God’s wonderful Plan for humanity is to restore mankind to the original human perfection that Adam lost by disobedience. An exception to this will be the Christian Church, whom God will change from human nature to spiritual nature. Some suppose that all the “saved” go to heaven, but this is far from the truth. Those saved during the Millennium—which is most of the world—will be blessed with a perfect home here on Earth. Only the Church is offered a spiritual nature.
God will save both the world and the Church from Adamic condemnation through Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:4-6), but only the Church, having responded to the “high calling” of this Gospel Age, will become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).
God's Image in Perfect Man
There is much misunderstanding about what a perfect man is. Man was created perfect,
in the image of God, possessing justice, love, and reasoning. God can say to even fallen man, “Come, let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18). Of course the scope of these qualities in man is vastly inferior as compared to God. Nevertheless, Adam was created perfect. Jesus also was a perfect human being (1 Timothy 2:5). There has never been another perfect man other than Adam and Jesus (Romans 3:10,23).
As Jehovah is ruler over all, so man also was given a dominion over all animals and over the earth (Genesis 1:26). Man's dominion is described in Psalm 8:5-8, “Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honor. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands ... all sheep and oxen, yea, the beasts of the field; the fowl of the air and the fish of the sea” (see also Hebrews 2:7). God pronounced His completed creation of man as “very good” (Genesis 1:31).
In saying man is “a little lower than the angels,” the Scripture means that humanity was created on a lower plane of existence than the angels. (Some translations of Hebrews 2:7 say “a little while lower than the angels,” but this is an incorrect translation.)
In Hebrews 2:7-9, when the Apostle Paul refers to Psalm 8, he shows that God has not forgotten man, who was originally created with glory and dominion, but intends to restore the world to that glory. God's purpose was to make mankind king of Earth. Although man's dominion was lost through sin and he has not yet been restored to it, God's program for that restoration has begun. Jesus, by his death, provided the price of redemption for the world. Jesus was made “a little lower than the angels” in order to “taste death for every man” as man's ransom substitute (Hebrews 2:9).
Distinct Categories in Nature
Lower in rank or degree does not mean less perfect. A creature may be on a lower plane of existence and also perfect. Note the following chart which illustrates different ranks of creation.
The purest copper would still be lower in rank than pure gold, and beautiful, perfect grass still lower in complexity than trees. Even the highest grade of mineral is lower than a plant, for a plant has life. Further the grandest tree is lower than any animal, for animals have some level of intelligence, but the most advanced animal is lower than human. Perfect human nature is “a little lower than the angels”―distinct from, and lower than, the spiritual nature. Similarly, the divine nature is the highest and the superior of all other spiritual natures, such as seraphim, cherubim, etc.
Restored to What was “Lost”
Originally man was created perfect in God’s image. After he sinned, man's character and bodily strength deteriorated. Before the Flood man's average life expectancy was several hundred years. After the Flood and through the centuries that followed, it declined drastically. At the beginning of the Twentieth Century high levels of infant mortality brought the average down to about 30 years. Today, even with medical advances, the average life expectancy worldwide is only about 66 years of age.
However, degraded humanity will be restored to perfection of mind and body again during the Millennial Reign of Christ. Because Jesus died to “save that which [man] lost” (Luke 19:10), mankind will regain perfection. They will not become spirit beings in a heavenly home, for they never lost such a thing. What they lost through Adam was earthly perfection. What they will regain through Christ is what they lost in Adam—perfect human life and a perfect paradise home on earth.
Because our Lord was a spirit being, in order to become a substitute, a ransom price for the sinner, he had to be “made flesh” (John 1:14). He “made himself of no reputation ... and was made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7, 8). Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth was not to rescue the angels, but to rescue the world of mankind. Thus he laid aside the spirit nature, and became human, like the “seed of Abraham” (Hebrews 2:16). Because of his obedience in becoming man’s willing ransom, “God highly exalted him, and bestowed on him the name which is above every name” (Philippians 2:9 NAS). Christ, at his resurrection, was seated “on the right hand of the Majesty on high” having been made by God “so much better than the angels” (Hebrews 1:3-5).
Jesus' Perfection as a Man
Thus, divine, angelic and human natures are separate and distinct. Jesus took not the nature of angels, but the nature of man; not fallen and imperfect, but with the full vigor of human perfection. He was “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners” (Hebrews 7:26). Only as a perfect man could Jesus be a corresponding price (a ransom) for the forfeited life of the perfect man Adam (1 Timothy 2:6). The Law God gave to Moses was the measure a perfect man's ability. By keeping the Law perfectly, Jesus demonstrated that he was not under condemnation and had the right to life.
