Christian, not only are you a pilgrim residing in a foreign land (the common kingdom), but you are a citizen of heaven.
Jesus tells us His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36) – we are citizens of that kingdom, and that kingdom is not on this earth except in the hearts of God’s people. After calling out the antinomian or Judaizing false teachers of verse 19, Paul tells us in Philippians 3:20:
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ…
Paul is contrasting the difference between people of two different kingdoms. While we are living in the common kingdom alongside false teachers and all sinners pursuing the gratification of the lusts of their flesh (Galatians 5:19-21), our true or ultimate citizenship is in heaven. We are on a journey to that better place, where our names already exist on the registry of heaven. John MacArthur is helpful here:
The word “citizenship,” by the way, only used here, this particular word, means a colony of foreigners. It is used in a secular source to speak about a capital city that kept the names of its citizens on a register. In other words, we’re registered citizens of another place. We are registered citizens of heaven. Our names are there, our Father is there, our Savior is there, our home is there, our fellow saints are there, our inheritance is there, that’s our place, that’s our place. And Paul says we have to have that perspective.
Now the Philippians could understand that because the Philippians were a colony of Roman citizens far from Rome. So they would understand what it was to have citizenship somewhere other than where you’re living. They were citizens of Rome but they were in the colony of Philippi. We are citizens of heaven living here in the earth. (source)
Like the saints of old, we are “strangers and exiles on the earth…seeking a homeland…desir[ing] a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” (Hebrews 11:13-16).
God has taken us from the domain of darkness (which is the common kingdom ruled by Satan under the authority of God) and conveyed us into the “kingdom of His beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13). As citizens of heaven, we no longer act as though we are controlled by the god of this world (Satan; Ephesians 2:1-3, 2 Corinthians 4:4), but we act as those who have been washed, sanctified, and justified in Christ Jesus and the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:11). Though we were once alienated from God and His kingdom, we have now been brought near by the blood of Christ and have become fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God (Ephesians 2:11-22).
With all of its concern to “redeem the culture” and establishing “Christian laws” in the land, dominionists distract themselves away from the Gospel. Such teaching and practice can be so earthly-minded it is of no heavenly good. On the contrary, we need to be heavenly-minded. We are not here to make the world a better place. We are here to take with us as many people possible to the better world to come (the redemptive kingdom). Being heavenly-minded is the only way to be of any earthly good (in the common kingdom).
As citizens of heaven, we need to remember our home will never be in this world as this world will never become heaven. Whatever good we do or however we “seek the prosperity and peace” of Babylon, Babylon will never be converted to heaven. Babylon will never exist beyond the borders of the common kingdom, and unless her citizens are converted to Christ, Babylon’s citizens will perish with her (Revelation 17-18). But, “our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Philippians 3:20-21).
On Monday, we’ll take a look at the implications of Christ identifying His disciples as the “salt of the earth.”