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Romans 8:11 appears in the following context:

9 However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. 10 If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. 12 So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. -Romans 8:11

My question is: In verse 11, is Paul referring to the future resurrection, or present life by the Spirit? (I have always taken it to mean the former, but the context caused me to consider the latter.)

I know both could be said to be true, but I am wondering what Paul was actually referring to in this statement.

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    The verse in direct parallel here is 2 Cor 4:7. That is, the general context of 2 Cor 4:7-18 indicates that the power from God's spirit is an experiential reality within the "jars of clay" of the (unglorified) body at the present time. So, yes, the experience is both present and, of course, future when the body is also resurrected. – Joseph Mar 29 '13 at 0:01
  • I've been pursuing the same line of inquiry because it seems Paul may be arguing that the flesh will die (it has a death sentence) and the spirit will outlive it. – Ruminator Nov 15 '17 at 23:25
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I think Paul is talking about the future resurrection, but with a very real sense of that future resurrection being something inevitable - giving us certainty, purpose, and hope in the present time.

A few verses later we read about having been adopted as sons:

15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:15-17, ESV)

This gives us certainty that we have been adopted as sons, but then there's a clarification a few verses later:

And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:23, ESV)

So we see that we are still waiting for adoption! We are at once adopted and waiting for adoption. In a sense, our adoption papers have been signed, we've been given a new family, but we're still in the orphanage. Though we have a future which we eagerly await, we have a present life which is filled with purpose and hope because of the firstfruits of the Spirit, the promise of things to come.

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From the verse itself, it appears that the apostle is referring to the future resurrection: If the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, then this same Holy Spirit who raised Christ [II Cor.4:14; Eph.1:20] from the dead also will make alive [Rom.4:17; Jn.5:21; I Cor.15:22; or, give life to] your mortal bodies because of His Spirit who dwells in you.

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