Years ago a popular daytime TV program, The Millionaire, kept audiences enthralled with stories of million-dollar gifts given by a fictional multimillionaire. The storyline involved people in need, whether in dire circumstances or trying to benefit society, answering the doorbell and finding a sharply dressed man with a check for $1 million, tax free, from this anonymous wealthy individual.
Lots of people wish they had a proverbial “rich uncle” who would leave them a large sum of cash. They feel it would solve all their financial worries. The financial planning industry thrives today as many strive to leave an inheritance to their children, church or favorite charities.
Let’s face it: Inheritances are important to people. Yet most today have no idea of the unimaginably immense inheritance ultimately available to them—the inheritance our Heavenly Father has in store for mankind!
King David knew
As a young lad leading his father’s sheep through the rugged hills of Judea, a future king David looked up at the night sky and the splendor of thousands of stars. As he lay on his back, looking up at the dazzling sky, he reflected on how insignificant he was compared to those stars.
Years later, after he became king of Israel, David recorded his thoughts in one of the most memorable psalms:“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?”(Psalm 8:3-4, New International Version 1984, emphasis added throughout).
Yes, why should God, who created the vast universe, with billions upon billions of stars, galaxies and nebulae, be concerned at all with insignificant mortal human beings here on earth? The truth is astounding almost beyond belief, and includes an inheritance that staggers the imagination!
David knew the ancient Scriptures that revealed God had placed man over the entire physical creation here on earth.
He further wrote: “For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen—even the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea” (Psalm 8:5-8).
These verses reflect the language from the first chapter of Genesis where 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” (Genesis 1:26).
But it is apparent that God had revealed to David the core of a marvelous truth—that human beings are destined to rule over a far greater and vaster realm than just the earth. David was given understanding of something God had begun to reveal to the relative few He was working with in ancient times—that man was made in God’s image to inherit and rule with God over His creation.
Nearly 1,000 years after David’s time, after the New Testament Church had been founded, the author of the book of Hebrews restated and expanded on David’s words: “But there is a place where someone has testified: ‘What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor and put everything under his feet.’In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him” (Hebrews 2:6-8, NIV 1984).
Notice that God has not yet put everything in subjection under mankind. Here lies the heart of this marvelous revelation. God created man to ultimately have dominion over everything He has made. The Greek wording translated “everything” is ta panta, meaning the all—literally the entire universe. As incredible as it may sound, it is God’s intent that mankind share with Him dominion—rulership—over His entire creation. Yet this truth, clearly stated in your Bible, has been ignored, disbelieved or flatly rejected by all religions!
Mortal now—divine later
This can be too amazing for many to grasp. As mortal human beings, we are obviously a long way from being able to inherit “all things.” We need to clearly understand what man is now, that we are anything but immortal. We are physical beings composed of the basic elements of the earth. We are of “the dust of the ground” (Genesis 2:7) and are subject to death: “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4; Ezekiel 18:20).
This goes against what most religions have taught. From ancient times to our day, Western religious thought has held that man is a nonmaterial spirit entity confined for a time in a physical, fleshly body. These religions have taught that a human being lives as an “immortal soul” encased in a physical body, and that at death the soul will continue as a living, conscious entity apart from the body.
However, this idea that human beings have an immortal soul—and even the phrase “immortal soul”—cannot be found anywhere in your Bible. This false assumption has come down over thousands of years from the superstitions of ancient religions and has become part of mainstream Christianity today. To repeat, the Bible clearly tells us that our “soul” is mortal, not immortal.
But how is it possible for human beings to pass from corruptible, sinful flesh into the fantastic spiritual state required for the ultimate dominion referred to in Hebrews 2? Let’s continue to read for the answer: “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” (Hebrews 2:9).
Jesus Christ is the link to eternal life for every human being who has ever lived or ever will live. Since “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), it was necessary for Christ, who as the Word of God actually performed the work of creating the universe and mankind (John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:1-2), to die to reconcile mankind to God.
Our destiny: A family relationship with God
What your Bible teaches—but has not been generally realized—is that God is in the process of expanding the divine family. God the Father and the Son want to reproduce Themselves in the form of perhaps billions of spirit beings, who will be like Them, sharing Their level of existence—although these will, of course, be in perfect submission to the Father and Christ forever.
The amazing truth is that God is a family, and just as individual members of a human family are distinct entities with unique identities, so will it be in the God family. God tells us: “I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters” (2 Corinthians 6:18).
Just as a human family is bound together by genetics, history and shared values, so God’s Holy Spirit will cause the members of the God family to share a special oneness of mind, purpose and nature. We will not only share God’s spiritual composition, but we will be of one mind in our outlook and values (compare John 17:20-23).
