Pastor David B. Curtis


Media #104a MP3 Audio File  

The Transition Period

Philippians 3:12-16


As we have seen, the theme of Philippians 3:4-11 is justification by faith alone. The key verse in this section is:

Philippians 3:9 (NKJV) and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;

Paul sees only two kinds of righteousness: 1. self-righteousness which leads to damnation. 2. God's righteousness given through faith which equals salvation. This is the righteousness that Paul wanted to have, that which comes by faith in Christ. This is speaking of justification by faith alone.

In verse 8, Paul tells us he is no longer trusting in his own righteousness in order that he may gain Christ. Then in verses 9-11, he tells us what it means to gain Christ. In verse 9, he tells us that to gain Christ means to receive His righteousness. Then he goes on in verses 10-11, to explain further what it means to gain Christ.

I see all of the things he mentions in verses 10-11 to be results of justification. Paul "suffered the loss of all things, and counted them as dung" in order that he may "gain Christ." And gaining Christ means: "Receiving his righteousness, knowing him, knowing the power of his resurrection, knowing the fellowship of his suffering, being made like him in our death to sin, and attaining the resurrection from the dead."

I think that we understand that when we trust Christ we receive His righteousness. As Christians we are as righteous as Jesus Christ. We stand complete in Him. Knowing this, Paul's next statement can be very confusing:

Philippians 3:12 (NKJV) Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.

What was it that Paul had not yet attained? The Greek word used here for "attained" is lambano. It means: "to receive, to grasp, to seize, to acquire." Paul is saying, "I don't have it yet." What is it that he doesn't have yet? The verb lambanois transitive, but the object is not expressed. Is it the resurrection that he mentioned in verse 11 that he has not attained? Yes, the resurrection is included, but it is more than that, verses 4-11 are a unit speaking of justification. The key verse being:

Philippians 3:9 (NKJV) and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;

I think that what Paul is saying is that his justification had not yet been consummated. That might not fit your theology but it fits the context of what Paul has been talking about. As a side note, let me add this: The manuscripts P46 and D*, with Irenaeus (Latin translation) and Ambrosiaster, insert the clause "or have already been justified" (dedikaiomai) for the phrase "or am already perfected." That would mean Paul was saying, "Not that I have already attained, or have already been justified."

Remember what we said that justification was? In our study of Philippians 3:4-8, we saw that justification may be defined as that act of God whereby he declares righteous him who believes in Christ. Several things are involved in justification.

1. The remission of the penalty:

Romans 6:23 (NKJV) For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

When you are justified, the penalty of spiritual death is removed. At the time of Paul's writing, spiritual death had not yet been destroyed.

2. The restoration of favor:

Justification is more than just an acquittal. We are brought into God's family, we become His children. At the time of Paul's writing, believers did not have access into God's presence.

3. The imputation of righteousness:

2 Corinthians 5:21 (NKJV) For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Jesus Christ took our sin and bore its penalty on the cross and he gives us his righteousness. We have been declared righteous by God for all eternity. It will never be reversed or changed. Christ's righteousness has been imputed to our account. Justification involves the imputation of Christ's righteousness. At the time of Paul's writing, righteousness was still a hope. Now, you might ask, "Didn't Paul and the New Testament saints already have the righteousness of God? Yes and no. The futuristic perspective of God's righteousness was clearly expressed by Paul:

Galatians 5:5 (NKJV) For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.

If righteousness was already a fulfilled or completed event, Paul made a big mistake in making "righteousness" by faith a matter of hope. You don't hope for what you have:

Romans 8:24-25 (NKJV) For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.

If righteousness was a present reality, why would Paul hope for it? But Paul also talks as though it was a present possession:

Romans 4:5 (NKJV) But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,

Did Paul have Christ's righteousness or was is still future to him? Yes and yes. He had it, but it was also still future to him. How can this be?

Most believers don't understand that we live in a different age than Paul did. Paul lived in what the Bible calls the "last days"- they were the last days of the Old Covenant. Those "last days" began at Pentecost and ended at AD 70 when the Jewish temple was destroyed. We now live in what the Bible calls "the age to come" which is the New Covenant age. This forty year period, from Pentecost to Holocaust, was a time of transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. In this transition period, the New Covenant had been inaugurated but not consummated. It was a time of "already but not yet." To see this look with me at:

Galatians 3:1-3 (NKJV) O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? 2 This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are you so foolish? HAVING BEGUN IN THE SPIRIT, ARE YOU NOW BEING MADE PERFECT BY THE FLESH?

