Welcome home

“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel” (Hebrews 12:22-24 NKJV).

The U.S. Immigration Service has made a recent change which I like very much. On at least some flights into the U.S. from Asia (and maybe other continents as well) one now clears customs and immigration at the port of departure rather than upon arrival in the U.S.

When I cleared that process in Doha, Qatar on a recent flight, the U.S. immigration officer who stamped my papers looked up and smiled at me and said, “Welcome home.” I must say that was a surprisingly good feeling. Though I was still facing a 15 hour flight, for legal purposes I was already on home soil. It felt really good.

The question of exactly when one may claim to be saved is a difficult one. Certainly, when we turn to Jesus in faith and obedience we receive forgiveness from sin and the assurance of salvation (Romans 10:13; Acts 2:38). Yet, as long as we are on this earth there is the possibility of sin (Galatians 6:1; 1 Corinthians 9:27).

The Hebrew writer repeatedly warned about the danger of neglecting one’s salvation (Hebrews 2:3), falling away (Hebrews 6:6), sinning willfully (Hebrews 10:26), and falling short of the grace of God (Hebrews 12:15). All of these warnings are addressed to those who have been enlightened, tasted the heavenly gift, become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come (Hebrews 6:4-5). That is, these dangers are faced by those who are truly Christian.

Given that eternal salvation is promised to “those who overcome” (Revelation 21:7, but see the letters to the seven churches in chapters 2 and 3), it is clear that in one sense salvation is achieved permanently and fully at the final resurrection and judgment (Revelation 20:11-14). It is then the righteous will hear, “Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).

Yet the assurance of salvation may be perceived and enjoyed even in this life. John wrote, so that “you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). The Hebrew letter proclaims, “We are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken” (Hebrews 12:28). Paul affirms that we have already been “conveyed . . . into the kingdom of the Son of his love” (Colossians 1:13).

Just as one who has cleared the process of immigration is welcomed home, though he is thousands of miles away, so those who are cleansed by the blood of Christ are already saved, and already enjoying the blessings of eternal life, though not yet actually in the physical presence of God (see Revelation 21:3-4; 22:3-4).

Yes, they may later deny their faith and reject their inheritance, but unless and until they do, they dwell in God’s spiritual presence and receive his blessings. They are already at home.

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