Salvation and the Biblical Doctrine
by Ernest L. Martin, Ph.D., 1992
Edited by David Sielaff, January 2004
Read the accompanying Newsletter for February 2004
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The normal human life span seldom exceeds a hundred years. It seems so short in comparison to other life forms on earth such as trees that can live for hundreds and even thousands of years. And though most humans find times of happiness, there are also periods of anguish and trial, and finally there is the inevitable death that awaits us all. The whole cycle of birth, life and death may seem fruitless to the person who is trying to find out if there is a reason for it all, especially if one tries to discover it by his own ingenuity. But still, humans want to know the principal design (if there is one) behind our existence. We want to know the purpose of life.
Everything dealing with life — particularly human existence — seems so mysterious. And indeed it is. It is impossible for mankind to discover any substantial facts about this matter on his own. That is why we need divine revelation to inform us why humans have been placed on earth. And that is exactly what the Scripture reveals to us. It concerns what salvation is all about. But strangely, even those who professionally study the Bible are in most cases unwilling to believe what the Scripture actually teaches about salvation.
This is because the achievement of biblical salvation is for humans something that is awesome in its scope and majestic in its accomplishment. Because of this many people find it difficult to believe what the Bible actually teaches. It appears that the message is almost too grand to accept. Why is this? It is because the Bible shows the salvation planned for man from before the foundation of the world is nothing less than his exaltation into a position of deification — to be elevated to being a divine person, in a word, to become God! That is the central message of the Bible as it relates to salvation and its theme is consistent from beginning to end.
Let us be clear about one essential matter concerning the Godhead as revealed in the biblical revelation. We must first recognize what our modern English word “God” means in its original Hebrew significance. The Bible tells us that there is one God who created, sustains, and governs the entirety of the universe (Deuteronomy 6:4), but the Scripture shows that the one “God” has a plural meaning associated with it. The word in Hebrew is like our English words which we call “collective nouns.” Such a word is “army” and another is “family.” There may be one army or one family under discussion in a particular English context, but the very meaning of the two words indicates a plurality within each word. A single army or a single family is not usually construed as being a single person . And so it is with the word “God” in Hebrew.
When one studies both the Old and the New Testament teaching on this subject, we find that the word “God” denotes a family — one divine family — called in Hebrew an elohim. This word is in plural form though it is often governed by singular modifiers. This means that the “Divine Family” can act as a unit and a singular verb or adjective would accompany it. Or, members of the “Divine Family” can act separately from one another and the context provides plural verbs or adjectives to modify their actions.
A good modern example of this procedure would be our country, the United States of America. On the Great Seal of the United States is the Latin phrase e pluribus unum which means “one out of many.” In many biblical contexts this phrase could properly describe the Godhead itself. It is exactly what the Hebrew word elohim signifies. And, depending on whether elohim (like “the United States”) acts in unison (in that case singular verbs and/or adjectives are used), or whether the members perform actions independently (and then plural modifiers are used) depends upon the context of the account. The United States as a unit may make a treaty with another nation, but all the states independently have to consider whether it is fitting to add another amendment to the Constitution. The same thing occurs with the Godhead, as revealed in the Bible.
The Godhead is a divine Family made up of more than one personality, but more often than not they perform their actions as a unit. However, the plurality is always evident by the use of the word elohim (the “-im” at the end of the word pluralizes it).
This fact is made clear in the first chapter of Genesis. We are told that God (elohim, plural) made man in the image of God. Notice how it is worded: “And God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness’” (Genesis 1:26). The Hebrew of this verse can be better translated: “And God (elohim) said, ‘We will make [the verb “make” is also plural] man in our image’” [in the likeness of ourselves]. The fact of plurality within the meaning of “God” (elohim) dominates the intent of this cardinal verse in early Hebrew thinking. This reference alone clearly proves that “God” is composed of a plurality of personalities who, in this case, were acting in a single, unified manner. The plurality of “God” is seen in other biblical contexts.
When Adam and Eve took of the tree of the knowledge of good and bad (evil), God responded with: “Behold the man is become as one of us” (Genesis 3:22). Note the phrase “one of us“ in the last verse. Though the word “one” certainly denotes something singular (since the word “one” itself is an expression of singularity), the word “one” is connected with plurality — “one of us.”
This same word “one” (Hebrew, echad) is also found in the classic phrase which Israelites have used to show a monotheism of the Godhead. That phrase is: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God [elohim] is one Lord” (Deuteronomy 6:4). Yes, the Lord (YHVH) is an elohim (plural) but the Lord is still “one.” God is like the “one” in the expression “one of us” (Genesis 3:2) that Adam and Eve (two persons) became when they ate of the tree. Adam and Eve together — a plural couple — became “one with elohim.”
This shows that the word “one” (Hebrew echad) shows that Adam and Eve (plural) were reckoned by God as being “one.” They became “one of us [one of God — one of elohim].” So, even the word “one” as it relates to “God” (elohim) in the Hebrew language can denote plural personalities within a single group. That is what the biblical meaning of the word “God” (elohim) denotes. It is one group of divine personalities that the Bible shows to be a Family. This is shown in Christ’s relationship to His Father. Christ, who is recognized as elohim in the Bible, called YHVH His Father (and Himself was the firstborn son). [In this study we give the proper name of the Father as YHVH without providing the vowel sounds.] There is no doubt that the Bible shows that the Godhead is best described as being a Family. There is one Family of divine beings, but there are more than one personality in that Family. Just as Adam and Eve were two people, yet they are described as being one flesh, “God” is plural yet singular in the same way.
This plural significance of the Godhead is found in other parts of the Old Testament even in non-elohim contexts though you will not find them in the ordinary King James Version. The Newberry Study Bible (one of the best in the world for biblical study) shows these mistakes in the KJV.
