A citizen is a native of a city, or an inhabitant who enjoys the freedom and privileges of the city in which he/she resides. A citizen is distinguished from a foreigner, or one not entitled to its privileges. Citizenship is the state of being sanctioned with the rights and privileges of a citizen.
In order for a non-U.S. citizen to voluntarily become an American U.S. citizen there is a 10-step naturalization process. Once one becomes a U.S. citizen, they owe their allegiance to the United States and are entitled to its protection. They also have rights and responsibilities that they should exercise as citizens.
Being a member of the church of the body of Christ today has the unique privilege of receiving salvation by grace and the glorious position (never before revealed or enjoyed by any previous believer or calling) of sitting together with Christ in heavenly places—the new realm of citizenship (Eph. 2:1-9). This heavenly place is ‘far above’ all principality, power, might, dominion, name, and all things (Eph. 1:20-23). “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 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” (Philippians 3:20-21). The process is much easier today if one desires to voluntarily become a believer (or a Christian) and receive heavenly citizenship.
Obtaining Heavenly Citizenship
· One voluntarily hears the word of truth, the gospel of their salvation and believes in Christ—receiving what He has accomplished for them (redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins) (Eph. 1:7, 13, 2:8). That’s it. They become sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise—purchased by His blood (Eph. 1:13). This seal is a distinctive mark that implies possession and security. It’s permanent—not transitory like a visa or passport. This seal is the earnest of their inheritance (Eph. 1:14). Signed, sealed, delivered—now His! The new citizen becomes ’hid in Christ’ in God and protected until it’s time for Christ to appear. At that time, they’ll appear with Him in glory in their heavenly home (Col. 3:1-4).
This calling and citizenship goes far beyond the one offered during the time of the Acts period where the Gentile believer (called the uncircumcision) was subordinate to the Israelite believer (called the circumcision) and was grafted in as a wild olive branch (contrary to nature) into the true olive tree (Rom. 1:16, 11:11-32). Chapter 15 of Acts goes further, due to disagreements with believing Jewish leaders regarding Gentile believers customs and habits, to instate certain ordinances and decrees. It was advised to the Gentiles that they needn’t be circumcised or keep the law of Moses, but it would be helpful for them to abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication (Acts 15:28-29). This is what the apostle Paul is referring to in Ephesians 2:11-13, likening it symbolically to a ‘middle wall of separation’. But beginning in verse 14 of Ephesians 2, Paul describes how all the decrees and ordinances of the Acts 15 period have now been abolished in order to create, in Christ, one new man from the two (the believing Gentile and believing Israelite). Gentiles are now fellow heirs of the same body (Eph. 3:6). “Now, therefore…no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Eph. 2:19). They both would be made one, where every kind of distinction that they carried previously would now cease to exist, “so making peace” (Eph. 2:15, Col. 2:14-23, 3:10-11). Neither Jew nor Gentile had ever in times past been associated with a calling that went back to before the foundation of the world, or rose so high as to be “far above all” where Christ sits (Eph. 1:4, 2:6, 4:10). This new man/one body, where Christ is the Head, and new program/dispensation of the Mystery is described and explained in Ephesians three and Colossians 1:18-29, 2:8-23.
Citizens’ Rights and Responsibilities
As the heavenly realm is the place of citizenship, that’s where all spiritual blessings, in Christ Jesus, will be found (Eph. 1:3). The citizen’s acceptance in the Beloved and standing is based solely on what Christ has done in their stead (Eph. 1:6, 2:4-9). The gift of the new nature is a pledge of God’s future gifts in the same kind, thus differing from any ordinary pledge. This gift enables the heavenly citizen to walk worthy and fulfill the good works that God has preordained for them to walk in while in their temporary dwelling. These responsibilities are spelled out in Ephesians 4-6 and Colossians 3-4.
The imperative for the heavenly citizen today is to keep their focus on their true homeland and spiritual blessings above, not on earthly things as doing so may cause them to fall into temptation and a snare (Phil. 3:20-21, Col. 3:1-4, 1 Tim. 6:9-10, 1 John 2:15-16). They’ll be able to stay on course as they refer to their Citizen’s Handbook (2 Tim. 3:16-17) and travel light— “… godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it’s certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content” (1 Tim. 6:6-8).
How glorious it will be when we finally reach our heavenly home to dwell forever with the Lord in eternal glory! Hallelujah!
The Christmas season is a great time to reflect upon the faithfulness of God. After all, the prophecy of old of a coming Messiah was fulfilled. “Joy to the world, the Lord has come. Let earth receive its king.” Sadly, the king, who came for His own (the nation of Israel) was not received by them (John 1:11).
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1).
“Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17).
Without faith, it’s impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6).