This apparent struggle between "complete and incomplete," "finished and unfinished," is seen in this passage in Galatians. Note the end of verse 3, "Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?" They had begun the Christian life by faith but they were not yet perfected-- their redemption was not yet complete.

We can also see this in:

Ephesians 2:8 (NKJV) For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,

Paul says that they, "have been saved." This seems to be saying that their redemption is complete. Yet, later in the same chapter, Paul writes:

Ephesians 2:19-22 (NKJV) Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom YOU ALSO ARE BEING BUILT TOGETHER FOR A DWELLING PLACE OF GOD IN THE SPIRIT.

The process was still occurring. They were "being built" for a dwelling place of God. But the clear blessing of the New Covenant was that God would dwell with His people:

Revelation 21:1-3 (NKJV) Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. 2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "BEHOLD, THE TABERNACLE OF GOD IS WITH MEN, AND HE WILL DWELL WITH THEM, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.

The New Jerusalem is the New Covenant according to Galatians 4: 24-26, "For these are the two covenants:.... but the Jerusalem above is free." So, Paul tells the Ephesian believers that they are "being built" for a dwelling place of God. It was a process that was taking place but was at that time still unfulfilled.

Later in Ephesians, Paul writes:

Ephesians 4:11-13 (NKJV) And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, TO A PERFECT MAN, TO THE MEASURE OF THE STATURE OF THE FULLNESS OF CHRIST.

According to this passage, the gifted men of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers were given by God for the purpose of "the equipping of the saints." They were to bring the church from a state of infancy to adulthood. The word translated "perfect" in verse 13 is the same root word used in Philippians 3:12, teleios. In this passage in Ephesians, "perfection" is defined as "attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." This happened at the Second Coming:

1 John 3:2 (NKJV) Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, WE SHALL BE LIKE HIM, for we shall see Him as He is.

When Christ returned, all believers were made like Him. Notice that it says, "we shall see Him as He is"- NOT we shall see Him as He WAS. To be like Him is to have His righteousness.

God's goal for the church was that it be like his son:

Romans 8:29 (NKJV) For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.

This took place in AD 70, when the Lord returned, bringing in the New Heaven and Earth, the New Covenant. So the coming again of our Lord for his people brought them to full maturity or perfection. To be perfect was to have Christ's righteousness.

Galatians 5:5 (NKJV) For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.

The words translated "eagerly wait" are the Greek word apekdechomai. This Greek word is only used seven times in the New Testament and every one of them is in reference to the Second Coming. Thus, righteousness comes at the second coming. Apekdechomai is used three times in Romans 8:

Romans 8:19 (NKJV) For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits (apekdechomai) for the revealing of the sons of God.

Who the "sons of God" were would be revealed when the Lord returned, destroying Jerusalem and making it manifest that the Christians were His "sons."

Romans 8:23 (NKJV) Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting (apekdechomai) for the adoption, the redemption of our body.

Redemption was tied with the second coming:

Luke 21:27-28 (NKJV) "Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 "Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near."

The "these things" in the context are the destruction of Jerusalem.

Romans 8:25 (NKJV) But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait (apekdechomai) for it with perseverance.

The context of all of these verses in Romans 8 is that of the second coming.

1 Corinthians 1:7 (NKJV) so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting (apekdechomai) for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Philippians 3:20 (NKJV) For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait(apekdechomai) for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,
Hebrews 9:28 (NKJV) so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait (apekdechomai) for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.

Notice in this verse in Hebrews that when Christ appears the SECOND time, it is for SALVATION. So, the righteousness that they "eagerly awaited" was to come to them at Christ's parousia.

Salvation was not a completed event in the lives of the first century believers, it was their hope, they looked forward to its soon arrival.

Romans 13:11-12 (NKJV) And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for NOW OUR SALVATION IS NEARER than when we first believed. 12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.

