It is amazing to me when I consider the anemic, and often false view, of the Christian Heaven that exists in so many minds in our time. Even in the minds of those who claim to be committed Christians. Perhaps it is partly due to the influence and ignorance of the mostly anti-Christian Hollywood. But people who call themselves committed, practicing Christians should know better. After all, it's all in the Bible.
Heaven is much more than resurrected people, wearing linen robes, floating around on clouds all days, stumming their harps. The Bible is loaded with information regarding the Kingdom of Heaven, what the Redeemed will be doing. The picture it presents is nothing less than stunning in its grand proportions and universal scope.
Jesus talked about Heaven almost incessantly. The Apostles spent a great deal of time on the subject in their letters. Paul explicitly instructed the Christians to keep focused on Eternal Life. (1 Cor 9:24, Col 3:2.) John said, "whoever has this confidence (of obtaining Eternal Life) is making himself pure." (1 John 3:3.) Clearly one of the most effective weapons that Satan has in his arsenal is to get a Christian's mind off of Heaven and to focus and fret on the cares of this life. (Luke 7:11-16)
There's an old saying that some use when referring to Christians they feel might be a tad over-zealous: "he's so heavenly minded that he's no earthly good." This is a stupid saying. The only people who can overcome this world, and thus cast off selfishness so as to be genuinely useful to the human race, are those who are zealously Heavenly minded. Only the truly Heavenly-minded are any real and lasting benefit to the human race. Jesus is the prime example of someone "so heavenly minded that he's no earthly good." Of course, that means He wasn't a compromiser with this world system. His consuming mission was the Next Life, and bringing as many people into the Kingdom of Heaven as possible so that they might enjoy Infinite Bliss. His every action on this earth was performed with that sole purpose in mind. It appears that less committed, compromising people tend to have problems with people of this stripe.
Born to Rule
Many have pondered the question of "why are we here?" In short, the Bible presents mankind as creatures who are designed to eventually rule the universe on the throne of God. This is a stupendous idea. All sorts of imagery is used by the Apostles to get this idea across, such as crowns, thrones, gold streets, a crystal river, tree of life, white stones, living stones, rods of iron, divine names stamped in the forehead, etc. No doubt much of this is metaphorical. But they are easy to grasp. Naturally, these metaphors available to our limited minds are lesser, not greater, than the Grand Reality for which they represent. Resurrected beings may not literally wear crowns on their heads, but the thing that a crown represents - authority - will be perfectly possessed by the Redeemed in a way not presently imaginable.
Jesus Himself said that His mission was to "destroy the works of the devil." (1 John 3:8) The primary goal of Satan is the destruction of the human race. And there is no mystery why this is so. The Bible indicates that the angels are created beings who, though now are much greater in might and authority than the Redeemed, will eventually be under the authority and power of the Redeemed Sons of God who were once humans. Hebrews 2:5 indicates that the "world to come" will not be under the domination of the angels. Rather it is under the domination of Jesus Christ (Eph 1:20) and the Elect (Eph 2:6) who rule with Him. Paul said that the Elect will "judge the angels." (1 Cor 6:3.)
Contrary to popular tradition, the angels are never identified as Sons of God in the Bible. (Job 1 notwithstanding. While Job does refer to "sons of God", he never identifies them as angels.) But humans were created to be Sons of God, to eventually become higher than the angels, to rule the universe as the supreme governing body on the throne of God with the Lord Jesus. (Rev 3:21) Apparently this discomfited some of the angels, who then rebelled, probably with "it's not fair!" on their lips. (Perhaps God had a route to Sonship for the angels that required that exalted humans to ruler over them first, and they didn't like the idea. But this is only speculation.)
Jesus came to earth to provide a means of redemption of the human race whereby those who "laid down their arms", forsake selfishness and self-will, surrender to Jesus, and trust in the proxy life and death He provided for us as payment for sins, would be released from the guilt of rebellion of which each human is guilty. Thus, the purpose in "destroying the works of the devil" was to allow those who trusted the Good News of the Blood Atonement of Jesus Christ to be exalted beyond imagination, as the highest of all possible creatures, in the Kingdom of God, which was the original purpose of God creating mankind.
