Paul demonstrates that our foreordained, predestined transformation into the likeness of Christ is not just in our eternity future. Rather, that transformation is manifold. It has many ‘folds’ or distinct aspects to it. He shows that, in fact, our destiny to be conformed to the image of the Son actually consists of three separate processes which occur in three distinct time frames. He writes:
11For the grace of God has appeared, (i) bringing salvation to all men, (ii) 12instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, (iii) 13looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, 14who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. Titus 2:11-14.
These three processes of becoming like Jesus, and by extension like the Father, refer to when, where and in what ways we will be conformed to His image:
i. We were saved, regenerated and cleansed when we were born again, so that the righteousness of Christ is credited as our righteousness through our faith (redeeming us “from every lawless deed” and purifying us), giving us our positional or imputed righteousness, which explains why we are called the “saints,” which means ‘holy ones’;
ii. We are now supposed to be progressively sanctified (‘set apart’) or transformed during our remaining lifetime on Earth, as we seek to live righteously in the present age; and
iii. We will be completed or ‘perfected’ at the Second Coming, when our mortal Bodies will be consumed by a glorified, immortal Body as we meet Jesus in the air, which is our “blessed hope” of being ultimately glorified, that is, ultimately perfected in righteousness.
Based on these three processes, we can conclude that the way or manner in which we are to become like Jesus and the Father is in our “nature” or character, as well as in our obedient actions in conformity with the Father’s will, pleasing Him. Just as Jesus is the exact representation of the nature of God, in His perfectly righteous and holy obedience to the Father’s will, both in His character and His actions, we are, in turn, to be conformed to the image of Jesus, in those very same things.
This is absolutely amazing, and it is absolutely imperative that we begin the process of believing we can be conformed into the image of Christ in His character and actions in this lifetime. We must believe it with all our Heart, Mind and Body.
This Titus passage answers the question of When we will be transformed into the likeness of Christ:
(i) positionally, when we are born again,
(ii) progressively, during this present age on Earth (after we are born again), and
(iii) ultimately, at the Second Coming.
The passage also explains Where we will (iii) receive our ultimate conformity, a glorified Body like that of Jesus: Either on the planet or in the air, where we will meet Him in the ‘rapture.’
Once we are born again, here on Earth, then, we are in (ii) that middle position of being progressively sanctified or transformed into the likeness of Christ during our remaining lifetime, in this present age. We know the present age will end upon His return. Matthew 13:40; 28:20.