Just how many personages are there within the divine family? This is not clearly revealed, though the New Testament makes it certain that the Father has Christ alongside Him in the governance of the universe. As for the word elohim itself, we know that it refers to angels (Job 1:6; 2:1), as well as to human judges of Israel who were God’s representatives on earth in the time of Moses (Exodus 21:6; 22:8–9, 20, 28 — see the original Hebrew). Indeed, we are even told that all human beings on earth are themselves called elohim (Psalm 82:6) and Christ Jesus Himself referred to this verse in the Psalms to show that He recognized ordinary humans as being reckoned as a form of “gods” (John 10:34). It was not strange for Christ to refer to human beings as being “gods.”
It is important to recognize one thing. Though angels and humans are not a form of deity to be worshipped (certainly not at the present), the word elohim in various Hebrew contexts can reach out to embrace the angels and humanity as being elohim besides the Father and Christ. When the apostle Paul said there were “gods many, and lords many” (1 Corinthians 8:5), he was stating a truth that was quite consistent with the plain and simple teachings of the Old Testament. In fact, all mankind is reckoned as being in the image and likeness of God (elohim) and can be called a form of “God” (Psalm 82:6; John 10:34). Note that, when Adam and Eve gained more knowledge, they also became more like God. God said they became as “one of us” (Genesis 3:22).
Mankind has a long way to go before we become exactly like God and Christ Jesus are at the moment. Yet in the Bible, that divine glory is promised to be given to mankind through the works that Christ Jesus did for us. That is what salvation really is for us. It is to become exactly like God the Father and our Elder Brother Jesus Christ.
Very few people today know what salvation really is. It has often amazed us at ASK that there are hundreds (perhaps thousands) of evangelistic meetings going on right now in the world while you read this research study. While the preachers will often plead with their audiences, threaten them with judgments, and finally tell them they will inherit an indescribable bliss if they accept Christ as personal savior and become saved, preachers seldom (if at all) tell the people what that salvation they preach really entails. The reason for this is plain. The preachers themselves really do not know what it means. Salvation has become a non-descript “happiness” word, a nebulous term, and a word without precise definition in Christian vocabulary today.
Look at this wishy-washy and absurd view of salvation with a modern example. Say you went to a department store to buy a new refrigerator. You looked over the various brands and then decided to select one that cost $799. But you don’t wish to pay for it all at once. “That’s fine,” said the salesman, “if you pay $100 down and $58.25 for 12 months, we will deliver the refrigerator tomorrow to your home.” Let us suppose the deal is satisfactory. You would expect to get exactly what the store said it would supply and the store would expect to receive precisely what you said you would pay. All would be completely happy if the contract were fully obeyed. In this, nothing is wishy-washy or absurd so far.
Such a procedure makes perfectly good sense to all of us because we enter into such agreements with others on a regular basis. But how does this relate to the evangelist and the preacher in telling you about Christ and salvation? Now note the wishy-washy situation. The preacher usually tells you to change your whole way of living, sacrifice your time and money for the church (or for Christ), be willing even to die for your faith, but what will you get out of all this?
The answer to that question is usually: “I have no details to give you, but you can live the rest of eternity in heaven and be in the presence of the Father and Christ.” That may be fine, but you might say: “What will I be doing for all eternity? Will I be playing on a harp? Will I be around God’s throne simply praising God all the time? Will I be a non-descript spirit-like creature appearing like a white fog? Please, preacher, you are the professional, give me some details. What is in it for me if I sacrifice my life, my family and my money to be a Christian and to gain salvation?” The preacher, if honest, would probably say: “I have no knowledge of any details.”
This wishy-washy approach to salvation shows a major deficiency in modern Christian theology. Most preachers and theologians do not know what Christian salvation is. While buying a refrigerator (or entering contractual agreements) makes sense to us — and we know exactly what we will get for what we pay for — modern preachers are usually unable to provide any substantial understanding of what humans obtain in salvation. They are agnostics on the matter. Salvation has become nothing more than an ethereal expectation of bliss without definition.
Yet the Bible shows that mankind is destined to inherit the most glorious existence imaginable by the mind of man. Salvation means we are to become the actual members of that divine family (the elohim) mentioned in the first chapter of Genesis and throughout the Bible. Jesus Christ came to this earth for the express purpose of elevating us to the same position that He now has within that Family of God. Indeed, we are destined to inherit the same divine image and the exact type of character as that now enjoyed by God the Father and His firstborn son Jesus Christ. Christ’s death was planned before the foundation of the world to get all of us into that glorious salvation (2 Timothy 1:9), and Christ and the Father will not fail in their endeavor (Philippians 2:13).
How is this accomplished? That is what the story of salvation in the Bible is all about. Let us see some of the verses of Scripture that show how this is done.
We are told in the Bible that Jesus Christ was the first begotten Son of God (Hebrews 1:6). But such Sonship does not end with Jesus Christ. Paul said that we are predestinated to be “conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn AMONG MANY BRETHREN” (Romans 8:29). All of us are predetermined to be conformed to the same image that Christ now has. Christ was ordained by the Father to be the “captain” of our salvation “in bringing MANY SONS unto glory” (Hebrews 2:10). And while Christ is one of the Father’s Sons (indeed, Christ is the firstborn), there are ultimately to be many sons — multitudes of children. There are also daughters of God involved in salvation. The apostle Paul recorded: “You shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:18).
Human beings (both male and female) are created to be “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). This is a powerful statement made by Peter that is often overlooked by interpreters trying to understand the nature of salvation. But it means that we humans can be participants in (and possessors of) the very nature of God Himself — and that includes the inheritance of His divine character and power. “You ... has He reconciled ... to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight” (Colossians 1:21–22). Of course, such a position of complete righteousness will only be given to us at our resurrections, but we will then be elevated to a state of moral and spiritual perfection: “Not having spot, or wrinkle ... holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27). We will assume the same virtues as Christ.
