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No Annihilation


Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.
(Philippians 3:17-19 ESV)


Paul has urged us to imitate people such as himself who “walk” with God. Sadly, there are “many” who “walk as enemies of Christ”. These people should not be imitated because they were headed for “destruction”. The Greek word for destruction (απολεια, pronounced: ap-o’-li-a) does not mean ceasing to exist. It means “to perish or to come to ruin”.

There are many who believe that some people will go to heaven and the rest God will simply annihilate. This theory is known as “Annihilationism”. The Bible does not teach this at all.

God created everyone to live forever. We are all eternal creatures. Our bodies will die someday. But we are not our bodies. We are spirits who dwell temporarily in these bodies. After these bodies die we will continue to live. In fact, after death we will each be placed in another body. This one will be indestructible. It will never die [1 Corinthians 15:42,44].

When Jesus rose from the grave He did so in bodily form [Luke 24:39]. It is in this body that He ascended into heaven 40 days after His resurrection [Luke 24:50-53; Acts 1:9]. God tells us that Jesus’ resurrection was the first of many like it [1 Corinthians 15:20]. Everyone else who dies will one day live again in a new body just like Jesus.

Annihilationism is appealing to those who reject Jesus because it eliminates the concept of personal accountability. Ascribing to this theory allows one to live as they wish on earth since they think that they will face no punishment other than ceasing to exist which, in theory, would be painless and momentary.

This is also an appealing theory for those who have a problem with people being eternally tormented in hell. They claim that a loving God would never torment people. They are right about that. But they are wrong about the source of eternal torment.

We have to remember that by definition hell is eternal separation from God. God is not present in hell nor will He have any interaction with it. Hell is a place in which only human beings who want nothing to do with God live.

But since God is not there, the torment that people will experience cannot come from Him. So where does it come from? It comes from themselves as the people in hell eternally regret the decision they made on earth [Matthew 8:20 et. al].

Human beings are depraved. All the wars, mass shootings, greed, rapes, murders that happen on this planet happen because of human nature. All these types of incidents are a foretaste of what hell will be like when human nature is completely unleashed.

The increase we see of violence in our world is a direct result of eliminating God from our culture. The more we remove Him, the more wickedness we experience.

Hell is the ultimate removal of God. And as such, the things that go on there will cause those who exist there to forever yearn for the good ol’ days on earth.

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Encouraging Examples


Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.
(Philippians 3:17-19 ESV)


Paul has been explaining to his readers that spiritual growth takes time and that even he, after 30 or so years of following Jesus, is not perfect. But nevertheless, he calls on them to “imitate” him because he was imitating Christ [1 Corinthians 11:1].

Paul knew who he was. He was a human being prone to sin but who, through faith in Jesus, had his sins forgiven and forgotten by God [John 3:16; Micah 7:19; Hebrews 8:12; Isaiah 43:25]. He didn’t dwell on his past mistakes or past glories.

Paul also continued to work towards his own spiritual maturity [Philippians 3:14]. He wasn’t lazy about it. The words he uses here are athletic terms that describe the striving to win a race or other athletic event. Paul was giving his all to know Jesus. He wasn’t distracted by other things in life. Knowing Jesus was his one and only goal and he was completely focused on it.

This is the attitude we should imitate. Our world has even more distractions than Paul’s. It is much harder today to be focused on becoming like Jesus when we have so many things competing for our attention. Its easy to get off track by our career, or sports, or the stock market or any number of other things.

Instead we should “keep our eyes” on those who are living godly lives. These people are not perfect. But they are encouraging examples. If they can do it we can do it. God would never command us to do something that we can’t do with His help through the Holy Spirit.

This verse is also a challenge for each of us to be an example to others, as Paul was. God commands His children to be examples to each other and to also learn from each other [1 Corinthians 11:1; 2 Thessalonians 3:8-9; 1 Timothy 4:12; 1 Timothy 4:15-16; 2 Timothy 3:10-11; Hebrews 13:7; 1 Peter 5:3]. Our attitude and lifestyle should be one that other believers, and even non-believers, would want to follow.

Every follower of Christ should have someone in their life who is an example. And each of us should also be an example to others.

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A Mature Way Of Thinking


Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
(Philippians 3:15-16 ESV)


Over the past couple of days Paul has been explaining to his readers that he is not perfect and still has a long way to go when it comes to his spiritual growth. He still has a lot to learn and a lot of changing to do. This was also true of the Philippians and is true of us today.

In today’s passage Paul says that those “who are mature” will likewise understand that they are not perfect. By “mature” Paul is not referring to older people but to people who have been believers for a long time as opposed to those who are new to the faith.

Anyone who has been a follower of Christ for a while will certainly attest to the fact that spiritual growth does not happen overnight. It is a continual process of learning followed by obeying.

