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

The Holy Spirit had forbidden Paul to preach in the district of Asia, and he would have gone into Bythinia, the northern coast of what we call Asia Minor. But a man appeared to Paul in the night saying, "Come over into Macedonia and help us." This began Paul's relationship with the people of Philippi.

Philippi was a Roman "colony", meaning that city was considered a part of Rome itself. The citizens were free from Roman tribute, and Luke who was with Paul and also wrote the narrative, called it the "foremost" city, probably because of the historical battles which had occurred there in favor of Rome and the resulting prestige. To this place the Spirit directed Paul and his company. (Acts 16).

The conversion of Lydia with her household and the conversion of the jailer with his family occurred here. Here Paul and Silas were put in prison, and afterward regarded with fear, because they were Roman citizens, having been "beaten openly and uncondemned." The city officials themselves came to retrieve them from the prison.

So, when the apostle writes to the Philippian Christians that their citizenship is in heaven, they get the message loud and clear. They, being a Roman colony, know the significance of citizenship. Especially since Paul had been freed from the Philippian jail based on his Roman citizenship did the poignancy of citizenship ring loud.

The message is for us as well. All Christians enjoy citizenship in heaven, not that we're already there, but that "we sit in heavenly places in Christ." (Eph. 1:20). Just as Philippi was an "outpost" of Rome, so is the church simply an outpost of Heaven. Those who have been on military bases in foreign lands know about citizenship. That is the message Paul is trying to relate to us about our citizenship in Heaven.

Just as our foreign diplomats and soldiers will return, one day we will go home. Then all will be well. Our term of service will be finished.

While we are here, we must show allegiance to our country. If you've ever seen on TV or read about the trials of prisoners of war, you've been moved to appreciate those who would not renounce their country. They kiss the ground when they arrive home. So should it be with those who hold to the name of Christ, not only in word, but also in deed.

Sometimes, as Paul was unjustly imprisoned, Christians are misrepresented and mischaracterized as bigots, prudes, or fanatics. When we hold closely to the name of Christ, we are being loyal to Heaven. There have been family members who threatened, employers who made life difficult, teachers who belittled, and strangers who intimidated Christians for merely trying to show respect for Heaven. If you have never experienced any of the above, some of your brothers and sisters in Christ have.

The rules are the same for citizens even in foreign lands. They pay taxes on property and income, they must maintain their visa, and take appropriate steps to vote and file their census. There are rules for the citizens of Heaven. (Mt. 16:19).

I understand that there is a lot of worshiping going on there. (Rev. 4:8; 5:13,14). Members of the Lord's church should also appreciate the worthiness of the Lamb. Attending the Lord's Day worship, Wednesday night prayer meeting, and whatever gospel meetings in the area might be taking place is not so demanding for those who plan on worshiping in Heaven.

Also, in Heaven there is not found anything which "defiles" or "causes an abomination or a lie." (Rev. 21:27). Heaven's citizens here on earth must strive to maintain the same kind of purity. Those who curse, lust, hate, defy authority, and neglect their duties jeopardize their citizenship. Those who have the idea that they can party, fornicate, lie, steal, cheat, usurp, breach, gripe, slander -- and maintain hope of Heaven are studying from something other than God's word. (1 Cor. 6:9,10; Gal. 5:19-21). (And there are many sources for such erroneous ideas out there! Both religious and otherwise.) Heaven is a prepared place (Jno. 14:1-6) for a prepared people. (2 Pet. 3:11).

The letter to the Philippians was written from a Roman prison. That's right, Paul was a prisoner again as he wrote to the jailer, Lydia, and the others at Philippi. [By then, the church had elders and deacons. (Phil. 1:1). Several others are mentioned in the epistle, and even "those who are of Caesar"s household."] Having a return address at the prison in Rome could have been quite embarrassing.

But Paul said it was alright. In fact, he said, "The things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel." (Phil. 1:12). Just as the Spirit had led Paul into Philippi ("come over into Macedonia and help us!"), the Lord was involved in Paul's trip from Jerusalem to Rome as a prisoner. Way back at his conversion, the Lord said that Paul would preach to "Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel." (Acts 9:15). On Paul's trip to Rome, he was exposed to Antipatris, Claudius Lysius, Felix and Dricila, Festus, Agrippa and Bernice, and apparently to Augustus Caesar. Paul even had his own rented house in Rome, from which he preached the kingdom of God. (Acts 28:30,31). Perhaps that accounts for Phil. 4:22 "All the saints greet you, but especially those who are of Caesar's household."

As Paul did Heaven's work while on earth, so must we. We don't receive visions in the night or have an apostolic commission, but we do have the Great Commission, which involves 1) preaching and teaching to others; 2) observing all that the Lord has commanded. (Matt. 28:18-20).

And who are we to doubt that the Lord has given us specific jobs where we are? Don't we pray that the Lord will use us in His service? More often than not, those hardships we endure bring attention to the gospel of Christ, for its furtherance. As the blind man was to bring glory to God (Jno. 9:3), so might our conversion be an inspiration to others to obey the gospel. As Paul's imprisonment brought him to the attention of Roman authorities, so might our faithfulness under a bitter boss bring light to the meaning of the gospel to onlookers. That stand against drugs or fornication in youth will likely make a difference in life for others looking on, even though they may not stand with you at the moment. Our faith leads others on best when tested most severely.

Certainly Jesus knew that it's possible to let our lights shine! (Matt. 5:16). Small lights are the brightest when in the darkest dark. As Lady Liberty represents hope and liberty to those who approach New York Harbor, so should those trials and temptations which come our way bring hope and faith to our hearts (Jas. 1:2) knowing "all things work together for good for those who love the Lord." (Rom. 8:29).

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

By: George Hutto, Centerview Tidings, July 15, 2001

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