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The Out-Resurrection

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September 2023 - The Out-Resurrection

Issue #422
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Issue #422September 2023

The Out-Resurrection

Paul speaks of the “out-resurrection” in Phil. 3:11,

11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Neither the NASB (above) nor the KJV render this correctly. The usual term for “resurrection” is anastasis, which appears 42 times in the New Testament; but here Paul uses the term ekanastasis. The prefix ek means “from, out of.” Hence, the Concordant Version reads, “resurrection that is out from among the dead.”

Dr. Bullinger’s notes tell us:

“Resurrection from the dead (ek nekron) implies the resurrection of some, the former of these two classes, the others being left behind.”

In other words, the ekanastasis is the resurrection of some, but not all. It is what John calls the first resurrection, where he tells us in Rev. 20:5,

5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection.

In other words, the first resurrection is limited to the few who are raised “out from among the dead” (CV). The general resurrection of all humanity is said to occur a thousand years later—that is, at the end of the millennium.

The first resurrection is not for all believers, but for the overcomers alone. Few believers understand this, and so they expect the entire church to be raised in the first resurrection. However, Jesus said in John 5:28, 29 that there would be both believers and unbelievers in the general resurrection:

28 Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, 29 and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.

He was describing the general resurrection of all the dead, “great and small,” that John wrote of in Rev. 20:12. Believers will then be given “a resurrection of life,” while the unbelievers will receive judgment.

This general resurrection is still a thousand years into the future. We ourselves should be more concerned with the first resurrection and how to qualify as overcomers. Paul gives us some helpful hints in Philippians.

The Goal of Life

The NASB uses the subtitle, “The Goal of Life” at the beginning of Philippians 3. In that chapter, Paul shares his thoughts on the out-resurrection, which he calls “the prize of the upward call of God” (Phil. 3:14). The KJV renders it “the high calling of God,” which I prefer. This is the calling of the overcomers who are destined to receive life in the first resurrection.

The epistle was written while Paul was imprisoned in Rome. When Paul had been in Philippi years earlier, he had been imprisoned there, along with Silas, his companion. The story is told in Acts 16:25 how they were singing praises to God when an earthquake struck the prison and loosed their bonds. They did not try to escape, for this would have resulted in the prison warden’s execution. Instead, the prison warden became a believer.

Acts 16:33, 34 continues,

33 And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. 34 And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household.

Thus, the church in Philippi was formed from the spirit of rejoicing, and Paul’s letter to them many years later is the epistle of joy, emphasizing their rejoicing. This is the first characteristic of an overcomer, for if one cannot live with a basic foundation of joy in life, how can it be said that he or she has overcome the trials of life? Paul and Silas were the key examples of this when they rejoiced after their beating and imprisonment with their feet in the stocks.

Phil. 3:1 says,

1 Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you.

As a prisoner in Rome awaiting execution, Paul was still able to rejoice and to set an example for others to follow.

Beware of Dogs

Phil. 3:2, 3 says,

2 Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; 3 for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.

Dogs are used as a metaphor for either good or evil. A positive metaphor points to their faithfulness. Caleb, one of the overcomers in the time of Moses, has a name that means dog. But in Phil. 3:2, Paul was using the term in a negative sense. This metaphor is defined in terms of “evil workers.”

False Circumcision

The “false circumcision” (unbelieving Jews as a whole) is defined more clearly in Rom. 2:28, 29,

28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. 29 But he is a Jew [Judean, a member of the tribe of Judah] who is one inwardly, and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.

The reason many Jews hate Paul is due to his definition of a Jew. Outward circumcision, he says, means nothing to God, because any unbeliever can be circumcised and do all sorts of evil. True circumcision is of the heart, even as Moses himself said in Deut. 10:16 and 30:6.

True praise and worship characterize those who are members of the tribe of Judah. Judah means “praise,” and in order to praise God, one’s heart must be circumcised, having no confidence in the flesh. Hence, those whose hearts are circumcised are, in the sight of God, members of the tribe of Judah.

Phil. 3:4, 5, 6 continues,

4 although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more; 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.

