Monday, February 20, 2012

A Colony of Heaven

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians 3:20).

Paul knew very well about citizenship. Though he was from Tarsus, in Cilicia (Acts 21:39), he was a freeborn citizen of Rome. And he did not mind invoking its benefits, as we see in this vignette.

And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who stood by, “Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman, and uncondemned?”

When the centurion heard that, he went and told the commander, saying, “Take care what you do, for this man is a Roman.”

Then the commander came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman?”

He said, “Yes.”

The commander answered, “With a large sum I obtained this citizenship.”

And Paul said, “But I was born a citizen.”

Then immediately those who were about to examine him withdrew from him; and the commander was also afraid after he found out that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him. (Acts 22:25-29)
Like the American Express ad says, “Membership has it’s privileges.” A Roman citizen had great status throughout the Empire, but Paul knew of a much greater citizenship, one possessed by every believer in Jesus: “For our citizenship is in heaven.”

It is important to understand that citizenship is not about where we are going — it is about where we are from. In Paul’s day, citizens of Rome were sent out to create colonies in every territory that was under Roman authority. They were to establish the life and culture or Rome throughout the empire.

Now think about our citizenship in heaven. Notice that Paul does not say that our “citizenship will be in heaven,” but “our citizenship is in heaven.” He is not talking about where we are going but about where we are from. “We are a colony of heaven,” is how Moffatt’s New Translation puts it.

The Greek word for “citizenship” is about commonwealth or community. It comes from a word that speaks of the administration of a city. To be a citizen of heaven means that our lives are now administered from there. We are no longer in bondage to the lusts and desires of the old way of life we used to know. We are no longer subject to the world systems that are manipulated by principalities and powers.

As a colony of heaven, we are here to establish the life and culture of heaven on earth. For all authority in heaven and on earth has now been given to King Jesus the Messiah (Matthew 28:18), and He has sent out His assembly, the Church, to disciple the nations and teach them everything Jesus taught (Matthew 28:19-20). The end result will be heaven and earth coming together as one (Revelation 21), the will of God being done on earth exactly as it is being done in heaven (Matthew 6:10).

It has already begun — the darkness is already fading away and the true light of King Jesus is already shining (1 John 2:8). Even so, it will not be full and complete until the King comes again. As we watch for that day with eager anticipation, we live out our citizenship here and now, enjoying the favor of heaven and imparting its blessing to the earth.