"Ye are gods," said your Savior. An anthropomorphic idea? Spiritual salt and pepper? A theological euphemism? Or did He really mean it — literally? "Thou art God!" What a mind-boggling possibility! Is God literally our Father? Are we literally His sons? What is the mystery of God? Blasphemy! "shouted the righteously indignant and generally enraged religious bigots of Jesus' day when He said, "I am the Son of God" (John 10:36). "For a good work we stone thee not; but because thou, being a man, makest thyself God," they explained smugly in their theological straitjacket as they stooped to pick up rocks (verse 33).
But for some reason they paused to give Jesus time to pose a puzzling question from the heart of their own Scriptures: "Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?" (Verses 34-36.)
Having posed a question they couldn't answer made them even more angry, and they tried again to follow through with their stoning, but Jesus escaped again, that time.
The Son of God. Lying at the very heart of Christian belief is the absolute necessity of recognizing what those of Jesus' day labeled "blasphemy!" Every good Christian believes as the most cardinal point of doctrine that Jesus Christ of Nazareth was and is the Son of God — but how many good Christians do you know who also believe equally in the words of that same Jesus of Nazareth when He said, praying to His Father in heaven just before His crucifixion: "Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.... Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us..." (John 17:11, 20-21). How many do you know who believe that?
Pick Your Purpose. When you get right down to it, are you really satisfied with any religion's explanation of the meaning of life, the key purpose of our creation, the ultimate goal to be attained by any religious exercise? Let's briefly examine the major options offered.
Billions have believed that the Ultimate goal of mankind is to achieve Nirvana: "the state of perfect blessedness achieved by the absorption of the soul into the supreme spirit." That is: an unconscious continued existence as it were like a cell in the body of the great One. It may have served billions, and driven them to extremes in their worship to achieve that Nirvana — but I must admit that it does not satisfy me personally — what good is it to live forever and yet not even realize that you are?
A nearly equal number have believed that the afterlife of the faithful, forever, will consist of living at ease in an oasis called the Garden of Allah, where, lounging in a hammock strung between two date palms, the men (because it is a rather male-dominant religion) will be fed delicacies by a bevy of voluptuous women (an eternal harem?) and have a little hashish as needed to keep them in a proper stupor (because alcohol is not allowed) so the boredom will not bother them. In the name of the god of peace, true believers have converted others by the sword to believe and seek this reward.
This goal may be pleasing to many — it does have some few specific rewards offered — but I must admit that it does not satisfy me personally.
Two Camps. Christianity is separated into two basic camps. The more universal belief is that the purpose of life is to achieve the beatific vision. After wading through six pages of fine print in the encyclopedia of that religion attempting to define just what the beatific vision really is, you come to their disappointing conclusion that no one really knows!
The best you can get is that it is a state of blessedness in which you, living forever, will be able to gaze upon God, seeing Him better than you see Him now, but not as He really is, because He is too perfect to be seen even by the spiritually successful in their lower state of perfection, beyond which there is no hope of attainment. Vague as it may seem, it is avidly pursued by hundreds of millions as the goal of their existence. Perhaps the threat of the only other alternative — suffering unimaginable torments in hellfire forever — spurs them on.
Again I must admit this theory does not satisfy me. To think that the Creator who has fashioned this fabulously complex, intricate, specific and real universe would propose such a vague purpose for His highest creation — man — does not compute with me.
At the Pearly Gates? The other Christian belief — developed in protest and shattered into hundreds of splinters, each having a slightly different variant of doctrine regarding the afterlife — is basically this: when you die you go to heaven as a spirit being of some sort and live eternally in bliss (somewhat similar to the beatific vision — but more details are added). You check in at the Pearly Gates with Peter, get your wings, your harp, your cloud and your golden slippers with which to walk the golden streets — and then you do virtually nothing, but you do it forever. And you never hunger or thirst or cry or suffer. Again, the only prod to achieve this eternal goal seems to be the awful alternative: suffering forever in hell.
It's a little more specific, but again I must admit that for me it is not personally satisfying, not something I would like to do forever.
There are many more beliefs with goals equally vague — these cover the majority of mankind, with the exception of that segment of people who believe we are born and die like dogs with no purpose whatsoever: this doesn't satisfy me either and I refuse to even address it.
Empty Phrases. Why do we use all the words and slogans so common to Christianity in vain? Do we believe that neither Jesus nor the Father in heaven really mean what they say? Do we believe that the gospel message so plainly stated by Jesus is all allegory, all symbolism, all parable, all fable, all myth? Do we say by our beliefs and actions that the communists are right after all when they say that belief in a supernatural being, religion, is indeed "the opiate of the people"?
Do we believe that plain, clear words in the Bible describing the purpose of life, the plan of God, the gospel defined are empty phrases holding no practical meaning? That they are to be taken with a grain of salt as mere religious vocabulary having no real meaning or substance? That words used in the revelation of God to mankind have a meaning apart from reality? That the Bible says one thing, but means another?