Paul understood both sides of this issue. At one time, he had been considered a Jew in good standing, “blameless” by the genealogical and Talmudic standards of Old Covenant Judaism. He had even adopted their antagonism toward the Christians. But when Jesus met him on the road to Damascus, everything changed.

Eating Dog Food

Phil. 3:7, 8 continues,

7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss [xemia, “damage, loss”] for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and count them but rubbish [skybalon, “any refuse, as the excrement of animals”] so that I may gain Christ.

Skybalon literally means that which is thrown to the dogs, as it is derived from the Greek word kyon, “dog.” When butchering an animal, the innards were given to the dogs to eat. No doubt Paul had this in mind, then, when he wrote earlier, “beware of the dogs” who eat (or believe) anything that is given to them by their rabbis.

Paul continues further in Phil. 3:9,

9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.

Paul did not despise any part of the word of God, including the law. This is clear from Rom. 3:31,

31 Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.

Paul was simply showing that we cannot be justified by our works, even if those works are good. All have sinned, so no amount of good works can make up for past sin. His point is that the law can set a standard of righteousness, but it cannot keep anyone from falling short of God’s glory.

Hence, the answer is New Covenant faith in the promise of God (Rom. 4:21, 22), rather than in our own promises to God. Paul, then, did not nullify or put away the law. He simply put it in its proper place. The law is the righteous standard of God’s own nature. Faith in Christ identifies us with Him in His death and life, so that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us as if we were, in fact, Christ Himself. Without faith in Christ, we remain in our sins.

Paul came to understand this clearly after His divine encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road. It changed everything. He no longer was able to eat the “rubbish” that Judaism had fed him in his early life, which had caused him to persecute the church.

Knowing Christ

Phil. 3:10 says,

10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection [ekanastasis] of the dead.

Here Paul tells us specifically what it takes to “attain to the out-resurrection of the dead.” We must know Christ and experience “the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” In other words, it requires—as baptism shows us—death and resurrection.

But what does that mean? In practice, it is to reckon the old man dead—the carnal, soulish self that we inherited from our earthly parents dating back to Adam, the first living soul. This “self” does not need to die literally in order to be reckoned as dead. Reckoning is a legal term that denotes a change of identity.

When the Holy Spirit begets Christ in us through the holy seed of the word, we are to reckon that new man to be our new self. In other words, we change identities from what we received from our earthly fathers to that which was begotten by our heavenly Father. This is how we become sons of God.

So the first major requirement in being an overcomer is to become a new man (KJV) or a new self (NASB). We must legally become a different person, no longer the one whom our earthly parents brought forth.

Paul had been born of Hebrew parents of the tribe of Benjamin. But he forsook that in order to claim a new Father who had begotten a new man that was no longer from any particular race or tribe, physically speaking. Those who are begotten by God count all such fleshly identities to be in the “loss” column, because they tend to drag us down and keep us from pressing on into our new identity.

This is difficult for all those who are proud of their ancestry and who believe that their physical ancestry is of benefit to them. They do not consider such things to be in the “loss” column but believe that they have a better status and position with God. In fact, Paul says that this is dog food, and he wanted none of it.

The problem with fleshly or genealogical advantage is that it is hard to let go of it to attain something better. Paul’s heritage as a Benjamite had caused him to think that he was one of God’s chosen people on the basis of flesh. Paul was not unique in this. Many others had believed the same, holding on to their “loss” as if it were an advantage.

To know Christ is to know the distinction between flesh and spirit and to know your true identity as a believer who has been “conformed to His death.” It is easy to be baptized into death and resurrection; but if one remains attached to the old man of flesh, is it really a valid baptism?

An overcomer is one who knows Christ in this way. It is not merely about being introduced to Christ. It is about knowing what it means to reckon the old man dead and to come into the newness of life in a new creation man.

Just think of all that Paul gave up when he came to believe in Christ and was baptized by Ananias (Acts 9:18). When Paul was filled with the Spirit, he also regained his sight. Not only was his eyesight restored from physical blindness, but he also began to see through the eyes of his new creation man. Old things had passed away; all things had become new (2 Cor. 5:17).

