It has been a distinct pleasure to get to know a great many missionaries over my life. Most of them lived in countries very foreign to their homeland and customs, still they wrapped themselves in the new culture and loved the people among whom they carried out their daily lives. They are called by the government, expatriates, a moniker they wear with distinction. The literal definition is ‘a person who lives outside their native country’ and one can easily witness the double-life of these ministers of the Gospel. I mean that in the best sense.
Missionary expats will simultaneously cheer with depth of conviction for their adopted country and for their homeland when watching the Olympics. Theirs is a heartfelt love of their new country and still a deep, abiding, love and commitment for their own.
Christians are expatriates in an important way. Paul writes in Ephesians chapter 2,
4 But[c] God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus… (Ephesians 2:4-6 ESV)
In his letter to the church at Philippi, Paul also writes, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:20 ESV)
Our home country is heaven. Unfortunately, many Christians see heaven as a place they will go to someday. It is like a planned visit to go visit relatives somewhere which they anticipate with a kind of bewildered expectation, an uncertainty of what it will truly be like. Such a mindset is understandable. There are lots of incredible descriptions about heaven and the beings that live there. When we think like that, not only are we missing the point, but we are also missing one of the greatest blessings about being a Christian! Hang with me here.
You and I are both, if we are saved by God’s grace, already in heaven! Yep! We are right there, sitting on the front porch, having a great time enjoying the view!
You are now thinking, he’s lost his marbles… well, I have but not the way you’re thinking. When I turned 60, I was given a glass bowl full of 60 beautiful blue marbles. Three plus years and some number of grandchildren later, two of the marbles are missing. So, it is true. I have lost my marbles. Still, we are already in heaven and the Bible says so!
In the quotes I shared, Paul writes we are citizens of heaven. Yeah, that we know, and we’ll go there someday… No, Paul also writes, “He (God) has raised us up with Him (Christ) and seated us with Him in the heavenly places…”
Where, according to the Bible is Christ right now, waiting to return to earth for what is known as the Rapture? Go ahead, Google it, I’ll wait.
Okay, here goes. The writer of Hebrews puts Christ seated with God. “…we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places…” (Hebrews 8:1)
Jesus, himself, said, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Matthew 26:64 ESV) The same statement, in the same context, is repeated in Mark 14:62 and Luke 22:69. Paul shares it again in Colossians 3:1 and the writer of Hebrews again in 12:2. Remember the Ephesians verses? Seated us with Him in the heavenly places.
Important note here… hang with me again, this is brief. According to the ancient Greek language, the words translated raised up and seated are a verb form that means already completed. It’s a done deal, not something to happen someday. It was done the second you asked Christ to forgive you and accepted Him for who He is, your citizenship changed.
Please hear me correctly. I am about as a patriotic American as a Christian can be. I was honored to serve in the U.S. Air Force and proudly claim my status as a veteran. I’m with Lee Greenwood, I’d stand up next to you and defend her still today. But my true citizenship is in heaven. I’m a heaven expatriate, living, for now, in America.
This is particularly crucial for Christians to understand during this tumultuous time surrounding the elections and politics in general in the U.S.
Yes, we as citizens of the U.S. and as Christians have a duty to stand for what is right and fair in the here and now. We can be vocal, and we can write letters or editorials and do everything asked of a good and true citizen.
But… you KNEW there was a but in here somewhere, right? What we do NOT have to do is STRESS about it! None of this came as a surprise to God.
I pray that He will help us determine what is right so we can find where there was failure and hold accountable those who are responsible for any criminal act in trying to manipulate the elections. I believe that we, as a nation, will get to the bottom of it and determine, as best as possible who our president is to be long before January’s deadline! We can be passionate about righting the wrongs and we can do so AND keep our Christian witness!
But I am an expat of heaven and all of this is temporary, even for our grandchildren’s children. Let us keep our focus on what we can change and our rest in the assurance that God is still God, no matter what the outcome is.