By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org
Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
These verses assume something stupendous. And we must make that plain before we marvel at what is here. And that is my goal—that you would marvel at what is here. That you would marvel at the One who is spoken of here. And that is not just my aim. It’s God’s aim for you as well. I say that because in Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians (1:10) God’s word says concerning Christ’s second coming, “He comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed.” The aim of history is: the people of God marveling at the majesty of Jesus Christ. So that’s my aim this Easter Sunday morning—that you will marvel at what is revealed of Christ in Philippians 3:20-21
But something is assumed here, and we must make that plain before we can marvel with understanding. And that is the only kind of marveling that matters. Marveling with understanding. If someone tricks you into marveling and makes you think they’ve done something great when they haven’t, your marveling doesn’t make much of them, it makes a fool of you. Only marveling with understanding makes much of the One who is true and beautiful.
So something is assumed here in Philippians 3:20-21. What is assumed is that Jesus was raised from the dead and is now alive and very powerful—to put it mildly. The reason Paul can assume this here is that he said it in chapter two. So we should go back there and make it explicit and clear. Philippians 2:6-11 describes the eternal deity of Christ, the incarnation of Christ, the obedient death of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, and the reign of Christ over all the universe. It is an amazing passage. You will never read anything anywhere in any literature more sweeping and important and true than this:
Though he was in the form of God, [he] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
So Christ was and is equal with God. He is God. He became also a human being. He obediently suffered and died. Obediently. That means God the Father told him to do it. That means it was a planned death. And the point of the plan was that the Christ be a substitute for the damnation of all human sinners who would trust in Jesus. As it says in Galatians 3:13, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.” He bore our damnation as a substitute. This was God’s loving plan for the salvation of sinners like us who deserve hell. That’s why it says in verse 8, “He was obedient to the point of death.” He wasn’t just dying. He was obeying. God had a plan. God gave a command. The Son was fulfilling it, willingly, obediently. The plan was, “Be a substitute for the damnation of all who will believe in you. Bear for them my holy and just curse, and I will make them my children—fellow heirs with you of everything I own.”
And then in verse 9, you see the greatest “therefore” in the Bible. “Therefore, God has highly exalted him.” In other words, because of his obedient and successful life and death, God raised him from the dead and gave him great glory as the Lord of the universe. That is the stupendous assumption behind Philippians 3:20-21.
So now let’s go there again. “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, (and now we know how he got to heaven: he was raised from the dead) who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body (and now we know how he has a body in heaven: he was raised bodily from the dead), by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”
Now we are prepared to meditate on this and marvel. Here are three focuses for our marveling on this Easter Sunday morning: 1) Marvel at the power of the risen Jesus today to subject all things to himself. 2) Marvel that one day, at his coming, he will use this power to transform your body into a body like his. 3) Marvel that today your citizenship is in heaven where Christ rules—or if it’s not, put it there today..
Marvel at the Power of the Risen Jesus Today to Subject All Things to Himself
Verse 21b: “. . . the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” In one sense Christ has the right to rule the universe because he is God, not because he died and rose again. He did not have to die and rise in order to be what he was. And what he is from all eternity is God. This gives him the right to exercise authority over all things. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God” (John 1:1-2). Christ is God, and as God has all authority to submit all things to himself.
But in another sense God the Father decreed that it would be most fitting, appropriate, beautiful, good, and right for the one who rules the world of fallen humankind, and everything that relates to humans in their suffering, would be One who bore their likeness, and endured their temptations, and suffered their pain, and died their death. God decreed that the one who would rule in power would be a redeemer who suffered with us and for us in this world. God decreed that the lion of Judah when he comes in power and great glory to bring judgment on the earth will have been a lamb slain for sin on that earth (Revelation 6:16).
Here is one verse in this regard: Hebrews 2:10, “For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.” The Lord and Judge and Savior over all the universe was tested and found perfect through human suffering. Now he is doubly suited for his role as Lord of the universe: he is God with natural rights, and he is Redeemer with purchased rights. He can put his foot on Satan’s neck not just because of raw divine power—which would have been enough—butalso because he exposed himself to Satan’s temptations and to his final weapon, death, and broke it on Easter Sunday morning. So he is doubly suited to rule. He has Creator rights and Redeemer rights.
And now with all that in mind we read in Philippians 3:21 that he has “the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” In order to marvel at this power of Christ today, consider 1) its scope, 2) its process, 3) its pervasiveness, 4) its triumph, 5) its finality for man, 6) its duration, and 7) its final base of operation.
1.1. Marvel at the scope of Christ’s power today.
After his resurrection, Jesus said in Matthew 28:18, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” There is no higher authority than Christ’s, not on the earth, not in heaven. And Philippians 2:10 adds, not “under the earth.” There is no place or sphere of reality or dimension of existence anywhere in the universe that is not under the absolute authority of Jesus Christ.
