In “his invitation – our goal” Jefferson Vann shows that God’s high invitation is not an invitation to join him in heaven.
Philippians 3:9-14 (JDV)
Philippians 3:9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ – the righteousness from God based on faith.
Philippians 3:10 My goal is to know him and the power of his resurrection and the partnership of his sufferings, being conformed to his death,
Philippians 3:11 assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead.
Philippians 3:12 Not that I have already reached the goal or am already complete, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead,
Philippians 3:14 I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s high invitation in Christ Jesus.
his invitation — our goal
God’s high invitation is not an invitation to heaven. Many assume that it is, and some think that this verse proves it.
Let’s take a look at the six other New Testament uses of the adverb anō, I translate as upward:
John 2:7 “Fill the jars with water,” Jesus told them. So they filled them to the brim (ano).
John 8:23 He also told them “You are from below, I am from above (anō). You are of this world; I am not of this world.”
Acts 2:19 I will give marvels in the sky above (anō) and signs on the land below: blood and fire and a cloud of smoke.
Galatians 4:26 But the Jerusalem above (anō) is free, and she is our mother.
Colossians 3:1 So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above (anō), where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
Colossians 3:2 Set your minds on things above (anō), not on things of the land.
Note that in each of these instances, the word anō represents something high as opposed to something low, and with the exception of the water line of the jars in John 2:7, each is more interested in quality than quantity.
Lots of people think that getting to heaven is the goal of the Christian life, but it was not Paul’s goal. He told the Philippians that his goal was a personal relationship with Christ, even sharing in his sufferings, so that he might reach the final stage of that partnership – sharing in his resurrection from among the dead.
Some teach that all Christians already share in that resurrection – that it is a spiritual resurrection which ensures that we will survive death. Paul would have none of that foolishness. He admitted that he had not already reached the goal.
God calls each one of us to a journey, and the ultimate destination of that journey is not a life in the clouds. It is a permanent life. That life will begin not when this one ends, but when Christ returns to raise us from the dead.
We are now responding to God’s high invitation. Presently, we are making it our goal know him and the power of his resurrection, because that is what he has invited us to do.