Although verse 30 says that “the Lord saved Israel that day”, Israel’s salvation was not attained in one day. It was, however, culminated on that day when they crossed the Sea. It was a few days’ journey from Succoth to Etham (13:20), then to the place by the sea (14:2). All that time, I’m sure there was a mixture of relief and doubt in their hearts.
Likewise, our salvation was not a one-day affair. For many, saying the Sinner’s Prayer marked the first encounter with God, when we got to know His name. We did not yet have faith in Him, but we liked what we hear about Him. But we followed Him anyways, because He said to us, “Come and see” (John 1:39, 46).
In short, I am inclined to think of salvation as ‘progressive’ rather than ‘instantaneous’. By ‘instantaneous’ I mean that someone is pronounced ‘saved’ as soon as he prays the Sinner’s Prayer. Salvation is progressive because it happened, is still happening and will one day happen. Let me explain.
Salvation happened in eternity past when Christ became “the lamb that was slain from before the foundation of the world” (Rev 13:8) according to the divine plan of God. From eternity past, God also foreknew us. And those whom He foreknew, He also predestined and called (Rom 8:29-30). Jesus said that no one can come to Him unless the Father draws him (John 6:44). Some time during our lifetime, the gospel was presented to us in one form or another. By the “sanctifying work of the [Holy] Spirit”, we were able to have faith in Christ and obey Him (1 Pet 1:2 and 2 Thes 2:13). This faith gains for us forgiveness of our sins and deliverance from the penalty of sin (Rom 6:23).
It is still happening
Theopedia.com calls this phase of salvation Progressive Salvation. “Progressive Salvation refers to the journey of a believer between conversion and death. It is the only path that leads to eternal life (Romans 6:20-23), and is walked by faith alone, in the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8, Galatians 3:2-5). It contains bumps and struggles and setbacks, but is marked by growth in love for others and for God. It involves a fight of faith, a striving for peace and holiness (Hebrews 12:14, 1 John 1:9), and a reoccurring approach of the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16). “[O]ur Lord Jesus Christ… will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:7-9)”
While our initial faith delivers us from the penalty of sin, our continued faith delivers us from the power of sin – to live holy lives.
It will one day happen
This is the future tense of salvation which refers to the future deliverance all believers in Christ will experience through a glorified resurrected body. This calls for enduring faith. “Those who endure to the end will be saved” (Matt 24:13). Not only will those who endure be delivered from the penalty and power of sin, they will be delivered from the presence of sin as well.
Through this final salvation, believers will be saved from hell itself at the Final Judgment, the great divide between sheep and goats.