Mankind is Destined to be Deity
Mankind is destined to become the very members of the Family of God. The message of the Gospel is the teaching that tells us the steps by which God the Father and Christ will bring us all into that divine Family which we in English call "God." But just who or what is "God"? There is much confusion in the western world about this matter. A major part of the problem revolves around the use of our English word "God." To us in the English world, we normally think of "God" as being a singular person or spirit and we find it difficult to understand how the Father can be called "God" and Christ Jesus can be called "God" and even we can become a part of that divine Family which is called "God." It is essential that we know just who and what "God" is if we ever hope to comprehend how the salvation we obtain will be to become members of that divine Family called "God."
One thing that most of us in the western world have been taught since childhood is the fact that "God" is singular. We believe in "one" God, not a polytheistic group of separate "gods." But, is "God" singular in his characteristics and existence? There is no doubt that this is true in regard to biblical teaching. The Godhead is absolutely singular — there is only one God. The classic verse quoted by the Jews to insist on the singularity of "God" is Deuteronomy 6:4. "Hear, O Israel, The Lord our God [Hebrew: elohim] is one Lord." Yes, but the word "one" in this verse is the same word that shows that Adam and Eve (two different individuals) were considered by God to be "one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). So in the Bible, two people can be reckoned as "one." The same thing is acknowledged in the New Testament as far as the Father and Christ Jesus are concerned. Jesus said, "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30). But this essential "oneness" does not stop simply with two individuals. Christ went on to say that his disciples are also to be reckoned with the Father and Christ as also being "one." Christ said, "That they [plural] may be one, as we are" (John 17:11). Thus, two individuals (or even many individuals) can be reckoned to be "one," yet they are separate personalities from each other.
How can this be? The answer is simple. The Hebrew word for our English word "God" is elohim. The "im" on the end of the word always signifies plurality and the word elohim of itself indicates a plurality within itself. But it can take singular verbs (when it refers to the one Godhead revealed to Israel) and it can take plural verbs (when it refers to pagan deities). In fact, the true definition of the word elohim shows it to be a singular group of personalities united together into one unit, like group, army, family — a "collective noun."
The proper term that most often describes the Godhead is our English word "Family". There is God the Father, and there is God the firstborn Son (Jesus Christ), and you and I and the rest of the human race can be called sons and daughters of the Father and be reckoned a part of that one divine Family (2 Corinthians 6:18). Or, as Christ said, quoting Psalm 82:6, "Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, you are gods" (John 10:34). When Christ said that the people to whom he was speaking (quoting the Psalms) were "gods," he was not talking to converted Christian people. He was simply referring to the mass of humanity. So, humans are a part of the one and singular Family of God called in Hebrew elohim.
The apostle Paul explained the oneness and the singularity of the Family within the concept of plurality as it relates to the body of Christians called the Church (or better, in Greek, the ekklesia). The word ekklesia (or "church") is indeed a collective noun. It means "called out ones" and it always refers to a group or an assembly of people. The apostle Paul reckoned it to what we call a "corporation" or a body of people who unitedly represent "one body." Paul said that our being "in Christ" is like all of us being united together into "one body" of believers in Christ, and Christ is equally "one" with the Father. The Godhead is plural, yet it is a divine unit.
"For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body being many are one body: so also is Christ. ... But now are they many members, yet but one body."
1 Corinthians 12:12, 20
"For as 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."
[the bread of life, who is Christ], and one body: for we [plural] are all partakers of that one bread [who is Christ]."
"For we being many are one bread
1 Corinthians 10:17
Thus, all the Christians who make up the one body of Christ (the ekklesia) are many, but we are united into a singularity and a oneness by our attachment to Christ. Likewise, Christ is united together with us into a singularity and a oneness with God the Father because Christ and the Father are also "one" (John 10:30).
Now this is what the Hebrew word elohim actually signifies. This was the scholarly Jewish interpretation in the 1st century. It had to be, or Paul (as a scholar trained at the feet of Gamaliel) could never have made the many to be reckoned as one without an acknowledgement of this grammatical usage. Paul simply equated the ekklesia with the single body of Christ (and then Christ as "one" with the Father who is elohim). The word elohim like ekklesia (church) was grammatically classified in Paul’s estimation as a "collective noun." The Jews did the same in reference to their court system. The "court" was made up of elohim (judges) who had to be at least two and normally three to hear a case. The Talmud shows that elohim was plural to show the need that there be three judges to make up the singular "court" (Sanhedrin 3b, 4a). Elohim was reckoned by the judicial authorities as a collective noun meaning the "court."
