Read the Text
20For us, instead, there exists a celestial citizenship. It is from there we anticipate also a Savior, the Sovereign One, Jesus Christ. 21He will reconfigure our debased body to be conformed to his magnificent body by his energy, empowering him even to subjugate to himself all things.
Think about the Text
Those whose lives are filled with vice, Paul indicates in 4:19, are ones whose values are earthly. Paul now contrasts this with a political metaphor. He tells his audience their allegiance is to a political entity in the heavens, whose values transcend the customs and opinions of humans. The world to which they belong is larger than the local way of life. It is common knowledge that the Stoics believed in the “brotherhood of man,” in being a cosmopolitan or “citizen of the world.” As Epictetus describes it, that concept goes far beyond the humanistic and altruistic way of thinking.
“He then who has observed with intelligence the administration of the world, and has learned that the greatest and supreme and the most comprehensive community is that which is composed of men and God for these only are by their nature formed to have communion with God, being by means of reason conjoined with Him- why should not such a man call himself a citizen of the world, why not a son of God, and why should he be afraid of anything which happens among men” (Epictetus, Discourses, 1.9.3)?
Verse 21 describes the reconfiguring or “reschematization” (metaschēmatizō) that Paul believes will occur at the resurrection. The language depicts nothing less than the apotheosis of humans to a divine state. This idea is already present in the Hellenistic Jewish text 4th Maccabees. The eldest son, who is bound and scourged, then tied to the rack, refuses to eat pork as a demonstration of his virtue. The gruesome scene of torture in which he is both stretched on the wheel and being burned alive culminates in the description of his fortitude, “but as though transformed (metaschēmatizō) by fire into immortality he nobly endured the rackings” (4th Macc 9:22). He then announces, “’Imitate me, brothers,’ he said. ‘Do not leave your post in my struggle or renounce our courageous brotherhood. Fight the sacred and noble battle for piety’” (4th Macc 9:23-24).
“to subjugate to himself all things” (make all things subject to himself) – Paul’s Jewish view of the events of the end of the age come out here. The messianic prophecy of Ps 8:6 makes the messiah responsible to subjugate all things, ostensibly becoming the ruler of all. Paul refers to this elsewhere and other texts apply the same messianic prophecy (1 Cor 15:27-28; cf. Eph 1:22; Heb 2:8; 1 Pet 3:22).
Meditate on the Text
Imagine what it would look like to blast off in a rocket from your backyard as you look back at your home. You see your neighborhood, your city, your state, your country, your hemisphere, your planet, your solar system, your galaxy, and so on. What is the spiritual equivalent of seeing yourself in relation to God’s universe?
Think of the movie The Fly. At death you enter into a disintegrator-integrator. Unknown to you the Risen Christ enters with you. When you rematerialize, your body is now like the immortal and incorruptible body of Christ.
Live the Text
Take a small piece of paper and write “Passport” at the top. The write, “Citizenship: Heaven.” What else can you think to write? How about, “Family: Everyone.” Carry this with you. You’re a resident alien but you’re related to everyone you meet.
When you see yourself in the mirror, think about what you will become, what you are becoming.