Last week in our study in Philippians we saw the enemies of the cross of Christ described by Paul. It’s not exactly a pleasant task to examine the enemies of the cross described by Paul and to consider their future. But as we noted last time they are living for self and they glory in things that should bring shame and their end is destruction. While not enjoyable it ought to be sobering to realize what is in store for those who don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ.
This morning we’ll be looking at Philippians 3:20-21 and we’ll see a sharp contrast from our last study. Instead of looking at those without Christ we will see a description of believers and the joy that awaits those who trust in Christ.
Philippians 3:20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.
In our study we’ll see three areas related to the heavenly home and hope of believers. We’ll consider our citizenship, our expectation and our transformation.
1. Our Citizenship (20a)
When Paul writes to the Philippians our citizenship is heaven, in verse 20, he is using a concept that they were very familiar with in their everyday lives. Philippi was a colony of Rome. It was under the control of Rome. The Philippians were citizens of Rome even though they were living away from Rome.
I want to share some commentary on Roman citizenship, as it is helpful in our understanding of this passage.
“Rome settled communities of army veterans, called colonies, as garrisons in conquered territory. Augustus extended this practice by giving full Roman citizenship not only to settlements of veterans but to important provincial cities and to men who had distinguished themselves in public service. These provincial communities held equal rights and privileges with the citizens of Rome itself. In return they were expected to represent Rome and all things Roman to their neighbors, so that the Roman way of life might permeate their province. This policy proved extremely successful. In A.D. 212 the Emperor Caracalla was able to issue a decree admitting all his subjects to Roman citizenship. (Christian Theology in Plain Language, B. Shelly, p. 193)
Paul uses a fitting illustration for the Philippian believers. They understood what Roman citizenship was and it was a good way for Paul to explain the difference between enemies of the cross and believers. Our citizenship is in heaven. Each of us who know the Lord Jesus Christ has heavenly citizenship. Our true home is in heaven.
Have you ever been away from home for a while and looked forward to returning home? “There’s no place like home,” is true isn’t it? It’s fun to travel and go places and visit with those we love but isn’t there a joy in returning to the comfort of home?
We had a lot of fun camping last summer but when we returned home it was such a good feeling to be back home.
I remember when I was discharged from the Marines I drove from Charleston, South Carolina to Battle Creek, Michigan in about 13 hours straight through. I stopped three times for a tank of gas, a bathroom break, a candy bar and a soda. There’s just something special about going home.
But no matter how wonderful our homes are on this earth and how much we enjoy our homes, they’ll never begin to compare to our heavenly home. Our citizenship is in heaven as believers. Our eternal home is in heaven with the Lord. Is your heart longing for home?
Maybe there have been times in your life when you’ve been away from home. Perhaps you left home for college or the military and after a while the strangeness of being away from home wore off and you started feeling “at home” where you were. Sometimes I think as believers we get pretty comfortable here on this earth. Maybe we don’t think enough about heaven and how wonderful it will be, so we don’t long for it that much and are pretty comfortable right here on earth. I’ve often heard it said that God didn’t give us too much information about heaven because if He did we’d be so homesick we’d want to go there right away. What we do know about heaven is amazing and wonderful and certainly something we can look forward to as believers.
The believer’s citizenship is in heaven. A wonderful future awaits the child of God. Do you enjoy thoughts of heaven and the future that awaits you? Let’s look briefly at some of the wonderful truths about heaven and what we have in store as believers. Look with me at Revelation 21:3, 4.
Revelation 21:3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
And listen to these passages from Revelation.
Revelation 21:18 The construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass.
Revelation 22:1 And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.
Revelation 22:5 There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.
We can’t even fully comprehend or understand what a magnificent place heaven will be but we do have a wonderful future in store if we have trusted in Jesus Christ. What a contrast to the destruction that is at the end for the enemies of the cross of Christ.
I love the remarks of a little girl who was taking an evening walk with her father. She looked up at the starry sky and exclaimed…
“Oh, Daddy, if the wrong side of heaven is so beautiful, what must the right side be!” (Charles L. Allen in Home Fires)
Our citizenship is in heaven. What a great thought that is! As believers let’s understand that we’re not just living in the here and now. A heavenly future awaits us. We have a heavenly outlook. And as citizens of heaven we ought to live with that heavenly outlook in mind. Matthew 6:20 tells us to…
“…lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
And Colossians 3:2 is helpful instruction for citizens of heaven…
Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.
So instead of getting mired down with the cares of this world we need to keep our focus on Christ living lives that will count for eternity. We need to invest our time in pleasing the Lord, not ourselves. We need to have a heart for others so that they too can enjoy the privileges of heavenly citizenship.