Our perfection in Christ will become evident when we obtain the bodily composition of God, have His character and His traits, and possess His power and His glory. Peter revealed that we humans are “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). We even now, while we are in the flesh, have a personal participation in the nature of God through His Spirit.
We are even now reckoned as being “in Christ” in a total way — and if we are “in Christ” we are simultaneously “in the Father.”
“He has chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world, unto the adoption of children”
“God has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ ... and has raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
Ephesians 1:3; 2:6
We are even now, while in human flesh, reckoned as the children of God.
“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him AS HE IS.”
1 John 3:2
Humans are preordained to reflect the very image of God — as though you would look in a mirror and while seeing yourself, you would also observe the glory of God.
“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass [mirror] the glory of the Lord, are changed into the SAME IMAGE from glory [from our own glory] to glory [to God’s glory], even by the Spirit of the Lord.”
2 Corinthians 3:18
What marvelous teaching. When Christ returns from heaven the apostle John said we will appear exactly as Christ appears, and Paul said we will be changed into God’s glorious image. There will not be an ounce of difference between Christ and us (along with the Father) as far as shape and bodily form and mental character are concerned. As Christ is now a Son of God, so shall we become the same children of God if we are reckoned as being “in Christ.” And God’s children are both males and females. All males will be resurrected in the divine image of God’s masculine form, and all females will be resurrected in the divine image of God’s feminine form. (More on this later.)
Salvation for human males and for females is to become members of the very ruling Family of God — to become members of elohim. That is what salvation really is. It is not to play on some harp for all eternity and to benignly look into the eyes of God with nothing else to do. In no way. The first attribute of God mentioned in the Bible is that God is a creator (Genesis 1:1). When we are resurrected from the dead (or changed at Christ’s second advent), we will become as God now is (like the rest of the divine family).
We will share in their glories, appearance and possess their creative powers. Paul said we shall “bear the image of the heavenly” (1 Corinthians 15:49), and we shall be “conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29). And if we are to inherit the image of Christ, we shall also assume the image of the Father, because Christ “is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). As Christ said in the Gospel of John: “He that sees me sees him that sent me” (John 12:45). Again: “He that has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). And the author of Hebrews said: “Who [Christ] being the brightness of his glory [the Father’s glory], and the express image of his person” (Hebrews 1:3). We are to assume the same image.
Just what does the word “glory” signify in the Bible? Most people do not realize the awesomeness in its scope of meaning.
That’s right; that is exactly what we are destined to attain — the kind of glory and brilliance and power as that now enjoyed by Christ and the Father themselves. That, indeed, is the exact hope of the Gospel message.
“To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery; which is Christ in you, THE HOPE OF GLORY.”
Our hope is to attain the glory of God. That is why Paul presumed our present trials as insignificant in relationship to that glorious existence as members of God’s divine family that we are predestined to inherit.
“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared WITH THE GLORY which shall be revealed in us.”
And what is the purpose of Christ? He suffered for us in order to bring us into the possession of the very glory of God Himself.
“For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons TO GLORY, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.”
And what is “their salvation”? It is to assume the same glory, the same body shape, the same shared power and the identical character of Almighty God (the Father) Himself! (For more information on how this salvation is attained, see our research study titled: “The Way to Salvation in the Christian Gospel” at http://www.askelm.com/doctrine/d890101.htm.
In one way humans are already reckoned as being “God.” In Psalm 82:6 and John 10:34 the expression “You are gods” is already used. And, of course, humans are in the physical image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26). Even the apostle John acknowledged that those in Christ are already the Sons of God (gender will be discussed later).
“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he [Christ] shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”
1 John 3:2
Yet, there are differences at the present between God and mankind. We certainly do not yet have the character of God nor His type of body which is governed by certain exclusive spiritual factors. This is what the apostle John meant when he said that we do not yet know exactly what we shall be like in every detail, but we will have a body just like Christ does at the present and the same type of body that He will have when He appears at His second advent. We shall also be just like the Father.
It is interesting that when Christ was resurrected from the dead, He appeared to the apostles in a fleshly body (a body of flesh and bones). He did not appear to them as a spirit — as a body that was composed of spirit alone. “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as you see me have” (Luke 24:39). He had extraordinary powers to manipulate His flesh and bones because He could enter through the walls of a physical house (John 20:26). But He did not appear to the apostles in a body of spirit or in a glorious spirit manifestation as in Revelation 1:12–17. Indeed, we are told explicitly by the apostle John that Christ has manifested Himself, and will manifest Himself, in the flesh, and anyone who denies this fact is not of God (1 John 4:2–3). John said Christ will be “coming in the flesh” in the present tense.
“For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is coming [present tense] in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.”
2 John 1:7
John insists that for anyone to say that Christ is not “coming in flesh” (present tense) is a heresy so serious that it can only be equated with the teachings of the Antichrist.
To John, Christ was in the flesh (present tense) when John wrote his second epistle. Though Christ was certainly a divine person, John states that Christ manifested Himself in the flesh. He looked like a human being — just like you and I do now. This is also confirmed by the apostle Paul. About 35 years after Christ’s resurrection, Paul still referred to Christ as a human — an anthropos in Greek. “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man [the anthropos] Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).
Paul also taught that when we are resurrected by Christ at the second advent (which, of course, is still future to us), Christ will even then be considered to be a human — an anthropos. “For since by man came death, by man [by anthropos, i.e. by Christ] is also the resurrection of the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:21). In this verse the King James has the past tense for the supplied verb, but it is evident that the resurrection of Christians has not yet occurred and the tense must be reckoned as “present tense”). Christ, then, will be an anthropos at His advent.