Sons of God, Brothers of Jesus
Those who have surrendered to Jesus, and fully trust in His sacrificial life and death, enter into Divine Sonship. They become heirs of God being co-heirs with Christ. (Rom 8:17. The Greek word sugkleronomos implies that the Elect will be equal sharers in the Divine inheritance with Jesus.) They will become the Sons of God (John 1:12; Rom 8:19, 1 John 3:1-2), and the brothers of Jesus. (Heb 2:11-12, Rom 8:19,29) But what is a "Son?" What does a Son of God inherit as an "heir?" In short, everything. Let's consider some of the things the Bible describes as being in store for the Sons of God.
About Jesus, Paul said, "…He (the Father) raised Him (Jesus) from the dead and seated Him in the Heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come." (Eph 1:20,21) According to Paul, Jesus certainly has been exalted to the highest possible place. This wouldn't surprise most Christians. But look a few verses later where Paul says, "God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the Heavenly realms in Christ Jesus" (Eph 2:6) Jesus is in the highest place, and the Redeemed Sons of God are right there seated next to Him in the highest place! Indeed, this is an idea that deserves some thoughtful meditation.
Jesus made a statement that is as clear as any found in the Bible: "he who overcomes, I will give him the right to sit with me on my throne, as I overcome and am sitting with my Father on His throne." (Rev 3:21) How clear can it be? Jesus shares the Father's throne, and we share Jesus' throne (which is the same throne as the Father's.)
If It Looks Like Duck…
The Sons of God have the following attributes. They are immortal. (Rom 2:7, 1 Cor 15:53.) They have all authority because Jesus has all authority, and are "in" Him (Collosians 2:9-10. The King James does a horrible job of rendering this into English), co-possessing the "rod of iron" (Rv 2:27) which represents rulership. They sit on the throne of God with Him ruling the universe. (Rev 3:21) They have the Divine Names "written on their forehead", forever identifying them with Yahweh and the Divine "city". (Rev 3:12.) They are one with the Father and Jesus and with one another. (John 17:22-23ff) They inherit, or "own", everything. They are seated in the highest place, the throne of God, ruling the universe. (Rev 3:21) They are in effect, God!
I am not afraid to call the redeemed Sons of God, "God." For that is what they shall be in effect. What else would you call this group of redeemed Sons of God who sit on the throne of God and rule the universe, who have become one with God? On thing is sure, there is no practical definition of God that could not be applied to them. Perhaps it would be better to say they are the Body of God, "God, the Body", or "God, the Sons."
But there is an even stronger reason why the corporate body of the Sons of God are entitled to the title "God." Remember, that Paul said Jesus was exalted to the highest place, "far above… every title that can be given." The term "God" (Greek theos, Hebrew elohim) qualifies as a title that "can be given" because it was given to mere human judges and angels in the Old Testament. (For the angels see Psalms 8:5. Some translations have "angels", but this Hebrew word is elohim. As for human rulers, see Exodus 21:6; 22:8,9 where "judges" is from elohim as well. These bogus translations are really interpretations.) Since "God" is a title that was given to angels and mere mortal humans, the name-title that Christ received when He was exalted to the highest place must be greater than than the term "God." Now notice that Paul links the highest title with the seat which Jesus occupies which "far above" every other position. The Redeemed sit on that very same seat with Jesus; they sit on the throne of God. (Rev 3:21). Therefore, the same name-title they receive with Christ must be higher even than the term "God!" So, yes! "God" is a fitting term for the Sons of God. But the secret name (Rev 2:17,3:12), is even higher still than that the title "God." Looked at another way, it means that the term "God" is not even a good enough title for the Sons of God.
The Human Race Made in the Image and Likeness of God
Our relationship to the Father and Christ becomes much clearer when one realizes that the Father's desire was to make a body for Himself. (Or possibly add to an existing body.) Each Son of God is like a body part, or cell, in this vast body which the Father inhabits as His own. Genesis makes the statement that man was created in the image and likeness of Yahweh Elohim. There are two levels on which this is true. The physical level, and a metaphorical level. The physical level means that humans were made in the likeness of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was the direct creator of the human race. Prior to his birth as a baby in Bethlehem, He was not merely a spirit but was rather a physical being. He was the Angel of Yahweh who visited with Abraham, wrestled with Jacob, the one seen by Isaiah, Ezekiel and Daniel, and who was otherwise seen by humans and referred to as "God", "Yahweh" and the "Angel of Yahweh."