In no way was Jesus a blend of two natures—human and spiritual. Jesus left his spiritual life to be “made flesh” in Mary's womb. At the age of thirty, he offered his human life in consecration at his baptism when he was not only considered a man. “The heavens were opened” (Matthew 3:16), and Jesus was given a pledge of divine nature― in the form of a dove descending on him― if he carried out the sacrifice of his human life faithfully. After sacrificing his human nature, Jesus “became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross”. Then, at his resurrection, Jesus was exalted to the divine nature and given “a name which is above every name” (Philippians 2:8, 9). Jesus twice experienced a change of nature, but at no time did he have a mixture of natures.
Perfect Man in Eternity
Jesus sacrificed the equivalent of “that which was lost”—perfect human nature. Jesus’ Ransom sacrifice bought the human race out of the condemnation that was against it, thus man will receive again a glorious, perfect human nature. In the Kingdom, the perfect faculties and powers of a human being will be exercised brilliantly upon new and varied objects of interest. Man’s knowledge and skill will be vastly increased, but this increase of knowledge and power will not bring a change of nature. It will fulfill the potential of perfect human ability and will be man’s blessed privilege to all eternity, yet he will still be a man.
When Jesus was a man, he was a model of the perfect human nature of restored humanity, but since his resurrection, Jesus has been an example of the glorious divine nature that the overcoming Church will share with him in its resurrection.
Since the main work of this age is the development of the Church, the epistles of the Apostles are devoted to the preparation of the “little flock.” However, it should not be concluded that God's Plan ends with the Church. Nor should we assume that all the special “exceeding great and precious promises” (2 Peter 1:4) to the overcoming Church are intended for all good people. “Rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15), we see there is a distinct difference between the offer of divine nature to the Church and the offer of perfect human nature to the world during the Kingdom.
Glories of the Heavenly and Earthly Separate and Distinct
Some believe that because they do not understand what a spirit being is like, it must be a superstitious myth, but Paul says the natural man cannot understand spiritual things because they are “foolishness” to him (1 Corinthians 2:14). The Apostle goes on to explain, “There is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts ... There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial, but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another” (1 Corinthians 15:39-40).
The perfection of a human might possibly be imagined, but the glory of the heavenly is only understood by the eye of faith. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit ... The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit” (John 3:6-8). A spirit being is like the wind—invisible. As John said, we cannot describe “what we shall be” except that “we shall be like him” (1 John 3:2).
The nature of the Son of God was changed twice, but this was an exception that served a very specific purpose in God's Plan. Angels were created as spirit beings and doubtless will always remain spirit beings. So with the world; they were born human beings, and they will remain human beings when they gain everlasting life during the Millennium. The calling of the Church to the divine nature is, like Jesus’ experiences―an exception.
God’s present earthly creation has almost endless beauty and variety. When restored to perfection, it will be even more glorious. However, the glory of the Heavenly Nature will be indescribable and will far surpass anything man can imagine.
Angels Invisibly Present
Angels can be and frequently are present, yet invisible. “The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him” (Psalm 34:7). “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14) Angels also protected God's people of old. When Elisha was surrounded by a host of Assyrians, his servant was fearful. Elisha prayed to God, and the young man's eyes were opened, and he saw the mountains around them full of horsemen in chariots of fire! (2 Kings 6:11-17)
Angels are spirit, and not human, yet they have the ability to materialize human bodies and appear as men. An angel appeared to Gideon as a man, but afterward made himself known. An angel also appeared to the parents of Samson: they thought him a man until he ascended to heaven in a flame (Judges 6:11-22; 13:20).
Occasions of Manifestations
On certain occasions, angels were manifested in a glorious and bright condition. The angel who rolled away the stone from the door of Jesus' sepulcher was “like lightning” (Matthew 28:2, 3). Daniel caught a glimpse of one angel with eyes “as lamps of fire ... and his arms and his feet like in color to polished brass” (Daniel 10:6). Saul caught a glimpse of the resurrected Jesus shining “above the brightness of the sun” (Acts 26:13).
The men traveling with Saul actually did not see the resurrected Jesus, but only heard his voice (Acts 9:7). The men with Daniel did not communicate with the glorious being Daniel describes, but with great fear ran and hid themselves (Daniel 10:7-19). During the forty days before Jesus' ascension, he was seen on only a few occasions manifested in flesh, often not recognizable at first to his disciples. Spirit beings are truly glorious in their nature and invisible to men, except as they may appear in special instances, or humans have their eyes specially opened to see them.
