What is your destiny? Are you to rule the universe as a deified being with God?
A Church of God doctrine that many Protestant seem to indicate identifies a group as a "cult" is the teaching that Christians are to become deified. Or worded another way, Christians are to become God.
Although this belief is normally considered to be "unorthodox" and outside of "mainstream Christianity," it probably should be pointed out that the Eastern Orthodox Church teaches this doctrine (and there are around 200-300 million of them), so the term "unorthodox" seems not to fit (the Catholics of Rome and certain others also teach versions of it).
The reality is that both the Bible and writings of early professors of Christ demonstrate that the idea that Jesus became human so that humans could become part of the family of God is not new nor "unorthodox." However, since most who claim to be Christian are not familiar with most of the early writings, they simply do not realize that deification is not an "unorthodox" view and it was held by many.
This brief article will attempt to provide documented proof that this deification is both biblical and historical and is the intended destiny for converted Christians (you can also watch the video titled What is Your Destiny?).
Jesus taught deification:
34 Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your law, 'I said, "You are gods" '? 35 If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), 36 do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, 'You are blaspheming,' because I said, 'I am the Son of God'? (John 10:34-36, NKJV throughout except if otherwise noted).
And this was not only referring to His deification as He quoted from Psalm 82:6 which also is in the plural:
6 I said, "You are gods, And all of you are children of the Most High..." (Psalm 82:6).
God wants godly offspring, and that is why God made humans male and female and created marriage, as the Prophet Malachi was inspired to write:
14...she is your companion And your wife by covenant. 15 But did He not make them one, Having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. (Malachi 2:14-15)
Paul also taught that we are God's offspring:
28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, 'For we are also His offspring.' 29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man's devising. (Acts 17:28-30)
Additionally about real Christians, the Apostle Paul specifically taught "we have the mind of Christ" (1 Corinthians 2:16)--we do and strive to have that more.
Paul wrote that Jesus was to be the firstborn of many brethren:
29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren (Romans 8:29).
Notice that there are to be MANY brethren (see also Universal Offer of Salvation: There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis). The offer of salvation and deification are not going to be limited just to a few (Luke 3:6; though most will not receive their opportunity in this age, cf. Matthew 7:13-14).
As God is our Father, we are to be "conformed to the image of His Son," Jesus is God, Jesus is our brother, are we not to be in the family of God and truly be deified?
The Bible shows that God planted a garden in Eden and then gave Adam some instructions:
8 The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. 9 And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:8-9)
Notice there was one tree that was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the other tree was the tree of life. Those were both real and symbolic trees. The tree of life essential symbolized the Holy Spirit--the second spirit that man needs to add to the spirit already within him (Romans 8:2-9). And that Spirit provides the impregnation of the very life of God until we become actually, eventually shall become God beings. (More on the two trees can be found in the article The Ten Commandments: Cause and Effect).
Furthermore, consider that the Bible teaches that "God is love" (1 John 4:8,16). Love is what life is all about (see also What is the Meaning of Life?).
Christians are to display the love of God towards their neighbor and strive to be perfect as God is perfect:
43 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)
Christians are to live as God wants them and to have the love of God (see also Living as a Christian: How and Why? and here is also a YouTube video related to that also called: Living as a Christian: How and Why?).
God is also holy and His people are to be to be as well:
15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy." (1 Peter 1:15-16)
Notice what happened with Jesus is supposed to happen to us:
20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).
18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures (James 1:18).
4 These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb (Revelation 14:4).
16 For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches (Romans 11:16).
Christians are to be firstfruits like Christ. As a firstfruit, Christ is divine.
Notice something Jesus prayed:
10 And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. (John 17:10-11)
Since both the Father and Son are divine beings, Jesus prayed for His followers to be one as He and the Father are--which means part of the God family. Lest anyone wish to interpret the above scripture to mean something else, Jesus continued His prayer and also prayed the following:
20 "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: 23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. 24 "Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. 26 And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them." (John 17:20-26)
Jesus prayed that His followers would become one in the same way. He and His Father are one. And they are one divine family.
