Are We There Yet?
Nearly every summer, my parents loaded my siblings and me into the family car and embarked on that common vacation ritual known as “the road trip.” Years later, as the father to my own young children, I have a sense of what my parents experienced on those trips. I now often hear the question from the backseat that must have rung in my father’s ears as he drove us down the highway: “Are we there yet?” The answer, of course, is found in the asking. Yet my wife or I still reply from the front seat, “No, we are not there yet—we’ll let you know when we are.”
Unlike children’s recurring query on family road trips, the same question is one that every child of God ought to ask regarding his or her Christian life, a life that the Bible depicts as progressing toward a definite goal. For example, Scripture compares the Christian life to a race we must finish (1 Cor. 9:24; see 2 Tim. 4:7) and to a pilgrimage we must make toward the “city that is to come” (Heb. 13:14). Christians are called to take up their cross and “follow” after Christ (Matt. 16:24; Mark 8:34), to “walk” in fellowship with Him (Eph. 2:10), and to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14).
In light of that biblical guidance, the question of whether Christians living today are “there yet” seems easy to answer. We are still running, walking, pressing on, and, as we do so, we face all manner of trials and sinful inclinations. We see, and to some extent experience, decay—both physical and moral—in this fallen world. Energy yields to enervation in our bodies as the years roll by. One imagines that if these stark realities could speak, they would shout back at our inquiring hearts, “No, you are not there yet—you’ll know when you are.” And yet, the Bible tells us that there is more to the story.
In mind-boggling and mysterious fashion, even as it portrays the Christian life as one that is on the move, Scripture declares that the supernatural power of our heavenly goal has broken into this fallen world through the person and work of Jesus Christ. In His opening sermon, He proclaimed that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17), and He verified the arrival of that kingdom by healing the sick and casting out demons (Matt. 12:28; Luke 9:11). Older saints who were “waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38) understood, as Jesus declared, that His arrival fulfilled centuries of Old Testament expectations (see Luke 4:21; 24:25–27). The healing events and the displays of His power over Satan’s minions culminated in His definitive triumph over sin and death through His own death and resurrection (John 12:31–33; Heb. 2:14–15). Even now, the preaching of the gospel testifies that God’s kingdom is here now and that any human being without exception may receive it by faith (Luke 16:16; see 18:17). This is why the author of Hebrews describes those who profess faith in Christ as having “tasted … the powers of the age to come” (Heb. 6:5). From that angle, as to their salvation, Christians have already arrived at their destination.
At the same time, Scripture teaches that the kingdom of heaven has not yet fully and finally arrived. The ultimate fulfillment of God’s saving purposes remains future. God still calls His church to “wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1:10). For this reason, even as believers still face unanticipated obstacles, blind corners, and opposing forces in their pilgrimage through this world, they are to seek the kingdom above everything (Matt. 6:33) and to continue to pray for its full arrival on the earth (v. 10). To sum up, the promised kingdom of God has already dawned in Jesus Christ, and yet believers must await its ultimate revelation on the earth when Christ returns.
These biblical realities yield a more nuanced answer to the question “Are we there yet?” than that given to my children’s inquiry in the car. When sinners believe on Christ, the answer in a real sense is “Yes!” They are immediately united to Christ and, in Him, enjoy access to their future destination. The author of Hebrews announces that through faith in Christ believers have come “to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering” (Heb. 12:22). Similarly, Paul says that Christians are so joined to Christ that, in Him, they are already seated with Him in the heavenly places (Eph. 2:6). And yet the answer to the question of whether we have arrived is also “No!” We are still waiting, still seeking, still walking by faith and not (yet) by sight (see 2 Cor. 5:7). The more complete answer to our question about Christians’ arriving is, therefore, “Yes and no!” That said, this paradoxical answer harbors a unified, glorious truth: it is because Christians have already come to Christ by faith that they can and should race toward the future with unbounded zeal. It is because they are already citizens of heaven that they can boldly await the return of their Savior to the earth (Phil. 3:20).
So, dear believer in Christ, whatever lies ahead, turn your eyes to Jesus and run with endurance the race that is set before you (Heb. 12:1). But do it knowing that you are counted among those “on whom the end of the ages has come” (1 Cor. 10:11). For Christ has brought the “end of the ages” to you, and soon He will come again for all who are eagerly waiting for him (Heb. 9:28).