ATTAINING TO THE OUT-RESURRECTION
From: Study Guide for the Book of Philippians
The traditional understanding is that every person who makes a profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and is baptized in water will participate in the first resurrection from the dead. The traditional understanding does not agree with the third chapter of the Book of Philippians nor does it agree with the parables of the Kingdom of God that Jesus taught us.
Given current Christian thinking and preaching, it is astonishing to discover Paul admonished us to press forward into the life and death of Christ in order to attain to the resurrection that will take place when the Lord Jesus appears.
The Kingdom of God, the resurrection, is a living Seed that enters us causing us to be born again. If we would attain to the out-resurrection we must conscientiously nourish the living Seed. Otherwise the Seed, the resurrection life, will wither away or be choked out before it can bring any fruit to perfection (Luke 8:5-16)
ATTAINING TO THE OUT-RESURRECTION
What state was Paul seeking to attain to (to advance to; to arrive at)? The resurrection from the dead.
If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. (Philippians 3:11)
The Greek term employed here is out-resurrection. It is not used elsewhere in the New Testament unless one regards the term first resurrection as its equivalent, which is how the author regards it. It is our point of view that Paul’s “out-resurrection” is the same as the “first resurrection.”
But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection (Revelation 20:5).
Philippians 3:11 is a remarkable verse. It does not fit our traditional understanding of the resurrection from the dead.
The term out-resurrection implies an earlier resurrection, a first resurrection from among the dead.
There may be no greater doctrinal need in our day than the understanding of the first resurrection and our need to attain to it. The Christian discipleship always is to be pursued with the intention of attaining to a “better resurrection.”
The context of Philippians 3:11 suggests that the out-resurrection is directly related to knowing the power of Christ’s resurrection and sharing His sufferings, and also to the change of our mortal body, for Paul states a few verses later:
Who shall change our vile body [the body of our humbling], that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself (Philippians 3:21).
No doubt the out-resurrection is the resurrection of which Paul spoke in Romans 8:11, I Corinthians 15:52, and I Thessalonians 4:16; and the Apostle John revealed in Revelation 20:4-6.… and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years (Revelation 20:4).
By the expression “and they lived” (above) John is speaking of the transformation into life of our mortal body, because our new born-again inner nature already is eternally alive in Christ at the right hand of the Father.
The following passage refers to the resurrection and ascension of our new born-again inner nature.
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God (Colossians 3:1-3).
When Paul was seeking to attain to, to advance to, to arrive at the out-resurrection from the dead, he must have been referring to the transformation into life of our physical body. Unlike our physical body, our spiritual nature experiences resurrection life the moment we receive Christ as our Lord and Savior.
If Paul indeed is speaking of the first resurrection, the transformation into life of our mortal body, the astonishing fact is that Paul is teaching us that we are required to press forward into the life and death of Christ in order to attain to it.
Our traditional understanding, on the other hand, is that every person who makes a profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and is baptized in water will participate in the first resurrection from the dead.
Our traditional understanding does not agree with the third chapter of the Book of Philippians nor is it in harmony with the parables of the Kingdom of God that Jesus taught us. The Lord Jesus taught us that the Kingdom of God is as a tiny seed that grows until it fills all things, and also that many hearts in which the Seed of the Kingdom is planted do not bear any lasting fruit—certainly not the fruit of an all-powerful body.
Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away (Matthew 13:5, 6).
The Kingdom of God is more than a label we attach to our personality. The Kingdom of God is more than a ticket to Heaven. The Kingdom of God is more than a religious doctrine about which we attempt to gain a correct knowledge and understanding.
The Kingdom of God, the resurrection, is a living Seed that enters us causing us to be born-again. If we would attain to the out-resurrection we must conscientiously nourish the living Seed. Otherwise the Seed, the resurrection life, will wither away or be choked out before it can bring any fruit to perfection (Luke 8:5-16).
Also, the traditional understanding that we receive the full measure of eternal life the moment we believe in Christ does not correspond to the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation—the promises to the overcomer.
We believe the second and third chapters of Revelation are describing increments in attaining to the first resurrection from the dead. It is helpful to contemplate the rewards mentioned here. They are not the kinds of rewards we usually associate with going to Heaven. The climax of the rewards agrees with the description of the first resurrection from the dead.
To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne (Revelation 3:21).
And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them:… (Revelation 20:4).
The third chapter of Philippians, the second and third chapter of Revelation, and Paul’s references to running a race, to competing with diligence in order to gain the crown of life, suggest the first resurrection from the dead, including the gaining of a glorified body, will be the reward of the conquering saint. It will not be given on the basis of a mere profession of doctrinal belief.
