Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Our Heavenly Citizenship

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Philippians 3:20-21).1
     The word “citizenship” [políteuma] is cognate with the imperative politeúesthe [lit. “live like a citizen”] in Phil. 1:27, where the Philippians have been exhorted to live “worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Residing in a Roman colony like Philippi, there would be much pride in Roman citizenship (Acts 16:12, 21). While still living in the world, citizens of heaven are to conduct themselves with minds set on things above (Col. 3:2). Although the word translated “heaven” is plural [lit. “heavens”], the corresponding relative pronoun in the prepositional phrase “from it” is the singular hou [“which”].
     The natural world is not our permanent home (cf. 2 Pet. 3:10-11; Rev. 20:11). God’s faithful ones are to live with him eternally in heaven (see Matt. 5:12, 16, 34; 6:19-21; 1 Thess. 1:10). There is a rest spoken of that is yet in the future—something promised that remains to be fully realized (Heb. 3:7–4:11). When Jesus journeyed ahead to prepare a place for his disciples (John 14:2-3), he went beyond the “veil” and penetrated the holiest place to dwell in the presence of God (Heb. 6:19-20; 9:12). This is none other than “heaven itself” (Heb. 9:24). Accordingly, we now have the confident expectation of entering the very same place (Heb. 6:18-19; 10:19-20, 34). It is heaven wherein our names are registered (Heb. 12:23) and in which we have reward (Matt. 5:12), hope (Col. 1:5), and an inheritance (1 Pet. 1:3-4). And unlike Israel’s inheritance of a temporal rest, ours is everlasting (Heb. 9:15).2
     It is from heaven “we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (cf. 1 Thess. 1:10; 4:13-18; 5:1-11; 2 Thess. 1:7–2:17). The verb apekdechómetha [“we await”] is a combination of apó [“away from”] + déchomai [“welcome”], describing an intense yearning for the coming of Christ.
     He will “transform our [plural] lowly body [singular]” – perhaps a subtle allusion to the unified collectivity of believers (Phil. 1:27; 2:2) – “to be like his glorious body …” The current physical body is a temporary shell, susceptible to weakness, sin, sickness, and death (2 Cor. 4:16–5:6). But it will be replaced one day with an incorruptible, glorious body (1 Cor. 15:51-54; 1 Thess. 5:9-10). Whatever Jesus is now, we will be like him one day (1 John 3:2). This transformation is possible because of the divine “power” invested by the Father “that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (see 1 Cor. 15:24-28).
--Kevin L. Moore

     1 Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are from the ESV.
     2 See also 1 Cor. 15:23-24, 35-54; 2 Cor. 4:14; 5:1-2; 1 Thess. 4:14-18.

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