In Philippians 3:20-21, when Paul thinks about citizenship, his mind naturally moves to think about the throne of heaven where Jesus sits. And when Paul thinks about Jesus enthroned in heaven, he naturally begins to think about the Spirit of power poured out for our transformation.
Paul’s language is drawn from the culture from which the Philippian Christians had come out of. In 43BC, Caesar Augustus invaded Philippi and made it a colony of the Roman Empire. The veteran soldiers were to remain in Philippi and establish a Roman colony by enforcing Roman laws and culture. This new Roman colony was to extend the Empire and transform it to reflect the glory of Rome. In this way, Rome conquered the world.
This background helps us to think about what Paul meant when he said that our citizenship was in heaven. When Jesus ascended into Heaven He established a New Heaven and Earth with a New Capital City – The Heavenly Jerusalem. We look toward heaven because that’s where Jesus went, which means that Heaven is the place that Jesus is going to come from when He returns to earth. The great comfort for these Phillipians is not that they are going “there”, but that He is coming “here”.
Paul tells us in Galatians that the Jerusalem above is our Mother. And as citizens of heaven, we are outposts of the Mother Country. On this take, to extend Paul’s analogy, just as Rome was populating Philippi, The New Jerusalem is filling earth with it’s citizens. As citizens of heaven, all of life is to be lived out in accordance with the laws, customs and culture of that New Community. And therefore, in a world where Christ currently rules and reigns in the midst of His enemies, we have Paul’s exhortation to stand firm and imitate the pattern of life that we see in Him.
For Paul – and for us, all of life is to be governed by our citizenship to a Heavenly Kingdom ruled by an eternal and exalted King. This means we have a great deal of thinking to do. We live – by the bibles standards – in the dark ages and the practical application of our citizenship to everyday life is foreign to us.
We have some grasp of where Jesus fits into our religious life, but little if any understanding of what connection our citizenship in Heaven has with our eating and drinking. For Paul, it wasn’t about how you lived your “religious life”, but how you lived, “life”. In order for the proclamation that “Jesus is Lord over all” to be more than lip service, we need to go back to the Law and to the testimony and labour long and hard to comprehend and apply to every sphere of life the totality of His reign.
Lessons For little Saints…
- Where did Jesus go when He left earth?
- What City do we now belong to?
- What were the Philippians looking forward to?
- Where will we find our guide on how to live as citizens of heaven?