He equates their salvation with the "day" which was at hand, referring to the day of the Lord. "Knowing the time" is the Greek word kairos, it means: "season, a special critical strategic period of time." It is used of a season of great importance in redemptive history. The completion of redemptive history was at hand, and with it would come salvation.

Peter also states that their salvation was not yet complete:

1 Peter 1:5 (NKJV) who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Salvation was ready to be revealed, when? In the last time, which would happen at the return of Christ.

1 Peter 1:7 (NKJV) that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,

The incompleteness of believers during the transition period, 30-70 AD, does not contradict Paul's affirmation that "ye are complete in Him" (Col. 2:10). The certain completeness of Christ's work was the basis and confidence of the transformation already at work, with the future fulness drawing near.

The ongoing tension of this transition period from the Old to the New Covenant is seen in Paul's allegory of Abraham's two sons.

Galatians 4:21-31 (NKJV) Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. 23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, 24 which things are SYMBOLIC. For these are the TWO COVENANTS: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar; 25 for this Hagar is MOUNT SINAI IN ARABIA, AND CORRESPONDS TO JERUSALEM WHICH NOW IS, AND IS IN BONDAGE WITH HER CHILDREN; 26 but the JERUSALEM ABOVE IS FREE, WHICH IS THE MOTHER OF US ALL. 27 For it is written: "Rejoice, O barren, You who do not bear! Break forth and shout, You who are not in labor! For the desolate has many more children Than she who has a husband." 28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. 29 But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, EVEN SO IT IS NOW (during the transition period). 30 Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? "Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman." 31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free.

In this allegory, we have two women who are also said to be two cities, and they derive their origin from TWO COVENANTS, giving birth to two kinds of children. The first is Hagar, answering to physical Jerusalem, unto whom is born a nation after the flesh. The second is Sarah, answering to new Jerusalem, unto whom is born a nation after the Spirit. These two nations, or Israels, are the theme of Old Testament prophecy, the gospels, the epistles, and finally the Revelation message.

Just as Hagar and her son (Old Covenant system and people) coexisted for some time with Sarah and her son (New Covenant system and people), so also both covenant systems coexisted for a time. However, the bondwoman and her son were eventually cast out, just as the Old Covenant system would be cast out when God finished His redemptive work in the AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem.

Look with me at Acts 3, Peter, speaking to Israel says:

Acts 3:19-21 (NKJV) "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, 20 "and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, 21 "whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.

This future blotting out of sins was in relation to Israel's salvation at the end of the age. This was foretold by Daniel:

Daniel 9:24-27 (NKJV) "Seventy weeks are determined For your people and for your holy city, To finish the transgression, To make an end of sins, To make reconciliation for iniquity, To bring in everlasting righteousness, To seal up vision and prophecy, And to anoint the Most Holy. 25 "Know therefore and understand, That from the going forth of the command To restore and build Jerusalem Until Messiah the Prince, There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall, Even in troublesome times. 26 "And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; And the people of the prince who is to come Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, And till the end of the war desolations are determined. 27 Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, Even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolate."

Daniel said the Lord would restore Israel at the consummation of the 70 weeks; which was the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, according to Daniel 9:24-27. Daniel said it would happen when "the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and sanctuary. Who is the prince? The nearest antecedent for the coming prince, in verse 26, would carry us back to the "Messiah the Prince" (verse 25), who was cut off (verse 26). Therefore, Christ becomes the one and only "Prince" in the whole context. The "people of the prince" speaks of the Jewish people who were the ones responsible for the destruction of the city Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70.

Rome did not initiate the war against Jerusalem. The zealots in Jerusalem had incited the Jews to rebel against Rome and to quit paying their taxes.

This time is also tied in with the "abomination that makes desolate" which Jesus connected with the fall of Jerusalem.

Six blessings are promised at the restoration of true Israel which happened at the fall of physical Israel. I want us to just look at a few of them.

"Make an end of sins "- Ezekiel prophesies of the time when an end would be made of Israel's sins. A time when Israel would be "clean."

Ezekiel 36:24-28 (NKJV) "For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. 25 "Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26 "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 "I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. 28 "Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God.

This prophecy is synchronous with the seventieth week of Daniel, and the new heaven and earth of Revelation 21. This is the promised New Covenant. Atonement was not complete until the second coming.

