Paul expressed his goal of going on to perfection, a process that will culminate in our physical resurrection when Jesus returns – Philippians 3:7-21.
In the opening thanksgiving of his letter to the Philippians, Paul prepares his readers for a key theme of his letter – going on to “perfection” in Jesus. The promised bodily resurrection is necessary for their “completion.” It is not optional but is an integral part of the future salvation they will receive when Jesus arrives in glory.
What God began in the Philippians He will continue to perform until the day that Jesus “arrives” in glory at the end of the age – at “the day of Christ.”
- (Philippians 1:3-10) – “I am giving thanks unto my God on the occasion of all my remembrance of you, at all times, in every supplication of mine, in behalf of you all, with joy my supplication making, on account of your contribution to the gospel from the first day until the present, being persuaded of this very thing, that he who has begun in you a good work will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ… And this I pray, that your love may be yet more and more preeminent in knowledge and all perception, to the end, you may put to the test the things that differ, in order that you may be incorrupt and may give no occasion of stumbling unto the day of Christ.”
The “day of Jesus Christ” refers to his future “coming” when he will appear in glory to gather his elect to himself. That day will be a time of both judgment and salvation – everlasting punishment for the wicked, but everlasting life for the righteous – (Romans 2:16, 1 Corinthians 1:8, 2 Corinthians 6:2, Ephesians 4:30).
In his earlier letters to the Thessalonians, Paul equated this day with the expectation of the “Day of the Lord” from the Hebrew Bible, an event that will result in the final judgment for some, but life and salvation for others – (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-9).
And Paul has provided us with an example of what it means to go on to “perfection.” In his life, He put his Jewish heritage aside to pursue completion in Jesus – “What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ…I have suffered the loss of all things and do count them dung that I may win Christ.” Of far more value to him was the knowledge of Christ…
“…that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed to his death, if by any means I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained or am already made perfect, but I press on, if so be that I may lay hold on that for which also I was laid hold on by Christ Jesus” – (Philippians 3:10-12).
Apparently, some believers in Philippi had chosen a different path and made themselves “enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.” Primarily in view were certain Jewish Christians:
- (Philippians 3:1-3) – “Beware of the dogs, beware of mischievous workers, beware of the mutilation. For we are the circumcision, who in the Spirit of God are doing divine service, and are boasting in Christ Jesus, and not in flesh having confidence.”
“Whose glory is their shame.” Euphemistically, Paul was referring to the circumcisions of his Jewish opponents on which they placed so much value. In contrast – “They who worship God in the Spirit and rejoice in Jesus have their citizenship in heaven, from whence 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.”
The future resurrection is necessary for the “completion” of believers. It is not optional but central to Christian hope. Whatever we do receive from God between now and then, the process of salvation will remain incomplete until the resurrection, and that will occur on the “day of Christ.”
That resurrection will impart to us a new body of the same type as the glorious one that Jesus received at his resurrection. Completion does not mean abandoning the body for a disembodied state but exchanging the mortal state for an immortal and glorified body.