There is even more. Christ was being called “the son of man” (the son of anthropos) in Hebrews 2:6, written at least thirty years after His resurrection from the dead. Indeed, Paul spoke about a man and wife as being one flesh and then he had the boldness to say that Christ was now reckoned the same way in His relationship to His ekklesia [often rendered as “church” in the KJV] (Ephesians 5:32). Thus, in several New Testament contexts, we find Christ still being described as a human (an anthropos) long after He was resurrected from the dead.
But wait a moment. We also know that Christ is now sitting on the right hand of the Father with a divine status and that He is now as much an elohim as is the Father. He can also display Himself as a glorious spiritual being at His choosing (Revelation 1:12–17). Thomas correctly called Christ after His resurrection “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). If Christ is now a member of the glorified family of God, sitting on the right hand of the Father, how can He still be called a man (a human — an anthropos)?
The answer is quite simple. Christ, while He is truly divine and the firstborn Son of the Father, still has the image, likeness and form of a human being. He even exists today in a fleshly body, but He can readily change His appearance into a glorious spiritual form like that of the sun at any time He pleases. With the apostle Paul still calling Christ a human (an anthropos), he referred to Him as a “glorified human” who is now divine. Christ is no different than we are at present with the exception that He is now glorified and we are not yet glorified. We will only obtain our glorification (as He obtained His glorification) at our resurrections from the dead.
Christ is still considered a human (an anthropos) though He is as divine as is the Father. This shows that we can attain to the same status as Christ. We can be given a divine status with Christ and still be reckoned in the future as being human (anthropos).
As Christ is now, so each of us will become. There will not be the slightest difference between what our Elder Brother is now, and what we will inherit in the resurrection as full “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). We are predestined to be in a deified state alongside the Father in heaven just as Christ is now in that glorious position (Ephesians 2:6). That is the simple biblical teaching of what deification is all about.
Indeed, when Christ became a human (an anthropos) over 19 centuries ago, He gave up the glory He once had with the Father (Philippians 2:6–8). Yes, He gave up His glory, but He did not give up His status as being in the Family of God. Christ Jesus was still reckoned as “God” (elohim). Paul said that Christ was “equal with God” before He came into the world (Philippians 2:6). But with His incarnation, He still bore the name “Emmanuel” (Isaiah 9:6; Matthew 1:23) which means “God With Us.” Christ never ceased to be “God” (that is, to be a member of the Family of YHVH — an elohim even when He became a human and lived in the flesh). With His resurrection, Christ returned to the same status that He had before with the Father, only now He has greater glory and prestige by having gone through the human stage (Hebrews 5:8). Jesus is always to be reckoned as “God.”
“In the beginning was the Word [logos], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. ... And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
John 1:1–2, 14
Just because Christ assumed a fleshly body at His incarnation and retained it after His resurrection, is no reason not to call Him a divine personage as He was from the very beginning. Indeed, to call Christ now a human (an anthropos) is perfectly proper because He still retains His resurrected body with which He came forth from the grave — and that was a fleshly body (Luke 24:39). He looks and acts very much like a human, though He is now a glorified human who is reckoned as “God” — the firstborn member of the Family of God.
This is exactly how it will be with each of us when we are resurrected from the dead. We are presently in our physical, fleshly bodies that are not yet glorified. We cannot be given our glorious bodies until our resurrections from the dead. While we remain in our present physical bodies, we are in a learning process for a short time to gain acquaintance with the consequences of good and bad. In this learning process, we are beginning to be like God (Genesis 3:5 with 3:22). But we are unable to become totally like God until we inherit all His qualities and the fullness of His characteristics at our resurrections from the dead. The lessons we learn now in our present existence will aid us in becoming proper members of God’s creative Family when the resurrection occurs and we become like Christ in His glorified body.
What God is doing with us is increasing the members of His divine Family. He is reproducing Himself with us. Recall that God (elohim) is not one person. God is actually a Family — a single divine Family that rules the totality of the universe. Though God presently represents one Family, there will ultimately be many redeemed children within that Family which will increase in size. We humans have been created to accomplish that purpose. “The many” of us are destined to enter the one Family of God.
Let us see evidence of this truth in the New Testament. It plainly tells us that many can be one, and that one can be many. This is precisely the description of elohim in the Old Testament — and it certainly is the description of Christ in the New Testament. We can all become “one” with “God” and still retain our individual characteristics. It is just like the marriage union. Though a couple are considered “one flesh,” they are still separate personalities with minds and characteristics of their own. Paul explicitly taught that all of us who make up the ekklesia [“church” in the KJV] are certainly separate personalities and with differing outward appearances, yet we are still “one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
“For as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: SO ALSO IS CHRIST. ... And now are they MANY MEMBERS, yet but ONE BODY.’”
I Corinthians 12:12, 20
So, one body [like God] is made up of many members [like God].
This is precisely the meaning of the word “God” (elohim). We could correctly state: “But now is God many members, but yet one God.” There is not a shadow of difference in the analogy of Paul to the ekklesia, than the ekklesia is compared to God. Once this principle of scripture is understood, then the whole of the biblical teaching about salvation and being children of God will begin to make sense. Look at further illustrations of the apostle Paul which show this.
“We have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: so we being many, are one body IN CHRIST, and every one members of one another.”
“For we being many are one bread [the bread of life, Christ], and one body: for we are partakers of the [one] body of Christ.”
I Corinthians 10:17
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
In the last verse, Paul did not mean that we cease to be males and females in body shape whether in this life or in the resurrection. He simply points out that though males and females are very different in body form, and that humans are different in racial characteristics and also in social matters, in Christ we are (and we will be) reckoned by the Father as having a oneness of equality. We are now one in Christ Jesus.
