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Citizens of Heaven

By David A. DePra

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had desired that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he has prepared for them a city. (Heb 11:13-16)

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God…. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (John 3:3-6)

For our citizenship is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. (Phil 3:20-21)

According to the Bible, a Christian is someone in whom Christ dwells. "Christ in us," is the kingdom of God – that is, Christ is the kingdom of God personified in a Person. What all of this means is that despite the fact that we live IN the world, we are not OF the world. Indeed, there is to be IN US a life, and a motivation, that operates completely independent of, if not completely detached from, this world.

There are a number of ways to put this great Truth into words. One way is as Paul does in Philippians. He tells us that our citizenship is not of this world, but of heaven. Another way to say it is to say that we are born of the Spirit, but continue to live in the flesh. And yet another way is to say that we have come out of this world – come out of our country – and have begun a great journey through the undiscovered country of Jesus Christ.

Yet all of these perspectives end up the same place. A Christian is someone who is living, on the inside, according to a completely different government than is apparent on the outside. Or better said, a Christian is someone who is constituted on the inside according to a completely different principle or LIFE – than that which is evident, or present, in the world around him. To use a familiar phrase, a Christian, "is marching to the beat of a different drum."

I am not simply talking about works. Those are included, of course. A Christian does not live as others live. But this is about more than what we DO. It is about who we are in Christ. A Christian does good works because he lives under a different kind of government – is governed by a different kind of life – than is a person who is not born again. There is supposed to be an inward revelation of Christ – an inward FAITH – that governs all that we are. In short, there is in each Christian, another kind of life than the natural life. And it is according to THAT LIFE that we are to live.

This is actually what Paul was talking about when he wrote, "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." (Rom 8:13-14) He was not talking about, "leadings," or, "divine guidance." No. Read the entire passage. Paul is talking about what GOVERNS US – either the flesh or the Spirit. He is saying that if we are sons of God that we will be GOVERNED (that is the Greek word) by the Holy Spirit.

The Christian is to become more and more someone who is DETACHED from this world, from the power of his flesh, and from the present age – but who is becoming more ATTACHED, or, "one with," the Holy Spirit. So again, we must live IN this world. But that which governs us – that which we live IN and live FOR – is not of this world. It has come into us from the outside, and is why we are born again. It is the life of Christ Himself.

The Kingdom of God

If we are born again we have a new nature. We are therefore new creations. But don’t think of this as merely us becoming, "better people." Don’t limit it to simply the fact that we have heaven as our destiny. Don’t think only in terms only of legal forgiveness and justification. All of those things are included – but they ARE included because of a deeper Truth. If we are new creations in Christ Jesus we are exactly that: We are NEW creatures – or to put it another way, we are creatures possessed of a DIFFERENT KIND of life than natural life. We are, in fact, DIFFERENT CREATURES.

If you are born again from above, you are IN CHRIST. This is not merely, "an improvement," upon being born IN ADAM. Rather, it is the difference between spiritual life and death. Adam is one kind of creature – a dead, ruined one. The new man in Christ is a completely other kind of creature – that of resurrection life. Indeed, the new man in Christ is even more than Adam with life restored. The fact is, the new creation in Christ Jesus is a creature who has full victory over sin, death, and the Devil himself. Adam, even before the sin, never had that kind of life.

The difference between Adam and Christ is that of death and resurrection. "Your Adam," your, "old man of sin," must take his place in Christ on the Cross – this is the ONLY means of deliverance from sin. And then, and only then, will you be raised in Christ Jesus as a new creation. Otherwise, that which is born of flesh will remain flesh – and it doesn’t matter how good, religious, or nice that flesh may be. It is still flesh. Only if we are crucified with Christ can we exit the old creation and be born again by His resurrection.

This is exactly what Jesus said it meant to, "enter the kingdom of God." He said that we had to be born again or we could not ENTER the kingdom of God, and consequently, we could not SEE the kingdom of God. Thus, the new birth – through death and resurrection -- is absolutely essential if we are to enter the kingdom of God.

But can we see that the kingdom of God is nothing more than this very same inner life by which we must be governed? Sure. I said that Jesus Christ is the personification of the kingdom of God in us. Sure. For if Christ is in us, then the kingdom of God is in us – for He is the KING. If Christ is in us, then the Holy Spirit is seeking to make Jesus LORD OF US – and is this not equal to saying that the Holy Spirit wants us to come under the government and rule of God – that is, His kingdom?

Think about it. Jesus is Lord – of us. Jesus is the King – over us. The kingdom of God is God’s rule and government – over us. The Holy Spirit is sovereign – over us. And yet are not all of these SAME LIFE of Christ IN US? Sure. We have CHRIST IN US. We have the Holy Spirit IN US. We have the kingdom of God IN US. These are all and the same. They are all Christ in us in the many different ways we could describe Him.

For example, have you ever noticed how central to the preaching of Jesus was the kingdom of God, our need to enter the kingdom, and our need to inherit the kingdom? Jesus continually preached the kingdom of God! But once He died, was raised, and was ascended, then the kingdom of God is barely mentioned by that name every again. Just once in a while. But once Christ ascended, the theme was always CHRIST IN US through the Holy Spirit.

