As a believer in Jesus, you have dual citizenship. Whether you are a citizen of Canada, the USA or some other nation, your true citizenship is in heaven.
This thought that we are citizens of a different kingdom isn’t just a bit of escapist make-believe, or a nice fairy tale for young children, like the legend of the Easter Bunny. Paul, who had encountered the risen Jesus in a powerful way, was convinced that this Jesus was really alive, and was going to come again to rule over the coming Kingdom of God.
But 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.
It’s important for us to be clear about the nature of our hope. The COVID-19 pandemic is a reminder to us all of our vulnerability to sickness and death. The people of this age are subject to physical death, and that includes believers. For those who hope in Jesus, though, physical death isn’t the end of the story. Even going to heaven isn’t the end of the story. God has something much better, more amazing and more glorious in mind.
When Jesus appeared to his followers after the resurrection, it is clear that his body had been transformed. He was still recognizable as the same person, and could touch the disciples, break bread with them and even eat a piece of fish, but he could also go through locked doors and ascend into heaven.
To explain this, Paul uses the analogy of a seed.
What is sown is perishable;
what is raised is imperishable.
It is sown in dishonor;
it is raised in glory.
It is sown in weakness;
it is raised in power.
It is sown a natural body;
it is raised a spiritual body.
If there is a natural body,
there is also a spiritual body.
1 Corinthians 15:42-44
Just as we have borne the image
of the man of dust,
we shall also bear the image
of the man of heaven.
1 Corinthians 15:49
What a promise. We will be like Jesus! We will have resurrection bodies like his.
When everything around us seems to be shaking, when everything seems uncertain and nothing is like what we’ve been used to, when we don’t know how it’s all going to turn out, our hearts yearn for some solid assurance. Our leaders are doing their best, but they’re evidently scrambling to keep up with ever-changing events and the latest projections as to what might lie ahead. It’s plain that no-one really knows exactly what to expect. We need something that is more substantial than the current best guess as to when the pandemic will end, or how long the lockdown will last, or what conditions will be like after it’s lifted.
The first generation of believers in Jesus also lived in uncertain times. In common with all the people of their day, they were familiar with disease, famines, wars, injustices and other troubles of this broken age. Besides all that, their convictions about Jesus and his kingdom put them in danger from both Jewish and Roman authorities. Although they respected the authority of both, they were ultimately subject to a higher authority. This is why when Paul was on trial before the Roman governor Festus and the puppet King Agrippa (Acts 26), instead of pleading for his life, he urged them to consider the claims of Jesus. His hope was not in what either of them could do for him, but in the heavenly Jerusalem which was coming down out of heaven from God. He wasn’t worried about getting something from them. Instead, he hoped to give them something better than anything that they could offer him.
We who have put our hope in Jesus are called to serve God’s purpose in our day and generation. As my granddaughter Maddie loves to sing, we need to “let our little light shine” where we are. But our hope is a better hope than just things going back to the way they were. In reality, things probably won’t go back to the way they were before this pandemic, but we have something better to look forward to. Though we know that there are still troubles to come, we also know the Lord will be with us in the midst of those troubles. And beyond the troubles, we know that we will see Jesus coming in glory to make everything new, and that we will be changed – we will bear the image of the man from heaven.
I’m a citizen of the Kingdom that is coming. I belong to the man from heaven. That’s my hope and my assurance. How about you?