Until the Day of Christ
In the opening thanksgiving of his Letter to the Philippians, Paul prepares his readers for one of its key themes: Going on to perfection in Jesus. The promised bodily resurrection is necessary for the consummation of this process - It is an integral part of the future salvation that believers will receive when Jesus appears “on the clouds of Heaven.” What God began in the Philippians at their conversion He will continue to perform until that day, “the Day of Christ.”
The Apostle begins by giving thanks for what God has accomplished already in the Assembly and its contribution to the Gospel, “from the first day until the present.” Moreover, he remains convinced that God will complete what He first started among the Philippians “until the day of Jesus Christ” - (Philippians 1:3-10).
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The term “Day of Jesus Christ” refers to his future coming when he will appear in glory to gather his saints to himself. It will be a time of both judgment and salvation – condemnation and punishment for the wicked man, but vindication and everlasting life for the faithful disciple - (Romans 2:16, 1 Corinthians 1:8, 2 Corinthians 6:2, Ephesians 4:30).
In his letters to the Thessalonians, Paul equates this day with the expectation of the “Day of the Lord” from the Hebrew Bible, an event that will result in final judgment for some, but life and salvation for others - (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-9).
As for going on to “perfection,” Paul provides us with an example based on his own life. After his conversion, he put his Jewish heritage aside to pursue completion in Jesus Christ:
- “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.”
This he did after obtaining the knowledge of Christ, which he found to be of infinitely greater value than his past accomplishments and heritage in Judaism:
- “…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).
Some believers had chosen a different path and thereby 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.” In view were certain Jewish Christians who stressed their conformity to the traditions and regulations of Judaism, including circumcision and calendrical observations:
- (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.”
Paul describes them as those “whose glory is their shame.” Euphemistically, he was referring to their circumcision on which they placed so much value. In contrast:
- “Those 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 his glorious body.”
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The future resurrection is necessary for the “completion” of believers. It is not optional but central to the Apostolic hope. Whatever they 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.”
Moreover, the resurrection will mean the receipt of a new body, one that is of the same nature as the glorious body now possessed by Jesus.
"Completion" does not mean the abandonment of the present body for a disembodied state, but instead, the exchange of the mortal state for an immortal and glorified body in conformity to his resurrection body.