Furthermore, notice that the Bible does teach that there is a whole family which is named after God the Father, and that we are to know the love of Christ so that we can truly have the fullness of God:
14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height — 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:14-19).
If one is filled with "all the fullness of God" does not that suggest that they will be also God as part of the Family of God?
The Apostle Paul also taught:
16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together (Romans 8:16-17, KJV).
17 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)
18 'I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the Lord Almighty." (2 Corinthians 6:18)
Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world (Philippians 2:14-15).
Notice that "the children of God" are to be "glorified together" with Christ as "joint-heirs" and are to be transformed into the same image as God. And God will be a Father to His sons and daughters.
The Apostle John taught:
12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name (John 1:12).
1 Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! 2 Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God (1 John 3:1-2a).
The children of people are people, the children of cows are cows. What are the children of God?
The Apostle Peter taught deification:
3 His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:3-4).
Are not those that are "partakers of the divine nature" somehow deified? And fully partaking of this nature does not happen until after the resurrection (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:50-53).
If you respond properly to God (either in this age, or if applicable, the age to come), then ruling the creation, the universe is part of your destiny. Notice:
21...the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. (Romans 8:21-22)
As joint heirs with Christ, resurrected converted humans are to rule the universe :
2:5 For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels. 6 But one testified in a certain place, saying:
"What is man that You are mindful of him,Or the son of man that You take care of him? 7 You have made him a little lower than the angels;You have crowned him with glory and honor, And set him over the works of Your hands. 8 You have put all things in subjection under his feet."
For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him. 9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.
10 For it was fitting for 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. 11 For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, 12 saying:
"I will declare Your name to My brethren;In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You."
13 And again:
"I will put My trust in Him."
"Here am I and the children whom God has given Me."
14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. 16 For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. 17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.
3:1 Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus, 2 who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was faithful in all His house. 3 For this One has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who built the house has more honor than the house. 4 For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God. 5 And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward, 6 but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end. (Hebrews 2:5-3:6)
Ruling the universe is part of the destiny that God has in store for the vast bulk of humanity.
Christians need to follow Christ and physcial sufferings help us go toward perfection in this life so that we can be after the resurrection. Part of how this is done is by building character and striving for perfection (for related details, please see the article Building Character: Going on to Perfection).
Some who deny the doctrine of deification have pointed out that God is eternal and humans had a beginning.
And they are right that the Bible clearly teaches that God is eternal (e.g. Deuteronomy 33:27) and has existed eternally and that humans were created (Genesis 1:26-27) and thus humans had a beginning. So, there will always be certain differences between the Father and His children.
But that is not a legitimate argument against the doctrine of deification.
For example, while the differences differ, there will always be differences between a human father and his children. But the children will still be part of the family of the father and are still human as their father is human. Yet, the human father will always be older than his children and in other ways different from them.
God will always be older than His children and in certain ways different from them. But that does not make His children not His offspring. God the Father is greater than His children (cf. John 14:28) and always will be. Yet, He still wants godly offspring:
15 He seeks godly offspring. (Malachi 2:15)
Godly offspring have always been part of the plan of God. And Jesus was to be the "firstborn among many brethren" (Romans 8:29). Jesus also will have more authority over the creation:
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. (Colossians 1:15-18)
But although Jesus will always be preeminent, the destiny of humanity is still to partake of the heavenly calling of ruling over the creation (Hebrews 2:5-3:6; Romans 8:21-22).
Did the Bible teach that humans were to be God from the beginning? What about at the end?
Scripture is clear that from the beginning God made humans in the image and likeness of God. Notice:
26 Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth" (Genesis 1:26).
What is man? Notice what the Psalms teach:
4 What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?
5 For You have made him a little lower than the angels,
And You have crowned him with glory and honor.
6 You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet (Psalm 8:4-6).
15 As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness;
I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness. (Psalms 17:15)
Thus humans were made to have all things under their subjection and God's followers are to awake with God's likeness.
The Bible clearly teaches that God made humans to be in the image of God and rule over all things.
Notice that the Apostle Paul confirmed this:
11 This is a faithful saying:
For if we died with Him,
We shall also live with Him.
12 If we endure,
We shall also reign with Him (2 Timothy 2:11-12).
This rulership is also discussed in the Book of Revelation:
10 And we shall reign on the earth (Revelation 5:10).
6 Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years (Revelation 20:6).
5...And they shall reign forever and ever. 6 Then he said to me, "These words are faithful and true" (Revelation 22:5c-6).
Thus the idea of being deified and reigning with Christ is taught throughout the Bible and is an important part of the gospel of the kingdom.
In the early second century, Ignatius of Antioch wrote:
For it is not my desire to act towards you as a man-pleaser, but as pleasing God, even as also you please Him. For neither shall I ever have such [another] opportunity of attaining to God...It is good to set from the world unto God, that I may rise again to Him...Suffer me to become food for the wild beasts, through whose instrumentality it will be granted me to attain to God (Ignatius. Letter to the Romans, Chapters 2,4).
He is the door of the Father, by which enter in Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the prophets, and the apostles, and the Church. All these have for their object the attaining to the unity of God (Ignatius. Letter to the Romans, Chapter 9).
Polycarp of Smyrna, who knew Ignatius, wrote:
But He who raised Him up from the dead will raise up us also, if we do His will, and walk in His commandments, and love what He loved, keeping ourselves from all unrighteousness, covetousness, love of money, evil speaking, falsewitness; "not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing," or blow for blow, or cursing for cursing, but being mindful of what the Lord...may He bestow on you a lot and portion among His saints, and on us with you, and on all that are under heaven, who shall believe in our Lord and God Jesus Christ, and in His Father, who raised Him from the dead (Polycarp's Letter to the Philippians. Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1 as edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Sections 2,12).
Polycarp is teaching that what happened to Jesus will also happen to true Christians. And that is also what New Testament writers taught.
Theophilus of Antioch also taught the humans were to become God, though several passages need to be looked at to make this clear:
In like manner also the three days which were before the luminaries, are types of the threes of God, and His Word, and His wisdom. And the fourth is the type of man, who needs light, that so there may be God, the Word, wisdom, man (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book 2, Chapter XV. Translated by Bob Thiel).
(Note the above is often mistranslated, for details see the article Theophilus of Antioch).
What Theophilus is teaching is that now man is a fourth, but will become part of God, the third part, when humans become God's offspring. And that he seems to see this as the wisdom of God's plan.
Lest anyone suggest that I am reading something into Theophilus that he does not mean (and since he often writes poetically, he is a bit hard to follow), he verifies what I concluded when he wrote:
...if I call Him Mind, I speak but of His wisdom; if I say He is Spirit, I speak of His breath; if I call Him Wisdom, I speak of His offspring (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book 1, Chapter III. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).
For if He had made him immortal from the beginning, He would have made him God...so that if he should incline to the things of immortality, keeping the commandment of God, he should receive as reward from Him immortality, and should become God...For God has given us a law and holy commandments; and every one who keeps these can be saved, and, obtaining the resurrection, can inherit incorruption (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book 2, Chapter XXVII. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).
Theophilus teaches that we are to be God's offspring and become God. We are to be God in the family of God.
It is also true that some of those that we in the Continuing Church of God consider to have been heretics (even though most quoted in this section are considered to have been saints by the Roman Catholic and/or Eastern Orthodox churches), also had some understanding that Christians were to become God. Several will be quoted in this section.
Although he held to heretical beliefs, Irenaeus (who claimed to have known Polycarp) understood that while humans were not God now, nor immortal now, that they would be later:
...there is none other called God by the Scriptures except the Father of all, and the Son, and those who possess the adoption (Irenaeus. Adversus haereses, Book IV, Preface, Verse 4. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).
For we cast blame upon Him, because we have not been made gods from the beginning, but at first merely men, then at length gods; although God has adopted this course out of His pure benevolence, that no one may impute to Him invidiousness or grudgingness. He declares, "I have said, You are gods; and you are all sons of the Highest." But since we could not sustain the power of divinity, He adds, "But you shall die like men," setting forth both truths—the kindness of His free gift, and our weakness, and also that we were possessed of power over ourselves. For after His great kindness He graciously conferred good [upon us], and made men like to Himself, [that is] in their own power; while at the same time by His prescience He knew the infirmity of human beings, and the consequences which would flow from it; but through [His] love and [His] power, He shall overcome the substance of created nature. For it was necessary, at first, that nature should be exhibited; then, after that, that what was mortal should be conquered and swallowed up by immortality (Irenaeus. Adversus Haereses (Book IV, Chapter 38, Verse 4).
