The TREE OF LIFE is a weekly teaching summary. The Tree of Life for the week ending 02-18-01
Living in our Politeuma Privileges, Part 2
For our citizenship is in heaven...
We are continuing to study the doctrine of our Politeuma Privilege in PHI 3:20, where Paul reveals this great metaphor of the Royal Family of God as aliens in the devil's world.
To better understand Paul's point here, let us go back a couple verses to see the context...
PHI 3:17-19 Brethren [the Royal Family], be co-imitators of me, and be having respect for the same ones, who constantly walk according to the pattern you have in us. For many keep walking, concerning whom I have warned you many times, and now continue to affirm, even weeping, the enemies of the cross of Christ, whose termination is destruction, whose god is their emotion, and whose time of glory will be a momentary time of shame, who keep thinking about earthly things.
And why must we walk according to Paul's "pattern," and be warned about the "enemies of the Cross"? The reason is given in the next verse.
PHI 3:20 For our citizenship is in heaven...
The word "citizenship" is the Greek noun "politeuma." This word referred to a body of people constituting a nation or a state, or a body of politic. It also meant a body of people who were residents in a foreign city while their citizenship and allegiance was elsewhere, or a group of individuals united by a common interest. As we will see, the meaning of "polituema" in Paul's day is very important to our understanding of what he is saying to the believers at Philippi. While they lived in northern Greece, the Philippians were primarily Roman citizens, and Roman citizenship was a very highly valued privilege at that time.
After the great civil war, in which Octavian had defeated Antony, retired soldiers began settling in Philippi, and it became a Roman colony. Although the city was so far from Rome (800 miles), it was very close in mindset and lifestyle; the Philippians were considered to be just as much Roman citizens as those in the homeland, Act 16:21. They spoke the Latin language, wore the Roman dress, and called the magistrates by the Latin or Roman names. They maintained a deep awareness and respect for Roman citizenship and all that it meant. They also had a great unity and loyalty to their fellow citizens, and were always working for the good of all Romans. The term "politeuma"meant mutuality and interdependence with your fellow citizens, as well as taking pride in your citizenship. Again, one of its basic meanings is a body of people united by a common interest. Paul uses this word in the sense of the individual citizen developing abilities, talents, and skills, not for his own sake, but for the benefit of the community and for the sake of all. We, the church, are a community of believers whose citizenship is in heaven, and we are to live for the good of the kingdom of God, and not just for ourselves.
Paul therefore uses the word "politeuma," not only because it was an excellent analogy to the Royal Family of God in the devil's world, but it was also a term that the Philippians would easily relate to. By way of illustration, Paul is teaching the principle that members of the Royal Family of God still living in the devil's world are just as much Royal Family as anyone in heaven. "Politeuma" meant one word - privilege. Roman citizens, no matter where they lived, were given many privileges, such as exemption from taxes for life. Being free from taxation, this Roman colony became a thriving city, even on foreign soil. Paul's use of the verb "politeuomai" in chapter one, as well as"politeuma" in our current passage, when writing to the Philippians, was no accident. He knew very well that in Philippi this word would have such strong significance that he could use it to reveal the basic concept of the entire predesigned plan of God for the Church-age, as well as establish one of the most unusual analogies in the Bible.
Paul uses this word to challenge us to live our lives in the light of our eternal future, therefore keeping Bible doctrine in first place in our life. Regardless of how long we live on this earth, our time here is like a drop of water in the ocean compared to eternity. When we live in the light of eternity, whatever problems and adversities we experience, we realize they cannot compare with the "eternal weight of glory" which is "far beyond all comparison," 2CO 4:17, and that "the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us," ROM 8:18.
We are not of this world; we hold a heavenly citizenship. Accordingly, we are told in MAT 6:19-20, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal."In JOH 18:36, the Lord said, "My kingdom is not of this world," and in JOH 15:19, "If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you." He warned the Pharisees in JOH 8:23, "You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world." Because of our union with Christ, God has "raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places," EPH 2:6. The politeuma metaphor means keeping your privileges in mind and living your life accordingly. Our privileges (great advantages, special immunities, permission to do what others can not, etc.) should always be in the back of our mind. Certain rights and benefits have been granted to us and should be enjoyed, both as individuals and as a group, now as well as in eternity.
MAR 10:28-31 Peter began to say to Him, "Behold, we have left everything and followed You." Jesus said, "Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel's sake, but that he shall receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first, will be last; and the last, first."
"Politeuma" is not just a term indicating where one has his citizenship. Even more importantly, it connotes honors and privileges that come with it. Living the Christian way of life on earth, as a resident of heaven, is a life of privilege. The greatest privileges that God ever gave, He gave to born-again believers in the Church-age. Therefore, no matter how your circumstances may depress you at the moment, or how dissatisfied or frustrated you may be, remember that since the day you believed in Christ, the greatest privileges of history have been given to you. We must be made aware of these privileges before we can ever execute God's plan and will for our lives, and live as a privileged citizen of heaven on the foreign soil of planet earth. Whether we realize it or not, because of our union with Christ, we are no longer of this world, "For our citizenship is in heaven!"
Again, we are not only to learn of these great privileges; we are to live in them. Until we do, life really has no meaning.