We are all destined to be equal with Christ and He will be equal with us. All of us are to become part and parcel to God and to Christ Jesus. We will all then be in them, and they will then be in us. That time will come when death, the last enemy, is destroyed. Paul said that at that time God will then be “all and in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28 — the Greek is plural and actually means: “that God may be all things and in all things”). In plain English (since Paul’s subject in that chapter of Corinthians is the resurrection of all humans), Paul means that God will finally be in all humans and all humans will then be considered as being in God.
However, that does not end Paul’s discussion of this illustration. In Ephesians 1:23 Paul continues the theme: “Which is his [Christ’s] body, the fullness of him that fills all in all” (the Greek is again plural and actually means that Christ’s body will then be accounted the fullness of God that fills all things in all things).
Look at Colossians 3:11: “But Christ is all, and in all.” The Greek is again plural and actually means that Christ has become to all people on earth all things and that He is in all of them no matter what their race or social status. In a word, God and Christ are destined to be in all things (in all humans, in this case) and all things will become a oneness with God the Father and Christ. As Paul worded it in Romans 11:36, all things are to be reconciled to God “for OF him [God], and THROUGH him [God], and TO him [God], are ALL THINGS.”
All humans were made by God, they now live because of God, and they will return to God. God is the past, the present, and the future for all humans. This oneness union in Christ which He has made between Himself and us is so personal and permanent that the apostle Paul gave a physical example to explain it in a way that we humans can truly understand. It is the one flesh union that a husband has with his wife whom he loves dearly and wishes to protect with all his heart. Paul uses emotional language that can reach our human understanding.
“For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be ONE flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the ekklesia [His body].”
Paul’s illustration is a type of the intimacy and the oneness that is unexcelled in human experience for showing closeness and love. Though a man and woman are very different individuals, they can still be reckoned as being one flesh. Peter said that a man and wife are “heirs together of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7). Note that both the man and the woman are “together” in the matter of salvation. After all, Paul shows there are as many daughters of God as there are sons (2 Corinthians 6:18). And the deification of humanity includes women as well as males. This is a great mystery (as Paul said it was), but it is nonetheless true.
There is a feminine side of the Godhead that is not usually shown openly in the Bible, but it is there. In the Old Testament the attribute called “Wisdom” is personified as a woman who was with YHVH at the beginning of creation and that she frolicked before YHVH as a woman would tease a man in the sense of flirtation.
“I [Wisdom] was by him [YHVH], as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing [sporting] before him; rejoicing [sporting] in the habitable part of the earth.”
Of course, this is symbolic language but it still exhibits a feminine association with God before the creation of the heavens and the earth.
The question of whether women would be resurrected as women in their body shape has been wondered about since early times. Professor Paul K. Jewett in his book titled Man as Male and Female1 has a quote from Augustine in the fifth century about this matter.
“Some conclude that women shall not rise women, but that all shall be men, because God made man only of earth and woman only of man. For my part, they seem to be wiser who make no doubt that both sexes shall rise. ... The Lord did not deny that there would be women in the resurrection, he said there would not be marriages. ... Indeed, he even affirmed that women, as a sex, should exist by saying, ‘they shall not be given in marriage,’ which can only refer to females; ‘neither shall they marry’ which applies to males.”
Jewett, p. 41 adapted
This observation of Augustine is a good one. Moderns have expressed the same thing. Jewett has a long section on the research of Karl Barth (one of the outstanding theologians of this 20th century). Barth stated his belief that the Bible shows man and woman as different sexes with two distinct forms as reflecting the divine image. Any association with God (now or in the future)“must somehow correspond to the specific fellowship of male and female at the human level.” 2 In a word, “God” has both male and female members.
This makes perfectly good sense. As a matter of fact, the apostle Paul stated most clearly that if anyone wished to know about the nature and characteristics of God and how the Godhead functions and exists, then one should look to the creation that God has brought into existence.
“That which may be known of God is manifest: for God has shown it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are CLEARLY SEEN, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead [the factors comprising his deity], so that they are without excuse.”
This section of Paul has some excellent lessons for us in regard to the nature of the Family of God itself. Every form of the higher creations on earth has a male and female existence. Humans have the two sexes; animals have the two sexes; plants normally have the two sexes, even the inanimate world has its positive and negative particles which are analogous to sexes. If this is the case with the created things, then Paul says those things can best describe the invisible things associated with the Godhead. This shows there is the difference of male and female in the Godhead as well. Indeed, there must be. In the Bible, however, only the male side is ever discussed (with the exception of Proverbs 8:30–31) because God always presents Himself to humans as an authority figure and such authority is always shown in the Bible as being exercised through the male side of any family.
After all, how can “God” be a Family (which is surely the case as the Old and the New Testaments show) if there are no females within the Family? There must be females who make up an equal number of personalities within the Family of God (elohim) as there are males. Remember, the apostle Paul specifically said that God has both “daughters” as well as “sons” in His Family of which we humans are part (2 Corinthians 6:18).
As for males and females being married to one another after our resurrections from the dead (and our subsequent glorifications), Christ said there would be no such marriages (Mark 12:25). But before one thinks that this means that there will not be any intimate relationships like males and females now have on earth, remember that marriage in this life is always associated with death —“unto death do you part.” In the resurrection, there will be no death. Thus, the physical parameters associated with marriage in this life will then not be in evidence.
Any future relationships like we have in marriage now will of necessity be called by some other name than “marriage.” This is not mere quibbling about words. The intimate association between a male and female in the resurrection will then be a legal relationship not associated with death (like our present marriages are). The statement of Christ that there would then be no marriages in no way suggests that there will be no intimate relationships. Why, the apostle Peter said that the couple who are now man and wife (and Peter was a married man) are“heirs together of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7). The intimate relationship between the sexes will simply be called by another legal definition enacted through a different legal system than one that allows “marriage” for us today. God no doubt has a spiritual term to describe it.