When the world doesn’t look like it is under the authority of Christ, it would wiser for us to marvel at the mystery of his ways (the way Paul does in Romans 11:33) than to question the scope of his power.
1.2. Marvel at the process of Christ’s power today.
While Christ has absolute authority and power over all things, he does not yet use that power to completely subdue his enemies. Not yet. His kingdom advances by the preaching of the gospel and by the sacrificial love of his people. In this way unbelief and spiritual darkness and demonic deception are defeated by the power and beauty of Christ. When this process has gone as far as God wills, Christ will step in and finish the victory.
Here is the way Paul said it in 1 Corinthians 15:24-27:
Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.”
“He must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” So his power and authority are complete. But the process of subjection goes on at the pace he chooses. Our job is not to know the times and the seasons which the Father has set by his own authority (Acts 1:7). Our job is to marvel at the scope and process of his power, and speak the gospel.
1.3. Marvel at the pervasiveness of Christ’s power today.
Christ’s power pervades the universe from the largest to the smallest elements of reality. Colossians 1:17 says, “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” And Hebrews 1:3 says, “He upholds the universe by the word of his power.” Christ’s authority is absolutely pervasive. No galaxy, no atom, no demon would stay in being without the authority of Jesus Christ.
1.4. Marvel at the triumph of Christ’s power today.
1 Peter 3:22 says, He “has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.” When Christ died and rose again, he was triumphant over all the powers of hell. He knew this triumph was coming, so he said to Peter in Matthew 16:18, “I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” In other words, hell cannot defeat Jesus. His triumph is sure. He will accomplish all his purposes for the church and for the universe.
1.5. Marvel at the finality for man in Christ’s power today.
Jesus said in John 5:27, “[God] has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.” The God-Man has the right to act as God in judging men. And he will. And it will be final. There is no court of appeals above Christ. And John 17:2 shows how this authority is full of hope for those who belong to Jesus, “You [God] have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.” Both judgment and eternal life are in his hands. For every human being. Marvel at the finality of the authority of such a judge.
1.6. Marvel at the duration of Christ’s power today.
In Revelation 11:15 loud voices in heaven said, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” There will never be another chapter after Christ. Nothing comes after Christ. His power and authority last forever. Don’t be found an enemy of that power. Marvel, don’t mock.
1.7. Marvel at the final base of operation of Christ’s power.
Namely, the earth. It will be renewed. All sin and sickness and satanic power will be removed. It will be a new heaven and a new earth. But not another one. The same one renewed. That’s why he comes back in power. Matthew 24:30, “Then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” Marvel, therefore, that the scope and process and pervasiveness and triumph and finality and duration of Christ’s power by which he subjects all things to himself will be based finally on the earth.
That is the first focus for our marveling at Christ this morning. Marvel at his power to subject all things to himself. Philippians 3:21b, “. . . by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”
Marvel That One Day, at His Coming, He Will Use This Power to Transform Your Body into a Body Like His
Philippians 3:21a, “[He] will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” All that power that we have just seen, Paul says, will take your decomposed body and raise it from the dead. No longer to be sick or disabled or frail or mentally ill or addicted or weary or tempting or tempted, but rather it will be like his glorious body.
Don’t over-spiritualize this or under-spiritualize this. You would under-spiritualize it if you thought it could be explained merely in the categories of physical, material reality that you experience now. It is not identical to what we now have. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:44, “Itis sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” It will be perfectly suited to bear the weight of the glory of perfect spiritual souls.
But you would over-spiritualize it if you thought you couldn’t eat fish or be recognized by your friends after the resurrection. Jesus was recognized in his resurrection body by his disciples (Luke 24:31). And he said in Luke 24:39-43:
“See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.
And that is what you will do. If you belong to Christ by trusting in him, he will give you a new spiritual body, and you will be recognized by your friends and you will eat and drink with him in the kingdom of God (Matthew 26:29). Marvel therefore that Christ will use his infinite authority and power to raise you from the dead and give you a body like his.
Marvel That Today Your Citizenship Is in Heaven Where Christ Rules
Philippians 3:20, “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” If you are a believer in Christ, you do not have to wait for the second coming of Christ to know where your home is: heaven or hell. When you trust Christ your name is sealed on the citizen roles of heaven.
Not because you will live there forever instead of on the new earth. But because your king is there. And when he comes, your citizenship comes with him. Where he is, there you have the privilege and the right to be.
And so you will be with him forever. And your marveling will never cease. It will only increase forever and ever.
Is your citizenship in heaven? Have you laid down the arms of unbelief and rebellion against Christ? Have you received the blood-bought amnesty that he offers to all rebels? Have you bowed the knee of submission and loyalty to the king of the universe? Do it today. And join the citizens of heaven in “awaiting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”
By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org