But there is another way that humans are created in the image of God. Consider the human body. It is really not a single life. It is composed of trillions of living microscopic cells that form a corporate structure known as a human body. Each cell has a place in a higher level of organization, such as a heart or liver. The larger parts then fit together to form the human body. Each cell or member can live independently of other cells under the right conditions, and, as you know, can even be transplanted into other human bodies. In this sense humans were created in the likeness of God. For the Body of God is composed of, not one, by countless individual "cells" known as Sons. Together these "cells" form the Great Body/Temple of Father Yahweh.
Does this sound strange? Well, the New Testament is full of this sort of metaphor. The church of Christ is explicitly called the "Body of Christ" and the individual Christians are called "members." (1 Co4 12:27) (In fact, the very concept of "membership" in an organization originated with Paul's writings!) Paul describes the church as a corporate "body" with Jesus as the "head." (Col 1:18.)
Jesus linked the body metaphor with the temple metaphor in John 2:19. The word "temple" idea came from the Hebrew word beth, which the primary denotation means "house." The word also often has reference to those who occupy a house, that is, the family that resides in it. For example, the "house of Israel" means the nation or people of Israel. (Exodus 16:31.) However, when it came to the "House of Yahewh", or the tabernacle/temple that was built for Yahweh, it means something very specific. Yahweh explicitly told Ezekiel about the temple that would be "the place of my throne, a place for the soles of my feet, where I will live among the people of Israel forever." (Eze 43:7)
Both Paul and Peter both use the Temple metaphor to indicate what kind of relationship the Sons of God have with the Father. Paul calls the church a "temple" to be inhabited by the Spirit of God. (Eph 2:21-22.) Peter likens the individual Sons to living stones in the temple of God, which Jesus as the capstone. (1 Pet 2:4-8.) When we look back at the Hebrew tabernacle/temple, we find some very interesting things going on in there. When the tabernacle was dedicated, the "glory filled the tabernacle" such that Moses (representing the law, cf John 5:45) could enter into it. (Exo 40:34-38.) Now, Yahweh is the Living Fountain of Water (Jer 2:13), the Consuming Fire (Deut 4:24.) He doesn't have love. He is Love. (1 John 4:8.) God doesn't actually have glory, as if it is something that is separate from Himself. Rather He is glory, and power, and might, and strength. The "glory" in the Hebrew temple was symbolic manifestation of a concept that would exist in reality in the church of Christ. A place where God dwells as a spirit dwells in a body. Not in a building "made with hands", of stones and rocks. But rather composed of individual Sons, each who are Living Stones" in that Great Body/Temple. Just as Jesus' body was a temple for his Spirit, and our bodies are temples for our spirits, the Church of God is the Living Temple/Body of the Father! That being the case, it is perfectly legitimate to call the Sons of God, "God", since they are quite literally the Body of God, being the corporate means by which the Father will manifest His power and will to lower creatures.
Now, it is important to make a distinction here, lest I be misunderstood. By saying that the Sons of God are "God", I do not mean to say that they are "Gods", plural. They are not duplicates of God as the Mormons teach. Nor do I say that they are the "Most High." Only the Father is the Most High. (Even Jesus is never called the Most High in the Bible.) The same relationship that exists between the Father (who is a Spirit) and his Sons (who corporately make up the Body/Temple) is like the relationship that exists between a human spirit and a human body. The Father is the Spirit (John 4:24) Who that inhabits the Great Living Temple/Body (Eph 2:21-22, 1 Peter 2:4-8), just like my individual spirit/ego inhabits my particular physical temple/body. My spirit is the "Most High" when it comes to my human organization. Next, is my brain, which is the highest physical part of my body, the part that the spirit uses to think rationally, take sensory data, and give orders to all the other parts of the physical organization. Typically when I say, "Mike Wagner" I mean the whole person, spirit and body. It is the body that most people think about when they think of "Mike Wagner", because they cannot see my mind, which is invisible (and some claim non-existent!). Rather they can only see manifestations of my mind through my face and body, and in the things I do. However, in reality it is my spirit that is "Mike Wagner" in the ultimate and immutable sense. The body can be replaced. But the spirit is the essence of what makes me, me. Same with the Father and His Temple/Body. The Sons of God are "God" in the sense that my physical body is "Mike Wagner." The Sons of God will never be God in the same sense as the Father being God. In short, the Father is to His Sons/Body as my spirit is to my physical body. This is the Grander meaning of the idea that man was "made in the image of God."
