THE MEANING OF THE OUT-RESURRECTION
Bible expositors have had a difficult time understanding the word "resurrection" in Philippians 3:11. They have found it especially difficult to decide whether it refers to the future resurrection at the time of the Lord’s coming back or to the experience of resurrection life today. Some have said that this resurrection cannot possibly refer to a present experience of resurrection, but must refer only to the resurrection at the time of the Lord’s coming back when the dead saints will be raised up. Others, disagreeing with this view, have said that according to the context, it must refer to a present experience. During the years, I have spent a great deal of time praying about this and seeking for the Lord’s understanding of it. I have come to see that this matter of the out-resurrection is a process that has a beginning and an ending. The time between the beginning and the ending is the period of the process. Thus, the out-resurrection spoken of in this verse does not refer strictly to something either present or future. Instead, it refers to the process that began on the day we were baptized and that will conclude when we arrive at the outstanding resurrection. As we move on toward the goal, we are in the process of being resurrected.
Our resurrection began with our regeneration. As sinners, we were all part of the old Adam. In every respect we were old. We were old in body, soul, and spirit. But when we believed in the Lord Jesus, something new entered into us. The Holy Spirit of God came in to regenerate us with the life of God. Thus, by regeneration, our old, deadened spirit was resurrected. The Bible says that when we were saved, we were quickened, made alive (Eph. 2:5). Before we were saved, we were dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1; Col. 2:13). But when we believed in the Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit of God came in to quicken our deadened spirit with the divine life. At that time, part of our being, our spirit, was resurrected. But what about the other parts of our being, such as our mind, emotion, will, and heart? When we were regenerated in our spirit, these parts were not yet resurrected. Nevertheless, God’s goal is to resurrect our whole being.
THE PROCESS OF RESURRECTION
Much of theology is too doctrinal and cannot be applied to our experience. Theology may merely tell us that if a believer dies before the Lord Jesus comes back, he will eventually be resurrected from the grave. This, of course, is correct, but it is not a very practical teaching. The Bible reveals that, according to God’s economy, we are first resurrected in our spirit. From that time onward, our Christian walk is a process of resurrection. Day by day, God is processing us from the natural life to the resurrected life. In Philippians 3:10 Paul spoke of being conformed to Christ’s death. This is a continual process, not a once-for-all experience. As we know Him, the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, we are under the process of being conformed to Christ’s death.
Suppose a certain brother is baptized, realizing that his natural life is being buried and that he has been quickened by the divine life. From that time onward, he begins to walk toward the goal of having his entire being brought into resurrection. He loves the Lord and prays to the Lord with the expectation that eventually every part of him will be resurrected. He begins to have the excellency of the knowledge of Christ and, one by one, he begins to count things loss so that he may gain Christ and be found in Him in a condition of not having his own righteousness out from the law, but of having God Himself lived out of him as his righteousness. He also begins to experientially know Christ, the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings. Gradually, he also begins to be conformed to the death of Christ. As he seeks the Lord and experiences Him, he spontaneously realizes, item by item, the things in him that have been terminated. For example, one day he may come to see that his love for his wife should not be a natural love. Thus, he may pray, "Lord, I confess that my love for my wife has been a natural love. Grant me the grace to live a crucified life with my wife." This is to be conformed to Christ’s death in the particular matter of loving his wife. Several days later he may realize that even his contact with the saints has been too natural. He has cared for the saints and tried to shepherd them, but even in his shepherding he has been too natural. Therefore, he prays and confesses this matter to the Lord, asking Him for the grace to no longer shepherd the saints according to his natural life. He may pray, "Lord, I want to be conformed to Your death. Like You, I want to live a crucified life. When You were on earth, You did not love people or care for them according to the natural life. Everything You did was in resurrection. Lord, grant me the grace that from now on I will not shepherd Your saints in my natural life, but in You." Through this experience, he becomes conformed to the death of Christ in this matter also. Item by item, he is conformed to Christ’s death. The more he is conformed to Christ’s death in this way, the more his being is resurrected. In loving his wife and in shepherding the saints, he is resurrected.
We need to point out that this process has nothing to do with the improvement of behavior. It is not something ethical or religious, but altogether a matter of transformation through the divine life, of having the natural life terminated and of being brought into the divine life.
(The Experience of Christ, Chapter 19, by Witness Lee)