Thus we see that the spirit and human natures are distinctly separate. The Scriptures offer no evidence that humans naturally develop into spirit beings. The exceptions are Jesus and his “little flock” of faithful followers. They are glorified for the purpose of blessing the world during the Millennium (Philippians 2:8-11; Romans 2:7).
Mortality and Immortality
“Mortality” signifies a state or condition in which death is possible. “Immortality” signifies a state or condition in which death is not possible. These meanings are consistent with the difference in hope for human beings and spiritual beings, earthly promises and heavenly promises.
When Adam was created, he was not immortal. If he had been, then God would not have said to him, “In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” Adam was created perfect, but he was in a condition in which death was possible. Adam's life was sustained by “every tree in the garden” (Genesis 1:29-30), and it was conditional upon obedience to his maker.
Angels also are mortal. Their life is dependent upon faithfulness to God. Those who rebelled against God and have not reformed will ultimately be destroyed. The proof that angels are mortal is found in the scriptural declaration that, in due time, the Devil, one of the chief angels, will be destroyed (Hebrews 2:14).The security of both humans and angels will always be dependent on obedience to our all-wise and loving God. Nowhere do the Scriptures teach that angels or restored mankind are immortal.
Immortality is the possession of the divine nature alone. Originally only Jehovah was immortal. Subsequently our Lord Jesus received it when exalted to the divine nature. Finally, the Church of Christ, when glorified with him, will all be given immortality (John 5:26; 2 Peter 1:4; 1 Corinthians 15:53, 54).
Incorrigible sinners—human or spiritual—will be blotted out. All others, whether mortal or immortal, will live on forever in happiness and love. The immortal, the saints in glory, will have life in themselves (John 5:26). The mortal, having experienced the knowledge of evil and come to perfection, will be supplied everlasting life with “right to the tree of life” (Revelation 22:14).
Understanding the Scriptural meaning of mortal and immortal destroys the very foundation of the doctrine of eternal torment. God did not create man immortal, so that he could not be destroyed. That was Satan's lie, “Ye shall not surely die” (Genesis 3:4). Willful sinners will not be kept alive forever in some place of misery. They will simply die, never to awaken again. They would not be happy in a righteous society anyway, and they are mercifully destroyed in “second death” (Revelation 21:8).
Justice and God's Favors
Justice does not require that God give out His favors equally to all His creation. God had the right to exalt His Son to the divine nature—as well as Jesus' faithful followers—yet withhold that invitation from others, such as the angels in heaven.
Justice does not require exalting all levels of life equally else God would need to grant immortality to brute beasts and insects, which would be absurd. God is sovereign, and can extend His favors when and where His wisdom suggests. “Who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this,’ will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use, and another for common use?” (Romans 9:20,21 NAS).
All nature, both animate and inanimate, exhibits the glory and diversity of divine power and wisdom. “The heavens declare the glory of God: and the firmament showeth his handywork” (Psalm 19:1) in wonderful variety and beauty.
A favor should never be esteemed as a justly merited reward. God has exhibited His great love to His creatures in an endless flood of undeserved favors. Every day of life is a gift! It is God's favor that we are human and not animal so we can intelligently worship Him. How much greater then is the favor of the restoration of everlasting life, once forfeited because of sin. Our gratitude overflows when we consider the invitation to become part of the Bride of Christ and share the divine nature with Jesus, our Lord and King (Revelation 21:9; Psalm 45:10-17).
As a man has no right to aspire to be an angel, an angel cannot aspire to the divine nature. It was never offered. Lucifer actually aspired to be like God. “How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! ... you said in your heart, I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God” (Isaiah 14:12-15 NAS). Yet, Satan will be destroyed in God's due time. Though God will determine the kind of debasement and degree of exaltation, the principle holds true: “Whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted” (Luke 14:11).
Election—Unconditional or Conditional?
The subject of “election” as taught in the Scriptures has been the cause of much dispute and misunderstanding. Some claim election is unconditional, arbitrary, and others that it is conditional. There is a measure of truth in both views. God's elections express His choice for certain purposes—whether His creature would be an angel, a human, a bird or an insect. Life on any plane is purely God's favor.
God elected to have a Church chosen from mankind, and He set the conditions to be met by anyone attaining divine nature. “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy”—kindness or favor (Romans 9:16). He is the “Potter” and we are the “clay” (Romans 9:20,21). He can make one vessel to more honor—such as divine nature—and some to less honor or to a lower nature.
“Thus saith the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me. I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded ... For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else” (Isaiah 45:11,12,18).
