June 25, 2024

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June 25, 2024

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Our Heavenly Citizenship Signifies That Our First Allegiance Belongs To Jesus

Jonathan Brentner

In grade school, I remember daily reciting the pledge of allegiance to the American flag. During my time at John Brown University in the early 1970’s, patriotism was a quality that the leaders of the college promoted. There was a sense of pride in being an American.

We live in a much different world today. Those who lead the U.S. disparage loyalty to the flag  and regard those who seek to put America first as fascists.

My intent here, however, is not to write about what’s happening in the U.S., but rather explore the many benefits of a different citizenship.

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In Philippians 3:20, Paul wrote, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” The word for “citizenship” is politeuma; it also denotes community; our word “politics” derives from it. According to author John Walvoord, the word assures the Christian “that in contrast to those just denounced, his real home is in heaven and that he is only temporarily related to this world, its governments, and its problems.

The residents of first century AD Philippi understood the value and meaning of citizenship. As a Roman colony, they enjoyed many of its privileges. They understood what it meant to display loyalty to a faraway city.

The words of Philippians 3:20 would have captured the attention of Paul’s readers and brought them considerable encouragement. They can the same for us because our heavenly citizenship:

SIGNIFIES LIVING FOR ETERNITY VERSUS THE THINGS OF THIS WORLD

Just before reminding the Philippians of their heavenly citizenship, the apostle warns them of those who live for the things of this world.  In verses 17-19 he wrote:

‭‭Philippians‬ ‭3:17-19‬ ‭KJV‬‬ – “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)”

Paul had just finished telling them of his forward look to “the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (3:14). I believe that what Paul specifies as the “prize of the upward call” is Jesus’ appearing. That’s the time the Lord catches us up to meet Him “in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

The apostle desired for his readers, and us, to copy his passion for the things above rather than those solely focused on satisfying earthly desires.

Our heavenly citizenship signifies that our first allegiance belongs to Jesus and that we live for Him rather than put all our efforts into obtaining what the world offers.

LEADS TO AN EAGER ANTICIPATION OF JESUS’ APPEARING

Heavenly citizenship doesn’t lead to vague understanding of eternity, but to an eager anticipation of Jesus’ appearing. In Philippians 3:20, the Greek word for “await” points to an “intense anticipation” or an “excited expectation” of a future event.

Luke used this same Greek word for “await” in Acts 17:16 to describe Paul’s restless “waiting” in Athens for Silas and Timothy to rejoin him. After the apostle’s distressing experiences in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea, we know he intently watched and greatly longed for a reunion with his fellow laborers.

Since we are citizens of Heaven, it’s only natural that we would long for Jesus to come and take us there.

During my time as a Financial Analyst, I traveled to Washington, DC, many times on business. During the evening hours, I loved exploring the landmarks of the city. I always looked forward to my trips to the capital city of my country.

Does that not illustrate how we should feel in anticipation of going to the glorious city above that we call Heaven? It’s where Jesus is preparing a special place, a home, for all those who know Him as their Savior (John 14:1-3).

Paul combined the excitement of longing for Jesus’ appearing to take us home with the fact of our heavenly citizenship. Fascination with our future residence naturally causes one to yearn for the time when Jesus will take us there.

CONFIRMS OUR HOPE OF RECEIVING GLORIFIED BODIES

Not only does it facilitate our hopeful anticipation of the Rapture, but our heavenly citizenship confirms our hope of receiving imperishable bodies. We see this connection in Philippians 3:21 where Paul reveals an all-important aspect of what Jesus will do at His appearing:

Philippians‬ ‭3:21‬ ‭KJV‬‬ – “who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.”

This is our “blessed hope;” it’s an essential aspect of the Gospel. In 1 Corinthians 15:50-53, Paul explains why our receipt of glorified bodies must happen at the time of the Rapture:

1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:50-53‬ ‭KJV‬‬ – “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”

As New Testament saints, we already belong to God’s kingdom (Colossians 1:13-14). However, as the apostle explains above, to fully inherit His kingdom and reign with Him in the Millennium, He must give us immortal and glorified bodies. In 1 Corinthians 15:47-49, Paul writes about bearing “the image of the man from heaven.” In the verses that follow, he explains how that happens.

Being citizens of Heaven confirms our anticipation of the day when Jesus will “will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body.” Philippians 3:20-21 and 1 Corinthians 15:50-53 are among the most comforting passages in the Bible. When the Rapture occurs, the Lord will give us bodies like His and we will live forever never again to experience sickness, weaknesses, pain, suffering, the effects of aging, or death.

This is the “blessed hope” embedded in the Gospel message. It’s what it means to be citizens of Heaven. I am more than a little weary of hearing the saving message of the cross explained with not one mention of eternal life or Heaven. What good is forgiveness of sins if it only applies to this life? The popular seeker-friendly version of Christianity ignores everything about our heavenly citizenship and errantly exalts the church as God’s kingdom on earth.

HELPS US TO STAND FIRM IN PERILOUS TIMES

A most unfortunate chapter break occurs after Philippians 3:21. I believe Paul is still talking about the Rapture of the church when he writes these words in 4:1:

Philippians‬ ‭4:1‬ ‭KJV‬‬ – “Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.”

You see, there’s a strong connection between that of our heavenly citizenship, along with our hope in Jesus’ appearing that it engenders, and our firm stand during perilous times.

As New Testament saints, we live at a time when we need so much more than a fleeting or vague mention of eternal life. The hostility toward us is increasing at an alarming rate and will only get worse.

When I studied prophecy in the early 1970’s, it seemed to me that society, at least in the U.S., needed to significantly change for people to accept the murder of believers and Jews, which the Bible says will happen during the seven-year Tribulation. However, the day I wondered about fifty years ago has arrived; we are at that place even in America.

Celebrities openly compare Christians to those that mass murder women and children, and no one in the mainstream media objects. I have heard transgenders say that all those opposed to their lifestyle, aka believers in God’s Word, should be killed and I hear no strong rebuttals. The growing number of mass shootings reveals that many have no reservations about taking the lives of innocent people.

I couldn’t cope with what I see happening around the world apart from the assurances of Scripture revealed through biblical prophecy. The extreme wickedness, lawlessness, violence, and deception in our world are all things the Bible said would happen in the last days. However, God’s Word also assures us that the Lord will deal with all these things after He takes us safely to His Father’s House in Heaven.

Knowing that I’m already a citizen of Heaven brings sanity to my days as I wait for what I don’t see, Jesus’ appearing to take me home. There’s such unspeakable comfort and encouragement in knowing that this world is not my home; I belong to another realm. God’s kingdom is coming to the earth and when that happens, we will reign with Jesus with immortal and glorified bodies.

With such a hope, how can we not eagerly long for Jesus’ appearing? I know many feel distress because of the long wait, but please know that it’s surely coming. The Rapture will happen; don’t lose heart.

Pastors who refuse to preach about biblical prophecy, and/or deny biblical teaching regarding the Rapture, perform a great disservice to those whom the Lord has placed under their care. They deny them a great source of encouragement that comes with understanding our heavenly citizenship.

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