In the last article in this series we saw that 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 John 10:33The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone you not; but for blasphemy; and because that you, being a man, make yourself God.
American King James Version×).
His response is intriguing: “Jesus answered them, ‘Is it not written in your law [in Psalms 82:6 Psalms 82:6I have said, You are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.
American King James Version×], “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 John 10:34-36 34 Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, You are gods? 35 If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; 36 Say you of him, whom the Father has sanctified, and sent into the world, You blaspheme; because I said, I am the Son of God?
American King James Version×).
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 Psalms 82:6 Psalms 82:6I have said, You are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.
American King James Version×, 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, which 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?
Terminology of family
The key here is the word children in Psalm 82. We must understand that God is a family. There is one God (the God family ) comprising more than one God Being. (This is thoroughly explained in our Bible study aid booklet Who Is God? )
As explained in the previous article in this series , the God family from the beginning comprised two divine Beings—God and God the Word (John 1:1-3 John 1:1-3 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 The same was in the beginning with God.
3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
American King James Version×). The Word became flesh as the Son of God, Jesus Christ (John 1:14 John 1:14And the Word was made flesh, and dwelled among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
American King James Version×). And, after His human life and death, He was resurrected to divine spirit existence as the “firstborn from the dead” (Colossians 1:18 Colossians 1:18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
American King James Version×) and “firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29 Romans 8:29For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
American King James Version×). 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. In Genesis 1, after creating plants and animals to reproduce each “according to its kind,” God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Genesis 1:26 Genesis 1:26And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.
American King James Version×, emphasis added throughout)—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 Genesis 5:3And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, and after his image; and called his name Seth:
American King James Version×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 Acts 17:28For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.
American King James Version×).
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 “gods.”
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. This is an important distinction and helps us see what God was actually saying in Psalm 82.
The human beings He addressed 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 (Psalms 82:2-5 Psalms 82:2-5 2 How long will you judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Selah.
3 Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.
4 Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.
5 They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course.
American King James Version×). Yet in Psalms 82:6 Psalms 82:6I have said, You are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.
American King James Version×, the verse Christ quoted, God confirms that they are indeed elohim. Psalms 82:7 Psalms 82:7But you shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.
American King James Version×: “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 limited 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 Romans 4:17(As it is written, I have made you a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who vivifies the dead, and calls those things which be not as though they were.
American King James Version×, King James Version)—looking on His purpose as already accomplished. Amazingly, God intends to exalt us from this fleshly existence to the same level of divine spirit existence that He has, as we will see.
Development—but into what?
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 Romans 8:16The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
American King James Version×, KJV). Through this miraculous union, we become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4 2 Peter 1:4Whereby are given to us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
American King James Version×).
Thus 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. 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 1 John 3:2Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
American King James Version×). We will receive the divine glory of the Father and Christ (Romans 5:2 Romans 5:2By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
American King James Version×; 1 Peter 5:10 1 Peter 5:10But the God of all grace, who has called us to his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that you have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you.
American King James Version×; 1 Thessalonians 2:12 1 Thessalonians 2:12That you would walk worthy of God, who has called you to his kingdom and glory.
American King James Version×; 2 Thessalonians 2:14 2 Thessalonians 2:14Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
American King James Version×; Colossians 1:27 Colossians 1:27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:
American King James Version×).
As coinheritors with Christ, we will receive dominion over all things, including the entire vast universe—dominion just as Christ has (Romans 8:17 Romans 8:17And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
American King James Version×; Hebrews 2:5-9 Hebrews 2:5-9 5 For to the angels has he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak. 6 But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that you are mindful of him? or the son of man that you visit him? 7 You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor, and did set him over the works of your hands: 8 You have put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him. 9 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 should taste death for every man.
American King James Version×; Revelation 21:7 Revelation 21:7He that overcomes shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
American King James Version×). To truly exercise dominion over all things requires the omnipotent power of God.
What about our minds? As human beings, we couldn’t count all the individual stars of the universe in a trillion lifetimes. But God, in a passing remark, says He knows all the stars by name (Psalms 147:4 Psalms 147:4He tells the number of the stars; he calls them all by their names.