Younger, less mature believers may “think otherwise”. They may have improper expectations about their spiritual growth. Perhaps they think they should be growing faster than they are and may get discouraged when they don’t see changes happening in their lives as quickly as they would like. Or they may erroneously think that they have attained spiritual perfection.

Thinking too highly of oneself is a sign of immaturity. So is thinking too lowly of oneself. God wants us to be humble (a major theme of Paul’s letter to the Philippians). Humility comes from “holding true” to what we are. What we are is righteous in God’s sight.

Everyone who is born-again is an adopted child of God [John 1:12]. At the moment a person becomes a believer his/her sins are completely forgiven, never to be brought up by God again [Micah 7:19; Hebrews 8:12; Isaiah 43:25 et. al].

Therefore we do not need to let our mistakes – past, present, or future – hold us down. As we learned yesterday, we need to forget the past. Instead we need press on towards the goal at our own pace. If a person is a true believer then God is with them and will never leave them. He will constantly be working in their lives to change them into what He designed them to be.

Paul warned anyone who “thinks otherwise” to simply pray and be open to God revealing the truth. God wants us to know the truth. He does not want us to go through life incorrectly. Even understanding this is a sign of spiritual maturity.

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Moving Forward


Not that I have already attained this—that is, I have not already been perfected—but I strive to lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus also laid hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have attained this. Instead I am single-minded: Forgetting the things that are behind and reaching out for the things that are ahead, with this goal in mind, I strive toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:12-14 NET)


Yesterday Paul explained that after 30 years of following Jesus he was still learning about Him and getting to know Him. Today he explains how he keeps moving forward toward that goal.

To achieve any goal we must be “single-minded”. We can’t be half-hearted about our goal or pursue it only occasionally. We can’t expect to achieve it if we have other, competing goals. For Paul, and the Christian today, our one and only goal should be to know Jesus [Philippians 3:10]. To do this we must “forget the things that are behind”.

Past failures can hold us back. Paul wasn’t focused on his past mistakes of persecuting those who believed in Jesus. Before coming to Christ many of us lived lives that we are not proud of. Even after being saved we’ve all made mistakes. It would be easy to conclude that we can’t do better because we’ve failed so many times before. Such thinking is the work of Satan who tries to stall our spiritual growth.

Not only can past failures hold us back but so can past successes. Paul wasn’t resting on his laurels of all the work he had done for Christ over the preceding 25 years. He had planted churches throughout Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) and Greece. He had studied Scripture and taught it to many people. He could have considered his spiritual growth complete.

Instead of being concerned with his past failures and successes, Paul was focused on “the things that are ahead” – the things he still had to learn. He had a “goal in mind” and was “striving toward” it. The word picture here is of an athlete giving his all – stretching every muscle to perform. Paul was willing to put forth maximum effort to attain his goal.

Someday all who run the race to which God has called them will be rewarded. The prize for which we strive is eternal perfection. Our goal is God’s goal. And God’s goal for His children is to be like Christ [Romans 8:29].

Spiritual growth is a never-ending process. Growing in spiritual maturity is like riding a bicycle. If you don’t keep pedaling, you stop moving forward. In fact, if you stop pedaling you fall down. The same is true with pursuing spiritual growth, only with more serious repercussions.

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A Marathon, Not A Sprint


Not that I have already attained this—that is, I have not already been perfected—but I strive to lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus also laid hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have attained this. Instead I am single-minded: Forgetting the things that are behind and reaching out for the things that are ahead, with this goal in mind, I strive toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:12-14 NET)


Paul was the spiritual mentor of the Philippians and it was probably tempting for them to think of him as being spiritually superior. But he tells them that is not the case. He has not yet – after being a follower of Christ for about 25 years at this point – achieved his previously stated goals of knowing Christ [Philippians 3:10-11].

At the moment a person believes in Jesus’ work on the cross to be necessary and sufficient to pay for his sins he is born-again and is assured of going to heaven [John 3:3; John 3:16]. This is entirely the work of God wherein He makes people “His own”.

But being saved isn’t the end of the story. It is only the beginning. It is the beginning of a process during which we are transformed into the image of Jesus by getting to know Him. But whereas salvation is totally the work of God, the transformation process involves active participation of the believer in partnership with the Holy Spirit [John 14:26].

The Christian life is not meant to be passive. We are to participate with God in our spiritual development. Notice that Paul, “pressed on” to obtain that which he sought. The Greek verb here is διοκο (pronounced: dee-o’-ko) which means to run after something worth catching (e.g. a running to win a race).

Athletic metaphors are used throughout the Bible to describe the Christian life. Here Paul suggests that becoming a spiritually mature child of God is not a sprint but a marathon. It doesn’t happen quickly. It takes time. In fact, it is a marathon without a finish line because it takes a lifetime and more to become like Jesus. After two decades Paul was still running.

But we have to make the effort – we have to keep working out our spiritual maturity [Philippians 2:12]. We can’t go to the gym once in a while to be in shape. We have to keep going to maintain the healthy body that we desire. The same is true of our spiritual health. First we need to want to be spiritually healthy. Then we have to put in the constant effort it takes to get there.

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Dying To Self


My aim is to know him, to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings, and to be like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
(Philippians 3:10-11 NET)


When Jesus was nailed to the cross and subsequently died, He did so as a perfect human being. He had lived a life in complete submission to God the Father by forsaking the temptation to live in His own power and to satisfy His own desires. He had completely died to self in a figurative sense.

The life that God calls us to is a life of self-denial. This does not mean intentionally living in poverty or not taking care of our own needs. It means looking out for the needs of others rather than looking out for our own wants [Philippians 2:3-4]. This is how Jesus lived.

Jesus did not neglect Himself. He took care of His own needs. He slept. He ate. But He did not attend to Himself more than was necessary. Rather, He lived for others. No where was this more evident than in His willingly going to the cross and experiencing the wrath of God in our place. No greater sacrifice has anyone ever made.

While God doesn’t always ask believers to experience physical death for Him (although He may), He does command us to take up our own cross [Luke 9:23]. That is, we should put to death our selfish human nature and live for Him by serving others [Colossians 3:5]. This is what Jesus did.

Jesus’ life was 100% committed to doing the will of the Father. He did not cling to His own rights [Philippians 2:5-8] or seek to serve Himself [Matthew 20:28]. His entire life on this earth was focused on doing for others what they could not do for themselves.

No one can save himself from the penalty of their sin which is eternal separation from God (aka “hell”). We need someone to save us from that destiny. That is what Jesus did. He created a path to heaven for those who believe [John 3:16].

Once a person believes (i.e. is “born again” [John 3:3]) he/she has been figuratively crucified just as Jesus was [Colossians 2:20] and no longer exists. The person who exists is a new creation [2 Corinthians 5:17]. The previous person is dead. This is the death Paul is talking about there.

When we walk in someone else’s shoes and experience life as they do we can relate to them. When we live as Jesus did – by dying to self and living for others – we will “know” Him more, which is Paul’s ultimate goal and should be our goal too.

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Value In Suffering


My aim is to know him, to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings, and to be like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
(Philippians 3:10-11 NET)


In Paul’s letter to the Philippians he has been describing the goals he has for his own life. These should be our goals as well. Paul’s overall goal was to “know” Jesus. The path to that goal is to experience Jesus’ power as we studied yesterday and to “share in His sufferings”.

Everyone in life experiences pain to some degree but many people have trouble with the concept of suffering as part of the Christian life. But this should be no surprise as Jesus told us this would happen [Matthew 21:34-36; John 15:21; Acts 9:16]. We see it occurring all the time in our world.

Pastor Saeed Abedini is an Iranian-American and Muslim convert to Christianity. He is now serving an 8-year sentence in an Iranian prison for being a Christian where he has been repeatedly beaten by inmates and guards.

While we don’t see this level of persecution in the United States (yet), we do see a government that forces Christian business owners to compromise their beliefs on issues such as same-sex marriage and a society that unashamedly ridicules people who openly live for Jesus (e.g. Tim Tebow). Even I have received several death threats since I started this blog eighteen months ago.

Since Jesus Himself suffered there is no reason for any Christian to believe that he/she won’t suffer too. But we will not suffer nearly as much as He did. While on the cross Jesus experienced the ultimate suffering – God abandoning Him. This is the worse thing a human could experience and is the equivalent of being in hell.

Thankfully, this is something born-again believers will never have to experience because Jesus experienced it in our place.

When we are rejected and ridiculed (or worse) as Jesus was we become closer to Him. People who only share good times aren’t very close. Their relationships are superficial. The closest friends we have are those with whom we go through difficult times.

The other benefit of suffering for Jesus is that it is the only way we can experience His strength [2 Corinthians 12:10]. When the world brings us low, Jesus will raise us up [John 16:33; John 14:27; 1 Peter 4:16 et. al]. This is great encouragement.

The world around us tries everything it can to remove pain from their lives. But in so doing they are not growing or becoming better. Disappointments, failures, and hardships grow our character and make us better people. They make us more like Jesus, which is God’s goal for His adopted children [Romans 8:29].

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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Experiencing Power


My aim is to know him, to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings, and to be like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
(Philippians 3:10-11 NET)


Yesterday we studied what it means to know Jesus – which Paul stated was the goal for his life. In addition, Paul wants to experience “the power of His resurrection”.

