Pastor David B. Curtis


Our "Transformed" Body

Philippians 3:20-21


We come this morning to our final study in Philippians chapter 3. In this chapter, in verses 4-11, Paul is talking about justification, which may be defined as that act of God whereby he declares righteous him who believes in Christ. Then he says:

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.

Paul is saying, "I don't have it yet." What is it that he doesn't have yet? The verb lambano is 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, I think that what Paul is saying is that his justification had not yet been consummated. Paul was saying, "Not that I have already attained, or have already been justified." 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?" Not in its consummated sense. 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. If righteousness was a present reality, why would Paul hope for it?

Paul lived in what the Bible calls the "last days"- they were the last days of the Old Covenant. Those "last days" began at the birth of Christ 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. The 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."

Paul's purpose in this transition age was to be made like Jesus Christ, which is to have Christ's 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.

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. It could not be attained until the age ended and the New Covenant was fully consummated. (See message "The Transition Period")

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 which is the perfection of the church, receiving Christ's righteousness, at the second coming. After speaking about the enemies of the Cross-- the Judaizers (vs 17-19), and their adherence to the Old Covenant which would lead to destruction, he then returns to the theme of the prize that was soon to come.

Philippians 3:20 (NKJV) For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,

Here Paul strikes a contrast between the "enemies of the Cross" and believers whose citizenship is in heaven. "Our"is speaking of Paul and the Philippian believers and, in fact, all believers. For all of us who have been born again, our citizenship is in heaven. "Citizenship" is from the Greek word politeuma. It is only used here in the New Testament but it is related to the verb politeuomai used in Philippians 1:27 to denote the Philippian Christians' "way of life," with special reference to their responsibility as members of a community.

We need to understand this word "politeuma" here so we can understand what Paul is saying to the Philippians. We are removed from the original readers by two thousand years, and a cultural barrier, a language barrier, and a historical barrier. We need to break down some of these barriers so that we (twentieth century American Christians) can understand what he is saying. This is a very unique word that he uses here, and it is unique to the Philippians.

The Roman world had colonies like Philippi which was a small scale version of Rome-- a little Rome. To be a Roman citizen was the epitome of human dignity. Being a Roman citizen was very important in that day. During the great civil war, Octavian defeated Anthony. After the battle, a number of soldiers were settled there and the town of Philippi became a Roman colony. Philippi was 800 miles from Rome geographically, but it was very near in mind set and lifestyle. There was great pride in the fact that they were a Polis (a city-state). It spoke of their protection, culture, and high esteem in the eyes of Rome. The Philippians thought of themselves as Romans. In Acts 16, we see the founding of the Philippian church. Notice how the Philippians saw themselves in:

Acts 16:20-21 (NKJV) And they brought them to the magistrates, and said, "These men, being Jews, exceedingly trouble our city; 21 "and they teach customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe."

"Our city" is referring to Philippi. Notice that they saw themselves as "Romans." It is important that we understand this. Rome was their mother and they never forgot who they belonged to. They spoke the Latin language, wore the Roman dress, and called the magistrates by the Latin or Roman names. They were deeply into Roman citizenship and all it meant.

Well, what did it mean to be a Roman citizen? I don't think that citizenship is all that big a deal to people today, unless they came here from another country and had to work for their citizenship. To the Greeks, the Polis was not just a place to live, there was a tremendous pride in it. The people viewed their Polis as a partnership with other people to obtain the highest good for all society. There was very little living for one's self, the good of the Polis was in the minds of the people. The individual citizen developed his abilities, his talents, and his skills, not for his own sake, but for the benefit of the community and for the sake of all. Mutuality, interdependence, and pride of the state was the issue. To live as a citizen polituomy would ring a bell in the minds of the Philippians.

So Paul, using politeuma, was saying to the Philippians that they were to live for the good of others, and not themselves. They were to use their talents, gifts, and abilities for the good of the community. We (all Christians) are a community of believers and our citizenship is in heaven. We are to live for the good of the kingdom of God, and not just for ourselves.

Our citizenship is in heaven: The word "is" is the Greek word huparcho, which expresses the continued state of a thing; it is unalterable and unchangeable. It speaks of a fixedness. Our citizenship is fixed in heaven, it is unalterable and unchangeable.