Let us consider for a moment the fact that in the New Testament, the fullness of salvation is viewed as occurring at the end of our pilgrimage rather than at the beginning. He who endures to the end shall be saved.
Notice carefully the following:
But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition [destruction]; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul. (Hebrews 10:39)
We “believe to the saving of the soul.” We are saved if we persevere in our faith throughout our lifetime.
To view salvation as occurring at the end of our life rather than at the beginning enables us to gain a clearer picture of the Christian life. The concept of today that once we make a profession of the Lord Jesus we are “saved,” meaning that whatever we do after that cannot prevent our entrance into the fullness of glory and authority, has produced Christian churches that are far from God and His redemption.
If we would regard salvation as a state of acceptance to God that begins at the time we put our faith in the Lord Jesus, but then must be pursued throughout our lifetime with all diligence, we would avoid the deadly complacency that has destroyed the spiritual life of the churches in the wealthy nations.
We will be saved if we endure to the end. Our redemption is in the future. If we would attain to the future redemption, every moment of our life on earth must be spent in the pursuit of eternal life.
In the third chapter of Philippians, Paul is not speaking primarily of being saved from the wrath of God. Well then, what is Paul speaking of?
When we receive the Lord Jesus Christ by faith, believing His blood has washed away our sins, we become candidates for Paradise. We will be saved rather than lost in the great and terrible Day of the Lord if we continue to place our hope and trust in the Lord throughout our lifetime.
But attaining to the first resurrection from the dead, the transformation of our body into the likeness of His glorious body, and ascending the thrones of eternal life that govern the material creation, require a complete grasping of the power of Christ’s resurrection from the dead and a complete participation in the sufferings of the cross.
Many are called into the Kingdom of God but few are chosen to be members of the Bride of the Lamb. Among the members of the Kingdom of God there are some who bear Christ thirtyfold, some who bear Christ sixtyfold, and some who bear Christ a hundredfold. Then there are believers who are saved as by fire, receiving no reward. Their works, inheritance, and much of their personality is burned away in order that their spirit may be saved.
We enter the gates of salvation by receiving our Lord, Christ. Then, through His grace, we press forward into the Kingdom of God. The extent to which we gain the Kingdom will determine our inheritance, our status, and our opportunities for fellowship with God and for service throughout the ages to come.
Much of our inheritance will be reflected in the body of life that “swallows up” our mortal body. There is a reward for serving the Lord!
We shall reap what we sow. Those who serve the Lord carelessly will be rewarded carelessly. Those who serve the Lord with their whole heart will be rewarded with the Lord’s whole heart. Those who give little to the Lord will receive little from the Lord. Those who give all that they are to the Lord will receive all that the Lord is.
The first resurrection from among the dead, the “out-resurrection,” is the resurrection of God’s priests and kings. It is a high honor in the Kingdom of God to participate in the first resurrection. Those who attain to the first resurrection will be given unimaginable authority and power, just as the Spirit of God has presented to us in the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation.
We can gain some concept of the degree of spiritual maturity that the first resurrection represents by the fact that the Apostle Paul, five or six years before his martyrdom, was still seeking to arrive at the level of closeness with God’s King—the Lord Jesus Christ—that would qualify him for participation in the first resurrection from the dead.
We are qualified to escape the wrath of God by believing in Christ and being baptized in water into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
We attain to the first resurrection from among the dead by forsaking all other pursuits in order to be changed into the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
For several years the writer has wrestled with the problem of who will be raised from the dead and ascend to meet the Lord in the air when He appears.
The language of I Thessalonians 4:13-18 leaves the impression that all believers will be drawn to the Lord at this time. We must keep in mind, however, that Paul’s definition of a believer and what he means by “sleep in Jesus,” may be far from the current definition and understanding.
There are types and statements that imply that only a firstfruits of the believers will be found worthy of participation in the first resurrection. We finally have come to favor this point of view—that only a firstfruits of the Lord’s people will be part of the first resurrection from among the dead. (By the expression “the Lord’s people” we mean spiritual Israel, the family of God, the entire Church, the whole Bride of the Lamb.)
If it is true that it is a firstfruits of God’s people who will be raised in the first resurrection, then the remainder of the Church will be raised in the general resurrection from the dead—that which will take place when the first heaven and earth pass away.
If the majority of the Lord’s people are to be raised in the general resurrection from the dead, then the resurrection at the coming of the Lord will be a special out-resurrection of a holy army of “mighty men.” The task of the “mighty men” will be to work with the Lord in governing the saved peoples of the earth who are not part of the royal priesthood, and perhaps to assist the younger members of the Bride in their growth to maturity.
There is the story of Gideon’s army—300 men taken from the entire camp of Israel. The account of the trumpets, and the breaking of the clay pots so the light shone, is probably the strongest Old Testament type of the coming of the Lord.
There is the separation of the Ark from the remainder of the Tabernacle of the Congregation and its final return as part of the Temple of Solomon. The removal and return of the Ark suggest a fighting remnant, a “Zion” company, a firstfruits to the Lord, is temporarily separated from the whole Church.
The anointing of David as king over Judah before he was anointed king over all Israel speaks of a temporary rule of the Lord over a “Judah company.”
Isaiah speaks of a godly remnant.
And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem (Isaiah 4:3).
Joel prophesies of a remnant who will serve the Lord in the last days.
And it shall come to pass, that whoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call (Joel 2:32).
“In the remnant whom the Lord shall call.” The remnant!
Jude mentions a remnant who will return to judge the Lord’s household:
And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these [the ungodly in the churches], saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him (Jude 1:14, 15).
A review of the context will reveal that these saints who come with the Lord, perhaps a remnant of the entire Church, will appear for the purpose of judging the ungodly in the household of God.
Then there is the fact that the Wife of the Lamb (perhaps a firstfruits of the Bride, according to our view) appears at the beginning of the thousand-year Kingdom Age, clothed in the white raiment of her righteous conduct:
And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness [righteous deeds] of saints (Revelation 19:8).
And then the entire Wife of the Lamb as the glorious holy city, at the end of the thousand-year Kingdom Age:
And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife (Revelation 21:9).
The difference in the two appearings of the Wife of the Lamb may indicate a warrior-firstfruits will appear with the Lord at the onset of the thousand-year Kingdom Age; and that during the thousand-year Kingdom Age the remainder of the Church will be ministered to in the spirit realm by the warrior-firstfruits, the Zion-barley-firstfruits company, the Lord’s holy remnant.
Barley is the first grain to ripen and was employed during the Levitical feast of Firstfruits.
Gideon is associated with barley.
And when Gideon was come, behold, there was a man that told a dream unto his fellow, and said, Behold, I dreamed a dream, and, lo, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the host of Midian, and came unto a tent, and smote it that it fell, and overturned it, that the tent lay along (Judges 7:13).
Ruth is associated with barley.
So she gleaned in the field until even, and beat out that she had gleaned: and it was about an ephah of barley. (Ruth 2:17)
The firstfruits company is revealed in the Book of Revelation, standing on Mount Zion, at the place where David kept the Ark of the Covenant when it was separated from the remainder of the Tabernacle of the Congregation.
And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father s name written in their foreheads (Revelation 14:1).
We see, then, that the concept of the first resurrection being a special, advance resurrection and ascension, an honor guard to greet the Lord Jesus when He comes to assume the government of Israel and of the other nations of the earth, has strong support in the types of the Old Testament as well as in some of the statements of the New Testament.
If the first resurrection is a special, advance resurrection of the Lord’s “mighty men,” then Paul’s zeal in pursuing the out-resurrection to the end of his discipleship makes perfect sense.
Otherwise, Paul’s desire to attain to the out-resurrection is difficult to understand.
The statement that finally caused us to take the position that only a holy remnant will be raised at the next coming of the Lord, is as follows:
Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years (Revelation 20:6).
There are numerous people who believe in Jesus, who have, we believe, a genuine experience of sins forgiven. They truly love the Lord and His Spirit is in them. But we cannot see all of them serving as members of the royal priesthood. Many are babies in Christ. Their pastors feed them with diluted milk; for if they presented a stronger word their congregations would choke and die.
Such believers simply are not kings and priests in the Kingdom. They are not kings and priests today and they will not be made so magically when the Lord appears, by “grace,” by forgiveness, by mercy, or by any other simple, quick means. They are not ready to be the judges who will sit upon the all-powerful thrones in the air that govern the spiritual condition of the nations of the earth. To think immature, worldly Christians suddenly will be assigned such supreme authority and power is to indulge in fantasy.
Then too, the Lord warned us concerning the ten virgins who had lamps—the lamps representing the Word of God. Five of them had oil, that is, the Life of Christ dwelling in them. They were living by His Life. The other five had lamps but their oil had been used up. They were not accepted by the Lord when He came.
