James Smith, 1860
“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ!” Philippians 3:20
Some words in the course of years change their meanings, and are used in a very different sense to what they formerly were. This is the case with several words in our present translation of the Bible. I have just been thinking of one, the apostle speaking of one of the privileges of the believer in Jesus, says “Our conversation is in heaven.” Phil. 3:20. By conversation now, we mean oral communication, or people speaking to each other–but Paul meant citizenship. “Our citizenship is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” What a privilege, that we, while on earth–are citizens of heaven. Let us then think of:
The Celestial City. It is the place of God’s throne, or the throne-room of the King of kings, and Lord of lords, who says, “Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool.” We are being trained and tutored on the footstool–to fit and prepare us to dwell on the throne. It is the home of the holy angels, who dwell there, as children with their heavenly father. It is the provision made for all saints, and therefore said to be prepared for them.
God has prepared for them a city. Hebrews 11:16. It is a substantial heritage, and a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. Hebrews 11:10. In this glorious city is perfect safety, perpetual peace, and all-pervading holiness. There is nothing left to wish for or desire. There is no pain, sorrow, or disappointment. It is a city, worthy of the power that raised it, the grace that confers it, and the blessed inhabitants who will possess it.
The Believer’s Privilege. “Our citizenship is in heaven.” By our regeneration, we are born to this celestial city; and as by our adoption, we are placed among, and recognized as part of, the family of God, we are heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ. By virtue of God’s free grace, as well as by our covenant relationship, we are redeemed men, and are now traveling to take possession of our inheritance. Not only so–but as our citizenship is in heaven, so all our best things are there–Jesus our adorable Redeemer is there–we have laid up our treasure there–our hearts therefore are there–our life is there, hid with Christ in God–our hope is there, which as an anchor of the soul, enters into that which is within the veil–our Father is there–and all our nearest and dearest relations are there. All that we prize most, and all that we love best, is in heaven; it is therefore surprising that we are not more desirous of going there, to see, enjoy, and be with them forever.
Brethren, we are but strangers on earth. As the captive Jews were in Babylon–so we are in this world. Though we appear to be servants now, and suffer many privations in this foreign land, we shall be received as citizens soon, and take possession of our estates there. Our liberty then will be glorious, as the apostle speaking of the liberation of creation, says, “The creation also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption, into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” Our thoughts and desires therefore should be above, as we are exhorted, “Set” your minds, “your affections on the things above, not on things on the earth.” We should look to heaven, as to our native country, our fatherland; and as strangers and pilgrims on the earth, should abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.
How then do we feel toward this better country, this celestial city? How do we act in reference to it? Are we daily preparing to emigrate, to bid a long farewell to our native shores, having a desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better? Or, are we indifferent about it? Only citizens will ever be admitted there. All citizens are made aware of their privilege, and receive the Spirit of freedom, which qualifies them for its employments and enjoyments. Reader, you are either a citizen or a stranger–which is it? “Now therefore, you are no longer strangers and aliens–but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” How great the honor, to be a citizen of the New Jerusalem, which will one day descend out of heaven! How glorious the state of all those who as citizens of the New Jerusalem, will be called to the marriage-supper of the Lamb!