One of my favorite ways to relax is to watch movies. What usually happens in our home goes something like this. Usually on Thursday nights Kathryn and I will watch a movie. I take Fridays off, so Thursday nights are kind of like a traditional Friday night for me. After we put the kids to bed, we’ll pull up a movie on Amazon or Netflix. We usually start the movie late and have to watch it on Friday nights as well. We don’t usually do popcorn, but we do make cookies. You got to have cookies.
I like watching movies because it can be a powerful experience. There are many, many terrible movies out there that Christians should not watch. However, there are also many movies that Christians should watch. We can learn a lot about God and his world by watching movies. I strongly believe that God’s truth is inescapable, even for non-Christians. If you look for it, you can usually find themes of redemption and salvation in movies. The good guy usually overcomes the bad guy through love and selflessness. That’s the gospel in a nutshell right there. If you look for it, you can find that type of story in a lot of movies.
One movie in particular that is very powerful is called “Unbroken.” Have you heard of this movie? This is a great movie. The movie is based on a book, which is also called Unbroken. The book and the movie are about a man named Louis Zamperini. Louis Zamperini was an Olympic sprinter who joined the Air Force to fight in WW2. During a flight mission in the Pacific, his plane was shot down. He survived. He was lost at sea for 47 days, captured by the Japanese, was a prisoner of war for about two years, returned home to be plagued by alcoholism and depression. That all changed when he encountered the resurrection power of the gospel at a Billy Graham crusade in Los Angeles. His life was radically changed. Read up on him. Watch the movie. An incredible story of the power of the grace of God.
In the movie, there’s an exchange between Louise and his brother as Louise boards a train to ship off to the Olympic trials. As Louis is departing his brother says this,
A moment of pain is worth a lifetime of glory
What a powerful statement. What a remarkably true statement. And remember, dear friends, this is coming from Hollywood. God’s truth is inescapable.
What Louie’s brother properly recognizes is that there is a close and tight relationship between pain and glory. It is worth it to endure through a little bit of pain for a lot of glory. The value of the glory outweighs the misery of experiencing pain.
What we are going to see this morning with our passage is a similar idea. We are going to see that what Paul expresses is similar to what Louie’s brother expresses. Specifically,
The difficulty that lies ahead is a gateway to glory beyond.
With that introduction, let’s go ahead and turn to our passage in Philippians, Phil 3:10. I will read through v. 11. This is what Paul writes,
that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Now if you’re a good student, you will remember that we covered v. 10 last week. We dealt with that passage then. Don’t worry, I’m not preaching the same sermon that I preached last week. I do not feel like I adequately covered the last statement in v. 10—“becoming like him in his death.” More can and should be said about that statement. We will cover it again this week. We will also cover v. 11 this week. So our passage for this week is this portion,
becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead
With this passage, we’re completing our three-week study on the three aspects of salvation. Salvation entails a past tense reality, a present tense reality, and a future tense reality. (I know I’ve repeated this many times before. I want this to be ingrained in your memory. I promise not to go over this again for some time if you promise to remember it, deal?) Two weeks ago we covered justification. Justification refers to the past tense element of salvation—“I was saved.” Paul discussed that topic on 3:9. In the next verse, 3:10, Paul discussed sanctification. We explored that topic last week. I argued that sanctification involves both a crown and a cross. Sanctification refers to the process of salvation. When God saves us, he begins and completes a work in us. That work is called sanctification. Now we explore the fulfillment of salvation. We refer to the fulfillment of salvation as glorification. That is our topic this morning—glorification.
To explore this topic based upon what Paul says in our passage this morning, I have two points for you, two points to break down what it is that Paul means here by glorification. The first point is this: “Difficulty ahead.” Difficulty ahead. That’s the first point this morning. Difficult ahead.
Glorification is a reality that is in the future. Glorification is not a current reality. It is ahead of us. None of us are currently glorified. None of us have our resurrection bodies. If we did, you wouldn’t need to be here listening to me preach. When we are ultimately saved, there will be no need for weekly church attendance. Glorification is in the future.
To get to that point, though, to get to that future point of glorification, there is an event that will happen to us in between now and then, in between where we are today in church and when we are glorified. That step we must take in between now and then is death. The way attain glorification is through death.
Paul knows this. Paul teaches this. Paul highlights death in our passage this morning. Before he proceeds to discussing the future resurrection of the dead, before he discusses glorification, Paul discusses death. Look with me at the end of v. 10. Paul says,
becoming like him in his death
There is a hurdle that we as Christians must overcome before we are glorified. And that hurdle is mentioned here by Paul. That hurdle is death.
