The reminder to each of us as believers in Christ of our heavenly citizenship should encourage us and challenge us daily to walk in such a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ (Philippians 1:27).
Because of our profession of faith in Christ, our conduct should be different than those who do not know God, and our primary focus should be on eternal things rather than worldly or temporal passions.
This wonderful citizenship grants us the promise of eternal life and glorification through faith in Jesus Christ.
In his letter to the saints at Philippi, the Apostle Paul reminds them of this certainty and promise, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).
The second coming of Jesus Christ will result in the glorification of physical bodies for those in Christ Jesus, and it will be by His power (Philippians 3:21).
This declaration of heavenly citizenship created a striking dichotomy between those who are to have an eternal perspective and those who have a worldly perspective.
The context of this passage is important because prior to Paul’s revelation of this truth, he speaks of those who “walk as enemies of the cross.” These individuals were more concerned about temporal matters and personal pleasure than Christ.
Paul said of them, “Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things” (Philippians 3:19).
Paul prefaced this statement by exhorting the Philippian church to imitate him and to follow those who set the same example.
Paul understood what it meant to have his eyes set on eternity and to embrace his citizenship in heaven, and this was his urging to the brothers and sisters at Philippi.
What Defines a Citizen of Heaven?
According to The Complete Word Study Dictionary, the Greek word for citizenship means “to behave as a citizen. Any public measures, administration of the state, and the condition of life of the citizen.
In the New Testament, the state itself, community, commonwealth is used metaphorically of Christians in reference to their spiritual community and their status as citizens of heaven.” Merriam Webster, defines citizen as “an inhabitant of a city or town, especially one entitled to the rights and privileges of a freeman.”
As citizens of heaven, we are free from the wrath of God. We are free from the enslavement of sin. We have a King and a High Priest who intercedes on our behalf and who is our Advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1). We have been clothed in the righteousness of Christ.
Citizens conduct themselves in accordance with the country to which they belong. This identifies one with that particular community. We are called to no less as citizens of heaven. We are to be holy and blameless before God. We are to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22,23). We imitate the nature of Christ.
According to The MacArthur Study Bible notes, “Citizenship refers to a colony of foreigners…we belong to the kingdom under the rule of our heavenly King and obey heaven’s laws.”
When speaking of being citizens of heaven, Gregory Brown said, “People should be able to identify us as citizens of heaven because of the clothes (righteousness, patience, forgiveness, compassion, humility, and love) that we wear, the attitudes we display. Our position in Christ should affect everything.”
Sojourners in a Foreign Land
Being a citizen of heaven leaves us as sojourners in this world. We are temporary residents, awaiting a heavenly city much like those described in the letter to the Hebrews.
Charles Spurgeon said, “If our citizenship be in heaven, then we are aliens here; we are strangers and foreigners, pilgrims and sojourners in the earth, as all our fathers were.”
The Bible speaks of those who believed by faith as this,
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. Instead, they were longing for a better country — a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them (Hebrews 11:13,16).
As sojourners, we realize that this world is not our home. We do not set our hearts on the things of this world nor do we store up treasure where moth and rust can destroy.
We, as citizens of heaven, do what Colossians 3:1-2 tells us to do, “Since then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”
Rather than having an expectation for the things of this world, we have an eager expectation for the return of our Savior.
Now but Not Yet
The promise of our citizenship leaves us in a state of now but not yet. As believers in Christ, we are justified before God. At the same time, we have not yet received our glorified bodies, nor have we realized being seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
Our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, a future promise of our eternal security as citizens in the heavenly city. Romans 6:22 says, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.”
We believe in the promise of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ while understanding that while present in our mortal bodies, it has not come to fruition.
According to Ligonier Ministries, “All who have a living faith in Jesus Christ enjoy an eternal citizenship in heaven even if we do not presently experience the realities of this citizenship in full.”
We have such glorious promises both now and, in the future, to come as citizens of heaven and Christ Jesus as our King.
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Dawn Hill is a Christian blogger known as The Lovesick Scribe and the host of The Lovesick Scribe Podcast. She is passionate about sharing the truth and pointing others back to Jesus Christ through the written Word as the standard of authority for Christian living and instruction while being led by the Holy Spirit into maturity. She is the author of NonProphet Woke: The Reformation of a Modern-Day Disciple. She is a wife to Nicholas and a mother to Anabel and Ephraim. You can follow her on Facebook and Instagram.