I was born in New York State, USA. I’m an American citizen… but then again not really. The Apostle Paul, in the course of encouraging his friends in Philippi (ancient Macedonia), wrote this to them:
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:20-21 ESV).
These folks were Roman citizens – able to access all the privileges of the world’s greatest empire, but Paul did not direct them to participate in the privileges of the empire. Their citizenship, like that of all Christians, is in heaven. Our home is with Christ Jesus, our privileges there. We have no abiding claim upon the things of this age; things which are dying and passing away.
Now, we don’t want to split our world into good (heaven)/evil (earth) realms where we are simply hunkering down here in the war zone, waiting for Jesus to return so we can get out of this “awful” place. That would be dualism – Plato’s style of dualism at that – and the Church of Jesus Christ is never to adopt the philosophy of the world.
Instead, the meaning here is that we are not citizens of the system of things as they stand. The American empire is crumbling, and the next one to come will crumble too. These are the kingdoms of men who build upon a foundation of their own idols and Christless dreams. Psalm 2 illustrates the futility of human government and plotting against God, and how they dream of breaking free of His sovereign rule:
1 Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”
4 He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6 “As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.”
In verse 2, that word “his Anointed” in Hebrew is actually “Messiah,” or as it is in Greek, “Christ.” The nations and rulers are hell-bent on dethroning God and His Christ, but look again at God’s response. Laughter. Does it seem like God is worried about conspiracies?
Of course not! Look at verse 6: He has set His King Jesus on the holy hill of Zion. Where is that? New Jerusalem!
So for the Christian, while we are to value God’s world and the people around us – we are to participate in the building of positive culture – at the same time we know that our true redemption is waiting for us in heaven, where righteousness dwells.
Our citizenship is in heaven. Yet don’t get it wrong, heaven is coming to earth (see Revelation 21). The city of New Jerusalem is going to descend to the earth after all of Christ’s enemies have been consigned to the fires of eternal hell, and then heaven and earth will be one. Paradise restored. No sin anywhere (yes!). Christ the Lamb will be the sun; He and His Father will be the brightness of day for eternity, and we His subjects will revel in His glorious presence… on earth!
That… is where our citizenship is. New Jerusalem, new heaven, new earth, eternal, perfect, holy. Hallelujah! I can hardly wait! For now, our job is to make disciples of every nation, baptizing them in the name of God, and bringing them under the teaching and commandment of Jesus Christ. This blog was built to serve these purposes, and to advance the kingdom of Christ, bettering the lot of humanity in the process, helping the earth to be healed. Big God, sovereign power – He will do it!
Grace, mercy, and peace to all those who love the Lord Jesus Christ,