“For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, 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 3:20-21).
The believers raise his point of vision from off the earth to the highest Heaven. While the lost and the compromiser “mind earthly things” (Philippians 3:19), true Christians must “look up” (Luke 21:28) and “Set” their “affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2). We have a glorious eternal future ahead of us if we live according to God’s standards of righteousness rather than the corrupted version of the modern church.
The word “conversion” here has a similar meaning to that found in Philippians 1:27. Here it simply refers to ‘citizenship’ and indicates that a Christian ought to be a Heavenly-minded person. We are no longer citizens of earth but of Heaven – the Kingdom of God. We have become foreigners and travellers on this earth (Hebrews 11:13), but God “hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6), Just as we might guess at someone’s nationality by their customs, dress and lifestyle, so the world ought to notice that we are different and that we conduct ourselves as God’s children should. Jesus said in John 15:19 that we no longer belong to this world, “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you”. Why is this? The answer is simple, it is because we are “born from above” (John 3:3 margin). Some old translations of the Bible use the word ‘city’ instead of “conversation” but this does not change the meaning of the text in Philippians 3:20, and confirmed by Hebrews 11:16, “But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city”.
Christians eagerly await the soon coming return of the “Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ”. The New Testament and many prophecies of the Old clearly reveal that the Lord Jesus is coming back to this earth one day. Therefore we are to focus our lives around this glorious thought, for those who are anticipating Christ’s return will not be captivated by the world. We “look” for the “Lord” to come. There are numerous texts that speak of the divinity of Christ Jesus, but here Paul uses the word “Lord” as an alternative to ‘Jehovah’. The Jesus we know is literally Jehovah. Those who reject this truth can never have eternal life with Him. Did He not give us a definite promise about this? “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2-3).
When a monarch or some other dignitary announces a visit to a city, the people there make great preparations for his or her arrival. Nothing is left to chance or put off until the last minute. How sad it is then that so little preparation is made for the coming of the “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:16)? The word “look”, though only consisting of four letters in English, is made up from three other words in Greek. 1. ‘Receive’ or welcome with joy and celebration, 2. ‘Off’, meaning to forget about everything else that might otherwise detain us, 3. ‘Out’ or have one’s neck stretched out to see the important personage. When combined these three words fully describe the true meaning of the word “look” in Philippians 3:20 and reveal that we ought to yearn for the return of Christ. “Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh” (Matthew 24:44) … “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:13-14) … “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation” (Hebrews 9:28).
Our earthly bodies are going to go through a complete transformation when we are called into the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body” (2 Corinthians 4:10). Paul says that our earthly bodies are “vile”. Some might object to this thought, but the very fact there is a cosmetics industry is proof enough that beauty is not ‘skin deep’ but plastered on. The same could be said of the fashion industry, for everyone is looking for that one piece of clothing that sets them apart from everyone else. It is all because we are not happy with what we see in the mirror until we spread it on and dress it up. Paul’s meaning includes the idea that the flesh is ‘worthless and death-filled’.
We all need to make changes in our lives, but adding more to our skin is not the answer. In fact only Jesus make quality additions to us, thus making us fit for Heaven. “Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:51-55).
Our bodies of flesh are going to be permanently transformed. The word “fashioned” [Greek ‘summorphon’] indicates a complete, once-for-all-time change. “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness” (Psalm 17:15) … “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Romans 8:11). There will be no stores selling cosmetics in Heaven, for our new body will be made “glorious”. Notice that there is nothing we can do to achieve this state, since it is the “working” of Christ. “Working” [Greek ‘energia] refers to the ‘creative energy’ of the Lord Jesus. The Midrash, a Jewish work, states that “the holy blessed God will beautify the bodies of the righteous in future time, like the beauty of Adam”, but in fact our new bodies will designed after the beauty of Christ.
Paul has briefly described the final part of the salvation process. Scripture teaches that salvation was only the being of the work of God in our lives and that it will not be completed until Christ returns or we are received into His presence. “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). Therefore we have been born again (saved), we are being renewed day by day as we follow the Holy Spirit, and one day we will receive a resurrection body that can never deteriorate or die. Thank God that He is “able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him” (Hebrews 7:25), He is “able to keep [us] from falling, and to present [us] faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy” (Jude :24), and that “this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death” (Psalm 48:14). Our daily focus therefore ought to be on the Lord. Let us continuously look away to Jesus. “Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).