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c) Phil 3:21: Paul asserted that Christ “shall transform our lowly bodies [to become] similar in form to his glorified body.”
The apostle did not subscribe to the dualistic Greek view of the human body.
For example, Plato (427–347 BC) claimed, “the body (sōma) is our tomb (sēma).”
Our bodies comprise such an intrinsic part of us that Christ will renew them in resurrection, not discard them (1 Cor 15:35–37; 1 Thess 5:23; Rev 3:12).
They do not imprison our souls. However, when Jesus rose from the dead, his glorified body received freedom from the limitations of the flesh.
The New Testament never describes the nature of Christ’s new body, but it does give some tantalizing hints of what is to come for us.
For example, Jesus appeared and disappeared whenever he chose, yet he could eat fish and allow his disciples to feel his wounds (Luke 24:30–43).
Therefore, Paul called the resurrected bodies of believers “spiritual bodies” (sōma pneumatikos) because he will imbue them with heavenly glory and power, not because they will be immaterial (1 Cor 15:42–52).
Jesus shall do this “by the working of his ability even to subject to himself all things.”
In this era of the “now and not yet,” Christ rules over all authorities, powers, and dominions (Col 1:15–20; Col 2:15). This included the emperor and those persecuting the believers in Philippi (Phil 1:12–21).
Since we know how the cosmic story concludes, we can eagerly press on to the end.
When all creation has been subjected to Jesus, he shall place everything under the Father, including himself, “in order that God may be all in all” (1 Cor 15:24–28; John 13:31–32; Rev 3:21).
According to Augustine (354–430), due to the unity within the Godhead, whenever one of them is magnified, so are the others.
Therefore, he wrote, “When [Christ] shall have delivered up the kingdom to…the Father, Jesus does not take the kingdom from himself; since, when he shall bring believers to the contemplation of God, even the Father, doubtless he will bring them to the contemplation of Himself.”
The Greek term perichoresis best captures the essence of the Godhead. As in a perfectly choreographed dance, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit so interpenetrate one another that their wills are unified.
Where there is one, the other two are also, without one being greater than the others. Theirs forms a community of perfect love.
Philippians 3:21 contains strong verbal links with the hymn in Phil 2:6–11, as we can see in this table:
|Verse in Phil 2||Greek word||English Translation||Greek word in 3:21||English Translation|
|6, 7||morphē||form||metaschēmatisei||shall be transformed|
Furthermore, Phil 2:9–11 portrays the subjection of all things to Christ, while Phil 3:21 explicitly states that all things shall be subject to him.
Thus, Paul asserted that the reward to believers for our humility shall parallel the exaltation due to Jesus for his obedience.
Regarding this topic, Augustine wrote:
It is recorded of Cain that he built a city, but Abel being a sojourner, built none. For the city of the saints is above, although here below it begets citizens, in whom it sojourns till the time of its reign arrives, when it shall gather together all in the day of the resurrection; and then shall the promised kingdom be given to them, in which they shall reign with their Prince, the King of the ages, time without end.
Nevertheless, while we remain in this age, we can enter into the life of the Trinity by the presence of the Holy Spirit (John 16:13–15; Rom 8:9–17, 26–30).
As a result, we experience transformed lives, which lead us to actively seek fellowship with God, pursue justice for our neighbors and the world around us, and spread the good news of the gospel (Eph 1:3–23; Matt 22:34–40; Matt 28:18–20).
When we devote ourselves to these aspects of life, not only do we experience the unity of the Trinity, we anticipate the age to come.
The theologian John Cassian (ca. 360–435 AD) wrote:
No one will arrive at the fullness of this measure in the world to come except the person who has reflected on it and been initiated it in the present and who has tasted it while still living in this world; who, having been designated a most precious member of Christ, possesses in this flesh the pledge of that union through which he is able to be joined to Christ’s body; who desires only one thing, thirsts for one thing, and always directs not only every deed but even every thought to this one thing, so that he may already possess in the present what has been pledged him and what is spoken of with regard to the blessed way of life of the holy in the future—that is, that “God may be all in all” to him.
Image via Wikimedia Commons
Read Phil 3:21. How shall we be like Christ in the age to come? Why do we have this hope? How do you experience life in the Trinity?
[Related posts include Minds on Earthly Things (Phil 3:17–19); Citizens of Heaven (Phil 3:20); Cain Dedicated a City (Gen 4:17); Christ’s Resurrected Body (Luke 24:31, 35–44); Co-Heirs with Christ (Rom 8:16–18); Dead in Adam but Alive in Christ (1 Cor 15:20–23); Perishable Flesh and Blood (1 Cor 15:50); We Shall Be Changed (1 Cor 15:51–52); Victory over Death (1 Cor 15:53–55); Blessings from the Father (Eph 1:3–4); Adopted as Sons (Eph 1:5–6); Redemption through Christ’s Blood (Eph 1:7–8); The Summing up of All Things (Eph 1:9–11); Equality with God (Phil 2:5–6); A Summary of Trinitarian Creeds (Appendix to Phil 2:5–6); The Eternal Subordination of the Son to the Father: Orthodoxy or Heresy?; Taking the Form of a Slave (Phil 2:7); Obedient to the Point of Death (Phil 2:8); The Name Above Every Name (Phil 2:9–11); The Firstborn of All Creation (Col 1:15–18); and Ancient Literature]
[Click here to go to Chapter 2: The Descent of Humanity (Genesis 4:17–24)]
Plato, “Gorgias,” in Plato in Twelve Volumes, Vol. 3; trans. W. R. M. Lamb; Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1967), 493a, Http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0178%3Atext%3DGorg.%3Asection%3D493a.
M. H. Cressey, “Dualism” in New Bible Dictionary, 3rd Ed. (NBD) D. R.W Wood, et al., Eds. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 284.
Hawthorne, Philippians, 233.
Larry J. Kreitzer, “Body,” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters (DPL) (ed. Gerald F. Hawthorne and Ralph P. Martin; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 71–4, 74.
Hawthorne, Philippians, 233–4.
Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, 384.
Augustine, “On the Trinity,” in NPNF1–03 (ed. Philip Schaff; trans. Arthur West Haddan, revised by William G. T. Shedd; Edinburgh; Grand Rapids: T & T Clark; Eerdmans, 1887), 1.9, 27, https://archive.org/stream/aselectlibrary03unknuoft#page/26/mode/2up.
Kevin Giles, The Trinity and Subordinationism: The Doctrine of God and the Contemporary Gender Debate (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 113.
William G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, 3rd Ed. (ed. Alan W. Gomes; Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 2003), 250.
David S. Cunningham, “What Do We Mean by ‘God’?” in Essentials of Christian Theology (ed. William C. Placher; Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2003), 59.
Schreiner, Paul Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ: A Pauline Theology, 170.
Augustine, The City of God, 2 Vols. (ed. Philip Schaff; trans. J. F. Shaw and Marcus Dods; NPNF2; Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1871), 15, 2:51, https://archive.org/stream/TheCityOfGodV2#page/n61/mode/2up.
Donald Fairbairn, Life in the Trinity: An Introduction to Theology with the Help of the Church Fathers (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2009), 230–1.
Cassian John, Boniface Ramsey, trans., in John Cassian: The Conferences (ACW; Costa Mesa, CA: Paulist Press, 1997), 253–4.