The 8th chapter of Romans is calculated to give hope, comfort, and assurance to the believer. It begins with a declaration that there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus and ends with the ringing assurance that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. In between, we find that we may address God as “Abba, Father,” that our future glory infinitely outweighs our present suffering, and that God causes all things to work together for our good. Moreover, we are assured that God is for us, that having given up His Son to die in our place He will surely give us all things, and that no one can bring a charge against us in His presence.
The apex of Paul’s teaching about the eternal security of God’s elect, however, is found in verses 29–30:
“For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”
This passage of Scripture has been called “the golden chain of salvation.” The chain consists of five links—foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification, and glorification. Although the links of a chain normally would be expressed as nouns, here they are listed as verbs. That is because God is one who acts. He is the one who foreknew His elect, predestined them to be conformed to the image of His Son, called them to trust in Christ, justified them, and glorified them.
Not only is this golden chain forged by God Himself, it is all expressed in the past tense, as an accomplished fact. It is easy for us to understand how God foreknew (that is, set His special love upon) us, predestined us, called us, and justified us. These four links are all in our own personal histories. But what about glorification? That is certainly in the future. Why didn’t Paul write, “… and will one day glorify us”?
It is because He sees this final step in our salvation as so certain that he refers to it as already having happened. It is unthinkable to Paul that God, having chosen His own before the foundation of the world, would stop short of bringing them to final, eternal glory in Christ. Using the past tense to refer to the future is Paul’s way of declaring the certainty of the event. God’s eternal plan for all of His elect will indeed come to pass. You can rest assured that if you have been justified in the past, you certainly will be glorified in the future.
There is, however, a dark side to Romans 8. In two instances, Paul speaks of death; not physical death, which we all will experience, but spiritual death. In verse 6 he writes, “For to be carnally [fleshly] minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” And in verse 13 Paul writes, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”