What is heaven? Could you give someone a definition of heaven if you were asked?

Hebrews 9:24 (NKJV) For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us;

Here we see that heaven is the abode of God. It is where God dwells.

2 Corinthians 12:1-4 (NKJV) It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord: 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago; whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows; such a one was caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I know such a man; whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows; 4 how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

Here, again, we see that heaven is the abode, the dwelling place of God. Heaven is not a place in this physical realm. Heaven is a literal place in the heavenly realm or dimension. As Christians, our citizenship is in heaven. We are in heaven in a positional sense now, and when our soul leaves this realm at physical death, it will go to that realm in a locational sense. When we die physically, we will dwell in heaven, the spiritual realm where God dwells.

Paul goes on to say, "from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." The words "eagerly wait" are from the Greek word apekdechomai. This Greek word is made up of three words put together; the word "to receive," which speaks of a welcoming or appropriating reception such as is tendered to a friend who comes to visit; the word "off,"speaking here of the withdrawal of one's attention from other objects; and the word "out," used here in a perfective sense which intensifies the already existing meaning of the word. The composite word speaks of an attitude of intense yearning and eager waiting for the coming of the Lord.

This Greek word is only used seven times in the New Testament and every one of them is in reference to 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 first-fruits 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 of this verse is the destruction of Jerusalem. Redemption was complete when the Lord returned, destroying Jerusalem and ending the Old Covenant.

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,
Galatians 5:5 (NKJV) For we through the Spirit eagerly wait (apekdechomai) for the hope of righteousness by faith.
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 Lord that they "eagerly awaited" was to bring to them righteousness at the parousia.

Who is the "WE" in Philippians 3:20, who was eagerly waiting for the Lord? Who was Paul writing to? He was writing to Philippian Christians who lived in the first century. It was these first century saints who were "eagerly waiting" for the second coming. Why did they think he would come in their lifetime? Were they confused?

The return of Jesus Christ is mentioned in every one of the New Testament books except for Galatians and the very short books of second and third John and Philemon. The return of Christ is a major theme of the New Testament. As you study this theme of the return of Christ, you find that the first century church expected the Lord to return in their lifetime. They thought this because Jesus taught a first century return, and so did the apostles.

Matthew 16:27-28 (NKJV) "For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. 28 "Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom."

Verse 27 clearly speaks of the second coming; He comes with the angels to reward every man. So far, no problem, but look at the next verse. "I say to YOU, there are some standing HERE who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom." Who are the "YOU" of this verse? Verse 24 tells us that Jesus is speaking to his disciples. So, Jesus is saying to his disciples who were standing there that some of them would still be alive when He returned in the second coming.

If you are going to believe what Jesus is saying here, If you are going to hold to the TIME of his second coming, you are going to have to have a paradigm shift in your view of the NATURE of the second coming. His coming was not a physical destruction of the planet but a spiritual change of covenants.

Keep in mind audience relevance, which seeks to discover what the original audience understood a passage to mean. He said he was coming before all of them had died. Some of them would live to see his coming. His coming was seen as imminent. You cannot read the New Testament without seeing the imminent expectation that they had for the return of Christ. The same event cannot be imminent at two different periods separated by nearly two thousand years.

Jesus told them and us exactly when he would return:

Matthew 24:34 (NKJV) "Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.

In verse 3, Jesus' disciples asked Him a question. His answer to the question is directed to those disciples. The "YOU" in the text is the disciples of the first century, not you in the twentieth century. What generation did he mean? The simple answer is: the one he was talking to. Jesus said in verse 34, "Verily, I say to you ( the people he was talking to), this generation -- your generation (a generation is basically a forty year period) will not pass, till all these things be fulfilled." Jesus was telling them that all these things (the gospel being preached in all the world, the abomination of desolation, the great tribulation, and the coming of the Son of man) would happen in their lifetime.

Look at what Jesus told Peter:

John 21:20-23 (NKJV) Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, "Lord, who is the one who betrays You?" 21 Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, "But Lord, what about this man?" 22 Jesus said to him, "IF I WILL THAT HE REMAIN TILL I COME, what is that to you? You follow Me." 23 Then this saying went out among the brethren that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, "If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?"