- Living for people and what they think of you is vain, Ecc 1.
- Seeking happiness in pleasure ("eat, drink, and be merry") is a lie, ECC 2:1-11.
- Living for family is a deception, Ecc 2.
- Looking for happiness in money, wealth, and prosperity is the most obvious form of trickery, Ecc 5.
- Building a reputation is nothing more than hypocrisy, Ecc 7.
- Sex and intimate relationships are merely an appeal to the emotions, Ecc 7.
- Looking for happiness in the hero image is a waste of time, Ecc 9.
Solomon learned these lessons the hard way and concludes his search with these words in ECC 12:8, "Vanity of vanities, says the man with the message, all is vanity!" He came to this final conclusion in ECC 12:13, "The conclusion, when all has been heard [reception of doctrine], respect God and keep His commands [perception, metabolization, and application of Bible doctrine], because this applies to every person [or, this is the entire duty of every person]." All that really matters then is the plan of God for your life. Everything else in life eventually proves to be a dead end.
On the other side of privilege is prejudice, and of course the greatest prejudice in history has been directed against the Jew. It is sponsored by Satan himself, who desires to eliminate the Jews, to prevent God from fulfilling His unconditional covenants. Our Lord warned us in REV 2:9 concerning those who claim to be Jews or the so-called "new Israel" (as in Covenant Theology), "I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan." Millions of believers today believe that God has rejected the Jews and that the church is now the new Israel. What they do not understand is that we are a politeuma, a citizen, of heaven; we are not the recipients of the four unconditional covenants to the Jews.
- The Abrahamic Covenant defines the race for client nation Israel, GEN 12:1-3; GEN 13:15-16; GEN 15:18; GEN 22:15-18; GEN 26:3-4; EXO 6:2-8. You are not a true member of the Jewish race, unless, of course, you are a born-again Jew.
- The New Covenant defines the restoration of the client nation Israel at the Second Advent and its millennial modus operandi, Jer 31:31-34. This part of the contract will become operational at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
Satan is doing everything in his power to destroy the citizenship of Israel. Anti-Semitism therefore is the greatest of all racial, cultural and religious prejudices. It is the most evil of all forms of prejudice.
REV 3:12 "He who overcomes [the winner], I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it [vanish from history] anymore; and I will write [emblazon] upon him the title of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name [King of kings, Lord of lords, bright morning star]."
Spiritual winners will be granted a pass to enter in and out of the eternal city, the New Jerusalem, a satellite city suspended above the earth in the atmosphere or in space. This is the result of using one's freedom in time to glorify God, and then reaping eternal privileges and benefits for doing so. The responsibility of our politeuma begins on earth, not in heaven, MAT 16:19; MAT 18:18-20. The temple of God is the eternal record center in the future and will be the historical textbook of the true heroes of history. The politeuma metaphor is used by Paul to teach the Royal Family the privileges of the predesigned plan of God, and the importance of becoming an invisible hero.
In his "politeuma" status, the Christian has greater privileges than anyone else in this life, greater than anyone before the Church-age, or any time thereafter, including the Millennium. Never have such honors and privileges been delegated by God as has have been in the Church-age. Nothing like it has ever existed before or ever will again. Sadly, however, many born-again believers never realize this privilege. They reject doctrine, ignore it, or are not consistent in it, and the mystery doctrine of the Church-age eludes them, because of their lackadasical attitude. One of the lessons that history reveals is that prosperity has a tendency to result in great arrogance, and arrogance will put Bible doctrine way back in a dark closet, DEU 6:10-12; DEU 8:7-18. Great disaster always hits in the midst of prosperity, when people are blinded and they never see what's coming. The church today is embracing every cheap substitute, superficial attitude, and shallow emotional concept, which will add up to terrible disaster for the majority when it comes to living the spiritual life. This is the tragedy of the time in which we live.
Once you begin to understand your politeuma you will realize that the last thing you should ever do is envy other people, regardless of their worldly accomplishments. King David struggled with this at one time in his life, when he saw the evil prospering. He warns us in Psalm 73 about envy and jealousy, especially toward those who are successful and couldn't care less about God.
PSA 73:12-15 Behold, these are the wicked; and always at ease, they have increased in wealth. Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure, and washed my hands in innocence; for I have been stricken all day long, and chastened every morning. If I had said, I will speak thus, behold, I should have betrayed the generation of Thy children.
It was difficult for David to accept the fact that the devil's people will prosper while God's people must go through adversity and suffering, and to tell this to other believers.
PSA 73:16-19 When I pondered to understand this, it was troublesome in my sight until I came into the sanctuary of God; then I perceived their end. Surely Thou dost set them in slippery places; Thou dost cast them down to destruction. How they are destroyed in a moment! They are utterly swept away by sudden terrors! With Thy counsel[doctrine] Thou wilt guide me, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And besides Thee, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
As a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, you have something that wealth cannot buy, something that is absolutely unique. You have all the privileges of heaven, which even the greatest believers of the Old Testament never had. Like a citizen of ancient Rome, we enjoy fantastic privileges, honors, and benefits that even the wealthiest people around us do not have. As aliens in this world, we have so much more than the people of the world.
PSA 103:2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits...