But we are citizens of heaven.Phil 3:20
I am not going to tell you that citizenship of heaven is owning a Swiss passport – although I have to say it is maybe the closest thing you get to it in this cosmos, this world’s system that is. I am also not going to tell you that this blog turns political. I have plenty to say about politics, but this is not the vessel for that. What we are going to talk about today is government. If you now think back to your high school, you’re spot on. If you think about church government, you’re also right there with me.
OK. The term citizenship, as we all know, includes both rights and responsibilities. We here in Switzerland have the right to vote and elect, and the responsibility to serve in our military – as males, at least. But let’s have a look at the meaning of citizenship in the time Paul wrote this verse.
Roman citizenship was for the highly privileged. It could be bought, but most the time was granted. And it served – among others – a very specific goal.
If somebody in the provinces was granted Roman citizenship, it did not mean, that he was granted the right to enter Rom. Not even the right to spend his late years there, or to at a certain time end up living and earn a living there. He was granted the right for just persecution, something like a premature Miranda Act. We have come a long way since then and most the time grant this right to foreigners as well.
But why would Rome give somebody citizenship rights? To bring Roman culture to the provinces. They then had strong advocates of their way of living in the area, loyal partners, promoting their cause.
When Rome conquered the world, they sent their armies. Whole areas were subdued, the armies went on, and when they came back through the area after having been victorious even further out, the people had gone back to their own way of living, their own culture.
Rome decided to send people into those provinces right after the army. This people had the mission to take habitation and change the culture. Usually hundreds of people were sent from different trades, to teach the people the Roman way of life. Such a group was led by an apostle, a sent one with a mission. They then granted the Roman citizenship to influential people in the area to bind the province to Rome.
Sound familiar? Jesus appointed, and still appoints apostles and such apostolic communities, consisting of the different “trades” or giftings. They are to bring heavenly culture into this earth. Citizenship of heaven grants us access to heaven – we are seated with Christ in heaven. But much more: it carries the responsibility to bring Heaven to earth. On an apostolic mission.
So instead of waiting to escape to heaven, either by death or rapture, we are to bring heaven to earth. It is that easy.