Why the Mystery? There is a very definite reason for all this confusion. The vagueness of the ultimate reward of the true believer of any religion, and particularly the Christian religion, is specifically predicted and explained in your Bible. It is nobody's fault; no one is to blame. All who cling to these faiths can easily be given the benefit of the doubt and truly be said to be deeply sincere — the blood of believers, saints and martyrs of all these religions bespeaks eloquently the indelible fact of sincerity.
But there is a reason why no faith gives the clear purpose of life, the reason for creation, the plan of God, the ultimate goal God set for mankind. The reason is that God locked up that truth and gives the key to unlock it only to those of His choosing at the time of His choosing.
Many a sermon has been preached on how impossible it is for us to understand just what it is that God has in store for us. The text most often used is this scripture: "But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him" (I Cor. 2:9). This conveniently explains away the vagueness. This allows all manner of speculation, of scenario developing for possibilities, of doctrinal discrepancies among believers. This brings comfort to the confused, helps in swallowing the impractical visions advanced regarding God's purpose.
It also fulfills the scripture itself. Nobody has seen the perfect will of God. Since nobody has seen it, obviously nobody has heard of it. No man has thought up or conceived the plan God has in mind, try though they may have. Intelligence, wisdom, dedication — all in absolute sincerity — have been applied in vain. Still no one has come up with the plan.
Next Text. The text for the day seems an inadequate tool — let's cheat just a little and read the next text also! Maybe we'll see, hear and begin to conceive what others have not: "But God has revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God" (verse 10). This plainly says that despite the fact that man alone (in his own imagination and with all the effort he has expended at it) has not been able to come up with the plan God has in mind for those who love Him, that He, by His Spirit, reveals it!
In short, God's purpose for mankind can be known, but only by His Spirit. "Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: to God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever" (Rom. 16:25-27).
Thankfully, if God grants His spiritual key, we can turn to the Scriptures and unlock the unknown truth — without prejudice, without prior concepts clouding the plain truth, just having God's Spirit help us understand the clean, clear truth, believing the words mean just what they say and have no meaning in antithesis.
Some say you can interpret the Bible to mean anything you want it to say. And the multitude of beliefs would seem to confirm this statement. But let's cheat again and not interpret anything. Let's pretend the words God uses have straightforward, clear meanings and are not clouded with double, hidden or allegorical meanings. When God says "son" he means son, not just someone of younger years or less experience or intelligence. When God says "Father" He means one who has produced sons, not father image, or father idea. When He says " brethren" He means sons of the same father and mother, not just people who hold the same general belief. Keep it clean.
The Bible Says... you are made in the image of God!
None of the other millions of creatures God created are made in His image. God doesn't look like a snake, a bull, a bird or a fish — He looks just like a human being, or, better, human beings look just like God. "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness .... So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them" (Gen. 1:26-27). God is not a male chauvinist: He plainly declares that both male and female are in His image.
We look like Him, but we are not exactly like Him. An image shows design and shape, but is not made of the same substance as the original. We are physical flesh, temporary, mortal — God is Spirit, Eternal, Immortal.
David knew that God had created us in His likeness, yet he said: "As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness" (Ps, 17:15), To be like God as God is God — to be totally in the likeness of God — requires a change in our composition from physical to spiritual. "Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption, Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump [the when David referred to that he would finally be satisfied]: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed" (I Cor. 15:50-52),
Job was familiar with this necessary change: "If a man die, shall he live again? [The basic question every religiously interested person asks about a possible afterlife.] All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come, Thou shalt call [the last trump], and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a: desire to the work of thine hands "... For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body [corruption], yet apart from [more proper rendering of the Hebrew] my flesh shall I see God" (Job 14:14-15; 19:25-26),
What is changed is flesh, attitude, character — not personality, the integral, personal, conscious you, Job makes this clear: "Whom [God] I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another..." (19:27),
There are other clues, But the mystery of the gospel is not clearly explained in the Scriptures of the Old Testament. Jesus came for that purpose (among others) as He said: "All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him" (Matt. 11:27), And again: "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him..." (John 6:44). The direct Father I Son relation ship is not plainly revealed in the Old Testament. The term "father" is used, but plainly in a metaphor (see Numbers 11:12 and Isaiah 9:6),
Power To Become Sons. Jesus is the Son of God — no good Christian denies that. Jesus is unique: He is the only son of a human being who had God the Father in heaven as His literal father who caused His impregnation in the womb of a woman (Mary), i,e" the only Son of God.
But He is also called the "firstborn," Now, granted, one can be firstborn even though there are never any others born after — but there is a clear implication that others will come, being born after the first born, And there are specific scriptures which demand this under. standing,
"For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren" (Rom. 8:29). Jesus became the firstborn Son of God by the resurrection from the dead: "And declared to be the Son of God... by the resurrection from the dead" (Rom. 1:4). Even Jesus was physical, flesh and blood, That had to change, And that overwhelming change came about at His resurrection, But the beautiful thing about the resurrection of our Savior, the Captain of our Salvation, our Redeemer who lives, is that it becomes possible through the power of that resurrection for you and me to also be changed, to also become a Son of God, to be God as God is God; to be God as Jesus is now God!
