All my life I’ve been taught the importance of American citizenship. As I’ve been reading my Bible, though, I’m discovering that I’m much more than a citizen of the United States. I’m a citizen of heaven, of God’s eternal kingdom!
I can’t see God’s kingdom.
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for” (Hebrews 11:1-2).
I’m a temporary resident of the United States. I’m an “alien” and a stranger on this earth, according to God. I have my King’s permission to work and settle in this country, but I know that someday, I will have my residence and occupation in His country.
Because I’m living in a foreign country, all the media, chatter, and talk are focused on America, so it’s tempting to forget I’m here on assignment and that this isn’t my permanent location. I can get caught up in presidential debates, worries over laws and court rulings, and fear over economic troubles and war. While I have a duty to vote, to pay taxes, and to pray for my leaders, I must never forget that my citizenship is in God’s heavenly kingdom. I can’t see it, because I’m surrounded with American culture, but I need to walk by faith.
I know my King made this world for Himself.
“By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible” (Hebrews 11:3).
This world did not evolve out of the matter that is visible around me. Instead, God created the world out of nothing. It was formed at His command, because He had a purpose for it all.
We Americans understand what it is to be a colony of another empire. Our own country was originally founded as little colonies of England, Spain, Portugal, and France. Back then, kings sent people over to the American continent to establish colonies for them. These colonies were to look just like the mother country, with the same laws, business principles, and even food and clothing styles. This is why we have names like “New York,” “New Hampshire,” “New Jersey,” “New England,” and “New Mexico.” The colonies were established to promote the king’s interests and reputation in a new land.
Earth was created by God as a “colony” of heaven, as a place to establish His reign, His rules, and His reputation — as a place to lift high His reputation and show His mighty power. Earth was intended to be “New Heaven,” set up by His command to show His laws, principles, and even food and clothing styles. <wink>
My daily actions show my true citizenship.
“By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.
“By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God” (Hebrews 11:4-5).
In the beginning, the sons of Adam had to make a choice. Would they seek to acknowledge God their King, by obeying His laws and commands, or would they mutiny by trying to establish their own kingdom, with its own laws, customs, and commands?
“Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).
Of course, we know from history that almost all of mankind did revolt from their heavenly King. Only a few in each generation were heavenly minded, walking by faith in the midst of a world that went its own way.
“By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith” (Hebrews 11:7).
God is going to build a new city.
Bible reading is supposed to be practical, right? Well, what could be more practical than reading in my Bible that God is going to come again, and that He is going to establish a literal, physical kingdom again on this earth? Why is this practical? Because He has promised that I can have an inheritance in this kingdom, if I will walk by faith.
“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:8-10).
Just like Abraham, we don’t know all the details about the country where we’ll live someday. We just know that God has promised it, and that we can be “heirs with [Abraham] of the same promise.” We give up a lot today, maybe fame or a career or riches, because we’re living with our eyes on the future, when we’ll have a real inheritance in a real city (a “city with foundations”), and because we know that the maker of the city is God, who never fails to keep His promises.
In order to make this a practical reality in our lives, we need to do two things:
- Read our Bibles, hungry for information about this city. If we were planning a vacation, wouldn’t we read all the pamphlets and websites, eager for pictures, details, and specifics? Why don’t we read our Bibles with this same appetite and anticipation?
- Do our assignments now, so that we’ll qualify for “bigger and better” assignments in our eternal city. Has God asked me to submit to my husband, actively teach my children, and manage my home? Is He watching to see if I’m a faithful servant?
“A man going on a journey… called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.
“The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
“After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’
“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” (Matthew 25:14-21).
I need to realize how big God’s kingdom is!
Back in the Garden of Eden, God promised a redeemer, a child born who would save His people from their sins. Later, He promised Abraham that the redeemer would come from his family. Even more, He promised Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky.
“By faith Abraham, even though he was past age—and Sarah herself was barren—was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore” (Hebrews 11:11-12).
God promised that in Abraham all nations on earth would be blessed. Through faith in the promised Redeemer, I can be included in the promises made to Abraham. What an amazing promise!
“Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men)— remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ… Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” (Ephesians 2:11-13, 19-22).
“Consider Abraham: ‘He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’ Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’ So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith… You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:6-9, 26-29).
Yet I need to remember that God is calling others, too. Part of my “mission” on this earth is to bring the good news (“gospel”) of God’s Kingdom, of salvation from our sins, and peace with God through Messiah Jesus to others. Otherwise, why wouldn’t God bring His kingdom to earth now? Why is He waiting? He’s waiting because He is merciful and loving to all — not just to me — and He wants all to come to repentance.
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
We commonly call this time in history “the church age,” but what does that mean? The word “church” is ecclesia in Greek, which means “called out ones.” We’re living in the time in history when God is “calling out” from every nation those whom He wants to save. What a privilege to be “called out” of my sin by the God of the universe and to be added to His kingdom — but I need to remember that He loves all the world and wants me to share this good news with others.
I need to walk by faith, looking for my heavenly country.
I want God to return during my lifetime because I can get sick and tired of the culture and country I live in now. I long for a day when all the world lives according to God’s laws and His righteous justice. I wonder what it will be like to worship God in His temple on His holy days. I long for a world where the lion will lie down with the lamb, in a place where we have freedom from disease, death, and sadness. I can’t wait to see what my assignment will be. God’s kingdom will be an amazing place!
“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:13-16).
I try not to get discouraged when I read that “all these people were still living by faith when they died.” I’m very impatient! I’m sure they were, too. Peter wrote,
“So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him” (2 Peter 3:14).
God is in control. I need to walk by faith, in obedience to His commands, lovingly sharing His mercy with all.