Philippians 3:20 (ESV) … “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ…”
(1) Our Beloved Homeland (3:20a)
“Our conversation is in heaven.” - KJV
The word translated “conversation” is politeuma, which can be rendered “citizenship.” Politeuma refers to the seat of government in the country of which we are citizens (polites) and in which we have certain rights and responsibilities. Handley Moule rendered Paul’s statement, “Our city-home subsists in the heavens.”
Citizenship was highly prized in an empire made up mostly of slaves and freed men. Paul enjoyed the rare privilege of being a Roman citizen. Yet he was far more proud of being a citizen of glory.
Our citizenship too is in glory. This citizenship is open to all who will enthrone the King of glory as sovereign, Savior, and Lord. We Christians belong to the aristocracy of Heaven where our Lord reigns at the right hand of God, and we have a responsibility in this present world never to disgrace our homeland.
And what a homeland it is! In our country the streets are paved with gold, the walls are built of jasper, and the gates are made of pearl. A rainbow-circled throne, a crystal stream, foundations ablaze with gems, many mansions, and the tree of life are there. Sickness, death, and pain do not haunt our country’s streets, and no hospitals, prisons, asylums, or retirement homes can be found. This land of fadeless day is eternally bathed in the sunshine of God’s smile. No sobs or sighs are ever heard—just anthems of praise, doxologies of bliss, and songs expressing “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8). The citizens—all most gloriously fair—are served by angels commissioned by the throne to minister to salvation’s heirs.
Right now we are pilgrims and strangers in a foreign land. This world is not our final home. We are here as Heaven’s ambassadors. Every night we pitch our tent a day’s march nearer home. We are never to forget even for a moment where our citizenship lies. The thought of that fair land and its all-glorious King will influence our dress and our deportment. It will help determine what we say, where we go, how we behave, what pleasures we permit, how we invest our talent, what we do with our money, how we treat other people, and the amount of time we spend in worship, service, Bible study, and prayer.
(2) Our Blessed Hope (3:20b)
“From whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.” - KJV
Our citizenship is in Heaven and the King of that country is coming back to earth. He came here once before and men crowned Him with mocking thorns and nailed Him to a tree, but He rose in triumph from the tomb and returned in a battle-scarred body to His home on high. He’s coming back—soon. He’s coming twice: first to the air to receive us unto Himself; then to the earth to deal with His foes and to right the wrongs of this world.
We are looking for Him. The word translated “look for” in Philippians 3:20 is apekdechomai, which means “to eagerly wait for.” Paul used the word elsewhere to describe the eager anticipation with which all creation awaits His coming: “The earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19). The apostle pictured all nature standing, as it were, on tiptoe to catch a glimpse of the sons of God coming into their own.
Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2–3). The Christians of the first century anticipated that His coming would be in their lifetime. We too hope He will come in our generation. Never before have there been so many signs to herald His return: the rebirth of the state of Israel; the rise of Russia; the coming together of the nations of Europe in a collective consciousness not known since the fall of the Roman empire; the discovery of nuclear power; the spread of atheism and humanism; a permissive society; the widespread use of illegal drugs; the toleration of pornography and perversion; the increasing fascination of millions with the occult; the spread of false religion; apostasy in the church; widespread famines; the emergence of deadly diseases resistant to all known drugs; the seeming increase in earthquakes; terrorism; and persecution. Seeing all these signs, we—like those first-century Christians—should be living in eager expectation that His coming will be in our lifetime.