Like Irenaeus and Polycarp, Hippolytus of Rome was also some type of a binitarian and also taught humans would become God. Hippolytus, in the early third century, wrote:
And you shall receive the kingdom of heaven, you who, while you sojourned in this life, knew the Celestial King. And you shall be a companion of the Deity, and a co-heir with Christ, no longer enslaved by lusts or passions, and never again wasted by disease. For you have become God...
And God called man His likeness from the beginning, and has evinced in a figure His love towards you. And provided you obey His solemn injunctions, and becomest a faithful follower of Him who is good, you shall resemble Him, inasmuch as you shall have honour conferred upon you by Him. For the Deity, (by condescension,) does not diminish anything of the divinity of His divine perfection; having made you even God unto His glory! (Hippolytus. Refutation of All Heresies (Book X, Chapter 30) Copyright © 2007 by Kevin Knight).
The Father of immortality sent the immortal Son and Word into the world, who came to man in order to wash him with water and the Spirit; and He, begetting us again to incorruption of soul and body, breathed into us the breath (spirit) of life, and endued us with an incorruptible panoply. If, therefore, man has become immortal, he will also be God. And if he is made God by water and the Holy Spirit after the regeneration of the layer he is found to be also joint-heir with Christ after the resurrection from the dead (Hippolytus. The Discourse on the Holy Theophany, Chapter 8. Copyright © 2007 by Kevin Knight).
Clement of Alexandria (mid-late second century) wrote:
And now the Word Himself clearly speaks to you, shaming your unbelief; yea, I say, the Word of God became man, that you may learn from man how man may become God (Clement of Alexandria . Exhortation to the Heathen (Chapter 1). Copyright © 2007 by Kevin Knight).
In the early third century, Origen of Alexandria wrote:
But both Jesus Himself and His disciples desired that His followers should believe not merely in His Godhead and miracles, as if He had not also been a partaker of human nature, and had assumed the human flesh which "lusts against the Spirit;" but they saw also that the power which had descended into human nature, and into the midst of human miseries, and which had assumed a human soul and body, contributed through faith, along with its divine elements, to the salvation of believers, when they see that from Him there began the union of the divine with the human nature, in order that the human, by communion with the divine, might rise to be divine, not in Jesus alone, but in all those who not only believe, but enter upon the life which Jesus taught, and which elevates to friendship with God and communion with Him every one who lives according to the precepts of Jesus (Origen. Contra Celsus, Book III, Chapter 28. Copyright © 2007 by Kevin Knight).
Thus, Origen is teaching that Christians are to rise to be divine, to become God.
In the 4th century, the Greco-Roman Bishop Ambrose of Milan taught:
Then a Virgin conceived, and the Word became flesh that flesh might become God (Ambrose of Milan. Concerning Virginity (Book I, Chapter 11). Copyright © 2007 by Kevin Knight).
In the late 4th century, the Greco-Orthodox Bishop John Chrysostom wrote:
...the man can become God, and a child of God. For we read, "I have said, You are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High" (John Chrysostom. Homily 32 on the Acts of the Apostles. Copyright © 2007 by Kevin Knight).
The 5th century Bishop Ibas of Edessa allegedly taught:
I do not envy Christ His becoming God, for I can become God no less than He (Labourt J. Transcribed by John Fobian. Ibas. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VII. Published 1910. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, June 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).
In the 13th/14th century, notice what the following from a famous German Dominican theologian Meister Eckhardt (c. 1260–c. 1328):
Meister Eckhardt said that in union with God we become God (Fanning S. Mystics of the Christian Tradition. Routeldge, New York. 2001, reprinted 2006, p. 219).
