Have you ever studied your own hand—how it moves and operates? From our modern viewpoint we might see it as an utter marvel of robotic technology. Yet its origins lie far back in the ancient past. Of course, every part of the human body and how it operates evokes wonder.
Perhaps you've looked beyond yourself while wandering along mountain paths, taking in breathtaking scenery of snow-covered peaks looming above grassy hillsides and valleys, with eagles soaring overhead. Or have you stood on the seashore, hearing the pounding surf and feeling the ocean spray while feeling so small before the ceaseless waves and endless wide waters?
No doubt you've lifted your gaze to the horizon at sunset, when the sky becomes a beautiful canvas streaked with red and purple. Or what about a clear, moonless night away from the city—the sky strewn with countless blazing stars piercing the blackness?
Why is it all there? Why are you here? Why are any of us here? Deep down, even if we try to deny it, we know that all these wonders did not arise by themselves through random processes. They are the product of design by a master artist—the Artist, the Maker of all things.
But to what end? The amazing truth is that our Creator lays out the underlying purpose for our existence in His revealed Word to mankind—the Holy Bible. It involves the awesome destiny He has planned for us as part of the relationship He desires to have with you and me.
Man's place in the universe
Three thousand years ago, Israel's King David reflected on the apparent insignificance of human beings compared with the grandeur of the heavens. He recorded his prayerful thoughts to God on the matter in Psalm 8: "When I look at 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, and the son of man that you care for him?" (verses 3-4, English Standard Version).
However, David recognized that God does care about human beings, having delegated to mankind a certain authority over part of the created realm. As the psalm continues: "Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas" (verses 5-8, ESV, emphasis added throughout).
David was reflecting on the dominion God gave man at creation, using some of the same language as Genesis 1:26. Here 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."
The "Us" and "Our" here denote a plurality in God. As explained in John 1:1-3, there were two entities who together were God—God and the Word, who was also God. These two were later revealed as God the Father and Jesus Christ. We will return to this matter of plurality in the one God, as it's central to understanding man's purpose. Let us first, however, note David's focus on the heavens in mentioning the dominion God has given to man.
All things not yet put under man's dominion
David's words in Psalm 8 are quoted in Hebrews 2:6-7: "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? 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. You have put all things in subjection under his feet.'"
But the next verse in Hebrews further explains: "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" (Hebrews 2:8).
At first glance, it might seem from what David had written that only earthly creatures were subject to man. Yet the passage in Hebrews stresses that David mentioned "all things" having been committed to mankind's rule—yes everything, the whole universe. However, it also points out that the whole universe has not yet been placed under man. But the incredible implication of this statement is that it will be.
David and the writer of Hebrews, likely the apostle Paul, surely knew of the promise God had made through Moses 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).
So man is destined to share rule with God over the entire created universe! But that's only part of a bigger picture. The statement that man has been made "a little lower" than the heavenly beings is sometimes translated "for a little while lower" (see "Made Lower—but Only for a While").
You are gods?
Let's get to the heart of this matter. The Jews of Jesus' day accused Him of blasphemy for claiming to be the Son of God: "Because You, being a Man, make Yourself God" (John 10:33).
Notice His intriguing response: "Jesus answered them, 'Is it not written in your law [in Psalm 82:6], "I said, 'You are gods'"? If He [God] called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), 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).
In other words, said Christ, "if Scripture outright called human beings gods, why are you upset when I merely state that I am God's Son?"
Yet are human beings actually gods? What did He mean?
In Psalm 82:6, from which Jesus quoted, God says to human beings, "I said, 'You are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High.'" The Hebrew word translated "gods" is elohim. It literally means "gods" or "mighty ones"—although it is often rendered as "God" (that is, the true God) in the Bible. That's because, although plural in form, the word elohim is often singular in usage.
Some have argued that the word in this context should be translated "judges" ("mighty ones" being seen by some here as simply powerful human beings). But the original New Testament manuscripts translate Christ's quotation in John 10 using the Greek word theoi—"gods."
Indeed, it is obvious that Jesus must have meant "gods." If He had meant only "judges," His logic would not follow. Notice: "If Scripture called them judges, why are you upset that I claim to be the Son of God?" That makes no sense. Only when the word is rendered "gods"—and understood to mean that—does Christ's logic follow.
But, again, can human beings legitimately be referred to as gods, as Jesus said? How are we to understand this?
Scripture reveals a divine family
The key here is the word children in Psalm 82. We must understand that God is a family—a divine family of more than one person. There is one God (the God family) comprising more than one God Being. (This is thoroughly explained in the Bible study aids Who Is God? and Is God a Trinity?)
The God family from the beginning comprised two divine Beings, as mentioned earlier—God the Father and God the Word who became flesh as the Son of God, Jesus Christ. And, after His human life and death, Jesus was resurrected to divine spirit existence as the "firstborn from the dead" (Colossians 1:18) and "firstborn among many brethren" (Romans 8:29). Thus Jesus was spiritually born in the resurrection as the first of many "brethren" or children to follow later.
Indeed, from the beginning God intended to add many children to His family. Let's look again at Genesis 1:26. It was after creating plants and animals to reproduce each "according to its kind" that God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness"—showing that man was created according to the "God kind."