"For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren" (Rom. 8:29), Sure sounds like there are to be "many" more sons born into God's family! "For it became him, for whom are all things [the Father], and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation [Jesus Christ] perfect through sufferings" (Heb, 2:10). This also makes it plain there are others yet to become glorified sons! "For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he [Jesus] is not ashamed to call them brethren" (verse 11), "And he [Jesus] is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence... "Christ in you, the hope of [your] glory"! (Col. 1:18,27,)
In fact, the Bible plainly states that the purpose of Christ's coming was to make it possible for us to become God's sons, "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:12-13).
Not Yet Born. This is all very difficult, because the Bible calls physical human beings "sons of God," Yet the Bible also plainly says flesh and blood can't inherit, be sons, Humans must be born again, Not just an experience of the mind, but an actual birth, a complete change to a new being as different from our present state as a mature plant is from the seed which is planted in the ground (to use an analogy Paul used in I Corinthians 15),
The difficulty is resolved when you realize that the New Testament was written in Greek. The Greek language uses one word, gennao, to refer to conception, the begotten stage of fetus growth and the actual birth, So, from the beginning of the new life, conception, the individual is considered to be a son even though he is not yet born, When you as a natural parent are first aware that there is new life in the womb, don't you think of it as your child, even though it is not yet born? And do not most of those conceived finally achieve birth?
It's the same with God.
Jesus said "Thou art God" because that is your awesome potential whether you know it yet or not. Besides, God's way of referring to something He plans to do is to refer to it as if it were already done, or, "calleth those things which be not as though they were" (Rom. 4:17). So I take this license in faith.
God begins the birth of His sons very small, just as we begin the birth of our own children. "For he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit" (II Cor. 5:5).
Now an "earnest" is a very small down payment carrying with it a promise of more to come, until the full commitment is reached.
"For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God" (Rom. 8:14). There are no capital letters in Greek by the way, it is only the translators of the King James Version who decided to capitalize "Son" when it referred to Jesus and not to capitalize "son" when it referred to us. A most humble and sincere reverence, but perhaps it leads us to misunderstand.
Not Metaphors or Niceties. "For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father" (verse 15). Again the word "adoption" can just as well be translated "sonship" or even "Sonship," but, according to the very scriptures they were translating, it never did enter into their minds that we could be the actual Sons of God — they only took the words to be metaphors or niceties, condescension from God as it were. But this scripture clearly declares that we are to call God, Abba, which is Hebrew for Father, and then amplifies it by adding Father. An actual Father, not a pretend Father.
"The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God" (verse 16). Not born yet, of course. Just beginning. Not changed yet from physical to spiritual totally, but the process begun.
Fact is nobody has been changed yet except Jesus of Nazareth. All the holy men of old are dead and in their graves, waiting as Job stated he would wait. Some dust (as Peter said of David after the resurrection of Christ — Acts 2), some ashes, some possibly partly physically preserved (Joseph, for example, whose body was mummified after the Egyptian style) — all waiting for a "better resurrection ... God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect" (Heb. 11:35, 40). The general assembly of the church of the firstborn, the spirits of just men made perfect (Heb. 12:23)... waiting.
"Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.... Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and [would you believe, "but"] it doth not yet appear what we shall be [we're not born yet, just begotten): but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is" (I John 3:1-2).
What is Jesus going to be like when He comes back to this earth? A metaphoric, allegorical, mythical "Son of God" — or a real, spiritual, all-powerful, actual Son of God? You guessed it; the second answer is right. Now if He is like that, and we are going to be like He is — what do you suppose we will be like???
God As God Is God! God is not playing games. God is not perpetrating some cosmic joke. God is not sponsoring an eternal rest home in the sky for retired Christians.
God is reproducing Himself!
"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2:5). "Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises [beyond the scope of human imagination): that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature..." (II Peter 1:4). "I [Jesus' says] will make them [people, human beings] to come and worship before thy feet..."! (Rev. 3:9.) Now, you know, and I know, that only God is worthy of worship I
There is only one inescapable conclusion.
If we are to be changed from physical to spiritual — and not just ordinary spiritual, but by and into the Spirit of God; if we are taught by Jesus to pray "Our Father in heaven... "; if He really is our (not just His) Father; if we are (to be) His sons; if we share the Father's and the Son's glory; if we inherit eternal life; if we partake of the divine nature; if we are to be just like Jesus now is; if we have the complete mind of Christ; if we are worthy of worship — WE MUST BE GOD!
That is the unbelievable truth of your Bible.
One short article is totally insufficient to explain God's total plan, but this is the core of it. If you are interested in pursuing the subject, I'm sure there are ministers of the Worldwide Church of God near you who would be more than happy to help you understand more. (Contact Us)
But, believe it or not, you are a potential omnipotent power. You were born to become God! This is the mystery of God!