Would it not be presumptuous for anyone to dictate to God—who formed the earth to be inhabited—to say it is unjust for Him not to change man's nature to divine? Rather, we should humbly look into God's Word, understand His plan, and appreciate His undeserved favors.
The Human Race—the Work of God's Hands
The human race is the work of God's hands. David explains that man was created crowned with “glory and honor” and given “dominion over the works of thy hands” (Psalm 8:4-8). The Apostle Paul further explains that man will experience an earthly resurrection—to the “glory of the terrestrial.” By contrast, the Church members will receive “a spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:38-44). The Apostle Peter summarized the testimony of all the prophets that during the “times of restitution” (Acts 3:19-21) the human race will be restored to the glorious perfection Adam possessed originally.
Not only will society be so harmoniously beautiful, but the earth itself will be an Edenic Paradise. No longer will man work “by the sweat of thy face” (Genesis 3:19), but the earth shall naturally “yield her increase” (Ezekiel 34:27). After reaching perfection, people will develop and grow to their full potential. They will not grasp for and crave some other nature or home. They will be wonderfully pleased and content.
The Christian Church—the Body of Christ—is an exception to God's general Plan for mankind. Even before the “foundation of the world,” God “predestinated” the justification, sanctification and glorification of the Church (Ephesians 1:4,5.). God determined that the Church would be “conformed to the image of His Son,” and be fellow heirs with Jesus in the Millennial Kingdom to establish universal righteousness and peace (Romans 8:28-31).
God predestined the election of the Church, but He did not predestinate the election of the individual members of the Church. God ordained the Gospel Age for the specific time for the preparation of the Church. He also predestined that, in order to qualify for the blessings promised, this class must develop character by attaining “fruits of righteousness” (Philippians 1:11). The preparation of those that overcome the world (1 John 5:4, 5) would have to be achieved through trials of faith and the sacrifice of earthly privileges—even “unto death” (Revelation 2:10, 11, 17).
“Whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified [honored]” (Romans 8:30). Here Paul gives the process in reverse order. God first honors us by letting us hear the Gospel message, then justifies us, and invites us to the high calling to be with Christ. (The word “glorified” is from the Greek doxazo, “honored,” as in Hebrews 5:5).
Many Called, Few Chosen
In selecting followers for the Church during Jesus' ministry, the call went out to Israel first, then to the Gentiles. Israel’s rejection of the call and the call of the Gentiles is depicted in the parable in Luke 14:16-24. It tells of many who were too preoccupied to come to the “great supper” which pictures the opportunity of coming into Christ. Finally, the servants were told to urge or “compel” (verse 23) those out on the “highways” [the Gentiles] to come and fill the house. In the Parable of the Wedding Garment (Matthew 22:2-14), among those who came in was one who put on the “garment” of the imputed righteousness of Jesus, but later took it off. The lesson is that those once justified who reject their righteousness in Christ are “cast into outer darkness.” “For many are called, but few are chosen.” The overcomers with the Lamb and King of kings are “called, and chosen, and faithful” (Revelation 17:14).
God's predestined purpose to select and exalt the Church is certainly unchangeable, but those chosen for this honor must fulfill the conditions of the call. “Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it” (Hebrews 4:1). God's predestined purpose for this Church—and this is true of all His favors—will be for the general good of all.
Change of One Nature to Another
From the Scriptures, it is clear that human and spiritual natures are separate and distinct—never blended―and the change from one nature to another is the exception rather than the rule. Only Christ and his Church are changed from human to divine.
The conditions on which the Church may be exalted to divine nature are by following in Jesus' footsteps of sacrifice (1 Peter 2:21; Matthew 16:24). The invitation is to “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God” (Romans 12:1)— even as Jesus sacrificed himself till death. Our Lord sacrificed all his human interests and hopes. His followers do that, too. If we suffer with him, “we may be also glorified together” (Romans 8:17,18) and with him become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).
Begotten, then “Born of the Spirit”
The beginning and development of a divine “new creature” is compared to the beginning and development of a human life. The first impulse in the divine life comes through begettal by God through His Word. “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” (James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:3). Then a new spiritual life begins to grow as our minds become “transformed” (Romans 12:1, 2). Yet we are not actually spirit beings, but merely reckoned as such by God. However, one begins to think and act spiritually as a “new creature,” all the while crucifying human desires and interests.
