The grand purpose for which God created mankind is utterly awe-inspiring. And realize that this destiny is not only for humanity in a general sense—but it is meant for you personally. God wants to exalt you to share eternal, divine life with Him and all of His children.
If God is opening your mind to the awesome potential for which He made you, then He is inviting you to be among the forerunners in His plan for mankind —to be His spiritual son or daughter now in anticipation of the full glory to be bestowed at the resurrection of the dead when Jesus Christ returns.
Who, then, are the children of God today? Who will yet become part of God's immortal spiritual family? How can you or any of us attain that awesome destiny? And what will life be like when we are ultimately raised to glorified existence?
Entering the family
The Bible explains that those inducted into God's immortal family must first sincerely repent of their sins, be baptized and receive the gift of God's Spirit (Acts 2:38). By receiving the Holy Spirit, they become converted members of Christ's spiritual body (1 Corinthians 12:12-13), which is His Church (Colossians 1:24). They await the resurrection at Christ's return, when they will be given immortality (1 Corinthians 15:51-54).
Receiving God's Spirit is essential to conversion. The apostle Paul makes it clear that you must receive the Holy Spirit to become a part of God's family and Church: "If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His" (Romans 8:9).
Why are those without God's Spirit not the people of God? Because, as Paul explains, "as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God" (Romans 8:14). Paul clarifies the relationship of God's Spirit to salvation: "But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit" (Romans 8:11). Only those with God's Spirit will inherit eternal life. Indeed, it is through the Spirit that we are begotten to spiritual life, as we earlier saw.
How, then, may you receive God's Spirit? The apostle Peter explained that you must "repent" and "be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38, NASB). (Real repentance and baptism, which open the way into God's family, are thoroughly explained in our free booklets Transforming Your Life: The Process of Conversion and The Road to Eternal Life.)
God's children, then, are those who are led by God through His Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the power and presence of God working within them (see 2 Timothy 1:6; Psalm 51:11; Philippians 2:13). Those who receive God's Spirit are regarded as the children of God even in this life. "Beloved, now we are children of God; and . . . everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure" (1 John 3:2-3).
Yet what we are now is nothing compared with what we will be like at Jesus Christ's return. At that time the faithful children of God will be resurrected from physical flesh and blood to immortal spirit so they can share eternity with Him on His plane of existence.
A future beyond compare
Paul describes the marvelous transformation that will occur when the dead are resurrected: "There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies; and the splendour of the heavenly bodies is one thing, the splendour of the earthly another. The sun has a splendour of its own, the moon another splendour and the stars yet another; and one star differs from another in brightness.
"So it is with the resurrection of the dead: what is sown as a perishable thing is raised imperishable. Sown in humiliation, it is raised in glory; sown in weakness, it is raised in power; sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is such a thing as a physical body, there is also a spiritual body" (1 Corinthians 15:40-44, Revised English Bible).
These verses depict an awesome change indeed—to a brilliance and majesty we can barely conceive of (see "The Likeness of God"). That is why Paul says, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18; see also 2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
Do you get the picture? Being resurrected into God's family as a very child of God, a part of God's own family, is so magnificent that it is futile to try to compare it to anything we have ever known. No amount of trials, problems and suffering in this life could ever approach the priceless gift of eternal life as glorified children of God in the full likeness of the Father and Jesus Christ. That incredible future is what life is all about. That is why you were born.
No wonder Paul exclaimed, "The created universe is waiting with eager expectation for God's sons to be revealed" (Romans 8:19, REB).
Our role in the Kingdom of God
The wonderful world of tomorrow will be inaugurated at the return of Jesus Christ, who will rule as King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:16). Every kingdom, power and government will be brought under His divine rule (Revelation 11:15). He will establish the Kingdom of God on earth. This was the heart of His message—the gospel, or good news, that He preached (Mark 1:14-15). (Be sure to download or request your free copy of our booklet The Gospel of the Kingdom to better understand this central theme of both Christ's message and the entire Bible.)
Those sons and daughters of God who have been faithful to Him will share in Christ's rule. Notice Christ's promise: "To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne" (Revelation 3:21). Those who overcome will be given responsibility as kings and priests of God in that Kingdom (Revelation 1:5-6).
This amazing future was earlier foretold in the Old Testament. For example, the prophet Daniel was given a vision of Christ receiving His Kingdom from God the Father:
"I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man [Jesus Christ], coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days [God the Father], and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed . . .
"Then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him" (Daniel 7:13-27). Again, the "saints of the Most High"—that is, those who are sanctified or set apart as holy, meaning all of God's true followers—will be kings and rulers with Jesus Christ.
This shared divine rule over the physical nations of the earth will have a tiered structure of administration. For instance, we are told that King David will again serve as ruler over all Israel while the 12 apostles of Christ will be given rule over the 12 individual tribes of Israel (Jeremiah 30:9; Ezekiel 37:24-25; Matthew 19:28). And there will be further gradations under these and in the governance of other nations as well.
One of Christ's parables reveals that the further God's servants progress in service to Him during this life in proportion to their ability, the greater will be their authority in the coming Kingdom—here represented by each being placed over a different number of cities (Luke 19:11-27). Thus, while those of God's family will share ownership of the earth and will rule it together, it is evident that they will have varying degrees of administrative responsibility under Jesus Christ. Still, every position will be filled with majesty and glory beyond imagining.
More amazing than ruling over physical nations is the fact that even the angels will be subject to the glorified children of God. As Paul wrote: "Don't you know that someday we Christians are going to judge the world? . . . Don't you realize that we Christians will judge angels?" (1 Corinthians 6:2-3, NLT). Indeed, as Hebrews 2 says, God "has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels" (1 Corinthians 6:5)—but rather, as the following verses make clear, to human beings exalted in the family of God, with Jesus Christ as a forerunner in this inheritance (1 Corinthians 6:6-13; compare 1 Corinthians 1:13-14).
How can we mere human beings ever hope that God the Father and Jesus Christ would share with us such incredible responsibility? Certainly we can never do so while we are still weak, imperfect human beings. Indeed, as so many scriptures show, we must be changed.
Paul explained: "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).
In fact, we should recognize that the Kingdom of God is not merely the dominion of God, which human beings will one day share in. Rather, it also concerns a plane of existence— being changed to experience life with the Father and Christ on Their level.
It's worth noting that the term kingdom is sometimes used to classify certain levels of existence. There is the mineral kingdom, the plant kingdom, the animal kingdom and, at the top of the physical creation, the human kingdom.
Above these in the spirit realm is the angelic kingdom. And above all is the God Kingdom. God intends to raise man from the human kingdom, over the angelic kingdom, to the God Kingdom—the Kingdom of God. Indeed, in an ultimate sense, the Kingdom of God is synonymous with the ruling family of God, all members of which will share the full nature of God.
Perfected in loving character
The rule of Christ and His glorified followers will be vastly different from the rule this world has usually experienced. They will serve as true public servants rather than exploit humanity.
Jesus described the kind of giving, serving, loving leadership that will characterize those who rule with Him: "Among the Gentiles, kings lord it over their subjects and those in authority are given the title Benefactor. Not so with you: on the contrary, the greatest among you must bear himself like the youngest, the one who rules like one who serves" (Luke 22:25-26, REB).
God is creating not just a family of kings, but kings who are servants, kings who will pass on blessings to those they serve. As Proverbs 29:2 tells us, "When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice." The whole world will rejoice under the righteous rule of the family of God!
God's character is based on love—outflowing concern for others—so much so that the Bible says that "God is love" (1 John 4:8-16). The loving character of God is also evident in all His children. That loving character is what distinguishes the true children of God—what reveals who is really part of His family. As the apostle John wrote: "In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother" (1 John 3:10).
Jesus taught the same: "You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 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, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven . . . You shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:43-45, Matthew 5:48).
The practice of godly love by the resurrected, immortal children of God will produce the wonderful world of the future. God is perfecting the attitude of love and mercy in His sons and daughters who are the firstfruits of His spiritual harvest of humanity (James 1:18). They will be children befitting His family, children who will demonstrate to the remainder of mankind that obedience to God's law is the right way of life.
God is creating in His children His holy and righteous character—the pattern of life, ingrained through habit, of choosing the right way, the way of love, even against temptation and self-desire. The present life in physical, temporary human bodies is our training ground toward this end, a time for God's children to develop righteous character—to become like the Father and Christ in our minds and lifestyle.