Death is one of the most basic realities of life. Sometimes, though, people want to avoid that which is most obvious. That is the case with death. Death is a reality that every acknowledges but no one wants to talk about. It is the ultimate statistic. We talk and think about death for others, but we’re inclined to not think about it for ourselves.
Yet, the Scriptures command us to contemplate death. The Scripture remind us of our mortality. We must contemplate our death. It is a command form God. Listen to what the Psalmist writes in Ps 90:12. He states,
Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
As one theologian puts it, what the Psalmist is saying here is this: “teach us to recognize our death.” Teach us, God, to remember our mortality, to remember that we only have so many days here on this earth. The purpose of this, the Psalmist states, is so that we might live wiser lives. Contemplating your own mortality will lead you to greater wisdom.
Our death is ahead of us, dear friend. All of us will (likely) die one day. We will all have to face this grand enemy one day or another.
Becoming Like Him in His Death
But in the Christian life, in light of the gospel, in light of the story of the person and work of Christ in his first and second coming, death for the believer is different than death for the non-believer. Death takes on a whole new meaning in light of the gospel. We get an indication of that our passage.
Notice how the word “death” is described here. Paul does not talk about our death, per say, he talks about Christ’s death. The death that is described here is Christ’s death. “His death,” Paul says. Now how is it that I am talking about our death, even though Paul is talking about Christ’s death here? How am I moving from Christ’s death to our death?
Specifically, notice what Paul immediately before his reference to Christ’s death. He says, “becoming like him in his death.” Paul is teaching here that in the Christian life, in sanctification there is this process in which God, by the Holy Spirit, conforms us into the pattern of Christ’s death. I want to point out here that this word for “becoming” is passive. This is the significance of that. This “becoming like Christ” is done to us by God. He shapes us. He conforms us. He directs us.
The Spirit conforms us in many different ways to Christ’s death. The Spirit conforms us to Christ’s death through the process of our own dying. In the process of dying, Jesus was forced to rely fully on God the Father. Jesus’ death was the ultimate test of Jesus’ own obedience to the Father. Jesus’ death was Jesus’ most trying trial and difficult experience. This is how death is for us, too. Death strips us of everything we once put hope in. Death is the end of earthly blessings and pleasure. Death occurs when our very lives are stripped from us. Death for us is the largest and final hurtle we must overcome to be saved.
In this process of dying, the Spirit conforms us to Christ’s own death. Just as Christ was left helpless and exposed, so, too, we are left helpless and exposed. Obviously, Christ’s death will be far more degrading and difficult than our own. Nevertheless, in the process of sanctification the Spirit conforms us to Christ’s death—his experience of total and complete trust upon the Father—as we die. In our process of dying, the Spirit conforms us to Christ’s death. This is the power of God, dear friend. In our dying the Spirit conforms us to the death of our Lord.
This process of the Spirit conforming us to Christ death through the process of our own death is a grave reality that lies in our future. To die is a great trial, dear friend. To grow old, to lose one’s strength, to suffer a painful tragedy, to lose one’s mind is of great pain, misery, and difficulty. One of the greatest trials of your life is going to be your own death. That’s why our faith needs to be strong, because death is such a testing of our faith. When all is stripped away from you, dear Christian, will you still say, “God is good.” Will you still bless his name, thank him, love him, and adore him, even in light of death? A necessary question we all must answer.
These things are real and true. However, I want us to see the goodness of God in it. While death is difficult, it is not the end. You see, dear friends, in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ, death takes on a whole new meaning. Yes, death will be fearful and trying, but it is not the end. Rather, death is the door into another world. Death for the Christians becomes the means of our salvation. Through the Spirit’s perseverance of us in death, we are then saved. This leads Paul to say, “To live is Christ; to die is gain.” Dying is gain because of what we get on the other end.
Let me explain it this way. Death is like a door, is like a gateway from a world of difficulty to a world of love, joy, and peace. Let me describe what I mean with this illustration. Some days of pastoral ministry are tough. There not all bad. There are great days, too. But as with life in general, there are good days and there are bad days. Pastoral ministry is similar to that. Whether dealing with my own sin, someone else’s sin, or a mixture of the two (that is usually always the case), some days can be hard. When I come home for the day, I usually pull my truck into the garage, park my truck, and walk into my home through the garage door. Now for me, this garage door is more than a door. You see a plain old door. I see something very different. I see it as a gateway to a place of love, joy, and peace. You see because when I walk in, I am greeted with this expression, “Daddy!” I’m surrounded by my kids. The run to me and hug me and fall on me. Now I know when they become teenagers that will change. But that’s not yet. I come home and I’m their hero. Everything is OK in the world when my family showers me with their love and affection. And my garage door is the gateway to that. It is the door that leads to a place of love, joy, acceptance, and peace.
