Our Conversation in Heaven
Francis Bourdillon, 1864
"For our conversation is in Heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change our lowly 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."
"Our conversation" here does not mean our talking together, as we generally use the word now, but something quite different. It means our citizenship, our home. So that when the apostle says, "Our conversation is in Heaven," his meaning is something of this kind: "We are strangers and pilgrims on the earth — and we desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Already in heart and by title we belong to that country — Heaven is our home."
He speaks in fact somewhat as an Englishman might speak, who is living abroad for a time, but hopes to return to his native land. Such a man might say, "My conversation, my home, is not here — in this country I am but a stranger. I belong to England — there is my home, and there I hope some day to live."
An Englishman, it is clear, may speak thus of England — but who may speak thus of Heaven? Every true believer, every humble disciple of Christ, everyone who has given his heart to Him and is pressing toward the mark for the prize! There is no presumption in such a one saying, "Our citizenship is in Heaven"; for our Lord Himself told His disciples when He was about to leave them, that He was going to prepare a place for them, and that it was His will that where He was, there they should be also; and, before that, He bade them lay up for themselves treasures not upon earth, but in Heaven, and added, "For where your treasure is — there will your heart be also."
He Himself therefore has made Heaven the home of all who love Him, and it is His will that they should have their hearts there already. How happy that He lets us say even now, "Our citizenship is in Heaven!" How happy, that we may not only look forward to being there hereafter — but may even reckon ourselves to belong to that heavenly home already! This is a foretaste of Heaven itself.
But this word "conversation," though it does not mean talking together — yet does seem to relate to our conduct as well as to our home. "Our conversation is in Heaven" means that our home is in Heaven, and that our way of life is also heavenly.
We shall understand this better if we think again of the Englishman abroad. I have supposed him to remain an Englishman still, though living in a foreign country. But sometimes a man gives up his country altogether and never seeks to come back to it. Having long lived abroad, he has so entirely left off English habits and fallen into the ways of the country in which he lives — that he would not be known any longer to be an Englishman. Such a man would hardly say, "My home is in England."
Now, the true citizen of Heaven is not such a citizen as this. He not only has his home in Heaven, but his heart is there too. Not only does he look forward to dwelling there hereafter, but even now he seeks to be holy and heavenly in life and character. Thus he is known by all that he does and says — to be one who belongs to Heaven, and that more and more, as he gets nearer to his home. "They admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country — a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them!" Hebrews 11:13-16
Those who live the life of faith, and love their Savior, and strive to serve God — are different in their whole conduct from men of the world. It is plain that they are not of this world. Their life shows it. Their conduct is in Heaven. It is so in a measure — but it ought to be so far more.
There ought to be no mistaking a citizen of Heaven. But, alas! There is too much of worldliness and carelessness even in those who are in the narrow way. Too often it would be hard to know them as travelers towards Zion, seeking the heavenly country. We ought often to stir ourselves up by the thought of what we humbly believe God has prepared for us for Christ's sake. What! Shall those who are to live forever with God — have so little fellowship with Him now? Shall those whose treasure is there, where no rust nor moth can corrupt — care so much for the perishing things of this world? Shall those for whom Jesus has gone to prepare a place — fret against the little hardships and discomforts along the way? Thus the Christian should often remind himself of the home to which he belongs. It would help him to be heavenly in heart and life.
But perhaps the thought that would help him most of all, is the thought of Jesus coming again. "For our citizenship is in Heaven, from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." We look for Him; we expect Him; we are waiting for Him. He said that He would return, and told us to watch for His coming. We do not know when He will come — but He will come. He has told us to be ready, so that when He comes, we may receive Him with joy. This is the position of the Christian on earth — waiting for his Lord.
We do not know when He will come, and we do not know how He will come. Some will be alive when He comes and will see Him appear in the clouds — some will have died before He comes. We do not know how it will be with us. He may come while yet we are living — or we may die before His coming; no one knows. But whether dead or living, all will see Him when He comes; for then the dead will rise to life again; nay, it is said, "the dead in Christ shall rise first." Besides, when the believer dies, his soul goes to be with Jesus; so that death is to him, in one sense, the coming of the Lord, the coming to take him home to rest; as Jesus Himself said, "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself, that where I am, there you may be also."
Now it is plain that to be thus looking for the coming of the Lord — must have a great effect on a man's character and life. It must keep him from living in sin or in carelessness. It must make him watchful, diligent, and in earnest. It must lead him to draw off his affections from the world — and to fix them upon eternal realities. It must tend greatly to a spiritual mind. And this seems, in fact, to be just what our Lord meant when He said, "Be dressed for service and keep your lamps burning, as though you were waiting for your master to return from the wedding feast. Then you will be ready to open the door and let him in the moment he arrives and knocks."
Thinking of Him,
looking for Him,
wishing for Him,
doing His will,
engaged in His work —
this is what Jesus would have us to do and be.
Lord, make us so more and more! Teach us to have our conduct in Heaven! Teach us to look for You, dressed for service and our lamps burning!
But our body, there is something said at the end about that. It is called "our vile body" — that means a poor, weak, sinful body. And so it is indeed. It is subject to pain and sickness — and it has many weaknesses. How can such a body live forever? How can this "vile body" dwell in that heavenly home? It will not be a vile body then. It is to be changed! The Lord Jesus Christ will change it when He comes. He Himself has a glorious body now, no longer subject to pain and hunger and fatigue, as when He was upon earth. And He will change our bodies, so as to be like His glorious body! Then we too shall have bodies without weakness, sickness, or pain — glorious and immortal bodies, able to live forever in happiness!
When we think of our present bodies, with all their infirmities, we are ready to ask, "How can this be?" Jesus will do it! He who died for us overcame death for us — rescued us from the power of Satan. He who is able even to subdue all things unto Himself, He will do this for us too. He, by His mighty working, will change our vile body into a glorious body; and then He will take us to be with Him forever!
All glory be to His Name, the First and the Last, the Author and Finisher of our faith — who lives and was dead and is alive for evermore!
He redeemed us by His blood!
He called us by His grace!
He is present with us by His Spirit even now!
He will come again!
He will change us into His own likeness!
He will take us to Himself!
"And so shall we be forever with the Lord!"
All glory to His Name!