The Bible records the unfolding eternal purpose of God. Throughout the ages, God has used various modes of communicating as well as different principles of administration (unique to each period in time) to accomplish His purposes (Heb. 1:1-2). During history, there have been men and women (in the times they lived in) that displayed great faith. These were not sinless or perfect people, but they proved themselves faithful because after hearing the word of God, they believed what He said and acted upon it (Many times standing alone against what was ‘seen’ and popular). Some of them, dubbed the ’Heroes of Faith’, are listed in Hebrews chapter eleven. From this list are those that have a connection to the lineage of Christ. Their testimonies reveal the faithfulness of God (Deut. 7:9, Heb. 10:23, Lam. 3:23, Ps. 36:5, 89:8). We can be inspired by them to be faithful in our own time as we, too, look to the Author and Finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:2).
The key to the prophetic teaching of the Scriptures (either prophecies concerning Christ Himself, heaven and earth, man, Israel or the Gentile nations) begins at Genesis 3:15, “I will put enmity (opposition)”. Even though the first man and woman (Adam and Eve) were not faithful (as they disobeyed God’s word), we see the hint of God’s eternal plan in the Prophecy of the Coming Seed of the Woman — but it would not come without opposition from Satan (Gen. 2:16-17, 3). The origin of evil is indeed a puzzling enigma to us. The animus between the two seeds is a subject introduced by God and a vital component in how God is working out His eternal purpose. The presence of this opposition is the key to understanding the parables of the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, and a reason for the rejection of Christ at His first coming—” An enemy has done this” (Matt. 13:28).
We can start to trace the Seed of the woman shortly after Adam and Eve’s eviction from the garden as the Bible records in Genesis 4:1-2 that Eve conceived two sons, Cain and Abel. It was Abel (the first of the faithful listed, Heb. 11:4) who the Seed of the woman would continue through and so Satan’s opposition to him. Disobedience to God’s Word gives opportunity for the devil. “…Cain was of that wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous.” (Gen. 4:8, 1 John 3:12, Jude 1:11).
A truth that can build our faith is as much as God has allowed mankind and the angels freewill (to choose God’s will or their own), He ultimately rules as He steps in when it affects His eternal plan (Job 5:12, Ps. 33:10-11, Prov. 16:9, 19:21, Eph. 1:11). And so, He substituted another Seed for the Messiah to come through, Seth (Gen. 4:25).
We next see Satan behind the corruption of almost all flesh upon the earth when the ungodly intermarried with the godly line of Seth and filled the world with violence (Gen. 6). There was only one man, Noah, who did what was right in the sight of the Lord and whose lineage had not been corrupted with ungodly seed (Gen. 6:9-10, 22, Heb. 11:7). The whole purpose of the flood was to preserve mankind through Noah’s family and thus the Seed of the woman.
We next jump to Abram (later named Abraham, Gen. 17:5) who came from the line of Noah’s son Shem (Gen. 11:10-26). God chose Abraham to continue to carry out His plan by becoming the father of a new nation (Israel) as well as heir to a land through an unconditional covenant (Gen. 12:2-3, 17:4-7, 15:18). Abraham believed what God had said and left his family and traveled away from his hometown (Gen. 12:1-4). He was content to ‘dwell in tents’ because he believed what he heard about the ‘heavenly city’ from God (Heb. 11:8-10, 13-16, 12:22, Rev. 21:10-27). It was through Abraham’s seed (and this new nation) that the promised Seed of the woman would come (Gal. 3:16). This new nation would be separated from the other nations (Ex. 33:16, Deut. 14:2). The Lord Jesus Christ was not only the promised Seed of the woman (which indicated that He was to become a man) but He was also to be the seed (descended from) Abraham (Matt. 1:1, Gal. 3:16). As we trace the descendants of Abraham, we discover the lineage of Christ to continue through Isaac, the child of “promise” (Gen. 26:3-4, Rom. 9:9). By faith, Abraham also when tried by God offered up Isaac, his only begotten son, trusting in God (Gen. 22:1-14, Heb. 11:17-19). Through Isaac comes Jacob (Gen. 25:23-26, 28:13-15). Isaac exhibited faith by blessing Jacob and Esau over things to come (Gen. 27:28-29, Heb. 11:20). In Genesis 32:28 we read that God changed Jacob’s name to Israeland blessed him. Jacob in turn exhibited faith by blessing each of the sons of Joseph as he died worshipping the Lord (Gen. 48:14-15, Heb. 11:21). Through Jacob (Israel) came twelve sons from which sprang the twelve tribes of Israel (Gen. 49:1-28). It’s further revealed that the Seed of the woman would come from the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:8-10, Matt. 1, Rev. 5:5). Christ is also referred to as the Son of David as God promised David back in 2 Samuel 7:12-13, 16 that He’d set up and establish a kingdom one day where David’s seed (Christ) would sit upon his throne and rule and reign forever (Isa. 11:1, Matt. 1:1, Acts 2:29-32, 13:33-37, Rev. 5:5, 22:16).