These two processes progress together from the time of our complete consecration to do God's will until the death of the human and the birth of the spiritual result. Human desires, plans, etc., fade in importance. Nourished by the Word of God the new creature grows in strength. As God’s children, His Spirit “shall also quicken your mortal bodies” (Romans 8:11)—make our mortal bodies the servants of the “new creature” until our resurrection when we become actual spirit beings in the “first [choicest] resurrection” (Revelation 20:6). “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). “As we have borne the image of the earthy, we [the Church] shall also bear the image of the heavenly”(1 Corinthians 15:49), unless we fall away, and our embryo New Creature is aborted (Hebrews 6:6).
“Brethren”—Not the World—Called to Glory
The invitation to consecrate our lives is not addressed to the unbelieving world. The offer is addressed to those who already are drawing close to God as friends, believing in Jesus as the way of justification. “I beseech you therefore, brethren ... that ye present your bodies living sacrifices, holy, acceptable unto God” (Romans 12:1, 2).
These have already turned away from sin. Now they are invited to sacrifice their human wills and become sons of God, developing a new life, a new creature. The divine will becomes their will and they begin to think, reason, and judge from the divine standpoint. God's plan becomes their plan, and God's ways become their ways. They seek to subdue sin in themselves and sacrifice the present good things of life in order to devote their energies to the service of God. They begin to transform their minds.
This transforming of the mind is a gradual work—a gradual bending heavenward of that which naturally bends earthward. “Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed [to the heavenly nature] by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2). We no longer anticipate living on earth, but we are reckoned as “new creatures” with a heavenly hope. As Jesus is now in the “express image” of his Father (Hebrews 1:1-3), so the consecrated faithful overcomers will “be like him for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). The overcomers will not only inherit the divine nature like Jesus, but will sit with him on his throne! “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne” (Revelation 3:21).
Though this transforming of the mind from human to spiritual is a gradual work, the change from a human to a spiritual body will be instantaneous—”in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:52). While human nature is a likeness of the spiritual in terms of reasoning and memory, the spirit nature has powers which are grandly superior to the human.
Human thinking is confined to the earthly sphere. Human abilities and dispositions are suited for man's benefit and happiness on earth. However, even the glory of perfect humanity is hard to comprehend now. Only by the holy Spirit, are we able to catch glimpses of the glory of both mankind’s destiny and the divine nature for the Church.
Before we will be changed from human to spiritual nature our mental attitude must be transformed to suit our hoped-for glorious spiritual body. This is not a change of the human brain, but an elevating of the will and focus of our mind to spiritual things. When begotten we receive the Holy Spirit as an “earnest,” or pledge, of the finished work (Ephesians 1:13, 14). As “strangers and pilgrims” on earth, we abstain from fleshly longings (1 Peter 2:11). By faith, we “sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:5,6).
Our Identity after Resurrection
Some have asked, How will we know ourselves when we are “changed” in the heavenly resurrection? Will we be the same conscious beings? Assuredly, yes! As a matter of fact, our human bodies are even now changing continuously, casting off old cells and replacing them with new. Science tells us that every seven to ten years the atoms of our bodies are renewed and changed, but our identity remains unchanged. Although we may not always be able to recall all the details of our past, our memories are still recorded, and may be called up at any moment. With a change to divine nature, we will be able to remember all our past experiences from our early days, and appreciate, by contrast, the glorious reward of our sacrifice.
Spirit nature and human nature are distinctly different, but one is a likeness of the other. Mental faculties, reason, and memory are common to both, even though of different scope and capacity. Thus Jesus as a man was aware of his former glory with God, and prayed, “Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was” (John 17:5). That prayer was abundantly answered when he was exalted to the highest form of spirit nature—the divine.
In Romans 12:2, Paul said “Be no conformed...but be ye transformed.” We do not conform or transform ourselves, but we do either submit ourselves to worldly influences, or submit ourselves to the will of God. To which influences are we submitting? If we are sacrificing with Christ, if we are “planted together in the likeness of his death,”
then we will share the likeness of his glorious resurrection (Romans 6:5).
The Word of God has both earthly and heavenly promises. The heavenly promises are given to those who have covenanted to a life of sacrifice serving the Lord. Our treasure is in heaven—let our hearts be there as well. Our hopes are wonderful. Our calling is not only to the spiritual nature, but to the highest order of the spiritual—“so much better than the angels” (Hebrews 1:4).
God's heavenly calling is limited to this Gospel Age. The offer was never made before, and it will cease when this age closes. Both the human and spiritual natures will be glorious in their perfection, yet distinct and separate. The glory of God’s finished work will be the beautiful variety, yet wonderful harmony of all things animate and inanimate—harmony with each other and harmony with God.