By Dennis Huebshman
Many years ago, a couple that had spent a lot of years overseas in the missionary field, retired and were on a ship that pulled into the New York Harbor. They saw a fairly large crowd on the pier along with a band. All passengers were made to wait before going ashore, until a famous person and his family had left the ship. The couple watched as the crowd cheered, and the band played uplifting music. After about 30 minutes, the group left the pier, and the couple was allowed to go ashore. When they reached the dock. The wife said that it was disappointing that after all they had been through there was no one to greet them. The husband took her hand and told her, “We’re not home yet, and when we do get there, our Savior Himself will greet us.”
After seeing this story back then, I recall having an image in my mind of angels all around, and coming toward me was the Savior of the World to greet me. That’s as far as I could get, as I could not even begin to imagine such a wonderful moment just for me, and knowing I was so unworthy.
In Acts 6:8 – 7:60, we have the account given about Stephen’s testimony, trial and martyrdom. Stephen was one of seven men that was appointed as a Deacon to assist the apostles by taking on some of their workload. (note, all emphasis is mine)
Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, was able to perform “great wonders” and “miraculous signs” among the people. Needless to say, some of the “religious” people of the Synagogue got jealous, and false charges were made against him. He was taken before the council to answer for those so-called crimes.
When asked to explain what he was being accused of, Stephen gave an account of God’s dealings with His people, all the way from Abraham to their present time. In Acts 7:53, he said, “You received the law by decree, but you did not obey it.” In verse 56, he said, “Look. I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of the Father.” More on this later.
The council could not tolerate any more from him, and Stephen was taken outside the city and stoned. With his last breath in verse 60, he asked God to forgive those who were killing him, much like Jesus did when He was crucified.
There is an account of Jesus in Luke 4:17-21, where He read from the scroll of Isaiah (Isaiah 61:1-2), and when He finished reading, He rolled up the scroll and sat down. This was a sign to all there that He was declaring Himself as a teacher. When a teacher read from the scrolls, he would stand until finished, and then sit down to explain what was just read. When Jesus sat down, He told them that the scroll He had just read from was completed in their presence. He was declaring Himself the Messiah, but they were blind to the truth.
Getting back to Stephen, there are numerous verses that tell of Jesus being seated at the right hand of the Father. His right to do so was established on the cross when the Savior proclaimed, “It is Finished!” (John 19:30) He had fulfilled the requirement of the sacrifice necessary to cover the sins of the world for all time. After His resurrection and subsequent rapture (Acts 1:9), Jesus was seated at the right hand of the Father. (Matthew 26:64; Mark 16:19; Luke 22:69; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 8:1 and Hebrews 12:2 to name a few.)
When Stephen stated He saw the Son of Man standing at the right hand of the Father, I believe Matthew 10:32 came into play. “Whoever then acknowledges Me before others, I will acknowledge them before My Father in Heaven.” Jesus stood up to proclaim Stephen was His, and was standing to receive His first martyr under the covenant of the cross. There could be no greater “Welcome Home” than this.
Not everyone was destined to be missionaries around the globe, and I believe those who proclaimed the true Word of the Lord will receive, or have received, a very special “Welcome Home” from our Savior just as Stephen did.
For all believers who have been martyred for the Lord from the beginning through today, and those yet to be martyred before the return of our Savior to rule in the Millennium, there is such a welcome waiting for them. No matter what we have this side of heaven, it cannot begin to compare to our real home waiting for us.
Paul said in Philippians 1:22-23, “Now if I am to go on living in the body, this will mean productive work for me; yet I don’t know which I prefer; (23) I feel torn between the two because I have a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.”
By his example, Paul was telling us to continue our service for the Lord, no matter what that service may be, until our time here is done. Nothing done for the Lord returns without some effect. Anything we do to honor Jesus, God will use it in some positive way, even if we don’t see it. I am not saying we need to do “works” to gain favor or rewards. If we love our Savior, whatever we do for Him is to honor Him, and not bring praise and accolades on us. That would be a selfish motive.
As long as we follow the Lord’s commands to Love God – Love Each Other (Matthew 22:37-40), we will be in His will. For those who twist the word of the Lord for personal gain or other agendas, they will not really like the “welcome” at the Great White Throne that waits for them.
The absolute most wonderful welcome we have that is yet to take place, is when our Savior comes to take His church – All Believers – to our new home. It will be a split-second event as told in 1 Corinthians 15:52, and we will be as a bride being carried off by the Bridegroom. From that point on, we will have our forever bodies that will not know pain, suffering, aging or disease of any kind.
The price we pay for this is to accept that our Savior paid with His precious blood at Calvary. This is difficult for some to believe as many people believe they have to do something to earn their place in Heaven. If that were true, His sacrifice would not have been complete or sufficient.
As always, words from our Father as to what is required. “All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Acts 2:21 and Romans 10:13) When you call on Jesus, Romans 10:9 says, “because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” There are many people around the world who don’t believe in Jesus, and they are lost. There’s nothing they can do on their own for their Salvation as John 14:6 plainly states that Jesus is the only way to the Father. The only way they can come to the Father is to accept His Son before they pass away.
Once we have accepted Jesus, we are “baptized” with the Holy Spirit, who Jesus sends to live within us. (Acts 1:5 and John 16:7-15) For those who believe in Jesus and ask for forgiveness and to save us, we now belong to Him, and are Rapture Ready. John 10:27-30, “My sheep listen to My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. (28) I give them eternal life, and they will never perish; no one will snatch them from My hand. (29) My Father, who has given them to Me is greater than all, and no one can snatch them from My Father’s hand. (30) The Father and I are One.
One point, Jesus was the only person to have lived a perfect, sinless life. We are all sinners because of the fall in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 1:3), and we will still slip and sin. When we do, we have 1 John 1:8-10 as a guide to ask for forgiveness. After we are changed at the Rapture, we will no longer have this nature, and we will be like Him.
No matter what “treasures” you may believe you have on this earth, they are temporary, and when you leave here they will still be here. When we receive our “Welcome Home”, we will have a treasure that will last all through eternity – a home with our Precious Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ!
Amen! Come Lord Jesus!