There are now and will be after our resurrections both males and females in the Family of God. This is why at present both males and female humans are reckoned as being“in Christ” and are destined to become elohim (God) as much as Christ is now elohim (God). This simply means that mankind is promised a deification — a deification that is as divine as that now enjoyed by Christ Himself. After all, the apostle Paul stated throughout his epistles that all of us are reckoned as being “in Christ” or that we are “in Him.” Indeed, Paul said in Ephesians and Colossians:
Everything that Christ did or now does, we are reckoned by the Father to be“in Christ,” and we have done or are now doing the same things. Our present status in the Father’s eyes is that we are “co-heirs, co-bodied, and co-partakers of his promise IN CHRIST” (Ephesians 3:6 Greek). We are inseparably joined to Christ. His spiritual body would not be complete without us.
Yes, we are accounted by the Father to be co-possessors of everything that Christ now has (or ever will have), but we will always retain our individual personalities for the rest of eternity. Our salvation means that we will join in the very Family of God (elohim) in an intimate and personal way in the same manner that Christ rejoined the glorious side of the Family by His resurrection from the dead. We will also become glorified and deified in the same way that Christ was exalted because we are reckoned by the Father to be“in Christ.”
Though all of us who presently have the Spirit of God are considered as new creatures in Christ (like newborn spiritual babes while still being in a physical world, 1 Peter 1:23 with 2:2), when we are resurrected from the dead or are changed at the second advent of Christ, we will then experience a new“regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory” (Matthew 19:28; and see John 3:3–8). The resurrection from the dead is like a new birth. When Christ was resurrected it was a new birth for Him. Isaiah gave a hint of this spiritual teaching.
[Zion] travailed [without the normal nine months of the birth process], she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child”
But this “man child” was not to be the only one brought forth in an instant. The next verse states:
[resurrected from the earth].”
“Who has heard such a thing? who has seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once: for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children
First, Isaiah says there was to be a single man child (Christ) resurrected from the dead, and then, at a later time, at the very moment when another travail begins, the earth will bring forth a great multitude of children all at once, or (as the apostle Paul put it) in the twinkling of an eye (1 Corinthians 15:52–57). Isaiah is speaking about a resurrection from the dead (like in Daniel 12:2) and it is likened to a regeneration — to a brand new birth — being born into a new existence. And, indeed, the resurrection (the new birth) at Christ’s second advent will be the beginning of a marvelous adventure. All who participate will become just like God.
This is what Isaiah says will occur (in his symbolic language concerning Zion). After the wonderful “birth scene” is completed, he states that the people who are resurrected will“suck and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolations,” that they will be delighted with the “milk” of the abundance of glory, that they will be “borne [carried] upon her sides, and be dandled on her knees” (Isaiah 66:11–12). This is a resurrection scene that is typical of all such resurrections (rebirths) that God will bring to pass. And how beautiful and practical it all is. Note the mature knowledge that can be obtained from this symbolic teaching of Isaiah. Though the people Isaiah was speaking about were already adult human beings (Israelites in this case), in their resurrections they will return to being like infants who “suck” and later grow up to be “dandled.” The new world they experience in their resurrected state will be just like that which all of us have gone through by our birth into this physical world and growing up to adulthood.
The apostle Paul said that if we wish to know about the Godhead and how it functions, look at the physical creation around us and observe how God causes the human, animal, plant and the inanimate worlds to function (Romans 1:19–21). All humans, animals, plants and the elements (if one really understands the elements) all have a birth, then an infancy period, a child period, a young adult period, an adult period, and old age period, and then death completes the universal cycle. So will it be the same when we are regenerated at the resurrection from the dead to enter the glorious Family of God. There are only two differences from the above mentioned cycles of nature that will be eliminated when we are born again into the Family of God. We will then,
Once we are resurrected and assume the renewed body that has the same powers and abilities demonstrated by Christ just after His resurrection, we will have to be shown by our parents (and in this case, I mean our heavenly Father along with Christ Jesus and other spiritual helpers) how to function with these newfound powers and abilities. Isaiah thus gives the analogy that we must first learn “to suck” and then “to be dandled.” We will then learn how “to walk” and then how “to run” with our new bodies within the parameters of our new social and family status. In a word, we will be taught divine manners and the way to live as does God, Christ and other members of the Family of God.
We will also be taught to respect the privacy of God the Father and Christ though as their children they will receive us at any reasonable time that we have need. The fact that God requires privacy is reflected in the Temple rituals that had to be done at certain times and by certain people and with others excluded. Indeed, life would be intolerable to any person without a reasonable amount of privacy for the person (or person) to exercise his or her own interests and desires. God is certainly a private person from all the examples of the Bible that we have, and it would only be reasonable that the Father and Christ would give us the same respect of privacy at times when we need it. Privacy is one of the most important factors in making people free and independent from others even though God’s children should be solidly united with the rest of the Family in purpose and love.
And though the Scriptures show that we will be resurrected as mature adults (the standard would seem to be our Lord who was resurrected with a body of just over thirty years in appearance), we will still have to learn all the spiritual principles of divine life and just how the universe works, etc. How long will it take to do this? No one knows for sure, but we may have some biblical hints.
When Christ returns and our resurrections take place, the earth itself will be subjected to great trials and afflictions. The wrath of God is described from Revelation chapter 7 and on to chapter 16. It will be a devastating judgment on the earth. Isaiah seems to describe it in his 24th chapter. This is a chapter that most astronomers today would feel describes the earth being hit by an asteroid (or something like it) with a world-wide destruction. It will be so destructive that Isaiah said there will be only a “few men left” (verse 6). Egypt will be so destroyed that no person (not even animals) will pass through it for forty years (Ezekiel 29:8–16). Commerce on earth among the nations will altogether cease for a period of seventy years (Isaiah 23:17–18). The land of Babylon and the region of Edom will be so devastated that they will never recover for the whole of the Millennium (Isaiah chapters 13–14 and 34).
It seems from these prophecies that God will give the earth a solitude from most of mankind’s actions for the first seventy years of the Millennium. After that seventy years is over, God will cause the following 930 years (the exact period of time that Adam — the first example of humanity — lived on earth) to be in a glorious condition that God will create on the earth (with the exceptions of the small areas of Babylon and Edom). That future seventy year period is analogous to the present length of human life (Psalm 90:10). If our own physical lives are any guide (and it appears that God does things with type and anti-type events as His guidelines for work), then the first seventy years of our resurrection life will be a step-by-step learning experience for us to be educated in spiritual matters while away from the earth.
We will be shown during that period of seventy years (with the earth in near devastation) how God will recreate the earth for a glorious human habitation. When we have reached our “spiritual adulthood” stage (after our first seventy years of resurrected life) we will then for the next 930 years (for the rest of the Millennium) be reckoned as the full-grown, adult children of God. We will gradually be given extensive powers that will require our “adult spiritual” understanding in executive, judicial and legislative matters in dealing with all created beings inhabiting other solar systems in the billions of galaxies that make up our universe. In a word, for the first seventy years, we will be shown how to act like God in exercising divine etiquette to God and others, in correctly using our new spiritual powers, and in showing proper Godlike judgments and love to others.
Eventually, after the Millennium is over and the final resurrection has taken place when God becomes“all and in all,” the Father will move His very throne (His headquarters) to this earth (Revelation 21:1–8) from which we have all been generated. This earth was selected by the Father not only to bear His own firstborn Son by a resurrection from the dead, but also to bear all His sons and daughters (all of us) so that we together will rule the universe from earth for the rest of eternity. That is our destiny.
When God the Father through Christ Jesus has finally brought all humans on earth into an“all and in all” condition with Him, He will then move His present headquarters from the north quarters of our galaxy (as viewed from earth) and set up His permanent headquarters here on this earth (Revelation 21:1–8). At present the Father along with Christ reside north of the earth in the direction of the pole star. This heavenly position is found even in the description of the Temple that Solomon built in Jerusalem. God is shown to dwell “in the sides of the north” (Isaiah 14:13).
There is even more that shows this. In Psalm 75 we are informed that,
[in the north] is the judge: he puts down one, and sets up another.”
“Promotion comes neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God
Note that the direction of “north” is left out of the above description. Promotion on earth in any situation is not from the east, west or south, but it is from God who dwells in the north. This is the direction in which the pole star is situated from earth. The North Star (and its vicinity) is the only heavenly area in the northern hemisphere that has the appearance of never moving. James said that God was the“Father of lights” (of the heavenly luminaries) “With whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17). This is an apt description of the North Star relative to the celestial region in which God has His throne at the present. But this location is destined to change.
The Father will make this earth His headquarters in which to govern and to sustain the entirety of this universe. This is one of the main reasons that He wanted all His future children (all of us) to be born and reared on this earth so that we will always call it “home.” When, in the future we are given responsibilities over various solar systems within other galaxies (and there are billions upon billions of galaxies), we will always direct our attention back to “home” and to “headquarters” in order that a unified command will be in force for the governance of the universe. Indeed, it appears that some of us in the distant future will spend decades and even centuries away from earth in the far-flung regions of the universe (e.g. Deuteronomy 30:4), but we will always be in contact with earth (with “home”) from whence we have our origin. This is because the Father will make the totality of the earth His headquarters. And, as His children, the earth will always be “home” to us.
The doctrine of deification and ruling the universe with God was the real meaning of salvation as understood by early Christians, yet today, hardly a person in the mainline churches is even aware that the Bible teaches such a doctrine. Though all of the preachers, evangelists and theologians (whether Catholics or Protestants) readily admit that all Christians according to the apostle Paul are“in Christ,” they refuse to follow through with what that phrase actually means. Paul, however, shows that being “in Christ” represents the fact that all Christians are now a part of the very embodiment of the Godhead itself. Paul said:
“For in Him[in Christ] dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And you [all Christians] are complete in Him [as part of the “Godhead bodily”] which is the head of all principality and power”
This is another way of saying that salvation is in fact deification. This is a powerful position in which to be. Paul stated that even the angelic powers are now subject to Christ and to the Godhead. Of course, our full participation comes at our resurrections.
This doctrine of salvation that shows we are a part of the “Godhead bodily” is denigrated into the realm of oblivion by almost all Christian denominations within our western sphere of ecclesiastical influence. Thankfully though, the Greek Orthodox have not abandoned the truth on this matter. The following is a quote in a major encyclopedia from a top theologian of the Orthodox Church.
“Deification. God’s essence is inaccessible. His uncreated and eternal energies (glory, light, grace, love) permeate the universe and make possible a personal union with man. In its worship the church offers thanksgiving that God has opened the way for man to come to him and has made union with him possible. This is the Orthodox churches’ teaching of the deification (theosis) of man, a doctrine based on the Incarnation, which revealed a new perfect humanity. The two separate realities are united forever in Christ, as stated in the formulation of the Council of Chalcedon: unconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, and inseparably, God became man that man might become divine (that man might become God). This union is the goal of prayer and participation in the sacraments: it involves the cooperation of two wills, divine and human. In this union with God human beings ‘become partakers of the divine nature’ (2 Peter 1:4) without ceasing to be creatures. Other New Testament writers expressed this union in terms of being or dwelling in Christ. The fathers of the church as well as modern theologians recognized that deification as the goal of Christian life lies at the base of every important theological controversy in the history of the Orthodox churches.”