That’s what death is like, dear friend. For the Christian, death is the gateway. It is the gateway to a different world, a world far better than any home, a world of glory that is unimaginable.
Now we are not told much about this future glory that awaits the believer. We are told very little. For example, the question of, “What will we do?” When I was a kid, I used to picture that we would bow down before God all day and night. That’s all that we would do. Some of you, children, in the audience might think that. I imagine we’ll do that a little bit but it will be way better than you can imagine. The Bible doesn’t tell us, though. The Bible doesn’t answer that question. The Bible doesn’t answer many questions about what the afterlife will be like.
Nevertheless, we are told some things about this future world, this world of eternal peace, glory, and love. Specifically, we are told in the Bible that we will live there with resurrection bodies. Christians will dwell with God in physical bodies that have been resurrected. That is part of the glory that lies beyond the gateway of death. And with this we move onto my second point. Write this, “Glory Beyond.” First point was, “Difficulty Ahead.” The second point is, “Glory Beyond.” There is glory beyond the difficulty. That’s what I’m saying. The glory surpasses the difficulty.
The Resurrection Body
Paul describes the glory of the resurrection body in v. 11. Paul speaks of the physical resurrection of the body in v. 11. Paul says this there,
that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
To tackle what Paul is saying, we have to seek to understand what Paul means here by, “by any means possible.” If you have a different translation than the ESV, your translation likely says something different. This is a difficult phrase to interpret. Hence, why many English translations translate it differently.
The thought that I take Paul to be expressing is this. Paul is not sure whether he will die and attain the resurrection; or whether he will be raptured and attain the resurrection. Paul doesn’t know whether he will die before Christ returns. He doesn’t know. So, basically, what he saying is this, whether I die or whether I am raptured, I strive after the resurrection from the dead.
Look down with me at Phil 3:20. Paul does not discuss the second coming of Christ in our passage, but he does in 3:20. We will read through v. 21. Paul writes,
But our citizenship is in heaven—and we also eagerly await a savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform these humble bodies of ours into the likeness of his glorious body by means of that power by which he is able to subject all things to himself.
Paul’s not sure if this will happen (Jesus returns and Paul’s body is transformed) or if he will have be resurrected after he enters through the door of death. He doesn’t know. However it happens, Paul says, he strives after it, he makes it his goal. The goal of Paul’s life is to be resurrected. That demands perseverance. And that’s what Paul is doing. He strives to be found faithful so that he might be resurrected.
This passage, 3:21, also beautiful depicts what this resurrection from the dead is in 3:11. Look briefly at 3:11. Paul mentions, “the resurrection from the dead.” What does that mean? Now look at 3:21. It means that Jesus “will transform these humble bodies of ours into the likeness of his glorious body by means of that power by which he is able to subject all things to himself.” Wow!
That resurrection power that we discussed last week in 3:10—one day that power we be fully applied to us. In that moment, our spirits will reunite with our physical bodies and we physically rise from the dead. Our bodies will be transformed. Our humble bodies will be turned into perfect bodies. We will have perfect bodies.
Now what is this doctrine of a future bodily resurrection opposed to? That’s a helpful question to answer when exploring this issue. What is future bodily resurrection not?
When speaking about life after death, many Christians seem to be largely content with the idea that we, “Die and go to heaven.” That can sometimes be the extend of a Christian’s understanding of the afterlife. I think with this idea there might be the implicit idea of Christians floating around clouds, playing harps for all of eternity. Basically, we’ll exist as spirits in God’s presence forever. This is not what the resurrection is. This viewpoint is right to acknowledge that at some point we will exist with God as spirits. In between this life and the new heavens and the new earth, which is not yet, we will live with God as disembodied spirits. So, let say you were to die today, you would live with God as a spirit. Your spirit would be with God, but your body would be in the grave. You would experience a separation of body and spirit. You would be in heaven, in the presence of God, but when God raises your body from the dead and recreates this earth into the new heavens and the new earth, your spirit will return to your body, now a glorified body, and you will live forever with God and with all the saints in a resurrected body. The new heavens and the new earth, the ultimate outcome of salvation, will be an embodied experience.