To help us understand the parallel with God creating man in His image and likeness, Genesis 5:3 says that the first man Adam later "begot a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth." So God was essentially reproducing Himself through humanity.
The apostle Paul told the men of Athens, ". . . As also some of your own poets have said, 'For we are also His offspring'" (Acts 17:28).
Psalm 82 is much easier to understand in this light. In verse 6 the word gods is equated with "children of the Most High." That makes perfect sense. When any entity bears offspring, its offspring are the same kind of entity. The offspring of cats are cats. The offspring of dogs are dogs. The offspring of human beings are human beings. The offspring of God are, in Christ's own word, "gods."
A restricted sense for now
But we must be careful here. Human beings are not literally gods—not yet, at any rate. Indeed, people initially are not literally even God's children, except in the sense that He created humanity and did so in His image and likeness.
God is eternal spirit. Human beings are mortal flesh, albeit with a spiritual component—the human spirit that gives us understanding (Job 32:8; 1 Corinthians 2:11). This is an important distinction and helps us see what God was actually saying.
The human beings God addressed in Psalm 82 stood in the place of God in judgment as elohim (Psalm 82:1). God, however, challenges them for their wrong judgments and lack of understanding (Psalm 82:2-5). Yet in Psalm 82:6, the verse Christ quoted, God confirms that they are indeed elohim. Psalm 82:7: "But you shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes." Thus, being physical and subject to death, they were elohim in only a very restricted sense—the sense of being created in God's image and likeness as well as having the ultimate potential of becoming the same kind of beings the Father and Christ now are.
In fact, God often "calleth those things which be not as though they were" (Romans 4:17, King James Version)—looking on His purpose as already accomplished. Amazingly, God's purpose is to exalt human beings from this fleshly existence to the same level of divine spirit existence that He has, as we will see.
Transformation leading to divine glory
This involves a process of spiritual reproduction in which God fathers us as His children. It starts with His Spirit joining with our human spirit: "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God" (Romans 8:16, KJV). Through this miraculous union, we become "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4).
Indeed, Christians are described in 1 Peter 1:23 as "having been begotten again, not of corruptible seed [Greek sperma—that is, not of a male sperm cell fertilizing a female egg to produce only mortal, perishable life], but of incorruptible [seed], through the word of God, which liveth and abideth" (American Standard Version).
This incorruptible, imperishable life to which they are led by Scripture comes by God implanting His Spirit within them, for "the Spirit alone gives eternal life" (John 6:63, New Living Translation). Indeed, the Holy Spirit is the agency of spiritual conception. (To see that the Holy Spirit is not a third person of the Godhead, as many contend, but is the projected power, mind and life of God, read the online Bible study aid Is God a Trinity?)
The Spirit-begotten Christian is a child of God, an actual member of elohim, the family of God—but not yet in an ultimate sense. There is still a development process we must go through in this life—a period of building godly character, becoming more and more like God in the way we think and behave. And at the end of this life, in the resurrection at Christ's return, true Christians will be changed into divine spirit beings like the Father and Christ.
The apostle John wrote, "Beloved, now we are the 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). In fact, we are told in numerous passages of Scripture that we will receive the divine glory of the Father and Christ (Romans 5:2; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:14; Colossians 1:27; Hebrews 2:10; 1 Peter 5:10).
Moreover, as coinheritors with Christ, we will receive dominion over all things, including the entire vast universe—dominion just as Christ has (Romans 8:17; Hebrews 1:1-3; Hebrews 2:5-9; Revelation 21:7). To truly exercise dominion over all things requires the omnipotent power of God!
Indeed, at that time, like Jesus, we will at last be "filled with all the fullness of God" (Ephesians 3:19; compare Colossians 1:19; Colossians 2:9). How can someone be filled with all the fullness of God and be anything less than what God is? Therefore, at our ultimate change, we too will be divine—though the Father and Christ will forever be greater than us. (See "Deification as Children of God")
We're born to be God's literal children!
"I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty" (2 Corinthians 6:18). And He means it. The Father intends to bring us forth as His full children, to transform us into the very kind of beings that He and Christ now are—though, again, forever subject to Their loving authority.
Indeed, even though saved human beings truly will be elevated to existence at the divine level as real children of God and full members of the God family, they will never challenge, individually or collectively, the preeminence of the Father and Christ as leaders of the family. Truly, all will be subject to Jesus, except the Father, and Christ will Himself be subject to the Father (see 1 Corinthians 15:24-28). The Father and Christ will remain at the top of the family forever, reigning supreme even with the addition of billions of divine children.
This, then, is why you and I were born! It is the ultimate potential destiny of all mankind. It is the awe-inspiring purpose for which we were created!
The Bible begins and ends with reference to this amazing purpose. We've already seen Genesis 1:26: "Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion . . ." This verse shows God reproducing Himself through mankind and sharing rule over creation.
Now let us turn to the back of the book. God says in Revelation 21:7: "He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son." Again, we see that our destiny includes rule over all things and divine sonship! Incredibly, therefore, as these verses at both ends of Scripture and many others in between show, God wants to have a close family relationship with us in which He will ultimately share with us both all that He has and what He is!
This is the true meaning of life—wonderful beyond all imagination. Cherish it, live for God with all your heart, and receive the awesome destiny for which you exist!