The first modern Hebrew grammars devised by Jewish scholars about six hundred years after the Talmud (and a thousand years later than Paul) no longer gave elohim this classification as did Paul and the Talmudic scholars simply because it would give strong credence to the teachings of the New Testament that both the Father, the Son and all members of the Christian ekklesia and all humanity could be reckoned as being a part of elohim as Psalm 82:6 reveals.
The truth is, the Bible shows that the Godhead is one, single and unified FAMILY headed by the Father with a firstborn Son. All of us are sons and daughters of that one Family destined to be glorified just like the Father and Christ when we are resurrected from the dead at Christ’s Second Advent. Now a Family can collectively do an action and one could use a singular verb to describe that united action of the Family, or the Family can individually perform separate actions, which can take a plural verb to describe those individual actions. Thus, it is perfectly proper to say, "The Family is committed to save the world," or "The Family are all united behind the efforts of the Father." It is in this fashion that the Godhead (elohim) is to be understood. Paul saw elohim as being collective.
And all of us are a collective part of the Family of God and the brotherhood of Christ. We will all be glorified to be exactly as they are in composition and in character. We are destined to be deity. Paul said that at the final period of God’s plan, God will then "be all 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 the subject of Paul’s discourse in that chapter of Corinthians is the resurrection of all humans), Paul means that God will finally be all humans and all humans will then be considered as being in God, to be a part of the Godhead itself. In short, all will then be God!
That, however, 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 filleth 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.
And look at Colossians 3:11, "But Christ is all, and in all" (the Greek is again plural and actually means that Christ has become all things to all people on earth and that he is to be in all of them no matter what their race or social status). In a word, God and Christ are destined to be in all humans and also all humans will become in a oneness relationship with God the Father and Christ. Or, as Paul worded it in Romans 11:36, all humans will finally come back to God from whence they first originated. "For OF him [God], and THROUGH him [God], and TO him [God], are ALL THINGS." All humans were made by God. All humans who now live are sustained by God. And all humans will one day return to God. They will become deity by becoming members of the very Family of God.
The early Christians understood this principle precisely. They knew that salvation represented deification. Here are a few quotes from some of the top theologians of the third and fourth centuries who were well aware of what it meant to be saved and what a salvation in Christ was all about,
"... that a man, by keeping the directions of God, may receive from him immortality as a reward and become God."
ad Autol. ii. 27
"... to be imperishable is to share in Divinity[to be just like God]."
"thy body shall be immortal and incorruptible as well as thy soul. For thou hast become God. All the things that follow upon the divine nature God has promised to supply to thee, for thou wast deified in being born to immortality."
"For he[Christ] was made man that we might be made God."
De Incar. para. 54
"The Word was made flesh in order to offer up this body for all[mankind], that we might be deified."
De Dec. para. 14
"He was God, and then became man, and that to deify us."
Orat. I. para.39
"Christ came to us, and took upon him our nature and deified it."
"... deified everything kindred and related to mankind."
The early Christian scholars just mentioned knew that a salvation in Christ meant to become ultimately a member of the Deity. That Godhead of the Holy Scriptures is described as a singular Family who rules the universe with many members, and you and I are considered such members. The only present members of that Family with which we humans are familiar from the Bible are the Father and firstborn Son. But in the resurrection, we humans will also become a significant part of it. And, in order to let us learn to act like God without a continual interference by the Father and our Elder Brother, they now hide themselves from mankind to give us what we think to be freedom of action without them always being in view (except at rare intervals when they feel they need to show mankind their personal appearances in our affairs).
The plurality of this singular Family is seen in several sections of the Old Testament, though translators do not show them in some.
"And God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness."
"Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language."
"Also I heard the voice of the lord, saying, whom shall I send, and who will go for us?"
"Remember now thy Creator[Hebrew: plural, "Creators"] in the days of thy youth."
"But none saith, ‘Where is God my Maker?’[Hebrew: plural, "Makers"]."
"For thy Maker[Hebrew: plural, "Makers"] is thy Husband [Hebrew: plural, "Husbands"]."
There are references to those who make up the Godhead with terms like "Holy Ones" (Job 5:1; Hosea 11:12). Indeed, God can even be reckoned as a singular person as in Psalm 45:6–7 (which Paul said referred to "Jesus" before his birth — Hebrews 1:8–9). And Paul also said in Hebrews 1:10 that the single "Lord" of Psalm 102:25 was also Christ and that he [as Yahweh, the personal name of "God" in the Old Testament] was the creator of the heavens and the earth.
What we find is the fact that sometimes a single member of the divine Family was called "God," and at other times all the Family together was reckoned as a single unit when the whole Family was involved.
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