Until the Day of Christ

Paul exhorted the church to pursue perfection, a process that will culminate in the resurrection on the Day of Christ – Philippians 3:7-21. 

In his opening thanksgiving, Paul prepares his readers for a key theme of the letter, the pursuit of “perfection” until the day that Jesus arrives in glory, the “Day of Christ.” They will be made complete when they are resurrected on that day. In Paul’s view, resurrection is an integral part of the salvation that believers receive when Jesus appears.

The sense of the Greek word rendered “perfection” is NOT moral perfection, but instead, “completion.” That is, what God began in the Philippians He would continue to perform until the day that Jesus “arrives” at the end of the age.
  • (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.”
Elsewhere, Paul equates the “day of Jesus Christ” with the “day of the Lord” from the Hebrew Bible when Yahweh delivered His people and judged His enemies. Under the new covenant, that day is now identified with Jesus and his return in glory. At that time, he will appear “on the clouds of heaven” to raise the dead, gather his people to himself, judge the wicked, and usher in the “new heavens and the new earth” – (1 Corinthians 1:8, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2).

And considering this impending day with its promised glories, Paul exhorted the Philippians to conduct their lives accordingly:
  • Do all things without murmurings and questionings that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you are seen as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life, that I may have whereof to glory on the day of Christ” – (Philippians 2:16).
And Paul provided his readers with an example of what it means to go on to “completion.” 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 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.” And primarily in view were certain Jewish Christians:
  • Beware of the mutilation, for we are the circumcision who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh… whose end is destruction, whose god is the belly, and whose glory is in their shame - (Philippians 3:1-3, 19).
Their “glory is their shame.” Paul was referring euphemistically to the circumcisions so highly valued by his Jewish opponents. In contrast, the “true circumcision,” they who worship God in the Spirit, “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.”

Most noteworthy is how Paul links the bodily resurrection to the “completion” of believers and to the “Day of Christ.” Moreover, the human “body” is not discarded at the end of the age but transformed and brought into conformity with “his glorious body.”

The resurrection is central to Christian hope and to Paul’s gospel. Whatever Christians receive from God between now and that day, the process of salvation will remain incomplete until Jesus arrives and raises them from the dead. This is very much a forward-looking faith.



The Suffering Servant

The Living Word