Christians live in two realities in a sense. Of course, we live and minister in this world as Christ Jesus said in John 17:15 “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world but that You should keep them from the evil one.” However, Paul notes in Ephesians 2:6 that God has “raised us up together and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Quite simply, we are strangers in this world and we long in our spirit to be completely redeemed and at home with our Lord and Savior. The fact that we are not home here even though we reside here creates a tension in our lives. The apostle Paul, in the above verses, explains to us this struggle in his own life and gives us insight into what he does in response to this kind of “dual” existence.
Paul writes in Philippians 3:11 “if, by any means, I may attain resurrection from the dead”. He is concluding a thought he began he began in verse 8. In short, since his conversion, Paul came to realize that his man-made righteousness was not sufficient to please God and that true righteousness was found only in Jesus Christ. He says in verse 9 that this righteousness comes “through faith”. When we read Paul’s statement in verse 11, we must keep the facts about his conversion in mind. In other words, he does not say “if” in order to suggest that he doubts the truth of his salvation. In fact, he says “if, by any means, I” with a sense of humility. Paul was humble and realized the kind of life he had lived and was grateful that God would chose to save him. In 1st Timothy, he called himself the chief of sinners. Paul also says, in this phrase, “by any means” meaning that there is no other way that he is going to be saved. If God saves someone, he always accomplishes this by faith. Therefore, Paul is not expressing doubt about his future but proclaims the source of his hope about the future. In others words, the “means” he mentions in verse 11 is the “faith” he mentions in verse 9.
He acknowledges that his ultimate redemption is still in the future. He says “I may attain resurrection from the dead”. In my study of this passage, I have read theologians who debate what resurrection Paul is referring to. Is he talking about the general resurrection before the White Throne judgment or is he talking about the resurrection of the dead at the Rapture. To be perfectly honest, I don’t claim to know and I’m not 100% sure it even matters. I mean, at the end of the day, when we stand before God after we are resurrected we will be fully, completely redeemed. We won’t hurt anymore. There will be no more death, no more sin, and no more pain. We will praise Him forever more and live in perfect fellowship. Paul recognizes that he has not arrived at that destination of being resurrected. The word “attain” translates a Greek word katantao (2658) which means literally “to arrive at”. Paul is saying, then, that he has not “arrived” at the resurrection. We can be encouraged by this statement of Paul as he reminds us that our redemption is still ahead. The best is yet to come.