Those who are citizens of heaven must live like heavenly citizens. One who lives with a heavenward outlook should have an expectation for the return of their Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let’s look at Philippians 3:20 again as we look at our expectation.
2. Our Expectation (20b)
we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,
As believers we have the return of Jesus Christ to look forward to. The Greek word translated eagerly wait in our passage has the sense of eagerly waiting for Christ to return and also patience. We ought to be excitedly looking forward to His coming. We are eager to see Christ aren’t we? And He could return at any moment. Many saints through the ages have expressed their excitement about the return of Christ yet many have died before His return. Christ could return at any moment and we are eagerly awaiting His return and yet there is a need to be a level of patience in our waiting.
Have you ever been so excited about something that you weren’t very productive until that event took place-you got impatient and had trouble keeping yourself occupied?
I think the patience suggests that we are to be busy serving the Lord while we await His return. You’ve probably heard of groups who have set dates for the Lord’s return and then gone to a mountain to wait for Him. No one knows the date of Christ’s return. But what we need to understand is that we are instead to be busy serving Christ while eagerly looking for His return. Instead of growing impatient, we are to keep ourselves busy serving Him. And not for the sake of passing time but so that we’ll be ready.
Luke 12:40 says…
“Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
We eagerly wait for His coming by being ready for His coming.
When we know we are going to have company it’s natural for us to make preparations. We may get our house ship shape and prepare some special foods. When things are in order we can look forward to the arrival of our company. On the other hand if our house looks like a disaster has recently hit and we don’t have much food on hand we’re probably going to hope that we won’t get unexpected company. We aren’t prepared for guests.
If it’s true that we are eagerly waiting for our Savior, we are going to be preparing to meet Him. We’re going to have our spiritual houses in order. We’ll keep short sin accounts. We’ll want to be found living lives that are pleasing Him when He returns not bringing Him dishonor.
What a wonderful expectation we have as believers in Jesus Christ. We wait eagerly for His return. We look forward to seeing our blessed Savior. What joy we have to look forward to when we are finally with our Savior.
The innocent remarks of children often put us to shame with our lack of enthusiasm for the things that really ought have our thoughts.
After church, where she had been taught about the Second Coming, a little girl was quizzing her mother.
“Mommy, do you believe Jesus will come back?”
“Could he come this week?”
“Could he come in the next hour?”
“In a few minutes?”
“Mommy, would you comb my hair?” (Don Hussong, East Wenatchee, Washington. Leadership, Vol. 4, no. 3.)
We need to be like that little girl. She wanted to be ready for Jesus to return.
Do you eagerly await Christ’s return? Are you preparing yourself for His return?
Maybe we could use some instruction from William Barclay who said…
The best way to prepare for the coming of Christ is never to forget the presence of Christ. (William Barclay in You Can Say That Again. Christianity Today, Vol. 39, no. 8.)
Isn’t that true? If we are constantly aware of the presence of Christ we’ll be watchful of the way we live and then we’ll be prepared for His coming.
As believers we have a tremendous hope. We expect the Lord to return and that is a great source of encouragement and hope living in the midst of a sin filled world.
Corrie ten Boom said…
“We are not a post-war generation; but a pre-peace generation. Jesus is coming.” (Corrie ten Boom (1892-1983))
Aren’t you looking forward to that day?
We’ve seen the believer’s citizenship, the believers expectation and now let’s look at our transformation.
3. Our Transformation (21)
Look at Philippians 3:21 again.
who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.
As believers we look forward to a time when this physical body we dwell in on earth will be transformed.
These days on television there seems to be a reality show craze. Everywhere you look there’s some new “reality show” springing up and then the other networks copy it with their own version. And there’s the “makeover” shows. In some cases a crew comes in and gives a room or even a whole house a makeover. Some shows highlight makeovers of people. Teeth are fixed, hair is done and even plastic surgery is performed to give a person a whole new look.
That is nothing compared to the transformation in store for the believer!
We will be given a glorified body like that of Jesus Christ. No longer will we be subject to the physical limitations and problems that we experience on earth in our current lowly bodies. Disease and sin has taken a toll on the bodies we inhabit on earth. Listen to 1 Corinthians 15:35-49-it says in the ESV…
35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 39 For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. 42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.
What we have to look forward to one day as believers is transformed, glorious bodies. We’ll be transformed. We’ll be perfected and conformed to the glorious body of Christ. What a wonderful hope that is! You may suffer some sever physical limitations here on earth but if you have trusted in Jesus Christ you can look forward to a day when your body will be transformed. The blind will see! The lame will walk! The deaf will hear! Our bodies will be glorified and our souls sanctified and we will be able to enjoy perfect fellowship with the Lord. What a wonderful day that will be! What joy and hope we have as believers. We have an amazing future in store.
