Citizens of Heaven|
There is a lot of talk these days about immigration and citizenship. This talk centers on the issue of people entering the United States illegally and then receiving the rights of citizens. This creates several problems, such as crime, increased government expenses (education, healthcare, etc.), social issues, and political matters. None of this is new, for the United States has always been a country of immigrants, but the large number of immigrants and the failure of the legal process has sparked the recent debate.
The immigration debate is truly about the value of citizenship in the United States. The value of any citizenship depends upon the particular country, state, nation, or kingdom to which a citizen belongs, and citizenship in the United States is very valuable because we have many rights that are protected through the Constitution. Those people who are entering the United States want to obtain the rights and privileges of our valuable citizenship, whereas the citizens who are already here want to protect our rights and privileges. It truly is a difficult debate, for we have sympathy for those coming from poverty and oppression, but we also have respect for law and the duties that come with our valuable citizenship.
While we who are Christians in the United States truly appreciate the value of our American citizenship, we must realize that we are citizens of a much greater kingdom. The apostle Paul wrote to the church at Philippi, "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20). Truly, Christians possess the exceedingly valuable citizenship of heaven that is spiritual and eternal in nature.
Consider what a privilege it is to be a citizen of heaven. When we obtain this citizenship, we are taken out of the kingdom of Satan with its cruel dominion of sin and death, and we are brought into the gracious and merciful kingdom of Christ. Notice Colossians 1:13-14 – "For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” By obtaining citizenship in kingdom, we receive that which Abraham sought on earth but did not receive:
"…for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God…” (Heb. 11:10)
"All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own.” (Heb. 11:13-14)
"But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.” (Heb. 11:16)
Abraham’s descendants in Israel did receive a citizenship in an earthly kingdom, but not even they had the blessed privilege that we have now received as citizens of heaven:
"But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.” (Heb. 12:22-24)
There is only one way to obtain citizenship in the kingdom of heaven, and that is Jesus Christ. He is both the King of the kingdom and the way to gain entrance (Acts 2:29-36; John 14:6). There will be no illegal immigration into heaven, for no one will be there who does not rightfully belong by the gracious consent of the Savior (Rev. 3:12; 21:7-8, 25-27). Entrance will be granted by Christ on the terms of His gospel only, for the gospel of Christ is the power of God for salvation (Rom. 1:16).
Although we who are Christians have obtained citizenship in heaven, let us understand that it comes with certain duties that we must keep. Notice that in the same chapter in which Paul declared that our citizenship is in heaven, he also said that he personally had not yet laid hold of that for which He was laid hold of by Christ (Phil. 3:12-14). By this, Paul recognized that his work on earth was not yet done and his citizenship in heaven could still be forfeited (1Cor. 9:27). As Christians, we also must realize that our citizenship in heaven carries with it the responsibility to continue in the faith (Col. 1:23).
Therefore, treasure citizenship in heaven in every way. If you do not yet have this citizenship, then make every effort to obtain it through Christ. If you have citizenship in heaven, then make every effort to keep it through a life a faithful service to God here on earth. If you know of the great value of citizenship in heaven, the share it with others so they may also know the joy that you have found. How wonderful it will be to be citizens of that kingdom at the end of time when Christ delivers it to the Father (1Cor. 15:23-24) and when we can be with the Lord forever (1Thess. 4:16-18)!
Stacey E. Durham
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