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whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, and they have their minds on earthly things. (Philippians 3:19)
Paul described them four ways. Those who were leading others astray and damaging the gospel message, Paul wanted to make sure that the readers of this letter would totally recognize and understand their position. Paul, in this section, uses a figure of speech referred to as a Hysteron-Proteron or “Last-First.” This is a literary device where “the cart is put before the horse.” Paul, here gives the final end first to allow the reader to dwell with greater horror upon the things that lead to it.
First, their end is destruction (not annihilation but eternal judgment). The Greek word olothreutes means to perish. Vine says, “The idea is not extinction, but ruin, loss, not of being, but of well-being.” Paul paints a very dismal picture for these that he is referring to in 2 Thessalonians 1:9 “These ones will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, from before the Lord and from the glory of his strength.” Paul is primarily referring to the final eschatological judgment, but he is also showing us that their existence is already one ruin and destruction as it pertains to the gospel of Christ.
Second, Paul shows us their god is their belly (κοιλία koilia) that reflects their preoccupation with themselves. The word generally means the whole of the cavity – but metaphorically, it refers to one’s inner self. They worshiped themselves. They lived for self-indulgence, for comfort and convenience. They allowed their appetites to determine their lifestyles. Even today, many Christians make their life choices based upon their own appetites – money, sex, power, or self-identification, instead of the mind of Christ. Some in that day believed in a Platonic dualistic nature of man – spiritual/physical. They considered the spiritual as good and the physical as evil. Those of the Gnostic persuasion tended to include the Stoic teachings; they would see the body as something that needed a constant subjugation, and the ability to do this was based upon pride. The opposite view – Epicureanism led one to see the body as already evil and allowed for any type of pleasure one wanted. Both views are unscriptural. Both put the emphasis upon the individual and not on Christ.
Third, Paul says that their glory is in their shame. The Greek word used here (αἰσχύνη aischunē) is that which should arise from guilt. Their glory is in their shameless conduct, and they boast and are proud of those things that people find disgrace, dishonor, embarrassment, or guilt over doing something wrong.
Fourth, Paul tells us that they focused on earthly things, unable to see beyond the present time. This contrasts with what Paul said in his letter to the Colossians – “Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are on the earth.” (Col. 3:2) They focused on the here and now with little or no regard for the future. They are earthly, not heavenly; they are carnal, not spiritual. – See further 1 Corinthians 3:1-3.
As we consider the “Last-First” that we spoke about, we see Paul painting the picture of the direction and path these enemies to the gospel have taken. They focused not on Christ, but on the here and now. This helped them to shift their boasting and pride from Christ to their shameful acts and thoughts. In turn, this led them to be totally preoccupied with themselves instead of Jesus. Paul said this would lead to their ultimate ruin and loss. Very clearly, these people he was referring to did not have the mind of Christ that Paul is encouraging the Philippian believers to hold on to.
More in-depth Insights
Whose end is destruction. They have no genuine faith; they will receive eternal destruction, as do the unrepentant sinners and the wicked ones. Merely claiming that they have faith will not save them. “Faith without works is dead.” (James 2:14-26) Unless they repent, change their ways, and become genuine friends of the cross, they will not receive eternal life.
Whose God is their belly. These ones worship their own cravings. They do not live to love, worship, and honor God. Rather, they are possessed with self-indulgence and immediate sensual gratifications (Cf. Rom. 16:18) The object of these ones’ idolatry was not some carved image. It was their yearning, longing for physical things. Of course, we should note that desires in and of themselves are not wrong. It is such cravings to feed the flesh that consumes every part of them so that they set aside God to indulge their own self desire. If our entire objective in life is gratifying and satisfying ourselves, then we are who we worship, our own god.
And whose glory is in their shame. There is no shame in these ones, as they glory in things (filling our belly, so to speak) of which they ought to be embarrassed.
And they have their minds on earthly things. They have their hearts set on earthly things. They spend every waking moment indulging in them or trying to obtain them. They seek honor for themselves alone, trying to gain everything that pleases them, seeking pleasure. The only fear that they have is that they may not secure these or lose what they have. This makes these ones the real enemy of the cross. How many Christians are in the church who fit in Matthew 1:21-23? Jesus said only those doing the will of the Father would receive eternal life. (7:21) Jesus says that many will be doing their own will thinking that it is the Father’s will. ‘Didn’t we do this; didn’t we do that?’ (7:2) And then Jesus will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ – 7:23.
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 E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech used in the Bible (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1968). Page 703.
 W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1996). Page 164.
 Lit from before the face of the Lord
 Pertaining to the end times.
 W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1996). Page 61, E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech used in the Bible (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1968).Pages 613, 148.
 Gnosticism was a combining of Greek philosophy and Christianity. Walter A. Elwell, ed., Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1984). Pages 485 – 488.
 For further insight, see Walter A. Elwell, ed., Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1984). Pages 1150 – 1151. And Merrill F. Unger, Unger’s Bible Dictionary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1966). Pages 1046 – 1047.
 For further insight see Walter A. Elwell, ed., Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1984). Page 381. And Merrill F. Unger, Unger’s Bible Dictionary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1966). Page 318.