Our Heavenly Citizenship
by Austin Del Castillo
Forerunner, "Ready Answer," April 27, 2022
“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly
wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:20)
Many of us appreciate the concept of order. Disorder causes us to become anxious and even feel threatened. We want to either get out of such an environment or fix it. The ongoing
unrest in this country, with all the protesting, looting, and burning that carried on for months in several of our major cities, gives us great cause for concern. Since their peak, things have improved somewhat, but a sense that the nation is unraveling still
hangs in the air.
It appears that left-wing politicians wish to see this country destroyed so that they can remake it in their image. They seem to believe that chaos helps their cause, so they
do little to stop such devastating and injurious turmoil from continuing in their jurisdictions. By calling for the defunding of police, they have removed a primary means of restoring order to our cities. And now we are dealing with economic destruction as
our dollars shrink daily.
Because we desire order and peace, we
tend to root for political movements and leaders that seek to return them to daily life and enact policies that will keep them in place. In this situation, we may privately—or even publicly on social media or in conversations—advocate for right-wing
lawmakers and stricter laws. Some in the church have decided that the situation has gotten so out of hand that they have voted in elections and begun to participate in political and social groups to help “clean things up.”
The problem with our desires for good government at every level is that we may very well be opposing what God’s will is in the matter. Of course, clashing with God’s will is something we never intend to do. We need
to stop allowing ourselves to think as we are often tempted to think—as ordinary citizens. We need to remember who we are and where we are headed in relation to our Maker, who has called us out of this world (John 15:19).
In Opposition to God
As a reminder, we need to see from Scripture what God actually does in these matters of changing governments and nations. Notice Daniel 2:20-21:
Daniel answered and said: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. He changes the times and seasons; He
removes kings and sets up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding . . ..” (Emphasis ours throughout.)
Similarly, in Hosea 8:4, God accuses Israel of setting up kings and princes without seeking His counsel, leading to Israel’s eventual downfall.
As the universal Sovereign, God
sets up kings and other leaders, and He removes them at His convenience. When people—who lack His wisdom—choose a leader, they often make abysmal choices. We have been witnesses to that in recent years in this country. The history books are full
of the incompetent decisions of human beings.
As Americans, we think it is so noble to speak of government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Have we thought that through from
God’s perspective? It should remind us of the scenario in I Samuel 8, when the elders of Israel gathered themselves together and demanded that the prophet Samuel anoint a king to judge them like the nations around them. What were the Israelites really
doing? They demanded that Samuel replace God—their King—with a man (I Samuel 8:7-9).
They wanted to be like every nation around them. Human nature always wants to join the crowd; people do not like to stand out as oddballs. Neither does man’s nature care to advocate for an unpopular higher standard. Human
beings want others to think of them as “team players.” We want everybody to be “cool” with us.
Have we ever considered how scary those terms, “team player”
and “cool,” can be? Both are flattering terms that can—and are!—used by people to control others’ decisions. Being called “cool” in high school makes most people conform to a certain image, one that is contrary to
the sterling character of Jesus Christ!
In the same way, “team player” can be an organization’s way
of controlling those under it. It sounds good. It urges a person to cooperate for the good of all. In actual practice, it often forces the individual to suppress or even abandon his convictions in favor of the goals of the group’s leadership. Such leaders
often say things like, “How selfish can you be to let your scruples get in the way of completing this project?” or, “Don’t you realize how many people are depending on you to do this? Take one for the team!”
A New Identity
The problem for those of us whom God has called, to whom He has given His Holy Spirit, is that we have chosen to take on the identity
of the most righteous standard of all time: God’s perfect righteousness. We have committed ourselves to stand against this very world that surrounds us and throw in our lot with the Kingdom of God. We likely began taking criticism from the outset of our conversion because responding to God’s calling immediately drew Satan’s attention.
We need to consider deeply our true identity as God’s people. Revelation 5:10 and 20:4, 6 indicate that
the elect of God have stunning futures: as rulers of Earth and eternal members of the God Family. Our calling culminates with us joining the Father and Jesus Christ our Savior as the top tier of the most magnificent Beings in all of creation. Our potential
is nothing short of stupendous! With that elevation to glory comes the job of ruling with God forever as part of His universal government.
How many actual members does the God Family contain
right now? Many people would say just two. But what the apostle Paul writes in Colossians 1:12-13 tells us something quite
. . . giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power [or dominion]
of darkness, and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love . . ..
The word “conveyed” gives a good sense of the Greek word methistēmi (Strong’s #3179).
Other translations, like the English Standard Version, use “transferred,” while the King James Version renders it as “translated,” which is a bit archaic in today’s English. It means “to cause a change
of position,” “to transfer,” “to cause to change sides,” or literally, “to cause a change in standing.” A handful of translations use “brought” or even “put.”
