By Eric V. Snow
The writer is a 37-year-old part-time instructor at Davenport University with an M.A. in history who works as coordinator of office facilities for Lafarge North America. He began attending the Worldwide Church of God in 1986 and now attends with the United Church of God.
REDFORD, Mich.--Some associated with the Churches of God have recently questioned the "God family" doctrine that Herbert W. Armstrong taught. If "one God" is only "one Person," they obviously have to deny the deity of Christ.
But what about the belief that men and women will become part of the God family? Will they one day be fully divine, even God, themselves?
Because the Worldwide Church of God under Joseph Tkach Sr. changed this teaching, many rejected it. But ironically we have far better arguments in print today for this teaching than appeared decades ago because they were evidently developed in response to the WCG's rejection of mankind's ultimately divine potential.
So let's briefly review some of the biblical evidence favoring the teaching that men and women will become fully like God.
Claim to deity
When Jesus asserted He and the Father were one, the Jews immediately interpreted that assertion as a claim to deity. Because they saw His statement as blasphemy, they picked up stones again to stone Him (John 10:30-31).
He then noted, as a way to parry their objections, that men were called "gods" in Psalm 82:6. In this general light, consider then the words of Jesus' prayer for His disciples--present and future--the night before His crucifixion (John 17:20-23, NASB used throughout):
|"I do not ask in behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me. And the glory which Thou has given Me I have given to them; that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be perfected in unity."
If it were blasphemy for Jesus to proclaim His oneness with the Father, wouldn't this prayer be even more blasphemous? After all, it describes in detail the Father's and Son's future unity with Christian men and women.
The "glory" (verse 22) that Jesus promised them in the future is a defining attribute of God, as research using a concordance will help show.
Arians and unitarians clearly do have major trouble with Jesus' request earlier during this same prayer (verse 5) to have back the glory He had with the Father before the world was.
So what should we think of Christians' future status when they are promised to have glory also?
Verse 22 can't be ducked by pointing out the past tense, which appears to be like a "prophetic perfect," in which God's prediction of the future was so certain it was stated in a past tense (see Isaiah 7:14; 9:5-6).
After all, these future Christians weren't even yet Christians when Jesus prayed, but they had glory because God was totally certain He would give it to them.
A passage that promises Christians future glory like Christ's is Hebrews 2:6-11. Verse 7 is even stronger in the original Hebrew of Psalm 8:5:
"Yet Thou hast made him a little lower than God [Elohim], and dost crown him with glory and majesty."
So if by this translation (the Greek can be translated two ways), when combined with the Hebrew original, we are "a little while lower than [Elohim, not merely just 'the angels']," what will we be when the "little while" ends?
Furthermore, in verses 9-10: "Jesus, [who] because of the suffering of death [was] crowned with glory and honor," is in the process of "bringing many sons to glory."
The ultimate condition of salvation involves total unity with God in His family (verse 11):
"For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren."
Verses 14, 17-18 then reveal that Jesus became like an average man. Most astonishingly, God became man so that man could become God!
Now Christians are supposed to become just like Jesus. If Jesus is God (as per John 1:1, 14; 5:18; 8:58-59; 10:30, 33-34; 20:28; Colossians 2:9), what is implied by such a text as Ephesians 4:12-13:
"To the building up of the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ."
If we're ultimately fully like Christ, wouldn't we be fully like God?
Likewise, by loving our enemies we "are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48).
At the time of the resurrection, our bodies will be raised in powerful glory: "It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power" (1 Corinthians 15:43).
As Paul explains, Adam was from the earth, but Jesus from heaven. Then he reveals (verses 48-49):
"As is the earthy [man], so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. And just as we have born the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly."
Likewise, Christians are (Romans 8:29) "predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren."
The Greek word translated "image" in such passages (eikon) doesn't refer just to a superficial likeness but to an underlying similarity, even identity, in essence and substance.
After all, we today are of the same species, the same category, that Adam was of. Therefore, after the resurrection we shall be of the same "species," the same category of being, that Jesus is presently in.
We in the Church of God have better arguments as derived from Scripture for the future deification of man than Mr. Armstrong himself used, such as those that Roderick Meredith and Ian Boyne have recently employed.
In this light we should indeed see Genesis 1:26 as a kind of thematic text for the entire Bible and God's plan for humanity:
"Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.'"
We should then go on to behave and live more like God after becoming "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4) since Christ is in us, "the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27) by the Holy Spirit, which God puts into us (2 Corinthians 3:17-18).
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