Another idea that a physical resurrection is opposed to is the idea of becoming an angel. When someone dies, someone might say, “Heaven got another angel.” I don’t know where this idea came from. While I think it’s good that this viewpoint expresses belief in an afterlife. We will live on after this life, as this viewpoint recognizes. It falls short in explaining how we exist after death. Thinking that we’ll live on as angels might work well on a Hallmark card, but it doesn’t work well with Scripture. The Bible knows of nothing like this. The end goal that God has for the believer is a physical existence.
Now why is the physical resurrection of the believer important? Why is that important? Why not just have a spiritual existence, without our bodies? Excellent questions, of which the Bible has answers for.
Sin has not just wrecked spiritual havoc on us; it has also wrecked physical havoc. Specifically, we experience sin and its consequences in our own bodies. Every disease, alignment, deformity, trauma, chemical imbalance, every form of cancer, every pain, etc., etc., etc., is a result of sin and its consequence. Now that doesn’t mean that we experience this or that pain because of this or that sin. Some pain operates this way. If you get drunk, drive a vehicle, and crash it, and you break both of your legs, the yes, you experience the pain of your broken legs because of your sin. But that’s not always the case. Many Christians are sick, deformed, and diseased not because of any of their specific sins, but because this world is fallen. All of this is the result of sin, whether
sin generally because of Adam’s sin, or because of our specific sin, being drunk, crashing our vehicle, and breaking our legs.
For salvation to be full it must extend to every part of reality where sin has touched. Let me say that again: for salvation to be full, total, and complete, it must extend to every part of reality where sin has touched. If sin has touched the physical, the for salvation to be complete, there must be a redemption of the physical.
The song “Joy to the World” perfectly illustrates this. Listen to what it says,
“No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground. He comes to make his blessings flow, far as the curse is found, far as the curse is found.”
He comes to make his blessings flow as far as the curse is found. Is there curse found in our bodies? In our physical bodies? Yes! His blessings, his salvation, his redemption will overcome these bodily problems.
To really appreciate this notion of a bodily resurrection, you must experience the loss of bodily functions. Now, I’m young and healthy. I know very little of what it is like to have a body that doesn’t do what you want it to do. If I want my body to do something, I can usually do it. I can exercise, I can play with my kids, I can help my wife open a jar. I can do a lot of these things. Further, my family is very healthy. Their bodies work well, too. I, as of yet, have not experienced the real difficulty that comes with losing your ability to utilize your body.
For many of you, that’s different. You have bodies that won’t do what you want them to do. Whether because of age, disease, or trauma, you’re bodies cannot function in the capacity that they once could. Further, many of you have loved ones for whom their bodies do not function as the should This for you, whether your body not functioning properly or the bodies of your loved ones, this is for you a source of real pain, frustration, and misery. Many tears you cry over the loss of your bodily functions. What a tremendous trial this is.
And some people have this type of physical suffering very badly. Some people have a dysfunctional body for their whole lives. I think specifically here of Jodi Erickson Tada. For those of you who don’t know, Jodi is a Christian author who is also a quadriplegic. When she was 17, she dove into a body of water and misjudged the depth. That misjudgment left he paralyzed from the shoulders down. She’s lived the past 52 years without the normal function. Oh dear friends, the trial. The difficulty. The pain. The misery.
What does Paul have to say to us this morning in light of these truths? In light of the gospel, and in light of the difficulties of death and bodily suffering? What does Paul have for us? Paul gives us hope. Paul says to us this morning that regardless of what type of bodily difficulty you are going through right now or will go through later, you have hope. And that hope is this:
We also eagerly await a savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform these humble bodies of ours into the likeness of his glorious body by means of that power by which he is able to subject all things to himself.
These bodies that we receive will be all of grace because of the Lord’s love for us. And these bodies will not be prone to suffer, die, and decay. Not only will Jesus save and redeem our souls, he will also one day redeem our bodies. He will give to us bodies like his, and we will forever celebrate that gift in the new heavens and the new earth.
I started this morning off with that quote from the movie, “Unbroken.” The quote was this:
A moment of pain is worth a lifetime of glory.
Based upon our study this morning of Phil 3:10–11, we have been able to see the truth of this statement. Specifically, the glory of the future resurrection—a eternal experience in which our bodies will be transformed into having a body the resurrected Lord—that experience far outweighs the difficulties that we now experience and that we experience in death. The difficulty that lies ahead is a gateway to glory beyond, to a world of unknown pleasure, joy, and delight. We have hope this morning. We have hope.