This verse says something that many of us read over without realizing what it implies. God the Father has transferred, brought, or put us in the Kingdom of God, in His Family! If God is calling us sons and daughters right now
(see Romans 8:14-17; II Corinthians 6:17-18; Galatians 4:6-7; Philippians 2:15; etc.)—and we are calling Him Father and even more intimately, “Abba”—we are right now part of the God Family.
Certainly, we are not spirit beings yet (that will not happen until the resurrection), but we are already His children. He has changed our position or standing from spiritually dead human beings to active members
of His Son’s Kingdom.
So, in considering how many members are in the God Family right now, we may not have realized that there are more than just two. Only the Father and the Son know
the true count, but it is likely a number in the many thousands from the time of Abel. Perhaps several thousand people alive today are already considered sons and daughters of the Father!
Identity as Citizens
It is easy to see ourselves as citizens of an earthly nation because that is where we have been born and lived our lives. But God’s calling and the knowledge
of our new loyalties should point us away from identifying ourselves with this world’s citizens, events, and organizations. Paul starkly reminds us in Colossians 1:13 that this world, which many of us still keep one foot in, is part of “the power of darkness” from which the Father has removed us. We simply cannot afford to lean back into it.
We have God’s DNA, as it were, in us now via His Holy Spirit. Jesus says in John 14:23,
“If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” We are part of Them, and They, of us.
Is this how we
see ourselves? Is this how we think of ourselves on a daily basis while living in this world? We may remember this fact occasionally, but all too often, not often enough. Sometimes, we find ourselves identifying with an aspect of what this world promotes.
Doing so usually involves us in party spirit; we take sides in the world’s concerns.
In the late 1990s, while attending another church organization, I participated in its Spokesman’s
Club. Given a speaking assignment, I decided to speak about patriotism and the effect it has on us as citizens of God’s Kingdom. My point was that if we pledged allegiance to the flag of the United States of America—or to any other country, for
that matter—we would be trying to serve two masters (see Matthew 6:24).
Could we as God’s elect reasonably ally ourselves with both a government of this world and the Kingdom of God? How could we serve two governments that consider the other its enemy? Are we double agents? Of course not! The apostle James writes,
“Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world
makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4; see also II Corinthians 6:14-15).
The speech I gave that night caused quite a commotion. I was relieved that the club director, our local pastor, had agreed
with my comments during his evaluation of the speech. He said it was a point that merited further consideration.
Some of us may not have seriously considered what coming out of this world involves,
but come out of this world, this Babylonian system, we must! Christ gives us a clear command to do this in Revelation 18:4,
“And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, ‘Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.’”
The wording of this verse implies that God’s people are taking part in Babylon, this worldwide system that has survived through the ages. Otherwise, He would not feel the need to urge them to leave it. Everything about our
world today follows the Babylonian mindset: our political, financial, judicial, and educational systems, and perhaps above all, our religions.
Instead, we are called
to be citizens of a heavenly Kingdom, as Philippians 3:20 states: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we
also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” His words are unambiguous.
In II Timothy 2:3-4, Paul further describes us as soldiers of that Kingdom:
You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted
him as a soldier.
As enlisted soldiers of that Kingdom, our Captain commands us to fight against Satan’s influences in our lives, to fight against the pulls of
this world’s enticements for us, and most difficult of all, to fight against our own human nature.
Our Savior mentions the responsibility
to overcome in each of His letters to the seven churches (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21). Near the end of the book, He says, “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.” All the while, we are to be building our relationships
with the Father and with our Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord. These activities constitute our part in the salvation process.
Further, God calls on us to produce the fruits
of His Spirit in ourselves. We can see this expectation in an example Jesus gives in Luke 13:6-9:
A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, “Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit
on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?” But he answered and said to him, “Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can
cut it down.”
We can understand the owner of the vineyard to be the Father, and the keeper of the vineyard to be Jesus Christ. The tree, of course, represents
those in His church who are not producing the fruit that God expects to see.
Notice that Jesus intervenes on their behalf. He asks for more time to work, to do everything He can to help them
produce the fruit God expects. He works with them in love to grow in character and develop right relationships with others. Note also that Jesus does not grow the fruit for them; producing fruit is the individual’s job. It is a person’s proper
response to his calling and all that God has given and done for him.
We are to grow to be like Him. He is allowing us to take part in our own creation as God beings, family members of His Kingdom.
He gives us the power, the training, and the tools to attain eternal life, but He will not grow for us, just as we cannot grow for someone else.
Indeed, we see trouble in the streets of too
many cities, and the nation’s morals are in the sewer. Though it is happening all around us, we must stay spiritually sharp, remembering who we are, citizens of a heavenly Kingdom, already enlisted as soldiers in Christ’s army to fight a cosmic,
spiritual war. That is our identity as this age winds down toward the return of Jesus Christ—citizen-soldiers of the Kingdom of God. We must not let ourselves become entangled in the affairs of a nation that fights for the other side.