I received the following question:

Can you elaborate more on II Cor. 5:8 and Phil. 3:20
A. Absent from the body (did read Sellers’ definition) but not sure.
B. Citizenship ( Greek meaning )

II Corinthians 5 is a complicated subject. It usually takes me at least 20 minutes to explain it, and it would probably take a full article to set forth what I think it is talking about. First things first, though. Have you read Mr. Sellers’ article on “Absent From the Body”? This article sets forth more or less what I would say about the issue. It is posted here:

I believe this article was also sent out with the latest Bulletin from the Word of Truth Ministry, if you are on their mailing list.

If you have read this article and would still like me to comment on it, I will be happy to do so.

As for Philippians 3:20, I can run through this quickly for you.

The word translated “conversation” in the King James Version (which you have called “citizenship”) is the Greek word politeuma. It is made up of three elements. Polis is the first element, and means “city.” We still use this word in many different English words, for example our word “metropolis” uses the word. Our “police” is a form of the word polis, and “politics” comes from the word for “city” as well.

After polis comes the Greek suffix eu. When used as a prefix it means something different, but as a suffix eu indicates the regular practice of a thing. For example, hieros is a Greek word that means “sacred things.” If one adds eu, hiereus means a priest, or one who regularly practices sacred things. Strateia means an army or a band of soldiers. Strateuo (with the verbal “o” added) means to go on a military campaign, in other words, to practice being an army or soldiers. So politeu means the practice of one belonging to a certain city.

Then there is added yet another suffix, ma. When ma is added as a suffix, it indicates the result of a thing. Hierateuma in II Peter 2:9 indicates a “priesthood,” which is the result of regularly practicing sacred things. Strateuma has to do with the result of regularly practicing military campaigns, and has to do with a veteran army or soldiers. Thus politeuma speaks of the result of regularly practicing the lifestyle and culture of a certain city.

To further understand this concept, we need to have the idea of a Greek city-state in mind. Greece was a rough, mountainous country, and each city was divided from every other city by very difficult terrain. As such, concourse between the cities was fairly minimal. The majority of people would be born in a city, grow up in the same city, live their lives in the city, and die in the city, and never will have been further out of that city than the countryside immediately surrounding it. Thus, each city developed its own distinct culture, traditions, customs, dialect, and so forth. These were so distinct that often all one had to do to know what a person’s character must be like would be to know what city he was from. Then, because that city left such an indelible mark upon him, one could know that he would have a certain character and certain traits. This was the person’s politeuma, the result of him regularly practicing his home city’s way of living and behaving.

By the time Paul wrote Philippians, the sharp lines between cities had long since started to break down, and the word politeuma had lost its city-exclusive character (like our word “politics” has) and came to mean just the acquired and developed character which a person has.

Mr. Sellers in The Resultant Version of Philippians 3 makes this verse:

20. For the acquired and developed character which is ours is already existing among celestials, and it is out of this character that we assiduously and patiently wait it out for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;

The idea is that our politeuma, our acquired and developed character, is one given to us by God. It is not a character that is inherent, perhaps, in any culture on earth, but it is already existing among heavenly beings who serve God and are loyal and devoted to Him. Moreover it is out of this character (the Greek indicates out of the politeuma, not out of heaven) that we assiduously and patiently wait it out for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

I believe that Philippians was written to an Acts period group of believers (see Acts 16) who were now living after the great dispensational change of Acts 28:28. They were having to give up their hope of the kingdom in their lifetime, and satisfy themselves to wait for their Savior until a time long after their deaths when He would at last bring in the kingdom. This was no doubt a hard thing to do. It was not a thing anyone would be eager to do. Yet out of the Godly politeuma they had been given as believers, they were capable of patiently waiting for God’s time to send them salvation, rather than impatiently turning their backs on Him when the kingdom did not come when they wanted it to come. That is what Paul is talking about here.

Politeuma has nothing to do with “citizenship.” There have been many and varied attempts to translate this verse to say we are going to heaven someday, but all have failed. Most fail to note the clear Greek fact that it is out of the politeuma we are awaiting the Savior, not out of heaven. Moreover, even if we were awaiting a Savior out of heaven, this would be no indication of our going there. Other translations, like “we are a colony of heaven,” do not really do the job either, since colonists have generally left a place with no real intention of going back. Ultimately, the idea of politeuma is not that we are going to heaven, but that we have a character that is naturally expressed in heaven among God’s exalted beings.

I pray this helps.

Let me know if you have read “Absent From the Body,” and if you need more help regarding it.