Citizens of Heaven
Over the next couple of weeks, I want to examine our position as citizens of heaven and how this reality provides authority as believers.
Understanding your rights as a citizen of heaven empowers you to live from divine purpose.
Heaven aids those who understand their identity and position in Christ. Knowing your citizenship and purpose affects your thinking and behavior. Confidence builds, you pray with focus, and your prayers become effective. Paul consistently uses in his writings uses two metaphors to describe our relationship with God and His kingdom after new birth.
First, Paul and other writers of the NT speak of our adoption into the family of God.
God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” Eph. 1:5 NLT
Father God has always wanted a family, rather than subjects. Your identification with Christ as a follower affords you a place as a son or daughter in the Father’s family. You are not working for His love and acceptance. No performance is necessary to receive His love and grace.
For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” Rom. 8:15 NKJV
Jesus frees us from the bondage of the law, which creates orphan thinking. In Christ, we are completely accepted, adopted, and never to be forsaken by Him. The core of our identity is to know as truth that we are loved, accepted, and added to God’s family—we are not striving to earn God’s love! (I wrote more about being Adopted by God in an article a few weeks ago)
Secondly, Paul writes of our citizenship in heaven.
We are citizens of heaven on earth, called to live from God’s domain here on earth. His domain is free of worry and filled with peace.
But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control. Phil. 3:20-21 NLT
We are citizens of a commonwealth called heaven, where Jesus, our Savior and King, lives. We eagerly await His return and are anchored in the hope of our resurrection. This confidence keeps us in His peace and joy in a turbulent world. It also empowers us to reach others and expand the borders of the kingdom of heaven on earth.
The city of Philippi was under Roman rule in the country of Macedonia. They understood the concept of a colony in a foreign land and what it meant to be a dual citizen of two countries (although not everyone in Philippi was a Roman citizen too).
From this earthly example, Paul reminds the church at Philippi that although they may be citizens of Philippi and Rome (dual citizenship), spiritually they have a higher citizenship (one based in heaven) while being citizens on earth where they are only foreigners. They comprise the colony of heaven on earth—within this colony or embassy, a different culture exists. To further illustrate this, when Rome occupied a new territory, like Macedonia, they brought the influence of Rome into the region. They began to reshape the culture to look and feel like Rome. They sent leaders and ambassadors there to help make the new territory a colony of Rome.
On this understanding of the influence of Rome on the culture of their region, Paul tells the Philippian church that as citizens of another world, they should:
First, walk worthy of this citizenship. Don’t live of the world or be influenced by the world in how to think and act. Change your perspective.
Second, as citizens of heaven, they had the privilege of representing heaven in this world, to bring a manifestation of God’s kingdom to this world.
Third, they were exhorted not to worry; but pray and trust God (Phil. 4:4-9)
You enter God’s kingdom through new birth (John 3:3). Each of us become part of God’s family, a Kingdom citizen, and part of God’s colony on earth—you became naturalized as a citizen of heaven!
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household. Eph. 2:19 NKJV
Not only does new birth make you a citizen of heaven, but your citizenship begins immediately. We are kingdom citizens and His ambassadors now,
So we are ambassadors who represent Christ. God is negotiating with you through us. We beg you as Christ’s representatives, “Be reconciled to God!” 2 Cor. 5:20 CEB
Why is this so important? Religion tends to postpone the benefits of our heavenly citizenship to the future. God’s Kingdom is both now and yet to come. Salvation, healing, deliverance are no good in eternity—we need them now—not later! People in our generation need to encounter God’s love and power NOW through a confident Church who understands their authority as citizens of heaven.
When I became a Christian 40 years ago, my understanding of my rights and authority as a child of God and citizen of heaven was limited. As I grew in Christ, I became more aware of the authority of God’s Word, the authority I have in the name of Jesus, and subsequently my authority in God’s promises and prayer. It changed my life, and it will change yours!
The reader in Paul’s day would have understood the might of Rome behind its citizens. As an ambassador for Christ, you live in one world while representing another. We have the culture, economy, and power of heaven presently.
Why would Jesus tell us to pray for God’s kingdom to come if it were automatic? Yes, Jesus will come again—this is a sovereign act of God. But God’s kingdom, which is His domain and rule, manifests through family members, who exercise their rights as citizens of heaven.
You see, we are citizens of heaven, but live in a country called Earth. The church (ecclesia) are called out ones, to be like a colony. We are an embassy, a refuge for the last, least, and lost of our world!
If I am overseas, in a foreign country, I have the right as a US citizen to go to the US embassy or consulate to get help if I need it. If I lose my passport, I can rightfully expect the embassy, who has the “might and force” of the US government behind it, to help me.
Understanding your rights as a citizen of heaven empowers you to live from divine purpose. Heaven aids those who understand their identity and purpose. Knowing your citizenship and purpose affects your thinking and your behavior. Confidence builds, your prayer life changes, and others are affected. I’ll pick up with part two next week!
For a more in-depth look at this topic, watch the Passion Church message “Citizens of Heaven”