Our Heavenly Citizenship

Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await 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

Scripture warns us repeatedly never to confuse a mere profession of faith with the possession of living, saving faith in God’s promises. Jeremiah, for example, condemned his contemporaries for their verbal expressions of confidence in the Lord and His temple because they showed no willingness to obey God and thus no evidence of repentant trust in Him (Jer. 7). Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, explains that not everyone who claims to follow Him is His disciple; rather, only those who do the Father’s will because they are grateful for the salvation that is theirs by faith alone have a place in the kingdom (Matt. 7:21–23). Professing faith in Christ does not save us but only possessing faith, faith that reveals itself in what we say and do. Good works do not make us righteous before God, but they prove that we have laid hold of Christ’s righteousness by faith (James 2:14–26).

The Christians in ancient Philippi knew people who professed the name of Christ all day long but whose real gods were their own sensual pursuits (Phil. 3:18–19). The end of these false brethren was destruction (v. 19) because their unrepentant lifestyle showed their faith to be an empty profession and not a living and active trust in Christ Jesus as Lord. The same end awaits all those who profess Jesus falsely in our day. Yet just as the destiny of all those who trusted Christ in Paul’s day was eternal life in God’s blessed presence, the reward for those who rest entirely and truly in Jesus today is also eternal life (Phil. 3:20–21).

All who have a living faith in Jesus Christ enjoy an eternal citizenship in heaven even if we do not presently experience the realities of this citizenship in full. The rights that go with being a citizen involve the final transformation of “our lowly body to be like [Jesus’] glorious body” (vv. 20–21). At the last day, the bodies of believers will be raised and reunited with our souls that, at death, enjoy God’s presence in heaven. Then we will be complete, and our denial of sinful passions today will be seen as worth it in our enjoyment of eternal bliss. But all those who pursue their own ends now at the expense of God’s law will see how their fleeting, wicked pleasures were foolish indeed, for unbelievers will likewise be resurrected, but they will suffer forever the wrath of the One who rules over all (Rev. 20).

Coram Deo

We are justified by faith alone but not by a faith that is alone. Everyone who believes in Jesus alone for salvation will immediately and inevitably prove this faith through good works of service to God and neighbor (James 2:14–26). These works do not save us, but they prove that the faith that does give us heavenly citizenship is present in our hearts. If we have no desire at all to please God, we do not have faith in His Son.

Passages for Further Study

Deuteronomy 11:1
Daniel 12:1–2
Ephesians 2:11–22
2 Timothy 4:18

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you do not make more than 500 physical copies. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred (where applicable). If no such link exists, simply link to www.ligonier.org.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. All rights reserved. Website: www.ligonier.org | Phone: 1-800-435-4343