Paul did not claim that he had attained perfection. But he was determined not to allow the past to hold him back from his destiny as a son of God. Phil. 3:12-14 says,

12 Not that I have already obtained it [resurrection] or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

There are many who think that resurrection is only about becoming a believer. They believe that faith in Christ is the resurrection of the dead, and they deny that there is a physical resurrection in the future. For such people, the first resurrection is something that all believers have already experienced by faith in Christ.

Paul wrote in 2 Tim. 2:16-18,

16 But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, 17 and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some.

Paul does not tell us more details of this belief. They may have taught that the resurrection had occurred at the time of Christ’s death and/or resurrection (Matt. 27:52, 53), and so believers ought not to expect a future resurrection.

It may be that these men taught that baptism was the only resurrection that we should expect. Paul does not tell us explicitly. Yet either way, it is clear that Paul expected a future resurrection and that he had no regard for the teachings of Hymenaeus and Philetus.

Paul says, “Not that I have already obtained it,” and “I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet.” Paul had certainly “died” and had been “raised from the dead” in the spiritual sense, but this was only in a legal sense. He had reckoned himself dead and resurrected, but there was yet more. He wanted the out-resurrection that was yet future.

In other words, as believers, we should reckon ourselves to be crucified with Christ and raised from the dead with Him as well. However, this is not all there is. There is still a resurrection that lies ahead, and the out-resurrection is “the prize of the high calling of God” (KJV).

There is also a future time when Christ “will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory” (Phil. 3:21).

The Value of Flesh

Having emphasized the greater value of one’s spiritual begetting, let us look also at the (lesser) value of one’s fleshly heritage. Paul addressed this in Rom. 3:1, 2,

1 Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? 2 Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God.

God gave the Ten Commandments and the rest of the law to the Israelites. Although many foreigners were among them who also heard God’s voice, no other nation had this privilege. Many did not hear of this event for thousands of years, all because they were not part of that exodus from Egypt.

We see then the great advantage that Israel had over the other nations. The Israelites were given the opportunity to know God in a greater way. By studying the law, they could potentially know the mind of God and be able to conform their lives to His nature.

But their failure to hear at the base of the Mount (Exodus 20:19) negated much of that advantage. They tended to be attracted to other gods and their laws. Most of the Israelites even failed to understand the basic calling of Abraham to be a blessing to all families of the earth (Gen. 12:3). They overlooked the laws of equal justice along with God’s demand that they love foreigners as themselves.

By the time of Christ, the Jews were firmly entrenched in the idea that foreigners who wanted to worship God in Jerusalem were forbidden on pain of death from drawing near to God beyond “the dividing wall” (Eph. 2:14).

They thought of themselves as being chosen on account of their genealogy, whereas Paul stated clearly that only a remnant of grace was chosen, and the rest of the Israelites were blinded (Rom. 11:7 KJV).

Nonetheless, the people of Judea had an advantage in that copies of the Scriptures were available to them in every synagogue and in the temple in Jerusalem.

A secondary advantage is that the gospel spread first to the nations where the lost tribes of Israel had migrated. So James wrote his epistle “to the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad” (James 1:1). Likewise, Peter visited some Israelites of the diaspora in the northern part of what is now Turkey (1 Peter 1:1). Peter refers to them as “chosen” and later as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession” (1 Peter 2:9).

Many ex-Israelites of the dispersion lived in that part of the world, because their ancestors had been exiled just east of there “in Halah and Habor on the river Gozan” (2 Kings 17:6). Peter was most concerned about the prophecies of Israel and Judah, so to fulfill his calling, he made at least one trip to Pontus and Galatia just south of the Black Sea.

This “chosen race” is not chosen on account of their race but on account of their faith, by which God was creating a new spiritual race and nation made up of people “from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9). Peter was writing to those who believed the gospel when it was preached to them.

There are many prophecies given to the Israelites, even though they were dispersed and lost to many historians. Modern archeology found them about a century ago when the great library of Nineveh was excavated.

The point is that it is important to be able to identify all the nations in Bible prophecy, because prophecy speaks to the nations and gives their distinct destinies. By this we may understand prophecy and know the divine plan for all.