All Things New

The resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ makes all things new for those who put their trust in Him. One obviously new thing is that He has instituted a new day of corporate worship – since He rose on the first day of the week, we worship now on the first day of the week, Sunday, called the Lord’s Day, which is the Christian Sabbath. In Philippians 3:20-21, Paul reminds us of three more of the new things that believers in Jesus have – two that we have now, and one that we will have in the future.

1. Those who have trusted in the risen Lord have a new citizenship.

“Our citizenship is in heaven,” says Paul in verse 20. He had just been speaking to these new Christians of the enemies of the cross, those who do not walk according to the apostolic example and pattern of life, “whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things” (17-19). But for us who have been saved by the grace of Christ, who have been born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Christ from the dead, we have a new homeland, a new commonwealth, a new citizenship – it’s in heaven, where the living Christ is, at the right hand of the Father. We have been rescued from the kingdom of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of light, the kingdom of God’s beloved Son, and now we are a colony of heaven on earth.

This reality was easy for the Philippians to grasp, because they had already experienced a similar change in citizenship almost a century earlier. In 42 B.C, Octavian had made the city of Philippi, in modern day Turkey, a Roman colony. Many retired Roman soldiers lived there. It was governed as if it were on Italian soil – Roman law, Roman dress, Roman customs, Roman language, Roman architecture. They were living in Philippi, but living as citizens of Rome! And Paul is now saying to these Christians that though they live in Philippi, they belong to another country now because they belong to Christ. You are proud of your Roman citizenship, good – but you have an even greater commonwealth than Rome, an even higher-priority citizenship, an even more glorious ruler than Caesar – the Lord Jesus, to whom has been given all authority in heaven and on earth, who rules and reigns at the right hand of God the Father. They are in union with Christ, and have died with Him and been raised up with Him, and their life is now hidden with Him in God. When Jesus rose again, He wasn’t merely rising for Himself alone, but as a representative head for all His people, all who would trust in Him. Just as everyone in Adam experienced death, so everyone in Christ through faith experiences life – we are a new humanity, a new people, an outpost of glory on this earth.

Our new citizenship should transform everything about us – we have a new focus, a new character, a new direction, a new orientation, new concerns. We are to live as if we were dwelling in heaven already! The “For” in verse 20 is parallel to the one in verse 18; Paul has just commanded the Philippians to “join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us,” and he not only mentions those who live diametrically opposed to the apostolic example, but he also says we are to follow his example “because we have a new citizenship.” Our minds are to be set, not on earthly things, but on heavenly things. We’re Americans, to be sure, dual citizens, but first and foremost we are citizens of the heavenly kingdom, and aliens and strangers and sojourners and exiles here. It’s so easy to forget our heavenly citizenship, whether because of an idolatrous nationalistic pride in America, or a confusion of America with the chosen people of God, or an unbiblical love of the luxurious life we have here. Honestly, that’s one of the good consequences of things like recessions, national decline in international power and prestige, persecutions and God giving our country over to moral decline. As much as we have responsibilities as citizens of America, as much as we should seek the welfare of the country where we live in exile, as Jeremiah reminded the exiles in Babylon, we must never forget the heavenly Jerusalem, our true home. Like Daniel and Shadrach and Meshach and Abednego, we must live as God’s people no matter how idolatrous and lawless our culture here becomes. For one day that heavenly citizenship is going to be all there is.

2. Those who have trusted in the risen Lord have a new expectation.

We have a new hope and anticipation, even a new desire. “Our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ…” The one who died and rose again is going to come again, and this age and its works will be burned up, and a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells will appear! Note well, we are waiting for a Savior! Before we came to know the risen Jesus, we were only waiting for a Judge, one to pass and execute the sentence of condemnation upon us because of our rebellion against Him and His Father. Indeed, that is what those who are described in verses 18-19 are still waiting for – only it’s not the eager waiting of expectation and hope, it’s the trembling waiting of dread and terror, knowing that His second coming will only bring darkness and destruction (19) – whether they feel that or not, that is their end. But the believer is looking for and longing for Jesus Christ to return, because we know that it will mean the completion, the consummation of our salvation.