The Greek word for power here is δυναμισ [pronounced: doo'-nam-is]. It means “the ability inherent in something’s natural state”. Here Paul is referring to the very power of God.

When a person becomes a believer in Jesus Christ he/she has God – in the form of the Holy Spirit – indwelling them [John 14:16-17, 26; Romans 8:11; et. al]. We have God Himself living inside us. All the power of God is available to us for the rest of our lives. This is the exact same power that raised Christ from the dead [Ephesians 1:17, 19].

But just like knowing Christ is a life-long process, so is learning to experience His power. Having this power does not make us miracle-workers or magicians. We don’t automatically have the ability to move mountains or raise people from the dead.

Rather we need this power to overcome the sin that is in us and around us. There is nothing inherently good in any human being. None of us are righteous in the least [Ecclesiastes 7:20; Psalms 14:3; Isaiah 64:6]. Paul wanted to experience the power of Jesus’ resurrection – the very power of God – in his life because that is the only way to overcome sin and live the humble life he has been calling the Philippians to in this letter [Galatians 5:16].

God’s goal for His children is to become more like Jesus. We can’t do that through our own efforts. We must abide in Christ [John 15:5] who will strengthen us and change us to be like Him. Then, and only then, can we display the fruit of the Spirit [Galatians 5:22].

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The Goal of Every Believer


My aim is to know him, to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings, and to be like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
(Philippians 3:10-11 NET)


Paul has just explained that he has put his faith for eternal life in Jesus. But his faith was not a blind faith. His faith was based on his knowledge of who Jesus was. One would think that Paul would have known everything about Jesus by this point. But here he states that the goal for the rest of his life is to “know Him”. This should also be the goal of every Christian.

The Greek word for “to know” here is γινοσκο (pronounced: ghin-oce’-ko) and it means “to gain an understanding over time”. When we initially meet a person we do not know them. If we meet a person once and never see them again we will never know that person. We need to spend time with someone in order to get to know them.

But that does not mean that we can ever fully know someone. Even couples who have been married for many years continue to learn new things about each other. Getting to know someone is a life-long process.

In the same way we need to cultivate a life-long relationship with Jesus by spending time with Him. We do this primarily through Bible study and prayer.

Man-made religions like Catholicism, Hinduism, and Islam emphasize human accomplishment. These are examples of the false teachers Paul referenced and debunked earlier [Philippians 3:2-3]. These people erroneously claimed that one can enter heaven on his/her own merit.

Christianity, on the other hand, is not a religion. It is a personal relationship with God through His Son, Jesus, who is a friend to those who believe [John 15:15, James 2:23]. Friends know each other.

God has revealed Himself through the Bible. He is more than willing to meet with us in prayer and give us more knowledge and wisdom [James 1:5]. For this to happen we need to spend time with Him. This means the responsibility lies with us.

Deists believe that God created the universe and then left it alone to go on without Him. This is not true. God is here. He is active in our lives. And He wants His children to know Him. He has proven that by giving us the Bible and making Himself available through prayer 24/7.

This is important because it is only through knowledge of Him that one can have eternal life [John 17:3].

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The Right Credentials


Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—
(Philippians 3:8-9 ESV)


Paul had willingly rejected the value of chasing after earthly gain because he was focused on his eternity. Paul knew that one day he would stand before God to give an account of his life. It was with this long-term view that Paul made his decisions.

We can plan on standing before God after we die and relying on what we have done (and not done) during our life (“righteousness that comes from the law”) as our credentials for getting into heaven; we can try to convince God that we are “good enough”. This will not work [Matthew 7:21-23].

Perfection is the standard for getting into heaven. Sadly, all human beings fall well short of that standard. But God wants us to be with Him forever. So He sent His Son to take on our sin [2 Corinthians 5:21] so that we can be counted as righteous on Judgment Day. The only “catch” is that God will only do this for people who want Him to do it.

This is where it gets tricky because human nature wants to put confidence in self. We want to think we are good – or at least more good than bad. Pride gets in the way of accepting God’s offer – we don’t think we need it.

When someone accepts Jesus’ payment for their sins God attributes Christ’s perfection to that person. Now that person has the credentials to get into heaven because the penalty that would keep them out of heaven has been paid for by someone else (Jesus).

We all have a choice in life, as Paul did. We can choose who we are going to put our faith in. We can put faith in self. Or we can put our faith in Jesus. Even though Paul had adhered to the law of God more than pretty much anyone [Philippians 3:4-6] he came to realize that even that was not going to help him on Judgment Day. If Paul didn’t have the credentials to get into heaven on his own merit, how much less do we?

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