The concept of nations and super powers are not simply a 21st century reality. There have been many nations throughout history who have conquered lands and people for the sake of greater power. Rome was one of the most successful conquerors in history. Rome was able to keep its power due to the colonization of Roman citizens in a conquered area. Rome would plant colonies so that Roman education, arts, and law would permeate throughout the conquered lands. During this time in Philipi, loyal Romans would burn incense at the temple to declare that Caesar was their lord. It is during this time that Paul declares to the Roman power that there is another king, besides Caesar, who was crucified. Paul affirms that those who follow Christ as Lord find their citizenship in Heaven; thus, eagerly waiting for Christ’s return when he will redeem all things to himself.
“There is a greater kingdom in which we have been invited into. There is a truer reality. Your true citizenship is in Heaven not the governments in this world.”
The gospel calls us to declare our allegiance to Christ rather than the façade kingdoms of today.
When we are looking for false kingdoms or Caesars of today, we must ask two questions:
1. What seems to hold power over us apart from Christ?
2. What is our allegiance to that power?
The Caesars of this world could be anything from a sinful mindset to sinful acts of the heart or an allegiance to a government. If there is anything in our lives that takes the place of Christ it is a false authority.
A Desperate Blindness: Enemies of Christ
Paul warns the church to watch out for those who are enemies of the cross. There are those who are not yet awakened to the reality of the lordship of Christ and his kingdom. There is a desperate blindness among those who are only capable of seeing the world that is right before them rather than Christ’s redeemed kingdom which has been brought through the cross.
Paul warns us to watch out for four markers of those who are not living in the reality of Christ’s kingdom:
1. Their end goal is destruction
The end goal for Christians is the resurrection, but destruction is the end for those who are enemies of Christ.
2. Their god is their belly
This marks those who are overcome by the authority of their bodily appetites including food, drink, and sex.
3. They glory in their shame
It is natural for those who do something wrong to hide their shame from others. But those who are enemies of the cross will gloat about their indiscriminate behavior.
4. Their minds are set on earthly things
In Colossians, Paul describes “earthly things” as: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, idolatry, anger, wrath, slander, and obscene talk. The minds of Christ’s enemies are set on earthly things and are consumed by these vices rather than seeing the true reality of the redeemed kingdom given to us by Christ.
Paul contrasts the two realities of those who succumb to the destruction of the false kingdoms of this world with the hopeful reality that our true citizenship is in Heaven where we eagerly await our savior.
A Hopeful Reality
Paul points to a deeper reality in the midst of the church’s persecution under Roman rule. Paul reaffirms that there are two aspects which lead us away from destruction and pushes us towards the hope we see in Christ.
1. We are citizens of Heaven
2. We are waiting for our Savior from Heaven
It is important to recognize that when Paul talks about Heaven, he is not simply talking about a future destination that we go to when we die. Heaven is the dwelling place where God’s presence uniquely dwells, thus all is as it should be. Scripture tells us that Heaven is a real place that believers go to when they die, but it also declares that Christ will bring Heaven to earth. This is good news for us because that means that what we do on earth matters. As we join Christ in his work some of that endeavor will be redeemed into eternity.
“We are called to join God in His work to make all things new.”
Our ability to stand firm in the saving reality of Christ rather than being consumed by the false kingdoms of this world is directly correlated with our understanding of Heaven. We must be reminded that we are citizens of Heaven and we are waiting for our savior from Heaven which should affect how will live in the here and now. Without this understanding of our current reality we begin to live within the earthly operation which Paul warned against.
We no longer need to fear whether the purposes of God will come to fruition. We no longer need to wonder if there will be justice for suffering or relief from pain. We do not have to wonder if there is salvation for the lost. Christ’s kingdom declares that sin and death do not have the final say. Christ is the one who rules in righteousness and he is bringing his kingdom to earth where all will be redeemed to him. It is in this reality that we can hold on to hope.
“We have been redeemed by the finished work of Jesus Christ;
the one who rules in righteousness.”
Are we allowing the Caesars of this world to have the final say over our lives? Or are we living under the citizenship of our righteous ruler who makes all things new?