The fact is, once Jesus ascended to heaven and took His place as Lord of all, the Holy Spirit was sent to make Him Lord OF US. That is the job of the Holy Spirit in this age – and it is the same as saying He wants to make us Holy, make us witnesses unto God, and glorify Himself through us. In truth, once Jesus finished the redemption, He went to heaven and is now, through the power of His finished work, bringing to pass in the hearts and lives of people, everything that His redemption means, and everything He won.

To put it another way: Jesus is putting together a kingdom. He is doing it by calling people out of this world and they are being born again from above. At that point, there is a new government or inner constitution established in them – the kingdom of God stakes a claim in them. And then the kingdom of God begins to invade every part of their lives. This speaks of the need to overcome. But if we yield, we will eventually come under the full power of His resurrection life – which is kingdom of God power. What God wants, in the end, are people who are governed within by His kingdom – and because of that – evidence outward lives of that inward fact. But the kingdom itself is WITHIN US. It is what is to govern us.

This is so important to see because it is a Truth that is continually distorted today. God has NOT HANDED US KINGDOM POWER! He has not, by virtue of the fact that we are born again, turned over to us the keys of the kingdom and given us permission to use them as we see fit. No. It is only to the extent that HIS LIFE -- HIS kingdom -- governs US personally, that we are agents of the kingdom – it is only to that extent that we have any authority at all.

You cannot do the will of God FOR God unless you have submitted yourself to the will of God. You cannot operate in kingdom power unless you have come under the government of kingdom power. This is actually seen in the picture of, "the keys to the kingdom." Just as is the case with physical keys, you cannot use any key to open any lock. Rather, you must use only the proper key, or your keys will carry NO authority. Thus, we are given authority in this world ONLY to do the will of God. And again – we will have no power to do God’s will for Him unless we are at least in the process of BECOMING His will, by virtue of the fact that we are being personally governed by His life within.

When Jesus comes back for His saints, He says that we will reign and rule with Him. He says that IF we overcome, we will sit with Him in HIS THRONE, just as He overcame and sits with the Father. But notice this promise very closely. The whole promise is predicated upon whether we overcome. Only if Jesus Christ is sitting on the throne of our lives – in a way that has resulted in overcoming – can we possibly sit with Him on His throne. Only if we have been faithful in little, can He trust us to be faithful over much. The notion that Jesus is going to hand over to us some kind of authority as a THING – as a reward – to the completely disregard of how much authority He has over us personally, is absurd. Indeed, the Truth is, it is precisely to the degree that Jesus is reigning and ruling and governing me NOW, that I will be able to reign and rule with Him THEN.

We can see that this is the Truth – even now. Despite the many claims today of miracles, signs, wonders, and power, there is really very little. Rather, then is much emotion, soul power, and psychic displays going on in many circles, especially among the charismatics. But real power and authority? We don’t see much. Why? Because Christians continue to think that power and authority is a GIFT God gives us to use. It is not. Power and authority is found in a LIFE – in HIS LIFE IN US. And it is only the degree that HIS LIFE is enlarged and freely flowing in and through us that there can be real power.

All authority is found in the person of Jesus Christ. All POWER is in HIM. Power is a Person, not a thing. Thus, you and I have no power except to the degree that the PERSON HAS US – except to the degree that we are governed by HIM. And according to the apostle Paul, this means that we must become WEAK – so that the power of Christ may rest upon us.

God has chosen to manifest Himself in and through His people. Thus, it is only to the extent that we have the kingdom of God governing us and shaping us according to the will of God that His kingdom – including power and authority – can operate.

God’s kingdom is first in INDIVIDUAL people. It is the life of Christ in them. It is not a THING, or movement, or some, "anointing." The kingdom of God is the government of God embodied in the Person of Jesus Christ – coming to govern all that we are in freedom, life, and Truth.

Citizens of Heaven

Can we now see why it is said that, "our citizenship is in heaven?" Sure. We are BORN of heaven above. We belong to the heavenly realm – the kingdom of God. Thus, despite the fact that we live IN this world, we are no longer citizens of this world. We are to be DETACHED from it as a governing force, and governed by the life of Christ within us.

Hebrews 11 comes at this Truth a number of ways. One way is in the very first verse, which is expounded upon throughout the chapter. Paul says, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen." (Heb. 11:1) In other words, despite the fact that there may be NO evidence anywhere that the natural senses can obtain of the Truth, or of God’s faithfulness, there is INNER evidence. That inner evidence is FAITH itself.

Do we grasp this? Paul doesn’t say that faith is based on inner evidence. No. He says that faith IS – IS – IS that evidence! Faith is the substance when there is no other evidence given to the natural senses.