"Make reconciliation for iniquity"-- or "to cover iniquity." The sins of Israel would be atoned for and covered or forgiven by God. It would be a time of redemption.

Romans 11:26-27 (NKJV) And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; 27 For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins."

When did Christ come out of Zion? Not at his first coming, but at his second coming. Daniel said that these things would happen at the destruction of Jerusalem, and Paul says they would happen when Christ comes out of Zion.

"To bring In Everlasting Righteousness" --Remember from our study of Philippians that to be justified is to have Christ's righteousness. The fulfillment of this blessing took place in the coming of the New Heaven and earth, "in which righteousness dwells."

2 Peter 3:13 (NKJV) Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

This event was the focal point in Old Testament prophecy for the coming in of righteousness. Isaiah prophesied:

Isaiah 51:6 (NKJV) Lift up your eyes to the heavens, And look on the earth beneath. For the heavens will vanish away like smoke, The earth will grow old like a garment, And those who dwell in it will die in like manner; But My salvation will be forever, And My righteousness will not be abolished

Righteousness came with the New Heaven and New Earth at the second coming of Christ.

I think that it is safe to say that most believers think redemption was completed at the cross. But this is not what the Bible teaches, redemption is tied to the second coming.

Luke 21:27-28 (NKJV) "Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 "Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near."

When Christ returned, he brought redemption. As long as the Old Covenant existed, the believers were not perfect and did not have access to God.

Hebrews 9:8-10 (NKJV) the Holy Spirit indicating this, that THE WAY INTO THE HOLIEST OF ALL WAS NOT YET MADE MANIFEST WHILE THE FIRST TABERNACLE WAS STILL STANDING. 9 It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service PERFECT in regard to the conscience; 10 concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation.

Under the Old Covenant, they were never made perfect. And because they were not perfect, they could not enter God's presence. John, in Revelation 11, foresees the judgement of the great city, which is Jerusalem.

Revelation 11:8 (NKJV) And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.
Revelation 11:19 (NKJV) Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple. And there were lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail.

What would this mean to John, a Jew, to be able to look and see the temple open? Could John now enter into the temple? Not yet.

Revelation 15:8 (NKJV) The temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power, and NO ONE WAS ABLE TO ENTER THE TEMPLE TILL THE SEVEN PLAGUES OF THE SEVEN ANGELS WERE COMPLETED.

No one could enter the most holy place until God's wrath was completed. When would it be completed? (Rev. 16:4ff and chapter 17). When God's wrath against Babylon, that great city where the Lord was crucified was judged. In Rev. 18, judgement falls on Babylon, which is Jerusalem. What do we find in Rev. 22?

Revelation 22:1-4 (NKJV) And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. 4 They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.

Once the Old Covenant is destroyed, the believers are perfected and enter into the presence of God.

What the saints had in the transition period was the down payment of the perfection that was to come.

Ephesians 1:13-14 (NKJV) In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 WHO IS THE GUARANTEE OF OUR INHERITANCE UNTIL THE REDEMPTION OF THE PURCHASED POSSESSION, to the praise of His glory.

The word "guarantee" is the Greek word arrhabon, which means: "a pledge, i.e. part of the purchase-money or property given in advance as security for the rest:- earnest." We see this same idea in:

2 Corinthians 1:22 (NKJV) who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.
2 Corinthians 5:5 (NKJV) Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

The transition saints had in pledge what we now have. They had a guarantee of what was to come. We have it all.


Let me give you a time line of redemption. Before the Cross, all who died went to Hades, the place of the dead (see The Resurrection from the Dead). From Pentecost to at AD 70, those believers who died also went to Hades unless they died a martyrs death.

Revelation 20:4 (NKJV) And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And THEY LIVED AND REIGNED WITH CHRIST FOR A THOUSAND YEARS.

These are clearly martyred believers from the transition period. They didn't worship the beast or take his number.

Revelation 20:5 (NKJV) But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.

No matter what your theological persuasion, there is a problem in this verse. If those of verse 4 lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years, then how can those of verse 5 be the first resurrection? They can't be. The simple solution here is to see that they put the verse number in the wrong place. Verse 5 is a parenthesis that he will take up later in the chapter. It should read like this:

Revelation 20:5 (NKJV) But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished.

