Several years before the USSR dissolved, beginning in 1989, Kathleen and I traveled to Estonia, then one of the Soviet socialist republics. Landing there, we immediately felt the fear-generating policies of a repressive Communist government.
It was their law that we would be taken from the dock to our hotel by a government-run taxi and would stay in an Intel Soviet-run hotel. We were given no choices and we were expecting this lack of personal freedom.
Upon checking in at the hotel, however, we learned we had to surrender our passports at the front desk for the duration of our stay. That news quickened the pulse a bit. Our little dark blue document said we were Canadians and we knew, if ever needed, we could call upon our government for help. Who would want to give that assurance up?
Passports validate citizenship. Travelling the world can be fun but we all need a specific citizenship as an anchor point. The Apostle Paul uses this civic blessing as an analogy to assure Christians of their anchor point — their home of the soul. To the young church in Philippi he wrote:
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body (Philippians 3:20, 21).
That is, if we have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of our souls and trusted his atoning sacrifice to wash away our sins, we have a citizenship in heaven. We have one foot there now, and certainly that’s where we belong in an ultimate sense.
That’s what Paul means when he says we eagerly await a savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will become like his glorious body.
You will see that this wonderful passage includes allusions to the widely promised second coming of Christ and the resurrection of our bodies, plus the positive results here and now of those coming events. Citizenship in heaven! Incorruptible bodies! The passage is one of the gems of the New Testament.
At the same time we are now in a world that is “fallen.” So in a sense our heavenly citizenship is “not yet” to be claimed. That is, we must continue for now to live where every aspect of human existence is stained with evil that regularly shows its ugly face. It invades our businesses, corrupts our institutions and even shatters family relationships.
The words of Jesus and the epistles of the New Testament speak often of these evils and exhort us to avoid them. For example, Paul wrote to the Ephesian Christians: “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking”.
There are present results to this citizenship in heaven. We listen when the Apostle Paul exhorts: “Avoid every kind of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22). We stand for Christ at each opportunity. We take our citizenship in this life seriously. But all the while we remember that we have a dual citizenship and our everlasting citizenship is in heaven.
Photo credit: Kirstie Warner (via flickr.com)