Jesus is here telling Peter that it was his will that John should be alive when He returned. Was he right? YES!

Paul told the first century Roman Christians that God would crush Satan under their feet shortly!

Romans 16:20 (NKJV) And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

Remember, audience relevance. Do you think that the believers at Rome could have conceived of 2,000 plus years, as shortly? If it was to be some 2,000 plus years how could he crush him under "their" feet? The people to whom this was written are dust now, they have no feet.

Paul said to the first century Thessalonian saints:

1 Thessalonians 4:15 (NKJV) 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.

Paul expected some of them to be alive when the Lord returned.

Paul told Timothy that the Lord was "about to" return:

2 Timothy 4:1 (NKJV) I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:

Here Paul uses the Greek word mello, which means: "about to." Paul is telling Timothy that the Lord Jesus Christ was about to judge the living and the dead at His second coming.

The writer of Hebrews says to his readers that Christ was to come in a "very little while" and that He would not tarry.

Hebrews 10:37 (NKJV) "For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry.

James' word to the persecuted first century believers that he wrote to was:

James 5:7-9 (NKJV) Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. 8 You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9 Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!

Here we have Christians who are suffering under the persecutions of the Jews and they are told to be patient until the coming of the Lord. Are we to understand James as saying, "Hang on, in just 2,000 plus years the Lord will come and end the Jewish persecution"? I can't see how that would be much comfort to them. Let's say that you were suffering, you're being persecuted for your faith. You have lost your job, your landlord is about to evict you, you have no food to feed your hungry family. You receive a letter from a rich relative who says, "Hang on, brother, I will be there soon to help." When would you expect him to come? He said soon, and you would look for him soon! If he meant that he would come in the distant future, it would have no meaning to you, you would be dead.

Peter tells his readers that grace will be brought to "them" at the revelation of Jesus Christ:

1 Peter 1:13 (NKJV) Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;

I think you get the point; the Lord Jesus Christ was expected to return in the first century, and I believe He did. He kept his word and returned in judgment upon Jerusalem in AD 70. Thus putting an end to the Old Covenant and consummating the New Covenant.

Now, back to our text, notice what Paul said would happen at the second coming:

Philippians 3:21 (NKJV) who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.

The futurist looks at this verse and says, "When the Lord returns some day in the future, he will transform our dead decaying bodies into spiritual bodies like his." The problem with this is that the Lord has already returned, and what ever this is talking about has already happened! Whatever this verse is talking about happened in AD 70.

"Who will transform our lowly body...." If this has already happened, how has our body been transformed? To understand this, we must first understand the word "transformed." It is the Greek word metaschematizo. This word is used five times in the New Testament. The connotation in all five refers to the act of assuming an outward expression that does not come from within. Let's look at these verses and see if we can get a better understanding of this word.

1 Corinthians 4:6 (NKJV) Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred (metaschematizo) to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other.

Paul is here attempting to appeal to the baby Corinthians on their level, so was "fashioning" (assuming an outward expression that does not come from within) himself and Apollos on their level. He had just rebuked them for schisms in chapter 3; and Paul, while knowing that he and Apollos were more mature than the Corinthians, didn't want to appear superior, for he wanted their focus to be on the Lord, not on them! The "forming" was assuming an outward expression that did not come from within. It was an appearance to keep from being seen as super-apostles in the eyes of the Corinthians.

Paul also uses this word metaschematizo in:

2 Corinthians 11:13-15 (NKJV) For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming (metaschematizo) themselves into apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms (metaschematizo) himself into an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform (metaschematizo)themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.

The false apostles were not apostles of Christ, Satan was not an angel of light, and his ministers were not ministers of righteousness. They were all assuming an outward expression that did not come from within. In this same way, our lowly body was transformed.

Beginning with the completion of atonement at 70 AD, Christians acquired immortality.

1 Corinthians 15:51-53 (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.

The change was the putting on of immortality. The physical body is taking on a condition that is alien to its nature. It isn't changing its nature, just taking on a temporary condition by virtue of the spirit which is immortal. The lowly, physical body does not become "immortal", it merely achieves a special status by virtue of housing a Christian spirit that IS immortal. That is the meaning of metaschematizo, the putting on of a temporary quality that does not affect the true nature. That status is not carried over after death, when the spirit leaves.