American King James Version×). Amazingly, Paul states, “Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known [that is, by God]” (1 Corinthians 13:12 1 Corinthians 13:12For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
American King James Version×), showing that we will possess the omniscience of God. And why not, for we will have the Holy Spirit, the mind of God, in full?
Indeed, at that time, like Jesus, we will at last be “filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19 Ephesians 3:19And to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that you might be filled with all the fullness of God.
American King James Version×; compare Colossians 1:19 Colossians 1:19 For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell;
American King James Version×; Colossians 2:9 Colossians 2:9 For in him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.
American King James Version×). How can someone be filled with all the fullness of God and be anything less than God? Therefore, at our ultimate change, we too will be divine—though the Father and Christ will forever be greater than us.
The teaching of deification
This wonderful truth will surely come as quite a shock to those who have heard only the traditional view of mainstream Christianity regarding the ultimate reward of the righteous. Yet those who might be quick to assail this teaching will perhaps be even more surprised to learn that many early “church fathers” of mainstream tradition—not so far removed from early apostolic teaching— did understand this incredible truth, at least in part.
Notice paragraph 460 of the current Catechism of the Catholic Church (1995), footnotes in brackets:
“The Word became flesh to make us ‘partakers of the divine nature’ [2 Peter 1:4 2 Peter 1:4Whereby are given to us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
American King James Version×]: ‘For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God’ [St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 19, 1: PG 7/1, 939]. ‘For the Son of God became man so that we might become God’ [St. Athanasius, De inc., 54, 3: PG 25, 192B]. ‘The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us share in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods’ [St. Thomas Aquinas, Opusc. 57:1-4]” (pp. 128-129, emphasis added).
This teaching is even more prevalent in Eastern Orthodox tradition, where it is known by the Greek term theosis, meaning “divinization” or “deification.” However, it is wholly unlike the New Age concept of “I am god”—looking to the self as supreme. Notice the remarkable explanation of the early Catholic theologian Tertullian, writing around A.D. 200:
“It would be impossible that another God could be admitted, when it is permitted to no other being to possess anything of God. Well, then, you say, at that rate we ourselves possess nothing of God. But indeed we do, and will continue to do so. Only it is from Him that we receive it, and not from ourselves. For we will be even gods, if we deserve to be among those of whom He declared, ‘I have said, “You are gods,”’ and ‘God stands in the congregation of the gods.’ But this comes of His own grace, not from any property in us. For it is He alone who can make gods” ( Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 3, p. 480, quoted in “Deification of Man,” David Bercot, editor, A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs , 1998, p. 200).
Of course, Christianity is not a polytheistic religion. There is but one God. The term gods is really meant to distinguish multiple God Beings constituting the one God—the one God meaning the one God family. As mentioned before, there are at present two fully divine members of that family—two distinct Beings—God the Father and God the Son, Jesus Christ. And, as incredible as it sounds, there will be more to come.
In fact, there are many more who are already members of the God family. Having a small measure of the divine through the Holy Spirit dwelling in them, they are in the process of deification. However, they are not yet themselves truly divine. But one day, if they remain faithful, they will be. And ultimately all of mankind—that is, those who are willing—will follow in the same course.
“I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:18 2 Corinthians 6:18And will be a Father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, said the Lord Almighty.
American King James Version×). And He means it. God will not forever kid Himself into thinking we are His children when we really aren’t. No, the Father intends to produce us 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 God 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 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 24 Then comes the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.
25 For he must reign, till he has put all enemies under his feet.
26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
27 For he has put all things under his feet. But when he said all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him.
28 And when all things shall be subdued to him, then shall the Son also himself be subject to him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.
American King James Version×). Their positions at the top of the family will never be challenged or threatened by even the addition of billions of divine children.
This, then, is the ultimate potential destiny of all mankind. It is the awe-inspiring purpose for which we were created. As Jesus quoted, foreseeing our destiny reached, “I said, ‘You are gods.’” Let us all, then, be ever thankful. For it can’t get any higher than that.