“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
This verse is a contrast to those whose “end is destruction” (v. 19). The Christian has hope.
Hope is an encouraging word. Christians have a bright future, no matter what misfortune they face in this life. The appropriation of hope brings blessing into the soul. Those who have little consciousness of hope diminish their souls.
“For our citizenship is in heaven”
Canada permits citizenship in two countries simultaneously. The Christian has dual citizenship as well. The seat of a Christian’s citizenship is in heaven. The Christian has citizenship both here and there.
Philippi was a Roman colony. At strategic military zones throughout the world, Rome set up colonies. Rome did not settle these colonies in remote areas of the world but strategic territories. Rome placed them at the major highways, crucial mountain passes where armies might march. Their citizens were mostly soldiers. If they served in the colony for 21 years, they received their Roman citizenship.
A significant distinction of these Roman colonies was that they remained part of Rome. They sported Roman dress, whether they lived in Greece or Israel. Roman justice and morals were executed. Roman governors ruled these cities. They spoke Latin. They never forgot they were citizens of Rome. They remained unalterably and permanently Roman even to the ends of the earth.
Many in the church were Roman citizens. They lived in Greece, but their citizenship was in Rome. They immediately understood Paul’s analogy. They had citizenship on earth, but they had another in heaven. They were never to forget they were citizens of heaven. Their conduct was to match their citizenship. Wherever a Christian is, he must always remember he represents his citizenship in heaven.
God has colonies scattered all over the world. They are patches of heaven on earth. They live under the principles and ideals of heaven. Our interests are heaven. Speaking of Abraham, the author of Hebrews, said:
“For he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” (Heb. 11:10)
We perform an important function on earth while we are here. God has placed us on earth to glorify Him here in time. We should vote and pay our taxes. We should become involved in the affairs of time. However, we should not allow our citizenship here to put our citizenship there in the shade. There is a delicate balance between these two citizenships. Some people are so heavenly minded they are no earthly good. On the other hand, we do not restrict citizenship functions to time.
The phrase “our citizenship is in heaven” contrasts to “mind earthly things” (v. 19). This contrasts some Christians with others who make a god out of self-indulgence (“belly”). One day we will go home. To anticipate heaven from our “colony” here on earth focuses on our fully restored fellowship with God. To become exclusively involved in the colony of earth deprives the believer of his hope. If we only champion the causes of time, we lose sight of home. If we lose sight of the eternal perspective, we no longer represent our citizenship. We polish the brass rail of a sinking ship. If we restrict ourselves to the interests of time to make ourselves more comfortable, we prostitute our purpose as colony dwellers. Our purpose is to represent eternity in time.
Hope is indeed a word of encouragement.
We are a colony of heaven on earth. We represent heaven on earth. We ought to have a great interest in heaven because Jesus is there. “Where Jesus is, ’tis heaven there.” The moment we received Jesus Christ as our personal Savior, we took out citizenship papers. We were not natural-born citizens of heaven. We must be born into that citizenship. We are born into our native country. When we are born again, we are born into heavenly citizenship.
As citizens of heaven, we represent more than those who are citizens of heaven after death. We are to live as citizens of heaven now in time on earth. Heaven is a reality in time among the citizens of heaven. As a colony of heaven, we represent home to aliens all about us. We are in the world but not of the world. We are in the world but not of its values. We live under the principles of heaven. We are a patch of heaven on earth.