When we truly receive the Lord we are given a portion of oil, of the Life of Christ. In order to keep filled with oil we must take up our cross and follow the Lord, living daily by His resurrection Life. How many believers really live by the Life of the Lord?
The Lord through much tribulation will draw out a godly remnant in the days in which we are living.
We think we are correct in the conclusion we have drawn, that is, only a holy remnant of warrior-saints will rise to meet the Lord at His appearing. If there is a possibility we are correct, then every person who loves the Lord would do well to follow the example of the Apostle Paul and strive to attain to the first resurrection from among the dead.
Had Paul at this time (A.D. 62, just before his first court appearance) already attained to the “out-resurrection”? In his own opinion he had not as yet arrived.
Verse 12 reveals to us that to attain to the first resurrection is the same as to have been perfected. To arrive at perfection in Christ is to arrive at the out-resurrection.
What was Paul’s attitude of spirit and mind while he was confined in the barracks, awaiting his first trial? He was pressing toward a mark; he was pursuing a goal in Christ. This indeed is remarkable. Toward what was he pressing? What was he pursuing?
Paul at this time had been saved and filled with God’s Spirit for many years. His missionary work had born much fruit. Now he was in prison with a reasonable expectation of martyrdom. Had he not gained all the aspects of redemption that are possible to achieve in the world?
Isn’t it true that after we are saved, filled with God’s Holy Spirit, and labor successfully in the work of the Kingdom, there no longer is a personal spiritual level toward which to press while we are in the world?
Aren’t we supposed to wait patiently until the Lord Jesus comes and “carries us away to our eternal home in Heaven”?
We are supposed to wait patiently until the Lord Jesus comes in the power of His Kingdom and brings us into glory and honor. Meanwhile there is a mark, a goal that has been placed before us by the Lord Jesus. The mark, the goal, to which we have been called, is the perfect and complete relationship to Christ.
Each saint who attains a complete relationship to Christ has already received the inner aspects of the first resurrection. The coming of the Lord Jesus will not bring the inner aspects of throne-life to the perfected saint. Rather, the coming of Christ will reveal to the creation, through the reviving and glorifying of the saint’s mortal body, the Divine Life and relationship that was accomplished during the saint’s life on the earth.
Paul was seeking to lay hold of that for which he had been laid hold of by Christ.
Has Christ indeed laid hold of you and of me that we may be brought into transformations, relationships, and positions of which we are largely unaware? That we glimpse dimly?
To what end are we being resurrected?
We would suggest the upward calling of the new-covenant saint is identical to the commission given to human beings in the beginning:
- To be in the image of God in spirit, soul, and body.
- To be male and female, that is, to have the capacity for union with God and with all who are in God.
- To be fruitful.
- To have dominion over the creation.
As to image:
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be changed into the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren (Romans 8:29).
As to union:
That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe thou hast sent me (John 17:21).
As to fruitfulness:
Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you (John 15:16).
As to dominion:
To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne (Revelation 3:21).
Of the four parts of the original commission given to mankind, union is the most important. When God made man He made him male and female so it would be impossible for any individual to achieve image, fruitfulness, or dominion apart from union with another person. Only the Father, God, is capable of image, fruitfulness and dominion apart from union with another person.
The third chapter of Philippians has to do with the complete union of the saint with Christ. Paul was laying aside all other goals so he might pursue the one supreme goal of knowing the Lord Jesus Christ, of knowing the power of His resurrection from among the dead (not the power of Paul’s resurrection but the power of Christ’s resurrection), and of sharing in Christ’s sufferings (not Paul’s sufferings).
Do not the power and the sufferings become Paul’s?
Yes, they do indeed. But the important aspect is that they are Christ’s power and sufferings. It is not what we attain to that is so vitally significant. The one true achievement of the human being is to enter all that Christ is, that Christ does, that Christ becomes, that Christ experiences, that Christ attains to and inherits.
We are coheirs with Christ. Not one thing we are or do is of value apart from the Lord. The necessary aspect of salvation is union with Him.
The difference between the False Prophet (religion), and Christ (Divine redemption), is as follows: the False Prophet and those who belong to him are seeking image, fruitfulness, and dominion apart from union with Christ, apart from union with God. Christ and those who belong to Him are also seeking image, fruitfulness, and dominion, but only as these elements flow naturally from union with God.
All religious formulas, whether they have to do with fasting, meditation, faith, standing on the promises of Scripture, discipleship, patterns of baptism, gifts of the Spirit, organizational designs, or whatever else may be emphasized, are of the False Prophet unless their goals are achieved through union with the Lord Jesus Christ.