When it was time God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, and “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (Gal. 3:16, 4:4, John 1:14). It’s evident that many of the Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled at Christ’s first coming as well as the events leading up and through His death, burial, and resurrection. It’s also apparent that some prophecies and promises have yet to be fulfilled. At Christ’s first advent the King was in Israel’s midst and ‘His own’, not only did not receive Him–they crucified Him (John 1:11, Acts 2:22-23, 36, 3:13-15). Had Israel repented at the call of John the Baptist, and of the Lord, the long-expected Kingdom would’ve been set up and the Old Testament prophecy of the ’last days’ fulfilled. God allowed Israel yet another opportunity to receive their Messiah (Acts 2:38-39, 3:19-26), but as a nation they again rejected Him (Acts 28:26-28). He then stopped the prophetic clock, (postponing the Kingdom for a time) as Israel became temporarily Lo-Ammi (not My People) (the fulfillment of Hosea 1:9, 3:1-4).
God then unfolded a new dispensation, the dispensation of Grace, using the apostle Paul as His steward. Though it was in God’s mind before the foundation of the world, it was a ‘mystery’ (sacred secret) that had never been prophesied or revealed before (Eph. 1:4, 3:1-9, Col. 1:25-27). God’s new program introduced a new group (or company) of people composed of individual believing Gentiles and Jews that would form one Body (organism), called the church of the Mystery, or the One Body (where Christ is their Head) (Eph. 1:22-23, 4:15-16, 5:23, Col. 1:24, 2:18-19). Even though the creation of this new Body, was accomplished through the cross, it did not occur at the time of the cross as God had waited for it to be revealed by the apostle Paul until Israel’s postponement. Today most associate a *church with a building, but in the church of the One Body there are no denominations, creeds, rituals, etc. to keep in order to join or to become a member. Each individual must be saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-9). The moment one trusts in Christ, they’re added to this church and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise until the day of redemption (Eph. 1:13-14, 4:4). This new group has unique attributes that distinguish it from Israel’s calling as well as new privileges, blessings, and hope. Their status is ‘the perfect man’ (Eph. 4:13), (not ‘the Bride, the Lamb’s wife’, which belongs to Israel). The position of believers today is seated together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus where all their spiritual blessings lie. Their citizenship and hope are also found there where their Savior and Lord Jesus Christ will appear with them in glory (Eph. 2:4-5, Col. 3:1-4, Phil. 3:14, 20-21, 2 Tim. 1:9-14, Titus 2:13). *The word ‘church’ has different meanings in the Bible. In Hebrew, it’s ‘kahal’ and in Greek, it’s ‘ekklesia’ meaning an assembly, or a gathering of ‘called-out ones.
It’s helpful to see that Prophecy is devoted to and hinges on three main themes: (1) The Advent of Christ, (2) The return of Israel to their land to become a kingdom of priests, (3) The Second Advent of Christ to (a) reign for 1,000 years, which will be the winding up of the “former heavens and earth” under the reign of sin and the usurpation of the devil, (b) The continuance of Christ’s reign through the new heavens and earth, and on throughout the Day of God until “the end” (goal) is reached (1 Cor. 15:24-28). Refer to the charts below. One of the diagrams show the Bible in five portions (the three that deal prophetically from above are the Old Testament, the Gospels, and Revelation). “The Acts” is a transitional period because it records the transition between two different programs of God that took place. However, the bulk of the book of Acts is on Israel’s rejection, their subsequent blinding, and how they were set aside. The following epistles written during this time are I and 2 Thessalonians, I and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Romans, and Hebrews. “The Epistles” refer to Paul’s prison epistles (after Israel’s rejection) that dictate the program that we’re following today consisting of: Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, I and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. Paul warned the believers in his later prison epistles of relying on philosophy, the ways of the world, and the traditions of men instead of holding fast to the Head. The enemy of our soul is not flesh and blood, but he’ll use flesh and blood to attack us and so the necessity of the shield of faith to thwart his fiery darts (Eph. 6:12, 16, 4:14, Col. 2:8, 18, 20-23, Matt. 15:6).
God desires us to know His complete Word (all that’s written—not just portions of it) as well as the importance of keeping in mind that not every part of it is addressed to us or about us (Rom. 15:4). We, alone, are responsible for diligently reading and studying it for ourselves, in context, as it’s written, to whom it’s written, without editing it or adding any private interpretation (Rom. 10:17, Acts 17:17, 2 Tim. 3:15). See the Bible Study Helps below.
In order to be a Faithful Servant that walks worthy of our calling today we need to exercise care with the duties and responsibilities that God has dictated to us regarding our position (Eph. 1:18, 4:1, Col. 1:10). Similar to any job, the employee who knows and performs their assigned duties well is the one that gets promoted and receives a raise in pay. Contrarily, if an employee neglects his own duties and responsibilities (and instead cuts into another employee’s position or duties), he/she will most likely be demoted or terminated. Likewise, when we take or rob the prophecies, promises and plans that God has prepared for another person or people, we miss out on what God has planned and purposed for us and thus the rewards in it. The apostle Paul is an example of a faithful servant as he was diligent in the work that God had called him to do. He believed in what God said and displayed faith that it would be accomplished (2 Tim. 4:16-18). May we too be able to say as he did, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” and receive the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give us (and all that love His appearing) that day (2 Tim. 4:7-8).