Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Our relationship with Christ grants us a new status. According to the Apostle Paul, God “rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son” (Colossians 1:13-14). Receiving Christ turns us into naturalized citizens of heaven. As a result, our new status confers several benefits.
When Jesus wrote to the church at Sardis, he promised those who overcome temptation, “I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels” (Revelation 3:5). Ancient cities recorded their citizens’ names in a registry. Upon their death, city officials would blot the citizen’s name from the registry.
Some evidence suggests ancient cities would remove a citizen’s name if they found him guilty of a crime. In the first century, persecutors would brand unwavering Christians “political rebels” and strip them of their citizenship. But Jesus offered them something no earthly authority could strip away, citizenship in God’s everlasting kingdom.[i]
In many parts of the world, political unrest and civil war threaten to displace large numbers of people. In 2016, Americans watched in horror as millions of Syrians flooded European borders seeking asylum. News outlets flashed ghastly images of children’s bodies washed up on shore. Desperation filled these refugees’ faces as they sought to start a new life in a foreign land.
Jesus’ promise of a heavenly home provides peace and security in a world filled with political instability. The moment we come to Christ, God promises us permanent residence in heaven. And he will never revoke our status.
In America, many grew up moving from one city to another. I’ve met young people who never lived in one place for more than two years. This lack of fixedness has produced in them a variety of insecurities. Some hesitate to wade deeper into relationships because every time they started to build a friendship, they moved. Others cling to their friends because they fear the loss of relationships. Others never develop close relationships because they feel a constant impulse to move. Their restlessness doesn’t allow them to settle in one place.
Again, our heavenly home will offer stability in our relationships. The friendships we form with believers on earth will endure into eternity. We get to keep our friends.
Equality among God’s People
Our heavenly citizenship provides us with unparalleled unity. In our day, race continues to divide. We see an ever widening gap between the rich and the poor. Women and elderly people still face discrimination in the workplace. Yet Christ broke down the dividing wall separating people along racial, social and gender lines. In the book of Ephesians, Paul calls on the non-Jewish believers to stop seeing themselves as second-class citizens of God’s kingdom. “You Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family” (Ephesians 2:19).
In Xenos, our student groups enjoy a great deal of diversity. Young people from different socio-economic backgrounds, races and cultures meet weekly to share life together. I recall the first time I went on vacation with people from my fellowship. I wound up sharing a room with a green-haired punk rocker who grew up in the suburbs. I grew up in Chicago, roving the streets and getting into trouble. We couldn’t have been any more different. I listened in amazement, as if hearing strange sounds from another galaxy, as he played punk rock songs for me. Yet he and I shared a level of unity I hadn’t experienced with people whom I had more in common.
A Permanent Dwelling
God not only prepares a city for his people, he promises to give each of us a permanent dwelling. Jesus said this to his disciples when he informed them of his departure:
In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. (John 14:2-3, NASB)
Modern Americans obsess over renovating their homes. They spend small fortunes to update their kitchens, clad their bathrooms with expensive stone or create serene landscapes. People in our culture choose custom finishes to put a stamp of individuality on their homes. They are attempting to create their own “slice of heaven.”
As followers of Christ, we shouldn’t attempt to construct permanent homes on earth. We forfeit our earthly possessions the moment we die. Jesus tells us he’s preparing a heavenly home for us. We can even infer that he’s designing it to our specific tastes. God possesses intimate knowledge about us. After all, he fashioned our personality and promises to give us the desires of our heart (Psalm 139:13-16; 20:4). Indeed, God will spare no expense in the construction of our heavenly homes. After all, “he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?” (Romans 8:32) Therefore, he will construct a heavenly home which will exceed our expectations.
Finally, our heavenly citizenship offers comfort and rest. The author of Hebrews describes Abraham and Sarah’s longing for a heavenly homeland.
They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it....If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11:13-16)
Nothing beats the feeling of coming home after a long flight or a grueling car ride. This longing increases the closer we get home. What is it about home that brings us comfort and relief?
First, home represents a place of rest. We view it as a place where we can relax and unwind. In the same way, our heavenly home provides us rest. In the Old Testament, God’s rest denoted Israel entering the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 25:19). But God’s rest extends way beyond this. It also describes relief from the weight of sin. It includes an end to our relentless pursuit of trying to earn God’s favor. It entails rest from our cares and anxieties (Psalm 95:11, Hebrews 4). In fact, Jesus soothed his disciples’ anxieties about his departure by promising them a future dwelling place (John 14:1).
Second, our longing for home often seems connected to those awaiting us at home. Why does a father rush to get home after a long day at work? It’s because he longs to see his wife and children. Likewise, we feel a sense of growing anticipation to meet Jesus face-to-face as we approach the end of our lives. We also eagerly await reuniting with friends and loved ones who went ahead of us to be with the Lord.
Jesus, we eagerly await your coming. We long to see you so as you are, so that we might become like you. In the meantime, help us to serve you with endurance as we groan in this earthly tent. Amen.
[i]Alan F. Johnson, “Revelation.” In The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews through Revelation, edited by Frank E. Gaebelein. Vol. 12 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 449.