Rest assured, there is no way God will imbue us with His omnipotent power and immortality unless we are thoroughly yielded to His direction, walking humbly in His way of love and service to others. Thankfully, God helps us to grow in this way throughout our lives as we submit to Him. And when we are fully transformed into His likeness at the resurrection, we will have His perfect loving character as our own.
No vestige will be left of selfish human nature—only total, selfless love and care for others just as God has. Thus there will be perfect harmony among all those of God's family. And with total concern for the good of the governed, God's family will reign over the angels and all human beings as yet unchanged.
Still more to come
As pointed out above, God's converted people of this age, His saints, are the firstfruits of His spiritual harvest of mankind. They are called first fruits in recognition of the fact that more will follow. This analogy is drawn from the agricultural year of ancient Israel, wherein a spring harvest was followed by a late summer and fall harvest.
This agricultural cycle and related events are commemorated in the annual festivals God gave to Israel—as a picture of progressive steps in His great plan of salvation. (To learn about these, be sure to request or download our free booklet God's Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for All Mankind.)
During the 1,000-year reign of Jesus Christ and His saints over all nations (Revelation 20:6), represented by the great fall harvest festival, the Feast of Tabernacles or Feast of Ingathering, the people of the earth will be taught the way of salvation and nearly all will ultimately embrace it—so as to later join the saints in being glorified and added to God's family.
Following this period is the time of the last judgment, when all who have ever lived without a proper understanding of God's truth will be given their only real opportunity for salvation and glorification (compare Revelation 20:5, Revelation 20:11-12; Matthew 11:21-24; Ezekiel 37:1-14).
God's plan is all-encompassing. During this time the vast majority of human beings will receive the opportunity for everlasting life. Remember, God "desires all men to be saved" and is "not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9). Through His wondrous plan, all of humanity will be given the opportunity to learn God's truth, come to repentance and receive salvation. (This wonderful truth is thoroughly explained in our free booklets What Happens After Death? and Heaven and Hell: What Does the Bible Really Teach?)
Then, as Revelation 21 reveals, there will be a new heaven and new earth—and the city of New Jerusalem will descend to the earth from heaven as the capital of the universe and the eternal dwelling of God. At last God the Father as well as Jesus Christ will live with humanity, now glorified as God's divine children. Revelation 21:7 encourages us with these awesome words: "He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son."
As we saw at the outset, "all things" means the entire universe and spirit realm. We will have a permanent dwelling with God in the New Jerusalem, but we will not be confined there or to the earth—or even to this galaxy. Rather, we will have the freedom to enjoy the entire cosmos, which we will then possess along with God the Father, Jesus Christ and the rest of the divine family.
Of course it may be that, just as there will be different levels of administrative responsibility over the nations during the 1,000-year rule of Christ and His saints, so the glorified members of God's family may likewise have different regions of oversight throughout the universe. With more than 100 billion galaxies of 100 billion stars, there will be plenty of responsibility to go around!
In any case, we will be able to travel anywhere within the universe instantaneously—at the speed of thought—just as God can, and beautify and expand on it under the direction of the Father and Christ. For we will share Their infinite power and mind. To quote the words of the apostle Paul again, "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Corinthians 2:9, NLT).
Joy and pleasures forevermore
This future is so transcendent in its magnitude and meaning that it is impossible to really get our minds around it! The truth is that we don't know all that we will experience when we at last dwell in resplendent glory with God and all repentant humanity in the age to come, as God has not revealed it and we probably would not be able to comprehend it with our finite minds.
But we can rest assured that life then will never be dull and uninteresting. It will always be filled with new opportunities and joyful living. In Psalm 16:11 King David prayed to God, "You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore."
Mention of David again brings us back to where we began, with his reflections in Psalm 8:3-4: "When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?"
The Bible has shown us why God is mindful of mankind: He has planned for us an astounding future. We have seen that our ultimate destiny, the purpose of our existence, is to become the divine children of God, who is our Father. He wants to share His very life with us—desiring that we ultimately inherit not only all that He has, but even what He is. Could anything be greater than that? What more could anyone possibly wish for?
Never underestimate the value of your life. You were born to become one of God's divine children. You were born to receive His very nature and character and, eventually, eternal life on His level of existence. You were born to become a glorified, immortal member of the God family—to live and reign with the Father and Christ in joy without ending, to shine as the stars forever and ever.
This is your incredible destiny! May God grant you a heart willing to surrender your life to Him so that you may receive His incomparable gift!