We know that when a person dies and there body is placed in the ground that it decays. We may wonder how a decayed earthly body can be transformed into a glorious heavenly body. Christ will do it-Philippians 3:21 says…
according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.
He is able to manage the whole universe and He will be able to instantly change our body into a glorified body.
What kind of citizen are you today? Are you a model citizen who has your focus on heaven and is laying up treasures there? Are you purposefully serving your King and looking forward to His return? Are you filled with hope and looking forward to the day when your body will be transformed and conformed to His glorious body?
John MacArthur tells a great story that illustrates beautifully the truth we can live as citizens of heaven who look forward to the future.
It’s a story of a man who really lived, his name is Phocas, P-h-o-c-a-s. He lived in the fourth century. He has been revered through the years as a real precious saint of God, lived in Asia Minor. He lived in the city of Sanopae(?) and he had a little cottage outside the city gate in which he grew a garden. The whole story of the man is recorded by one of the ancient bishops and somehow has found its way down through history.
“The story goes something like this. Travellers passed his door almost all hours of the day and night as they went in and out of the city gate. And by the wholly ingenuity of love, he stopped as many of them as possible. Were they not weary? Let them rest themselves, sitting in his well-tended garden. Were they in need of a friendly word? He would speak it to them in the dear Master’s name.
But then quite suddenly one day life was all changed for Phocas. Orders went out from Emperor Diocletian that the Christians must be put to death. When the persecutors entered Sanopae they were under orders to find a man by the name of Phocas and kill him. About to enter the city one hot afternoon, they passed in front of the old man’s cottage and garden by the gate. In his innocence, he treated them as though they were his warmest friends, begging them to pause a while and rest themselves. They consented. So warm and gracious was the hospitality they received that when their host invited them to stay the night and go on their way refreshed the next day, they agreed to do so.
“And what is your business?” said Phocas unsuspectingly. And then they told him that they would answer his question if he would regard it as a secret. Well it was obvious to them by now that he was a man to be trusted. Who were they? Why they were the soldiers of Rome searching for a certain Phocas who was a Christian. And please, if their kind host knew him, would he be so good as to help them identify him? After all, he was a dangerous follower of this Jesus about whom the Christians talked and he must be executed immediately.
“Oh, I know him well,” said Phocas quietly. “And by the way, he’s quite near. Let’s attend to it in the morning.” His guests having retired, Phocas sat thinking. Escape? That would be easy. He had only to leave under cover of darkness and at daybreak he could be at least 20 miles away and he knew fellow Christians who would give him hospitality by hiding him. And when the persecution had passed, he could reappear and once again cultivate his little garden.
The decision to flee into safety or stay unto death was apparently made without struggle or delay. We can only imagine what he was thinking. Out in his garden Phocas went and began digging in the middle of the night. Was there any earthly thing he loved better than this little plot of ground, the odor of the humus, the feel of the soil, the miracle of fertility? What were his thoughts as he went on digging? Well, there was still time to run away but the Savior didn’t run. He didn’t run from Gethsemane and He didn’t run from Calvary. Or perhaps he thought of his fellow Christians to whom he might go for rest, would not his coming endanger them? And as for these executioners that now were soundly sleeping under his roof, they were, after all, only men who were carrying out orders, and if they failed to find their man, their own lives likely as not would be taken and they would die in their sins.
Deeper and deeper Phocas dug. Before dawn he was done and there it was, his own grave. Morning came and with it the waking of the executioners. “I am Phocas,” he said calmly. And we have it on the word of the Christian bishop who recorded the story that the men stood motionless in astonishment. They couldn’t believe it. And when they did believe it, they obviously were reluctant to perform an execution without mercy on a man who had shown them nothing but mercy. But it was a duty, he reminded them, that they were required to perform. And he was not bitter at them. Besides, death did not terrify him, his heart was filled with hope of heaven. Toward them he bore nothing but the love of Christ and moments later it was all over. The sword had done its work and the body of Christ’s love mastered man lay in the stillness of death in the garden he loved so dearly.” (John MacArthur, Reaching for the Prize, Part 4)
I hope we’re living like this man—filled with the hope of heaven. It will give us courage to face the difficulties on this earth that otherwise would make us fearful or cause us to grow discouraged. What a tremendous hope we have as believers.
Are you living a life that reflects the hope you have and are you faithful in sharing your hope with others in despair?
Kevin A. Pierpont