We do not seek to acquire fruitfulness, dominion, and the likeness of God in our life in order to become spiritually proficient or powerful. Rather, we seek to acquire union with God through the Lord Jesus Christ so Divine image, fruitfulness, and dominion, which are the true goals of every person, may be given to us lawfully and enable us to please the Father.
No human being ever finds rest and joy until he finds it in the heart of God.
This is what Paul was seeking—to be found in Christ, not having any accomplishments or any righteousness of his own. All that is of gain to Paul must come as a result of his union with Christ.
Divine union, Divine Life, Divinely ordained image, fruitfulness, and dominion are an upward calling. The call comes down to us from the throne of the almighty God and draws us upward toward that throne.
The call to union is the call to the Bride of the Lamb. Response to the call of Divine love requires that every other interest and affection be regarded as secondary and that all previous accomplishments and experiences be laid aside and forgotten.
The Bride of the Lamb turns away from every entangling relationship so Christ may have undisputed first place in her heart. He will allow no competitors.
Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house; So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him (Psalms 45:10,11).
Paul was stretching toward the fullness of relationship to Christ, a fullness that the Lord caused to appear on the horizon of Paul’s spiritual consciousness. He was pressing forward in single-minded pursuit of this perfect, complete relationship.
Such pure devotion to Christ is admirable under any circumstance. The fact that Paul was seeking Christ with such intensity while he was in prison, with the zeal of one newly saved, should give us a different orientation to the Christian discipleship than the current “decision for Christ.”
Our standard of discipleship is far below that presented by Paul. We may believe in one or two “works of grace” that give the seeker membership in a particular group. But the Scriptures point toward a lifelong pursuit of total union with Christ: with all He is, all He does, all He inherits.
“To attain to the first resurrection from among the dead.” What a challenge! What a departure from our traditional thinking! Will our complacency, our indifference, force the Lord God to lower His standards?
Or will we be held to this Word?
If we are being held to the written Word of the Apostles of the Lamb, how many of us actually will attain to the first resurrection, the out-resurrection from the dead?
At the time of his writing to the saints, overseers, and deacons in Philippi, Paul had not as yet attained to the first resurrection.
Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ (Philippians 3:12).
Given the spiritual stature of Paul at this time, it becomes clear that the rewards of the overcomer can be gained by nothing less than total devotion to Christ.
We are invited to press forward until we are able to grasp that for which we have been grasped by the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul does not count being converted to Christ, being born-again, speaking in tongues, and working in the ministry as being anything more than Christian basics. The wealth of glory in Christ available to the believer goes far beyond the basics!
There are few if any of us who have laid hold on Christ to the degree to which we have been called. Are we to wink at the challenge and compare ourselves among ourselves?
Indeed we are not! We are to forget what we have achieved to this point. We are to acknowledge that God never commands us to do anything but that He stands ready with all the power and wisdom (grace) we ever will need to perfectly and completely fulfill all of His expectations concerning us. We are to reach forward toward the horizon that the Holy Spirit is revealing to us as an individual.
We are to fan our first love into a consuming fire. We must prepare ourselves to be cut to the bone and to the marrow of the bone. Our resolve must harden as the finest steel. God’s knife shall prune. It shall circumcise what is useless and dead in our personality.
We are to begin once more in Christ with the zeal and zest of the newly converted. We are to return to our first love and do our first works. We are to know nothing. We are to be as a child although we may have been in the ministry for several decades.
We may be satisfied with our present attainment in Christ. We are to remain satisfied no longer. We are to ask God for our own mark, our own goal. We do not doubt that Christ will present us with a clear goal. We do not doubt He will match our total sincerity with His total sincerity.
There is something terribly sincere about Calvary!
Having been shown that clear goal, that definite mark, we are to press forward with every fiber of our personality in order that we may arrive at that goal. We do not beat the air. We are running to win. We can gain the crown of glory, through the grace of Christ, if we are willing to bring our flesh under subjection to the Holy Spirit, and if we are willing to be made weak in order that the wisdom and strength of Christ may be poured into us—and through us.
What should be true of each member of the Body of Christ who is mature in his walk in Christ?
He is to have the attitude of Paul: the attitude of stretching forward in pursuit of an intimate knowledge of Christ; the attitude of receiving His incorruptible, eternal resurrection life; the attitude of sharing His sufferings.
What will happen to each saint who has an attitude different from this?
God will bring him or her to the attitude that Paul is expressing here.
Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you (Philippians 3:15).
(“Attaining to the Out-Resurrection”, 3981-1)