Paul is talking about the fact that there needs to come a time in our experience when the Holy Spirit finally establishes in us an inner evidence of the things of God. There needs to come a time when we start to become conscious of Christ within – become aware that there is a life in us that is more than our natural life. There is to be EVIDENCE in us – evidence that is so real that we are able to live by it. It will become the, "drum beat," to which we march – to the disregard of the natural.

I’m not talking about something that removes the need to walk by faith. Neither am I talking about something that operates to the disregard of us – or that bypasses us. No. We are ONE with Jesus Christ, and the life of Christ will always operate THROUGH US – not take us over. But for Pete’s sake, if you are a new creation in Christ Jesus, and are really born anew, at some point you are going to notice change. You will not think the same or react the same – how could you, you are being constituted according to a completely different kind of life? You are living as a citizen of the kingdom of God.

Once we realize that there is supposed to be an INNER life – a faith – in us, that detaches us from this world, and even from our SELF, much in the Bible begins to make sense. For example:

That you put off concerning the former conduct the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that you put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. (Eph 4:21-24)


For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. (2 Cor. 5:1)


And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. (Rom 8:10)

If you are a Christian, you have a treasure, Jesus Christ, in an earthen vessel -- you. You have BOTH. But it is Christ within that is your life. He is your life, and in Him is hidden all the treasure of wisdom and knowledge. This is WHY you are no longer a citizen of this world. It is why you are born again a new creation – a different kind of creature than you were through natural birth. You know have in you the kingdom of God – embodied in Christ. You are a citizen of heaven.

A Process

When we are born again, we do enter the kingdom of God. But this does not mean that we are conscious of it – anymore than a new born natural baby knows much about the world into which he or she is born. And yet they are FULLY born. The task before them is to learn and grow.

Of course, there is one big difference to take into account when we compare natural birth to the spiritual birth. When we are born naturally, we have no prior existence. We carry forward nothing. But when we are born again, we do carry forward much that we acquired through natural birth. Thus, for a person born again, there is BOTH learning and UNLEARNING. There is BOTH a growing INTO, and a growing OUT OF. That is where the conflict, warfare, and possibility of trial comes in.

Much that happens to us in the Christian life isn’t simply a matter of God deciding to test us. It is often a matter of the natural clashing with the new spiritual life. This is the NATURE OF THINGS – and must be. It will be. If you are born again you are in a process of growth. But everything you are in the flesh and natural will resist your new life.

For example, if God wants to DETACH us from being governed by our SELF life, and by the world, over to being ATTACHED to Christ, can we see the difficulty? It won’t be easy, especially at first, to walk through life according to the evidence within, when all the evidence you have through your natural senses contradict it. This is, of course, the walk of faith.

What I’m saying is this: We are all used to living according to what our natural senses tell us. And of course, what our natural senses tell us will be fully governed by our self life. This is all we know, or know TO know. But God wants to bring us to the point where we are no longer governed by what our senses tell us. Rather, He wants us to live according to the Truth – according to faith. This is something that is absolutely contrary to everything about the natural man.

When God begins to do things in our lives that we cannot account for with our natural senses or understanding, it is difficult – for we are all geared to absolutely relying upon those capacities. This will perhaps make us feel as if we are losing our senses – for in a way we ARE! Yet this is the only way God can get us establish under another government.

How do we cooperate with God in this process? Submit to Him. Surrender to Him. You cannot MAKE this in yourself. You cannot mold yourself into what you need to be. All you can do is the same thing that you always must do – believe and obey. Surrender to God when He brings the choice.

Now notice: I did not say that we ought to surrender to a situation. No. Sometimes we are to resist a situation. I say we are to surrender to GOD – while IN the situation. Remembering this helps us to avoid presumption.

I promise you that if God brings you to a place of real surrender that you will feel as if you are jumping out over a cliff with no visible assurance that God is going to catch you. This may be traumatic emotionally. And we may not understand it intellectually. But we need to realize that there is NO TRUTH in our emotions, and no Truth in our sense life, and often, no Truth in our understanding. We cannot call out Truth from ourselves. There is only Light and Truth in Christ. And what God is putting us through is intended to reveal Christ to us. We must jump – in faith that we are jumping into the hands of God. We must say, as did Jesus, "Into your hands I commit my Spirit." Jesus trusted God to raise Him up.

Now can we see that when we call the new creation in Christ a DIFFERENT KIND of creature, that this is exactly the Truth? The new creation in Christ does not function like the natural man. Not at all. He is governed by a completely different KIND OF LIFE – that of resurrection life in Christ.

To walk upon this earth through this age – but to be governed by the kingdom of God – this is what a Christian is supposed to BE. Our citizenship is of heaven. Here we are merely strangers and sojourners – passing through on our way home. As Paul wrote of the saints listed in Hebrews 11:

And truly, if they had desired that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he has prepared for them a city.

Every one of the saints listed in Hebrews 11 found themselves in the midst of great trouble. There may have been no outward evidence that God was with them. But the faith within them was the evidence. Consequently, they were able to walk, and to live, according to that which was within them – and be detached from that which was outside of them. This is what it means to be a citizen of heaven, but a stranger in this world. We are born again of a brand new creation.

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