But our citizenship is in Heaven. (Philippians 3:20)
“Our citizenship is in Heaven.” Many are the meanings of this word, and every way the Apostle says we are in Heaven. For the word, in the original language, means the city or state to which we belong, or the way of life of the citizens, and in all these ways he places us in Heaven. He does not say only, our faith, our hopes, our expectation, the object of our longing, is in Heaven; he speaks not of what is to be, but of what is; “our citizenship is in Heaven.” Again, he does not say, “It ought to be,” “let it be,” “let our deeds and words and thoughts aim thitherward, thither aspire, thither be directed”; he does not even say, “we live on Earth, a holy and Heavenly life, a life after the manner of the blessed angels,” nor, “thither we aim, thither stretch forward, thither we hope to attain to Christ, who has prepared the way for us, and is himself the Way; nor does he say, “we are, as it were, citizens of Heaven, living under Heavenly rule, Heavenly laws, all of which breathes of Heaven”; nor even, “we are in the kingdom of Heaven, a Heaven upon Earth,” as the Apostle saw, “the Holy City,” the church, “the Heavenly Jerusalem,” come down from God out of Heaven. All this is true of God’s chosen ones; all, through God’s grace, might be true of us; but here he speaks of no hope of things to come, no aim, no likeness, no blessedness, on Earth; but of that which is; “our citizenship is” (not of, nor like, nor tending to) but “in Heaven.”
Let us think of the words awhile in these different ways. “Our citizenship,” in a word, our home, “is in Heaven.” Yet so it might be, so, in one sense, it is, though we were away from home. For, as the Apostle says, While we are present in the body, we are absent from the Lord. Yet it is not altogether an absent home of which the Apostle speaks. He does not say, our home is far away, as that to which we have no access, as our home might be beyond the seas, or the vast stormy ocean of this world. He speaks not of our home as something separate from us, not as something in space in which we might be and are not, but as something belonging to us, and to which we belong, to which of right (not our own surely, but as by Christ Jesus purchased for us), and, in fact, we belong. For the temple of God, the church, is not made with hands, not a material building, as this wherein we worship God, so that if it is here, it cannot be there, if in Heaven, not on Earth. One church we know it is, of all who are, or have been, or shall be, in Christ Jesus all, wherever they are, in Heaven or in Earth, all human beings and angels, knit in one in him. And in this we are fellow-citizens; “strangers and pilgrims” on Earth, in the body, because our affections are not here; “not strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens of the saints, and of the household of God,” living with and under God, guarded, fed, maintained by him; yes, having a holy boldness and familiar reverent intercourse with God, as members of God’s family, God’s great household. And this perhaps will contain in one all the meaning of this word, that we are inhabitants, citizens, of Heaven, not of Earth. To Earth we belong as to these poor bodies, which shall return to the Earth, because not as yet has Christ come to “transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself,” (Philippians 3:21), and “raised us up with him and seated us with him in the Heavenly places,” (Ephesians 2:6), but as yet not in body but in soul. But in soul and spirit, he would say, we are there already. There life centers; there we live; to it we belong. There are your goods, and treasures; your rights, your possessions, your kindred, your friends, your dwelling place.