Our Heavenly Citizenship

For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Philippians 3:20

In this chapter Paul speaks of himself. He tells why he might have reason to boast in the flesh (vv. 5-6). He then says that all these things he counted loss for Christ (vv. 7-8). Paul's righteousness is of God by faith (v. 9). Thus, he presses toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (v. 14). 

We are to be followers of Paul's example (v. 17) in opposition to those who do not do this. They are the enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruc-tion, who mind earthly things. Our text begins with the word "for," which refers back to verse 17, where Paul gives the reason that we are to follow his example and make this confession: "for our conversation is heavenly." 

Heaven is pictured as a commonwealth. The word rendered "conversation" is not really correct. It should be "commonwealth" or "citizenship." This common-wealth is not earthly, a separate entity from heaven. No, it is in heaven. 

An explanation of this commonwealth is in order. First of all, it is an ordered kingdom, where God dwells and rules. It is an absolute monarchy in which Christ rules as God's vice-regent and the elect are citizens. Secondly, it is a spiritual kingdom. Heaven is completely different from anything we can know or experience on earth. We cannot enter heaven with our earthly bodies. It is not physical, but completely otherworldly. Thirdly, it is perfect, because God dwells there. There is no more sin, only righteousness. There is no more trouble and suffering, only blessedness and happiness. Because it is perfect, it is the object of our hope of final glorification. 

In this commonwealth or kingdom we have our citizenship. This implies three things. First, it implies the right to citizenship. On earth one must legally have the right to be a citizen of a certain country. So it is with heavenly citizenship; we must legally be a member of the heavenly kingdom. Secondly, there are duties of citizenship. Here that usually means the duty to serve in military service. In heaven we must live according to its laws in service to God. Citizenship also implies, thirdly, privileges. Here one is entitled to such privileges as police and fire protection. In heaven all of its citizens are entitled to and do receive all the blessings of salvation in Christ fully. 

That our citizenship is heavenly implies that we are not citizens of this earth, which in turn means that we are not friends of this world. We have no fellowship with the enemies of the cross of Christ, whose God is their belly, whose glory is in their shame, whose end will be destruction. We do not strike our roots deeply into this earthly life. Thus, we do not store up earthly treasure, nor set our affections on things below. Nor do we live as though this earthly life is the only life there is. Rather, we live as strangers and pilgrims on the earth. We live as temporary inhabitants of this earth. We, with the heroes of faith of Hebrews 11, confess that we are strangers and pilgrims on the earth. We, with Abraham, look for a city that hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. We seek the things above, where Christ sits at the right hand of God. 

To be such a citizen is impossible of ourselves. Paul says our citizenship is in heaven. He does not say, "It will be," or, "It is possible." The question, then, is "How is this possible?" By nature we do not have the right to be heavenly citizens, for we by nature are sinners, fallen in Adam. When we fell, we forfeited any right to a heavenly citizenship and we became by nature citizens of hell. Satan was our master and we were legally his. By nature we did not fulfill the duties of heavenly citizens, for we did not have the ability to love God as we should, nor did we have the desire to do this. By nature we did not enjoy the privileges of heavenly citizens. We did not have the right to the blessings of salvation, nor did we want these blessings. In short, we were what Paul terms enemies of the cross of Christ. We wanted nothing to do with a heavenly citizenship. We had our fellowship with those whose God is their belly, whose glory is in their shame, whose end is destruction. 

The reality and possibility of our heavenly citizenship is through the Savior. We are saved by Christ. He is called here by four different names, each one describing a different aspect of His work. 

He is Savior, who delivers us from sin, both original and actual, particularly from the situation described in verses 19 and 21. He is Jesus, which name means "Jehovah Salvation," for He is the revelation of Jehovah reaching down with His mighty arm to save us. He is Christ, the Anointed One, for He was ordained from eternity to save us. He, therefore, has the authority to save us. He is qualified to save us through His assumption of the human nature and through His reception of the Spirit without measure. He is Lord, ruler and master of His people according to His human nature, which was exalted and is in heaven. As Lord He has the authority, power, and ability to rule us. 

The ground of our citizenship is, then, to be found only in Him. He took away Satan's power over us. He gives us the legal right to be heavenly citizens. He gives us the power to walk as heavenly citizens. And He blesses us as heavenly citizens. 

Our citizenship is realized only in principle now. Objectively, it is an accomplished fact, accomplished through Christ's death and sealed in His resurrection and ascension. But we are still on earth. We are not yet glorified, but still carnal. 

The full realization of our heavenly citizenship is still coming. It comes partially through our death, for through death we enter paradise, where we will enjoy life eternal. Finally it comes in the day of Christ. This will be at the end of time and after the final judgment, when the wicked will be cast into hell and the elect taken into glory. There will be the new creation in which righteousness shall dwell. In heaven God is King, with Christ as His vice-regent. We are the citizens. 

For this we are called to hope. We await eagerly Christ's coming, at which time we will be delivered from the world of sin and receive final glorification. We await patiently Christ's coming. Presently we bear the infirmities of this world while expecting a perfect life in Christ. We await diligently Christ's coming, thus living out of His Word and working for the realization of His kingdom. 

We, therefore, live a life of hope, showing by word and deed that our citizenship is not here below. It is from heaven, from whence we expect the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, and who is the hope of our heavenly citizenship. Live, therefore, in the hope of that day.

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