Abingdon Dictionary of Living Religions, page 553(emphases are mine)
There is one thing about the Greek Orthodox churches that should be mentioned. On the matter of Christian salvation, they are well aware what the Greek New Testament has to teach on this subject. The Greek language of the apostles is completely clear to them and they know precisely what the apostles taught on this matter of the ultimate destiny of Christian believers. The Greek Orthodox Churches are to be commended for retaining this important teaching in their creed unto the present day. As for early Christian scholars for the first four centuries, the vast majority of them also ascribe deification as the meaning of Christian salvation.
One of the finest studies on the subject of deification as Christian salvation, is found in the scholarly book Christian Mysticism, by W. R. Inge. He gave eight lectures before the University of Oxford and these were published by Methuen & Co., London, 1899. He has a major section called “The Doctrine of Deification” in which this subject is dealt with at length. In my view, every theologian and preacher in the world ought to read that section — and start to believe and preach it to the world! It represents nothing less than the central truth of the Gospel of Christ and without understanding it, a person will remain completely ignorant of what salvation in Christ is all about. It is because of this that we at ASK thought it was time to bring this historical (and biblical) information to the minds of the general public. It represents the truth of Almighty God.
It is good to quote Professor Harnack, the church historian. He makes the bold statement that the doctrine of deification was a primary teaching of all the scholars of the first Christian community. Harnack states:
“After Theophilus, Irenaeus, Hippolytus, and Origen, the idea of deification is found in all the Fathers of the ancient Church, and that in a primary position. We have it in Athanasius, the Cappadocians, Apollinaris, Ephraem Syrus, Epiphanius, and others, as also in Cyril, Sophronius, and late Greek and Russian theologians. In proof of it, Psalm 82:6 (“I said, Ye are gods”) is very often quoted.”
Inge, p. 358
Recall that these early theologians could all read the Greek of the New Testament like you read a newspaper. They knew what it taught — plainly and simply! It is too sad almost to relate how this truth has been consigned to the rubbish heap in Catholic and Protestant churches, and that if anyone teaches it, he or she is called a blasphemer of Christian doctrine. True, there are a few small denominations that teach a semblance of it, but in many cases the very ones who say that Christian salvation means deification turn right around and make slaves of their members by insisting on a hierarchical form of church government to dominate them. They often make their members to be bondservants, the very opposite of being “God.” People need to look once more at the Bible and understand that the teaching of our deification as being salvation is the greatest tool that God has given mankind for freeing humanity from any religious servitude.
Let us now look at what some of the early theologians (who lived in the four centuries after Christ) had to say about the biblical teaching of the deification of man.
This doctrine of deification was also reflected in the teachings of Eusebius, the first historian of the Christian community. He was acquainted with all the top scholars before his time and was aware of the principal theological concepts then being taught throughout the whole of Christendom. When all his works are surveyed, it shows what real knowledge of early New Testament truth was understood at the time. Though he balked at the Council of Nicea (325 C.E.) and finally gave into a false ecclesiastical theology to abate the anger of the emperor Constantine, he nonetheless was able to present to us the main theological discussions of his time.
In regard to the doctrine of salvation in Christ, Eusebius hit the nail right on the head. In fact, he merely stated what all knowledgeable scholars were aware of at the time. Note what Eusebius said about the meaning of Christian salvation:“The Word of God [Christ] is now God as He had been man, in order to deify mankind together with himself” (Demonst. iv.14). It was clearly understood by Eusebius that mankind is on earth finally to become, through Christ, as divine as Christ Jesus is now Himself divine.
Professor Ferrar, who translated Eusebius’ work Demonstratio Evangelica, gave an overall view of Eusebius’ understanding of salvation and how he reflected the general belief of all major theologians of his time. Ferrar said the doctrine of human deification which came by union with Christ is“perhaps the greatest theological system of antiquity, and it is obvious how it [deification] lies behind and beneath all that Eusebius says” (Intro. Proof of the Gospel, vol. I. p.xxvii).
So, when God at first told man that he was created to be in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26), God meant it in a precise sense. God’s physical creation back at that time (and by creating all of us now) is simply the first step in our deification. The next and final progression will come at our resurrections from the dead. That is when we take on the full, mature deification that will make us appear exactly in the same type of image and likeness of God (elohim) with all of the glories, perfections, and powers of the divine Family.
This doctrine of deification was not looked on by the early Fathers of the Christian faith as mere speculative mysticism as so many call it today. It was nothing less than the explanation of what our salvation in Christ entails. This salvation is the practical and essential truth of the Gospel of Christ that dominates all the teaching of the New Testament. Without a person comprehending the doctrine of our own deification in Christ is to misunderstand the teaching of Christian salvation altogether. What needs to be recognized is the fact that to be saved in the biblical sense of the phrase is that you and all other saved persons are already reckoned by the Father as being members of His divine Family. In a word, if you are saved, you have already become “God.” This is what salvation means.
It is time for the Christian world to return to teaching this principal doctrine in the churches, in the seminaries, and in the universities. All studies where the Bible is taught today should have this teaching as a dominant theme with this foundation both beneath and behind every subject being discussed. This doctrine is nothing less than the central truth of the Holy Scriptures. It is when people return to this essential teaching of the Gospel that the doctrine of Christian salvation will then become understood, and the purpose of human existence will become known with wonderful clarity. To repeat Eusebius,
“The Word of God[Christ the Logos] is now God as He had been man, in order to deify mankind together with himself.”
Eusebius, Demonstratio Evangelica iv.14
Ernest L. Martin, 1992
Edited by David Sielaff, February 2004
1 Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmanns, 1975. I line edited several of Professor Jewett’s manuscripts in the late 1980s until his death in 1991. He was Professor of Systematic Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. DWS
2 Jewett, Man as Male and Female, p. 43.
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