Only One True God
The Bible is unmistakable clear that there is only one true God. Not many "Gods", plural. (John 17:3) It is the great privilege of the Elect to partake of the One True God, and become intimately connected to Him as a branch is to a vine, and a stone is in a temple. That makes them corporately, "God, the Sons" and "God, the Body." Like the tabernacle of old, when the "glory of Yahweh" filled the temple, the Spirit of the Father will fill His Temple and live there so that "Moses" (the Law) cannot enter. They will become one with the Father in the same sense that Jesus is (John 17:20-23) and rule the universe on the throne of God (Rev 3:21.)
Jesus Takes a Bride
While the New Testament writers clearly indicate that the church of God is the Body/Temple of the Father, they curiously indicate that the church of God is also the "Bride" of Jesus. What could this possibly mean? I think it is rather obvious. I'm surprised it is not obvious to everyone who reads the Bible.
The very first commandment given to Adam and Eve was "be fruitful and multiply" (Gen 1:28.) We known that Adam was prototypical of Jesus, Jesus being the "Last Adam" (1 Cor 15:45,47.) Although not explicitly called so, the church being the "Bride" of Christ, would necessarily be the "Last Eve" if we extend the metaphor. If we take the Genesis Adam and Eve to be the metaphorical couple, then by extension the Last Adam and the Last Adam - Christ and the Church - in the resurrection must be about the business of being fruitful and multiplying in a higher sense. What this means is simple: there will be more creation, and it will be done by Jesus and His "Bride", the church of God!
Why is it So Important to Understand All of This?
Not many of us are born into royalty. Imagine being Prince William, the son of Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana. From the day he was born he has been taught to think a certain way about himself and to act a certain way in public. For eventually, if he lives long enough, and if the end of the age does not occur first, William will be the King of England. He is quite simply "above" the normal life of the average British commoner. And he knows it. His royal position affects the attitude he has about himself and colors everything he says and does. It is impossible for him to ever live the normal life of the average British boy.
Christians are instructed to keep focused on the future Kingdom and our place in it. Paul told the Ephesians that "I am praying also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints." (Eph 1:18) If we do not develop the same, or greater, kind of attitude and sense of destiny about ourselves in the Eternal Kingdom of God as Prince William undoubtably has with regards to his position as the future King of England, then we are not living the mental and spiritual life that God expects of us, that Jesus came to tell us about. For as John said, "he who has this hope (confidence) in himself is purifying himself." (1 John 3:3.) If you lose sight of this hope or confidence in your daily activities, you will not purify yourself; you will not overcome the world.
There should be no poor self-esteem in the church of the Living God. We are commanded to live peaceful, humble, and sacrificial lives before our God- living sacrifices in fact (Rom 10:1), but we are also told to have a healthy sense of who we are in Christ and to keep our eyes toward our future exaltation. Like Jesus, we must humbly serve God and love our fellow humans. But we are never to flagellate ourselves. We are to go through life as Jesus did, totally sold out to Yahweh, knowing that the Father loved us totally and complete and will give us everything in the resurrection, with a keen and immediate sense that we are in a war zone with a mission to accomplish, and someday soon it will all be over, and we shall sit on the throne of God ruling the universe forever and ever.
So if you are a Born Again brother of Jesus Christ, do what the Apostles commanded: keep your eyes fixed on the reward. You don't need to fight men, or the government. Let God do that. Yahweh said, "be still and know that I am God." (Psalms 46:10, (Mat 6:34.) In effect, Yahweh was saying, shut up and let me do my job! He is going to work it all out. By fixing our eyes on Jesus and the glorious reward, it will naturally have a tendency to straighten our our priorities and begin "walk in the Spirit" (Gal 5:16) and overcome the world and rule the universe on the throne of God. (Rev 3:21.)