2 Cor. 5:8
2 Cor. 12:2-4
1 Thess. 4:17
2 Peter 3:10
- Philippians 3:20
- "For our conversation is in heaven; . . ."
- It is noted by Evangelicals that "conversation"1 is more accurately translated "citizenship". It is then argued that the real person (i.e., the immortal soul) must belong in heaven, its homeland, where it returns at the death of the body.
- The Apostle is silent about souls leaving the body and departing to heaven at death. His hope is the resurrection of the dead at the return of Christ. Note the context:
- "If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead." (Phil. 3:11).
- "For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body . . . " (Phil. 3:20,21).
- In what sense is the believer's citizenship in heaven? Philippi was a colony of the Roman Empire. On Paul' second journey his company landed at Neapolis, "and from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony2 . . . " (Acts 16:12). A Roman colony was a miniature Rome, a reproduction and outpost of the city.3 The Roman citizens attempted to reproduce the life and customs of Rome. Their citizenship and commonwealth was in Rome. This background information forms the basis of Paul's instruction. He says, "Let your conversation [literally, citizen life] be as it becometh the gospel of Christ." (Phil. 1:27). The citizen life to which the Apostle refers is not that of Rome but of a higher relationship. Philippian believers had become "fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God." (Eph. 2:19). Paul contrasts those whose interest are fixed on the earth (Phil. 3:19) with those whose citizenship is in heaven. (Phil. 3:20). Just as the Philippian colonist was a part of an outpost of Rome, so the believer looked to heaven as the center of his government from whence would come the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Phil. 3:20). Ecclesial and individual life were therefore, to be patterned after the heavenly, not after Rome.4
- "Conversation" as the word is used today, means "speech", "talk". This specialized use of the word is different from its meaning at the time of the King James translators (1611). The word then meant "behaviour". The Greek word, "politeuma", translated "conversation" in the A.V. means "commonwealth" (R.S.V.) or "citizenship" (R.V.). Return
- A colony of the Roman Empire, like Philippi, was only a city and not a country as were the colonies of Great Britain. Return
- See Dictionary of the Bible, James Hastings ed., (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1963), p. 763. Return
- Believers were commanded by Jesus to "be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." (Matt. 5:48). The disciples were instructed to pray for the kingdom to come that God's will might be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Matt. 6:10). In so doing, believers were "outposts" of heaven. Moffatt, in his translation paraphrases, Phil. 3:20 - "We are a colony of heaven." Return