In the 16th century, notice what even Martin Luther taught:
“For the Word became flesh in order that the flesh might become Word. That is, God becomes man in order that man might become God (On the Word Became Flesh Martin Luther, 1483-1546 From: Sermo Lutheri in natali Christi, [December 25, 1514]) _D. Martin Luthers Werke. Kritische Gesammtausgabe_ (Weimar: Hermann Boehlau, 1883) Vol. 1, p. 28).
In the 20th century, Pope Paul VI taught:
My brothers, do you understand the Grace of God our Head? Stand in admiration, rejoice; we have become Christ. For if He is the Head, we are the members; He and we are the complete Man . . . therefore, the fullness of Christ is constituted by the Head and Members Ecclesiam Suam Encyclical Letter on the Ways in which the Church Must Carry Out its Mission in the Contemporary World His Holiness Pope Paul VI, Section 35. Transcribed work by Bob Van Cleef. Promulgated on August 6, 1964. Copyright © 2007 by Kevin Knight).
And while we have not yet "become Christ", even the late Pope John Paul II taught:
In order for man to become God, the Word took on humanity (Joannes Paulus II. Orientale Lumen: Apostolic Letter on the Eastern Churches His Holiness Pope John Paul II, Section 15. Promulgated on May 2, 1995. Copyright © 2007 by Kevin Knight).
In 1988, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (and later Pope Benedict XVI) taught:
Man can become God, not by making himself God, but by allowing himself to be made 'Son'. (Ratzinger J. Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life. 1988. Cited in Kurz W. What Does the Bible Say About End Times? A Catholic View. Nihil Obstat: H. Kistner. Imprimi Potest: F. Link. Imprimatur + C. Moeddel, July 19, 2004. St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2004, p. 89)
Near the end of the 20th century, Orthodox bishop Timothy Ware wrote:
Such, according to the teaching of the Orthodox Church, is the final goal at which every Christian must attain: to become god, to obtain theosis, 'deification' or 'divinization'. For Orthodoxy our salvation and redemption mean our deification...deification is not something reserved for a select few initiates, but is something intended for all alike. The Orthodox Church believes this is the normal goal of every Christian without exception. Certainly we shall only be deified on the Last Day; but for each of us the process of divinization must begin here and now in this present life" (Ware, T. The Orthodox Church. Penguin Books, London, 1997, p.231,236).
In the 21st century, the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople taught:
The patriarch said that at the center of their pastoral work was a recognition that humanity is "called to know and to become God," the call to holiness which the Orthodox term "deification." (Pope, Orthodox patriarch meet privately, pray together. CNS News - March 6, 2008. http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0801277.htm).
Hence the idea that Christians are to be deified like Christ is not some weird new cultic idea--it is an idea that has been held by many throughout the centuries.
In addition to quotes from ancient Church of God leaders like Polycarp of Smyrna and Theophilus of Antioch explaining about deification, and various Greco-Roman leaders in other centuries, in the 20th century Herbert W. Armstrong wrote:
WHY did the Creator God put MAN on the earth? For God's ultimate supreme purpose of reproducing himself--of recreating himself, as it were, by the supreme objective of creating the righteous divine character ultimately in millions unnumbered begotten and born children who shall become God beings, members of the God family. Man was to improve the physical earth as God gave it to him, finishing its creation (which sinning angels had deliberately refused to do) and, in so doing, to RESTORE the GOVERNMENT OF GOD, with God's WAY of life; and further, in this very process FINISHING THE CREATION OF MAN by the development of God's holy, righteous CHARACTER, with man's own assent. Once this perfect and righteous character is instilled in man, and man converted from mortal flesh to immortal spirit, then is to come the INCREDIBLE HUMAN POTENTIAL--man being BORN INTO the divine FAMILY of God, restoring the government of God to the earth, and then participating in the completion of the CREATION over the entire endless expanse of the UNIVERSE! That incredible potential of man will be fully explained in the pages that follow in this volume. God shall have reproduced HIMSELF untold millions of times over! So, on the sixth day of that re-creation week, God (Elohim) said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness" (Gen. 1:26). Man was made to have (with his assent) a special relationship with his Maker! He was made in the form and shape of God. He was given a spirit (essence in form) to make the relationship possible (Armstrong HW. Mystery of the Ages, 1985, Chapter 3).
