We believe God's purpose for mankind is to prepare those whom He calls—and who elect through a life of overcoming sin, developing righteous character and growing in grace and knowledge—to possess God's Kingdom and become kings and priests reigning with Christ at His return. We believe that the reason for mankind's existence is literally to be born as spirit beings into the family of God (Romans 6:15-16; 8:14-17, 30; Acts 2:39; 2 Peter 3:18; Revelation 3:5; 5:10).
The purpose for man's existence is stated at both ends of Scripture. At the beginning, God reveals that He created man in His own image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-27)—language that refers to offspring or children (Genesis 5:1-3)—to, in submission to Him, share dominion or rule with Him over creation (Genesis 1:28).
And at the end of the Bible God says, "He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son" (Revelation 21:7). Again, the wording concerns shared rule with God over all creation in submission to Him as His children.
Thus we see that man's destiny is to be part of the Kingdom and family of God. And in the latter verse here, as throughout the Bible, we are told that man can only reach this destiny through a process of overcoming.
It is God's desire that no human beings perish but that all come to repentance so as to become members of His family as sons and daughters in His Kingdom (2 Peter 3:9; 2 Corinthians 6:18). As part of this process, God is now calling some individuals to inherit eternal life at the return of Jesus Christ to the earth (1 Corinthians 1:26-28; Matthew 20:16; John 6:44, 65), with others to be called later.
Those being chosen now must accept Christ as their Savior, surrender their wills to God's will and strive with God's help to overcome sin during their present lifetime (Revelation 3:21).
Jesus Christ is referred to as "the firstborn among many brethren" (Romans 8:29; see also verses 14-17; Revelation 1:5-6; Colossians 1:15-18). He came as a human being to lead the way for others to be glorified and inherit all things. Christians are actually referred to as "heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:17). Yet as Hebrews 1 through 2 explains, mankind has not yet achieved its destiny of inheriting all things, but Jesus has, and God is in the process of "bringing many sons to glory" (Hebrews 2:10).
In this process, people become God's children through receiving His Holy Spirit, which joins with each individual's human spirit (Romans 8:16). We are thereby "begotten again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible" (1 Peter 1:23, American Standard Version).
And we become "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4)—just as any child takes on the genetic traits of its parents. Through a development process, we become more and more like God in terms of character, while we are aimed toward an ultimate transformation involving our very essence and level of existence.
The apostle Paul explained that "as we have borne the image of the man of dust [the first man Adam], we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man [Jesus Christ]" (1 Corinthians 15:49). And while the first man Adam became a living, physical being, "the last Adam [Christ] became a life-giving spirit" (verse 45). So we will be spirit beings like Christ. Indeed, "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God" (verse 50).
The apostle John makes an amazing statement about our future resurrection at Christ's return: "Brethren, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is" (1 John 3:2).
And Paul further explains that "we eagerly await . . . the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so they will be like his glorious body" (Philippians 3:20-21, NIV). That is, Christ's divine spirit body is the same kind of body we will have in the resurrection!
Just as human children are the same kind of beings as their parents and older siblings, human beings, so will we be the same kind of beings as God the Father and Jesus Christ— divine beings. By saying that it's not yet revealed what we shall be, John meant that we cannot now truly grasp what it means to be like the Father and Christ, as it's beyond the capacity of our limited human minds. He nevertheless understood that we will be what They are.
In fact, God was even more explicit about our destiny in Psalm 82:6, stating His intention for people as, "You are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High." Jesus actually quoted from this verse (see John 10:30-36). The truth is that our destiny is to bear the name of the God family (Ephesians 3:14-15). Presently, the one God—that is, the one God family—consists of two divine beings: God the Father and Jesus Christ. But ultimately, God intends to expand this divine family into billions.
The Church of God of this age is a forerunner in fulfilling this purpose. At the time of Christ's return, those who have died in the faith will be resurrected, and those who are alive in the faith will be changed.
Those in both groups will become divine, immortal spirit beings in the family of God. They will then serve with Christ on the earth as kings and priests during His millennial, or 1,000-year, rule that will immediately follow (Revelation 5:10; 20:4).
King and priest are both offices held by Jesus Christ. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:15-16). He is also our High Priest (Hebrews 3:1; 4:14-16; 5:5-6; 6:20; 7:24-28; 8:1-6; 9:11; 10:12). Thus, others will, as just noted, share in His responsibilities as both kings and priests serving under Him to carry out the Father's will.
Those who become priests in the Millennium will be responsible for teaching people to discern between "the unclean and the clean," a phrase that in its broadest sense includes discerning between good and evil (see Ezekiel 22:26; 44:23-24). As messengers from God, they will teach the law of God, making known its meaning and application (Malachi 2:7-9).
One of the responsibilities of a king in the Old Testament was to write out the words of God's law and "read it all the days of his life" so he would carefully observe it and not turn aside from it (Deuteronomy 17:18-20). Those made kings and priests in the Kingdom of God will be those who have allowed God to write His laws in their hearts and minds while they are still human beings (see Hebrews 8:10-11; Jeremiah 31:33).
As kings during the Millennium, they will teach God's way of life to human beings living in that age (Isaiah 30:20-21). They will administer God's government in those areas in which He gives them responsibilities (see Matthew 19:27-28; Luke 19:11-19). They will even be given authority over angels (1 Corinthians 6:1-3). And in all this, they will be completely subject to Christ's will, just as He is completely subject to the Father's will (John 5:30).
God's great plan encompasses all mankind. The Great White Throne Judgment, described in Revelation 20:11-13, is the period when all human beings who have died without ever understanding that great plan will be resurrected and have their true destiny revealed to them. God's plan is comprehensive. All humanity will enjoy the opportunity to learn His truth and come to repentance.
This will take place during the time beyond the Millennium when the vast majority of human beings will be raised from the dead to receive their opportunity for salvation. Those who repent and accept Christ as their Savior will receive the gift of everlasting life in the family of God, finally achieving their God-given destiny.
With a transformed new heaven and new earth, the heavenly city of God, the New Jerusalem, will at last come down to the earth with God the Father. And those who have repented and faithfully served Him, then transformed into glorified spirit beings like Himself, will dwell with Him and with Christ forever in perfect peace and happiness—with no more suffering or death (Revelation 21:1-4).
As already mentioned, those who are glorified will inherit from God "all things"—joint ownership and rule over not just the earth but the entire universe and spirit realm. This incredible aspect of man's destiny was foretold early in the Old Testament by Moses when he stated that "the sun, the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven . . . the Lord your God has given to all the peoples under the whole heaven as a heritage" (Deuteronomy 4:19).
This, then, is the purpose for which humanity was created—to share God's divine level of existence forever as His loving, happy family and to possess with Him and rule over the entire vast created realm. So transcendent is this destiny that we can barely even fathom it!