And this new expectation transforms everything for us – no longer are we going through life knowing that our end is destruction, with the guillotine hanging over your head. We’ve been saved by grace through faith apart from works (cf. 3:7-9), and you know the freedom that comes through Christ’s death and resurrection. Freedom not only from the guilt/penalty of sin, but the power of sin as well – no longer is our god our appetite, living for the moment, for immediate gratification. We have become and are becoming a person who knows how to wait – we’re waiting on our Savior, and we are learning to delay gratification in every area of life. We’re seeking not to live according to our feelings, our desires, our grumblings, but according to the word of your King, and the apostolic example/pattern (17). Now as Paul makes clear in verses 12-14, we don’t do this perfectly – we still fall so short of what we ought to be and do. That’s what make this expectation so sweet – Christ will come to fully and finally save us from sin’s very presence. We press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ because we know that one day our Savior is coming to complete our salvation.

And in what does that completion, that consummation, largely consist? A transformation of our bodies. That’s the third “new thing” we see in these verses…

3. Those who have trusted in the risen Lord will have a new body.

Note the aspects of “Already and Not Yet” in these verses. We already have a new citizenship, we already have a new eager expectation, but we don’t yet have the fulfillment of that expectation. Jesus hasn’t returned in glory yet, and therefore we don’t yet have our new bodies. But one day soon we will – He “will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.” The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the guarantee of our own resurrection – not only are we being transformed and conformed within to be like Christ, but by His power, He will one day transform our mortal bodies so that they will be like His!

Think about our lowly bodies, the bodies of our humble state: the body is not inherently evil, but because of sin, we are subject to disease and decay; our strength fails; our mental powers wane; we endure all manner of indignities and humiliation and weakness, and then we die. Throughout our lives, our bodies play a part in all our sin; they exert a downward pull on our spiritual growth – our eyes, our tongues, our hands and feet bring us into all manner of sin. Even when our spirit is willing, our body is weak.

But one day all this will be transformed! Our bodies will be raised from the grave, or if we are still alive when He comes they will be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. And the paradigm, the prototype of our resurrected bodies will be Christ’s glorious body! From corruption to incorruption, from mortality to immortality, from humility and dishonor to glory, from weakness to power and strength. Death will be swallowed up in victory on the last day, as Christ exerts His infinite power over all creation. Paul writes in Romans 8:23, “…having the first fruits of the Spirit, we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.”

Our future body transforms everything – on the one hand, we know that this body is not going to last forever, and so we don’t fall into the world’s trap of worshiping it, or of worshiping youth. On the other hand, we know that our current bodies, weak and sinful as they are, are the temple of the Holy Spirit. We are not our own, we have been bought with a price, and therefore we seek to glorify God in our bodies. No longer do we glory in our shame, worshiping our bodies and doing whatever they tell us to do, but we seek to use our bodies to serve God and others.

Though we don’t experience the transformation/resurrection of our bodies until the age to come, yet we can know the power of the resurrection now in this age (10). And so we are enabled to suffer in the body (10) – we are being conformed to Christ’s death in this world, knowing that our main calling isn’t to protect ourselves or preserve our lives, but to glorify Him. And so we are enabled to stand firm in the Lord against those who oppose us (4:1), and to press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ (13-14), in spite of all our failures and struggles. We’re able to relate in a new way, and help others to relate in a new way (4:2-3).

The beauty and the glory of a new season, the newness of spring, eventually wears off, it fades away. New clothes go out of style or become old and worn out. A new floorplan eventually becomes constraining, boring, deadening, the newness goes by the wayside and we change it all over again. But the newness that we possess in the risen Lord Jesus Christ, the newness that He has purchased for us by His death and resurrection, it is here to stay. And the transformation that we experience as a result of it is ever-increasing. God has predestined His children to be conformed to the image of His Son, and He is going to make that happen (in soul and in body). We are being transformed, Paul says in II Cor. 3:18, into the image of the glory of the Lord as we behold Him in glory.

There’s a great scene in C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in which Aslan, having just risen from the dead, begins to leap and bound and play in the grass with the two girls, Susan and Lucy. And everywhere He leaps, flowers bloom in the grass. He leaps – flowers! I love that picture, and I pray that you will know it personally. As Christ leaps and plays in our lives, as the Already of His grace and glory becomes more and more a solid reality in our experience, and as the Not Yet more and more captures our imagination and heart, may He transform us according to His Word, to the glory of God the Father!

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