Philippians 3:21 is not referring to some future raising up and changing of the physical body, but refers to the "putting on" of immortality as a direct result of the indwelling of the immortal spirit while the Christian is physically alive!

Paul goes on to say, "That it may be conformed to His glorious body." The word "conformed" is the Greek word summorphos, which comes from morphe, meaning: "the essential character of something, the essential form which never alters." The word Paul uses here is not morphe but summorphos, which means: "jointly formed." The prefix "sun" (soon) denotes: "union; with or together." This "sun" prefix tells us that this is a positional association.

Notice that the "metaschematizo" of the lowly body results in the "summorphos" of the body. The pronoun "auto" (it) refers back to the lowly body and is described as being "summorphon" because it had been metaschematizo.

Verse 21 reads like this: "Who (Christ) will transform (metaschematizo) our lowly body that it (our lowly body) may be conformed (summorphon) to his glorious body."

Our body did not become a glorious body, but is glorious only in its association with His glorious body. Christ's body is literally glorified and our is co-glorified. We are glorified only in a positional sense.

For example:

Romans 6:4 (NKJV) Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

The word" buried" here is sunthapto. Were we physically, literally buried? No. Was Christ? Yes. We were buried only by association with Christ -- it was HIS burial, but our co-burial through his baptism.

This same association applies in Philippians 3:21 ; "Who (Christ) will transform (metaschematizo - the act of assuming an outward expression that does not come from within.) our lowly body that it (our lowly body) may be conformed (summorphon- co-formed, associated to the fashion of His, not our body) to his glorious body."

It was Christ's body that was "morphed" and made glorious. Our body obtains this glory in this life only through association, or being "with-morphed", if you will. That is why the physical body is now assuming an outward expression that does not come from within- it is housing the now immortal spirit, but it doesn't appear that way. It is not an immortal body. The body is no more "morphed" than it is "buried" in Romans 6:4. Futurists that see a physical glorified body in this verse, totally gloss over the Greek used in this verse.

The lowly body of the Christian (since 70 AD) has taken on (through the "change" of 1 Corinthians 15:51-52) an outward expression that does not come from within because of the immortality of the spirit within, and, as such, is in association with Christ's (and ONLY Christ's) transformed and glorified body. Only Christ was given this transformation because only His body was free of corruption and was promised not to see decay. Nowhere will you find a verse that talks about our physical body being "morphed" or changed into a glorious body.

This word summorphon is also used in:

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

Because Christians are joined to Christ, they are summorphon - co-formed into His image. It is this association to Christ's nature, this summorphon with the image of Christ, that is responsible for the metaschematizo, or new condition, of the living saint from 70 AD onward!

We must understand that sun prefix on the word, summorphon, shows not an exact likeness to the nature of Christ, but an association with Christ's nature.

We also see this positional association in Romans 6 (co-buried, co-crucified, co-resurrected with Christ); Ephesians 2 (co-quickened, co-raised, co-seated in heaven with Christ); and Colossians 2 (co-buried, co-raised, co-quickened). These all utilize the sun or co- prefix and all demand a positional stance of the believer with the reality of Christ. Christ was buried, raised, quickened, and is seated in heaven. The believer is co-buried, co-raised, co-quickened, and co-seated in heaven. In Christ is the reality, in the believers is the association with that reality.

So, in this verse, it is an association with CHRIST'S nature that is essential. Only by and through that can there be a metaschematizo of the believer, a putting on of a new condition, a "refashioning".

So, Paul is saying that at the return of Christ, believers will be "transformed," their spirit will become immortal while dwelling in a physical body. This change took place because of the believer's association with Christ's glorified body. This is the change that 1 Corinthians 15:51 speaks of:

1 Corinthians 15:51 (NKJV) Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed;

Now, notice how Paul says that this "transformation" is to take place:

Philippians 3:21 (NKJV) who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.

He says that it is, "according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself." This change in the believers was to occur when Christ subdued all things. When did that happen?

1 Corinthians 15:24-26 (NKJV) Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.

Christ's glorious power was made manifest in the second coming when he destroyed spiritual death and brought immortality.

Believers, we have immortality now, but we dwell in a mortal body. When we die physically, our immortal spirit will put on an immortal body and we will forever dwell with the Lord.

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