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    Since we are bombarded with so much discouraging news, let us lift our spirits by meditating on God’s promise in Philippians 3:20-21But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” 

      While we pledge allegiance to our country and pray for peace in our world, let us remember that our primary citizenship is in heaven. Our hope is not based on policies that come from Washington D.C. or the latest report from the war in Ukraine. Our ultimate hope is based on the promises that come from the throne of God in heaven.

     In his commentary, Be Joyful, Warren Wiersbe points out five characteristics of the Christian whose citizenship is in heaven:

  1.  Our names are on heaven’s record.

If you are a citizen of the United States, you are given a Social Security number, and your name is included in our government’s computer file. The Bible teaches God has a registry called “the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:27). He keeps a careful record of those who have pledged allegiance to Christ and have been baptized into Him. We have been washed by the blood of the Lamb, and our names are written in the book of life, signifying that we are permanent citizens of God’s eternal kingdom.

  1.  We speak heaven’s language.

Foreigners often stand out because they do not speak the common language or they speak with a heavy accent. When Simon Peter tried to blend in with Satan’s crowd, he was accused of being a Galilean and a follower of Jesus. The accuser said, “Your speech betrays you.”

     If our citizenship is in heaven, our speech should reveal who we are. The Bible says our speech should not be characterized by “…obscenity, foolish talk, or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving” (Ephesians 5:4). Therefore, the choice of words, tone, and topic of conversation identify the citizens of heaven. As a result, rather than always talking about sports, movies, politics, and gasoline prices, there should be a desire to occasionally deepen the conversation and talk about spiritual matters because “the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Matthew 12:34).

     The Apostle John wrote, “They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood” (1 John 4:5-6).

  1.  We obey heaven’s laws.

Simon Peter wrote, “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul” (1 Peter 2:11).

     While we respect the laws of the state, we are aliens and strangers in this world who must ultimately answer to a higher authority — the Word of God. That should make a positive difference in us. Therefore, our carnal desires should be disciplined, not indulged. Our focus should be toward others, not ourselves. Our purpose should be to give, not receive. And our motive should be to love, not hate.

     When Peter and John were commanded by the authorities to not speak about Jesus anymore, they said, “…we must obey God, not man.”

  1.  We are loyal to heaven’s cause.

The Apostle Paul described the citizens of this world as enemies of the cross of Christ, destined to destruction because “…their god is their stomach and their glory is their shame. Their mind is on earthly things” (Philippians 3:19). The people of this world are enamored with what they can see: possessions, power, pleasure, popularity.

     But citizens of heaven fix our eyes not on what is seen but what is unseen. Our loyalty is to Jesus Christ and the advancement of His spiritual kingdom. We are willing to suppress earthly ambitions to be faithful to Him because we are constantly aware, “The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17).

  1.  We are looking for heaven’s Lord.

Since our citizenship is in heaven, “…we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,who,…will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:20-21).

     The transformation of our bodies will either occur when we die or when Jesus returns in triumph. The Bible promises “…we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable and the mortal with immortality” (1 Cor. 15:53).

Abraham was able to endure hardships because “…he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10).  

Moses “…regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward” (Hebrews 11:26).

     There is tremendous power in the present when there is hope in the future. The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said, “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”  Since our citizenship is in heaven, we not only can endure but still be joyful regardless of what the future holds.

Below is a photo of Lt. Robert Stirm as he was welcomed home by his family after being held as a prisoner of war in Vietnam for over five years. This Pulitzer Prize-winning photo was taken on March 17, 1973, at Travis Air Force Base in California and was titled “Burst of Joy.”

“Burst of Joy” 1973-03-17 by Slava “Sal” Veder, Associated Press, Historic Photograph Fair Use Image

    This is one of my favorite photos. The exuberance depicted by Lt. Stirm’s loved ones is what I imagine my first moments in Heaven might look like when I reunite with family and friends who have passed before me. And, I can only imagine the burst of joy when I finally see my Savior face to face. What a joyous day of reunion that will be!

     Yet, the story surrounding this famous photo ultimately turned out to be disappointing for Lt. Stirm. Upon his release from enemy prison, he received a “Dear John” letter from his wife.  While the rest of his family was indeed elated to have him home, the photo is also a poignant reminder that our world is a cruel place, and our ultimate joy can only be found in Heaven.

      Regardless of the current turmoil in the world, remember your citizenship is in heaven. You’re a foreigner and an alien in this world. “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:2-4)

“This world is not my home. I’m just a-passing through.
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door.
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”
      Amen! And amen!


Bob Russell is retired Senior Minister at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY