The Bible tells us truly amazing things about the future God plans for people who follow Him. These include descriptions of us actually being like God Himself as part of His family. Here are just a few of the scriptures that make this wonderful, bold claim about who we are are in the present and who God means for us to be in the future:
you are gods (Psalm 82:6; John 10:34-36)
we are children of God (Rom. 8:16, WEB)
you may become partakers of the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4, NET)
we will be like him; for we will see him just as he is. (1 John 3:2, WEB)
To many Christians, the idea of being part of God’s family and sharing in His nature is such a familiar teaching that it might seem more obvious than awe-inspiring. The Orthodox church calls it “Theosis: Partaking of the Divine Nature.” The non-denominational Protestant evangelical site GotQuestions.org says, “As partakers of the divine nature, believers are made part of the family of God.” The 7th-day sabbath-keeping group that I attend with, United Church of God, writes in one of their booklets that we’ll be “spirit-born divine beings who are part of Elohim, the universe-ruling family of God!”
For a wide variety of Christians, the idea that we’ll be part of God’s family is a well-established doctrine. To others, though, it might seem a bit blasphemous to claim such a thing is even possible (much like the Jewish people reacted with horror to Jesus saying in John 10:34-36 that He is the Son of God). Though sonship for believers is a scriptural claim, it’s one that ought to boggle our minds a little.
We’re intimately familiar with our flaws and all the reasons that we’re not particularly well-qualified to become gods. And yet God, who knows us better than we know ourselves, still wants you, me, and as many human beings as possible to literally become part of His family. He actually plans to entrust us with His divine nature, making us “like him” and able to “see him just as he is.”
In the Image of the Heavenly
I used to get nervous about the idea of living forever with God. Eternity is a really long time. What if I get bored? What if it’s an endless stream of awkwardly feeling as if I don’t belong here and I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing? Do I want to be stuck with myself for literally the rest of eternity? I wasn’t sure I liked myself enough for that.
It turns out we don’t need to worry about any of those sorts of worries. We’re not going to be living forever in the exact same way that we’re living now. Part of the reason for this change is that human beings can’t live forever as we are–God “alone possesses immortality and lives in unapproachable light, whom no human has ever seen or is able to see” (1 Tim. 6:16, NET). Something needs to change dramatically before we’ll be able to live forever with God. That “something” includes our nature (from flesh to spirit) and our character (from human nature to divine nature) (1 Cor 2:10-16; 15:12-58).
And just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, let us also bear the image of the man of heaven. Now this is what I am saying, brothers and sisters: Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I will tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a moment, in the blinking of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. …
So then, dear brothers and sisters, be firm. Do not be moved! Always be outstanding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.1 Corinthians 15:49-53, 58 NET
God created humankind in His image (Gen. 1:26-27). We didn’t do so well at imitating Him, though, and both Adam and Eve sinned, starting a long history of people failing to live up to God’s righteous standard. God had a plan for dealing with that, though, and it culminates in what Paul describes here. Jesus, “the man of heaven,” makes it possible for us to fully take on God’s nature. We’ll go through a change much like He did after dying as a human being, when the Father raised Him with a spiritual body. Our new future bodies will follow the same spiritual pattern. We don’t know what all that will mean yet (our human minds can’t fully wrap around what it means to be spirit beings) but it’s going to be a lot different and better than how things are now.
Living as His Children Today
So far in this post, I’ve mostly focused on what taking on God’s divine nature will mean in the future. That’s when this change will fully go into effect. It starts now, though.
Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that whenever it is revealed we will be like him, because we will see him just as he is. And everyone who has this hope focused on him purifies himself, just as Jesus is pure.1 John 3:2-3, NET
This is one of the verses we started with put into fuller context. In this letter, John is writing to a broad Christian audience. Before getting to this point in the letter, he’s talked about us having fellowship with God, walking in His light, repenting of our sins, and keeping God’s commandments. Everyone walking in covenant with God (even though we don’t do so perfectly and need to keep repenting and asking forgiveness) is God’s children right now. We aren’t spirit yet, but we do have God’s spirit in us changing the way we live our lives today as God actively remakes us into His image.
For those who live according to the flesh have their outlook shaped by the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their outlook shaped by the things of the Spirit. For the outlook of the flesh is death, but the outlook of the Spirit is life and peace, because the outlook of the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to the law of God, nor is it able to do so. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, this person does not belong to him. …
So then, brothers and sisters, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh (for if you live according to the flesh, you will die), but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God … and if children, then heirs (namely, heirs of God and also fellow heirs with Christ).Romans 8:5-9, 12-14, 17 NET
This is just part of Paul’s discussion in Romans that covers how our lives ought to change since God invites us into His family, and I highly recommend reading all of Romans 8 now, if you have time. The incredible transformation that God promises us is already in progress. The more all-in we are with God by following Him and asking Him to make us more and more like Him, the more dramatic this change will be. Our lights will shine in the world. People will look at us and see Jesus’s character as we grow more and more like Him.
May grace and peace be lavished on you as you grow in the rich knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord! I can pray this because his divine power has bestowed on us everything necessary for life and godliness through the rich knowledge of the one who called us by his own glory and excellence. Through these things he has bestowed on us his precious and most magnificent promises, so that by means of what was promised you may become partakers of the divine nature, after escaping the worldly corruption that is produced by evil desire.1 Peter 1:2-4, NET
Featured images by Lamppost Collective via Lightstock
Song Recommendation: When the Stars Burn Down (Blessing and Honor) by Rebecca St. James
3 thoughts on “Partakers of the Divine Nature”
I’ve always struggled with ideas like this, because in some ways it reminds me of when some of the angels rebelled. Satan (Lucifer) originally wanted to be God, didn’t he?–and overthrow Him? I know we don’t know all of the details surrounding this event, but I’m guessing the primary difference would be by force/violence (evil’s way) vs. by love/invitation (God’s way). Thoughts, thoughts, thoughts.
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That does seem like one of the most likely distinctions—there’s a big difference between God inviting us to be in His family and Satan taking it on himself to say, “I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: … I will be like the most High” (Isaiah 14).
I wonder sometimes if Satan knew about God’s plan to create humanity in His image and make them part of His family before he rebelled. It’s one of those details we’re not given in the Bible, but I’m curious if jealously might have played a role in that as well as pride.
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Hmm, that’s an excellent thought. Wow. Maybe.