“If, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”
In the English, in this verse Paul appears to doubt that he will rise from the dead. Does he doubt the assurance of his salvation?
Verse 11 is a continuation of Paul’s personal testimony about his spiritual aspirations.
“If, by any means”
The Bible was originally written in Greek. There are four ways of saying “if” in the Greek. One of these “ifs” is to assume the statement as true. This is brought out by spelling, not interpretation. The “if” in this phrase is something Paul assumed to be true. Paul was not doubting something; he was asserting a fact. The word “if” can be translated “since”: “Since I will attain to the resurrection from the dead” is the idea. He had confidence in his eternal state.
Paul assumed that he might be raptured. This did not happen. He died and his soul went to heaven. His body will be raptured later, when Jesus comes again. At minimum, Paul was assured of the destiny of his body.
“I may attain to the resurrection from the dead”
In verse 10 Paul wanted to know the power of the resurrection and be conformed to the death of Christ. Whatever the cost, he was willing to die like Christ died. Whatever the future held, he knew he would be resurrected. His confidence was independent of circumstances.
The word for “resurrection” in this phrase is used nowhere else in the Greek New Testament. The idea is a resurrection out from among the dead. There are two resurrections, but only one is out from among the dead. The one is for Christians and the other for non-Christians (John 5:28). There is a resurrection of the dead and there is a resurrection from the dead. The resurrection from the dead is the first resurrection of believers to be with their God. The resurrection of the dead is the resurrection of non-Christians to face judgment. Everyone will surface in one resurrection or the other. The resurrection of this passage is a partial resurrection out from among the corpses of non-Christians. Literally, this word means “out-resurrection.”
Why did Paul say that he wanted to “attain” the out-resurrection from among the dead? Again, did he doubt he would be at this out-resurrection? Perhaps he was using the word “attain” for the rapture that has no predicted time frame for Christ’s return. In any case, the word “attain” means to cross the goal line. The idea is to arrive. Paul did not know if he would die before the rapture or whether the rapture would occur before his death. Paul knew that he was going to arrive in heaven. He did not know by what means. Either his body would be raptured up from among other dead bodies or his soul would go to heaven at the point of his physical death.
We have assurance that we will arrive at the out-resurrection from among the dead ones.
We have confidence both about time and eternity because of the assurance we have in Christ. The believer who is assured of eternity looks at eternity positively. He sees eternity with confidence. When he dies, he knows that he will “arrive” home. Assurance is based on the work of Christ, not on whether we deserve it. God provides eternity for us.
If this is true, we should have no concern about the future in time or eternity. Many people worry about the future. Some people worry so much that it has become an occupational hazard. If people do not worry about themselves, they worry about their children or grandchildren. Some say that “everything is going down the drain.” That may be true. What difference does it make if our future is assured?
Worry always muddies the waters. Worry blinds us to solutions. We do not see issues clearly. Do we ever solve family issues by worry? If the family sits down and “shares” their worries, they are now twice as worried because they have shared their worries. Now the only apparent option is to swallow some pills to blunt the pain. We never get anywhere by worry.
Confidence in eternity shows us that God is sovereign. He is in control of all things in both time and eternity. Why should we fall apart by every jolt in the road? Our confidence is in the one who provides for us, not in circumstances or self. If God can provide for my eternal inheritance, He can provide for me in time.