So the martyrs lived and reigned with Christ during the transition period (the thousand years) but the rest of the dead, everyone else who died, did not live again until the end of the transition period. Let's leave verse 5 out and read from 4 to 6.

Revelation 20:4 (NKJV) And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
6 This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.

So, the martyrs of the transition period went to heaven as part of the first resurrection. But everyone else went at the general resurrection at the end of the age. These first resurrection martyrs went to Heaven, but they were not in the Holiest of all, the presence of God, until the temple was destroyed in AD 70.

Hebrews 9:8 (NKJV) the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing.

Then at AD 70, when Christ returned, the believers in Hades (Old Testament saints and transition saints) were resurrected into the presence of God, and those in heaven went into the presence of God.

When Paul was comforting the Thessalonians about their deceased loved ones, notice what he said:

1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 (NKJV) But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have FALLEN ASLEEP, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede THOSE WHO ARE ASLEEP. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. AND THE DEAD IN CHRIST WILL RISE FIRST. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.

Paul doesn't say, "Don't worry about your loved ones who recently died, they're in heaven. Remember what I taught you, 'to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.'" What Paul did say was at the second coming their dead loved ones would "rise," they would be resurrected.

Believers since AD 70, have immortality.

1 Corinthians 15:51-54 (NKJV) Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed; 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and THE DEAD WILL BE RAISED INCORRUPTIBLE, AND WE SHALL BE CHANGED. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory."

When Christ returned with the sound of the trumpet, the dead were raised, and the living were changed. All believers put on immortality and death was swallowed up.

So, I said all that to say this; in order to understand Paul, we need to understand the transition period. Most commentators see Philippians 3:12-16 and Paul talking about his growth in practical Christianity, practical sanctification. But I think it is clear from the context that Paul is talking about justification.

Philippians 3:12 (NKJV) Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.

The words "I press on" are from the Greek word dioko. It means:"to pursue, press forward, run, chase. It is a strong expression for active and earnest endeavor. What is Paul after? What is it that Paul wants to lay hold of? He says that his purpose is the same as God's purpose for him. What is God's purpose for believers?

Romans 8:29 (NKJV) For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.

Paul's purpose was to be like Jesus Christ, to have His righteousness.

Philippians 3:13-14 (NKJV) Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

"I count" is logizomai: "to evaluate, to consider." "Not" is a negative adverb, which means: "not yet." "Apprehended"is katalambano: "to seize hold of and pull down to make it his own." Paul says, "I evaluate myself not yet to have attained." This is the third time he said that. Paul is making it clear that he has not already attained the prize-- justification and resurrection. It could not be attained until the age ended and the New Covenant was fully consummated.

Paul says he was, "forgetting those things which are behind" This is speaking of Old Covenant Judaism. "And reaching forward to those things which are ahead." The words "reaching forward" are from the Greek word epekteinomai. It comes from the words ekteino which means: "to stretch a muscle to its limit", and the double preposition ep ek. It means: "to strain to the limit." This verb is very graphic, it pictures a runner straining every nerve and muscle as he keeps on running with all his might toward the goal, his hand stretched out as if to grasp it.

Philippians 3:14 (NKJV) I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

"I press" is the Greek verb dioko: "to run swiftly in order to catch." It is a present active indicative verb meaning: "I constantly pursue the goal." Why does he constantly pursue the goal? For the prize. The Greek word for "prize" is brabeion which means: "reward or prize."

This is the perfection of the church at the second coming of Christ.

Philippians 3:15-16 (NKJV) Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. 16 Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.

The "rule" that they were to walk by was that of the cross. Justification by faith alone.

Galatians 6:14 (NKJV) But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

Believers were free from the power of the Old Covenant age, but they were still in the world and open to its attacks, persecutions and temptations, and would continue to be until the end of the age. The adversaries used the continued presence of the Old Covenant for leverage in their efforts to deny the adequacy of the gospel. The temple remained intact, the sacrificial services continued as always. Paul had to continually assure believers that the Old Covenant world had come under the power of the cross, and that it would soon pass away.

Believers, we are no longer in the transition period. We are living in the New Covenant age in which righteousness dwells. We are not living in the age of "hope," we are living in the age of "have." The righteousness of Christ is ours. Let's live in such a way as to demonstrate Christ's life in us.

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