of the saints. This idea is possibly supported by 2 Thessalonians 1:7 where Paul promises “relief” at the Parousia for those who were being afflicted at the time. While this may have been part of what is referred to in the passages listed, it does not address the depth of their meaning: crown of glory/righteousness, changed/transformed, etc.
- Perhaps the meaning is that the Christians would be freed from bondage to Jerusalem or the Old Covenant law, advancing the universality of Christianity. But again, while there may an aspect of this in these passages, this idea does not do the passages justice.
- Still another possibility is that these passages mean, in some sense, vindication. This idea is supported by 2 Thessalonians 1:6 in which Paul promises God will “repay with affliction those who afflict you.” There is definitely an element of vindication in what happened in AD 70. But this vindication was more for the deceased, rather than the living, as explained in such passages as Matthew 23:34-36 and Revelation 6:9-10.
- The best fit for the passages in question is the obvious one. The process of salvation—in terms of justification before God, forgiveness of sins, and freedom from God’s wrath after death (Romans 5:9; Hebrews 9:27)―in preparation for eternal life in heaven—was completed in AD 70. There are multiple reasons to believe this. First note that, while there are nuances of meaning, the terms redemption and salvation are, in essence, synonyms (or at least very closely linked) as they are used together in such passages as Ephesians 1:7 and Titus 2:11-14. In Luke 21:28 and Titus 2:13-14, redemption is tied (at least in part) to the Parousia. And salvation is tied to the Parousia in Hebrews 9:28 and 1 Peter 1:3-21, where Peter uses the terminology “salvation of souls.”
Then, other passages define the terms redemption and salvation as forgiveness of sins (Psalm 130:7-8; Isaiah 43:1, 25; Matthew 1:21; Luke 1:77; Romans 3:24-25; 11:26-27; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14). Redemption, as defined by Easton’s Biblical Dictionary, is “the purchase back of something that had been lost, by the paying of a ransom.” This is precisely how Christians understand “salvation”―having regained lost standing with God. Still further, other passages are clearly speaking of salvation in the obvious Christian sense of reconciliation to God, including Acts 16:17, 30, 31. Taking all of the passages listed above together leaves little room for doubt that this last alternative is the best fit.
Those who are waiting for a future Second Coming, though they may be imbued with a firm assurance that God is not slack concerning his promises, must nonetheless accept that Christ’s work toward their salvation is not yet complete! Only with the understanding that Christ came in finality in AD 70 can we be biblically assured that his work of salvation IS COMPLETE for all believers in history. We now only await the faith of each individual. This is glorious good news for Christians—a source and confirmation of our HOPE.
We can call this the COMPLETED REDEMPTION. So, while our salvation was guaranteed at the cross, it was completed at the Second Coming. An analogy might be a dying patient receiving a life-saving injection. The injection from the needle guarantees that the patient is spared (the cross), but it takes a little while for the medicine to work inside the body to kill the infection (the Parousia and Great Judgment). Christ’s work of redemption was completed in AD 70 when He returned in judgment to wash away the visible fabric of the Old Covenant. Futurists, as well as preterists, acknowledge that there are three points to our salvation: the cross, our point of belief, and the Parousia.
At the Parousia, the old pre-Christ world of shadows and prophecies, the things which were “imperfect” and “in part” (Daniel 9:24-27; 1 Corinthians 13:8-12; Hebrews 7:18-19; 9:9; 10:1-4; etc.) were brought to completion. Unlike the futurist paradigm in which the Christian age is but a comma, Covenant Eschatology (“preterism”) confirms Christ as completely triumphant—victorious even in the midst of sin.
The passages about imminent salvation, in part, hold a promise specifically for the first-century Christians of being saved in an earthly sense from persecution and tribulation—similar to salvation of the Jews from specific instances of worldly bondage in the Old Testament (such as their escape from Egypt or redemption from oppression, hardship, or slavery—per Exodus 14:13; Leviticus 25:48-49; Ruth 2:20; Isaiah 41:14; 56:1). But there is also the definite sense that the Parousia sealed, that is finalized, the personal salvation of every believer.
The salvation from worldly bondage by God in the Old Testament foreshadowed the ultimate salvation from the spiritual bondage of sin, death, and the Law brought by the Messiah (Isaiah 25:8-9; Hosea 13:14; Romans 11:25-27; 1 Corinthians 15:26). This salvation was initiated at the cross, but was not quite finished. The Exodus from Egypt and the forty-year period of wandering in the wilderness, foreshadowed the approximate forty-year transition period of the first century, until full deliverance in AD 70.
This is a remarkable parallel that the reader should not miss. The Hebrew children escaped the worldly bondage of slavery in Egypt at the Exodus, but they did not reach their new home for forty years, after much trial and tribulation. In the first century, believers received their promised escape from spiritual bondage at the cross, but would enter their new spiritual dwelling place—the New Jerusalem/New Heaven and Earth (Revelation 7, 21)—about forty years later!
The Christian’s confidence rests primarily in Christ’s finished work on the cross (John 19:30). But the Bible also teaches that our hope also rests in Christ’s Parousia—his effectual divine presence in AD 70 in fulfillment of all the eschatological promises (Luke 21:22; 32; etc). Christians seem to have inseparably tied their hope to a future Second Coming. For the very earliest Christians, it was rightly described by the New Testament writers as the “blessed hope”: 1 Thessalonians 5:4-8; Titus 2:13; 1 Peter 1:13; 1 John 3:2-3. For us today, that hope has been confirmed.
(Charles Meek is the author of CHRISTIAN HOPE THROUGH FULFILLED PROPHECY: An Exposition of Evangelical Preterism. It is available at Amazon.com)
 The Greek word mello appears in three of these passages. This word means “about to” but the imminence of the word is often left out in some modern Bibles. See an interlinear or literal translation such as Youngs’ Literal Translation for confirmation.
 Here’s what the Reformation Study Bible says about 1 Peter 1:9: “Believers already enjoy certain essential elements of salvation (e.g. peace and fellowship with God), but full possession awaits the return of Christ.
Here’s what The MacArthur Study Bible says about Hebrews 9:28: “On the Day of Atonement, the people eagerly waited for the High-Priest to come back out of the Holy of Holies. When he appeared, they knew that the sacrifice on their behalf had been accepted by God. In the same way, when Christ appears at His Second Coming, it will be confirmation that the Father has been fully satisfied with the Son’s sacrifice on behalf of believers. At that point salvation will be consummated (cf. 1 Peter 1:3-5).”
Here’s what the NIV Study Bible says about Hebrews 9:28: “The consummation, in all its glorious fullness, of the salvation purchased for us on the cross. . . . As the Israelites waited for the high priest while he was in the Most Holy Place on the Day of Atonement (see 2 Timothy 4:8; Titus 2:13).”
And John Gill about Hebrews 9:28; “Final and complete possession of it [salvation] will be hereafter, and into this will Christ put them, when he shall appear.”
And John A. T. Robinson about Hebrews 9:28: “Final and complete salvation for them that wait for him.” (from Bible Study Tools online)
And from Wesley’s Explanatory Notes about Hebrews 9:28: “When he comes to judgment Without sin―Not as he did before, bearing on himself the sins of many, but to bestow everlasting salvation.”
The reader can also do an internet search for “the three tenses/stages/phases of salvation.”