11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place[a] of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. 7 The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
Revelation 20:11-21:8 (ESV)
22 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
6 And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.”
7 “And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”
8 I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, 9 but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.”
10 And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. 11 Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.”
12 “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. 15 Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”
17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.
18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.
20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.
Revelation 22:1-21 (ESV)
12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
What Kingdom are We Trying to Attain?
Here in chapter 3:12, the Scripture declares, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect.”
In the previous section, Paul declared everything he has surrendered for the sake of knowing Christ. He has counted all advantages in this earthly pursuit as worthless and instead only wants Christ. We see this back in verse 7 of this chapter. Verse 7 declares, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.”
Then, at the end of verse 8 into verse 9, it declares, “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.”
And then in verse 11, Paul says, “that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”
Jesus Christ was and is the firstborn from the dead because after Jesus Christ died, He rose from the grave on the third day to never die again. Think about that. He rose from the grave, defeating death, and He did so in a public display. And because Jesus defeated death, I now have a hope that only rests in Him and His work.
I will go to my death, unless the Lord returns. I will go to my death, but I pray that as I go, I will do so looking to Christ and the hope I have in Him. And I will be raised from the grave, the resurrection from the dead, through the saving work of the only man to ever defeat death: Jesus Christ, the second person of the Holy Trinity, God the Son!
Look at verse 21; it declares, “the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”
We have a hope in Christ after this life, the resurrection from the dead. But back up in verse 12, after saying he does everything to attain the resurrection from the dead, he says, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect.”
In the church here in Philippi, we know there are some false teachers (we see that at the beginning of this chapter). It’s possible that those false teachers are teaching that they have attained the resurrection and perfection by following the Law. So Paul might be preaching directly against that false teaching.
It is also possible that, by what Paul had just mentioned in the previous verses, he doesn’t want people to think that now that they are saved, they get to just sit on the couch. Paul doesn’t want people to think that we have reached complete righteousness and there is no need to grow.
A third option could also be that Paul is saying he hasn’t yet become complete in knowing Christ and becoming Christlike, and I believe it’s a little of all these.
But whatever the reason for Paul saying this, what we see here in verses 12-17 is growth. There needs to be growth in the Christian’s walk through this life. However, how growth comes is the part we don’t like, and so some decide to just sit on the couch and not grow.
You see, growth is hard because growth comes by trials, growth comes by failures, growth comes by stepping out and making yourself uncomfortable and vulnerable. But glory to God that He doesn’t let us just sit around. He puts a fire in our bones, He gives us boldness to step out, and mouths to speak, by His power, not ours.
So although Paul hasn’t obtained it and is not yet perfect, verse 12 continues, “but I press on.” He says this also at the beginning of verse 14 as well, “I press on toward the goal.” Verse 12 declares, “but I press on to make it my own because Christ Jesus has made me His own.”
The term ‘press on’ means to pursue, to seek after, or to run after. But another place that Paul uses this word in this letter is up in verse 6 of this chapter. Verse 6 says, “as to zeal, a persecutor of the church.” This word can also mean persecutor. Paul pursued the church, and when you read about how he pursued the church, he did so to destroy it, and he did it with great diligence.
Paul hated Jesus Christ and wanted to destroy everyone who professed Him! But look at the change that the Lord does in the true believer! Paul ran a race, running after and pursuing to destroy Jesus Christ. But then, when the Lord revealed Himself to Paul, the Lord sets Paul on a new race. Paul is born again.
Ezekiel 36:26-27 says, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”
This is the saving work that the Lord does in the Christian, and we see this testimony in Paul as the Lord sets Paul on a new race. Paul runs after the heavenly kingdom and serves our Lord. Why? His reason for doing so is stated at the end of verse 12 of Philippians 3, “because Christ Jesus has made me His own.”
We press on and chase after the heavenly kingdom because of the saving work of Christ Jesus. We are seeking to be more like Christ, but we are not yet complete!
Verse 13 says, “but brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do.”
This is simple, not difficult. Just think if we would have only one thing we do? One mindset that rules our lives. How difficult do we make our lives by cluttering them up with so many different things?
These clusters of things we occupy our lives with are taking all our energy and time, so much so that the things of God are being put aside. We aren’t being stretched; we are living in comfort. We aren’t growing in the gifts that the Lord has given us; we are stagnant.
We are bored, and so we start to fight amongst each other. Paul is going to get into that in the next chapter.
But we forget the ‘one thing’ mindset, and we start to get comfortable, and then we start going down the rabbit trails. We lose track of what’s truly important.
Brothers and sisters, Paul says, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.”
I forget the past, including my past success. I don’t live in the past. My salvation is not focused on some past emotional experience I had, and that’s not what I depend on for my security of salvation. I’m not looking back to past events, or even our past failures, those ones that haunt you.
I’m not looking to those, and there are definitely times when the enemy will bring those failures back to light or that past trauma. I understand, brothers and sisters, that you and I have some hard past traumas in our lives.
But that’s the past, and in Christ, I succeed. Paul isn’t saying you completely forget the past, as that’s impossible. Paul himself didn’t forget; he just mentioned his past up in verses 3-6 of this chapter.
But do you know how Paul sees his past? That’s not me anymore. I’m a different person in Christ. I’m not the person I was 20 years ago, 10 years ago, not even the person I was last year or even yesterday.
We Christians are growing day by day, more and more into the image of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is through the Lord opening our eyes to the sin in our lives and our deep repentance, “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.”
We, as the Church, are looking to the heavenly kingdom. We have set our hope on the eternal kingdom. Our focus is on Christ, and He is first, our chief desire! Paul says here in verse 13, ‘straining forward,’ which in Greek means to stretch forward.