There is so much more to tell about this amazing subject, but space won’t allow a complete discussion here.
Rule with Christ over all creation
So what will these members of God’s family be doing for all eternity? Will we just “float around heaven all day” on clouds, strumming on harps? Nothing could be farther from the truth!
God’s Word reveals that at the return of Jesus Christ, His dedicated, faithful, obedient followers, now resurrected and given eternal life, will assume rulership with Him over the entire world. Through Christ and the resurrected saints, God will institute His righteous government over the earth. Gone will be the effects of thousands of years of human corruption and mismanagement, replaced with government based on God’s law. Mankind will at last be at peace.
Those resurrected at Christ’s return will be raised as immortal spirit beings. Notice Paul’s words to the church at Corinth: “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption.Behold,I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:50-52).
These resurrected saints will have proven their dedication to God and His laws during their earthly lives, overcoming daily through the power of the Holy Spirit. God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son will have no reason to doubt their loyalty and obedience. They will rule in love and genuine concern for people, unlike the despotic and corrupt rulers we now see in many nations and throughout human history.
When some of His disciples asked Him “who will be the greatest in the kingdom?” Christ used it as an occasion to point out the right attitude of leadership. He told them: “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’ But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, he who governs as he who serves” (Luke 22:25-26).
It doesn’t end there. A thousand years is only a “blink of an eye” with God, but His plan encompasses all eternity. When David spoke of “all things,” he meant the entire universe. Again, space doesn’t allow for a complete discussion here, but the Bible shows that those ultimately born into God’s family as divine spirit beings will not be confined to this earth, to this solar system, or even to this galaxy. God’s master plan is for those in His family to share rulership and administration of the entire universe with Him. Who knows the awesome future God has in store for His family!
When we closely examine God’s Word, we must conclude that God has created human beings to receive an inheritance far beyond anything we could possibly hope to achieve in this life. We have glimpsed how incredibly grand and marvelous that inheritance is—to be ultimately given eternal life in the very family of God and to inherit the universe with Jesus Christ. In the very last book in the Bible, we see that purpose stated clearly: “He who overcomes will inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son” (Revelation 21:7).
This, then, sums up our inheritance, an inheritance far beyond anything possible in life on earth today—and far beyond the imaginings of the world’s religions. This astounding opportunity should radically change our direction in life to, as Jesus Christ said in Matthew 6:33, “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness”!
Mankind: Unique in All the Universe?
Since, as shown in the accompanying article, the reward of the saved is not going to live in heaven when we die but becoming a part of the family of God and inheriting the whole universe, we should consider at this point the question of other intelligent life in the cosmos. Are there other sentient physical beings out there who also have an inheritance with God?
Our sun is but one smaller-than-medium sized star in a galaxy of more than 400 billion other stars, according to astronomical estimates. And there are hundreds of billions of other galaxies, each with their own many billions of stars. We may wonder if some of these stars have environments that could support life.
Humanity is fascinated by the idea of life on other planets. It’s been the subject of books, movies and TV shows for nearly a century. But how much evidence is there?
The planet Mars, relatively close to earth at just 135 million miles away, seems to hold possibilities of other life due to its closeness to the sun and having an atmosphere. But as early as the 1970s, NASA’s Viking spacecraft showed only a dry, sterile environment. More recently, NASA’s more advanced Pathfinder revealed only a rocky terrain lacking any surface vegetation or signs of life.
Several years ago NASA’s Curiosity rover collected a rock sample that some said showed ancient Mars could, in the distant past, have supported living microbes. A core sample that the rover drilled from sedimentary rock near what appears to be an ancient stream bed showed evidence of sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon—all key chemical ingredients for life.
However, some of these elements have also been found on the surface of the moon, and no one claims life ever existed there. Merely having some of the elements needed to support life is no proof that life ever existed on Mars.
More than 20 exploratory missions to Mars conducted since the early 1960s have failed to find conclusive evidence of life on the red planet. Astronomers know that conditions on the other planets are far too hostile to life as we know it. Mercury and Venus are so close to the sun that surface temperatures are hot enough to melt many metals. Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune are too cold; they orbit so far from the sun that surface temperatures there are far below freezing. If Mars has failed to present evidence for life, how much less is the chance of finding this evidence on the other planets?
After more than 60 years of diligent and extraordinarily expensive search effort by multiple nations, scientists have found no hard evidence that other physical life exists in the universe. All evidence points to mankind being a unique creation in all of our vast universe—exactly as indicated in Genesis 1:26-27, which tells us that of all God’s creation, only mankind was created in God’s image and likeness—that we might become part of the family of God.