God is reproducing Himself to have additional members of His family, as "He seeks godly offspring" (Malachi 2:15). You can be part of it!
Notice in his booklet Why Were You Born? Herbert W. Armstrong wrote:
Now Understand Why You Were Born!
The purpose of life is that in us God is really recreating His own kind-reproducing Himself after His own kind-for we are, upon real conversion, actually begotten as sons (yet unborn) of God. Then through study of God's revelation in His Word, living by His every Word, constant prayer, daily experience with trials and testings, we grow spiritually more and more like God, until, at the time of the resurrection we shall be instantaneously changed from mortal into immortal-composed of Spirit-we shall then be born of God-actually born into the God FAMILY!
For, remember, the word "God" in Genesis 1:1, comes to us from the Hebrew word Elohim. Elohim in this and similar passages means ONE GOD-not many gods. But that ONE GOD is a divine FAMILY-a KINGDOM. There is but one true Church-one Church, but many members (I Cor. 12:20).
So it is with God.
As an illustration, there is the mineral kingdom, the plant kingdom, the animal kingdom, the human kingdom, in this material world. Spiritually, there is the angel kingdom, and, high above all, the Kingdom of God. A human-flesh and blood-cannot enter into the Kingdom of God (John 3:6; I Cor. 15:50), but one born of God can.
The Fantastic, Incredible Potential
Do you really grasp it? The purpose of your being alive is that finally you be born into the Kingdom of God, which is the divine FAMILY of God.
When you fully grasp this tremendous, wonderful truth, your mind will be filled with transcendent joy and glory. It gives a new meaning to life so wonderful you'll never comprehend the full heights of its splendor.
It means, of course, total renunciation, denial, of those injurious things and ways which have falsely seemed so bright and alluring to this world.
But your eyes will be open at last to the great deception-the scales will fall from your blinded vision-you'll see the meaning of life, its great purpose, as you never dreamed it could be. Giving up this world's evils, temptations and pitfalls-its snares and delusions which have glittered and then ended only in sorrow and suffering-is but emerging from gross darkness into the splendor of true light, and of happiness and joy forever!
In the words of I Peter 1:8, you will "rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of GLORY"! (Armstrong HW. Why Were You Born. Circa 1957)
We are to be children of God. The Bible teaches that repeatedly. By being God's children, we are clearly to be part of God's family. That is why God made humans!
Deification is the destiny of men and women (some additional details are in the article The Cherished Christian Woman: Duty and destiny.
The Bible makes it clear that God's plan included making humans in the image of God and that ultimately the universe would be put under the control of deified humans. And nearly all humans who lived will ultimately be converted after they have been truly offered salvation (see Universal Offer of Salvation: There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis). Deification and ruling the universe will be the destiny of the bulk of humanity.
But it needs to be pointed out that just as the Son is subject to the Father, Christians will not be above either the Father or the Son. The Father is greater than the Son (John 14:28) and both will always be greater than spirit-born Christians. Jesus also is King of Kings (Revelation 19:16) and High Priest (Hebrews 6:20), thus He will always be above deified humans.
Also, while God is eternal (Deuteronomy 33:27), all humans have had a beginning and thus will always have been around for a finite time. Thus, deification does not mean that Christians will be truly equal to God, but will be His true sons and daughters (without gender issues).
The Bible teaches deification from Genesis through Revelation if one will simply believe what the Bible is actually teaching. And those who professed Christ in the early centuries after His resurrection also taught that. As have certain others since.
And the Continuing Church of God teaches that today. The view that Jesus became human so that humans could be in the family of God and rule in the Kingdom of God is not a cultic view, but is a biblical and historical one.
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There is also a video some may wish to watch titled What is Your Destiny?
Thiel Bob, Ph.D. What is Your Destiny? Deification? Did the Early Church Teach That Christians Would Become God? www.cogwriter.com/becominggod.htm (c) 2008/2009 /2010/2011/2012/2013/2014/2017 0404