Making us Christians like God.

by K.W. Leslie, 29 June

1 John 3.2-3.

Elsewhere in the New Testament, Paul, Silas, and Timothy wrote that we’re gonna get raptured at Jesus’s second coming: Dead Christians will be resurrected, living Christians will be transformed into our resurrected selves, and all of us will meet Jesus in the air. 1Th 4.15-18

These sinful sacks of meat we currently carry around: They get swapped for something eternal, to match the eternal life God always meant for us to have. They no longer have the same self-preservation instincts we currently do, ’cause they last forever… and therefore these instincts won’t go overboard and become self-centered and depraved. Our first impulse won’t be to do the selfish, sinful thing; it’ll be to do as Jesus does. Christians call this “the new nature.” Human nature is considered selfish and fallible, but this’ll become the new human nature: Selfless and Spirit-led.

Plus we can finally see Jesus as he really is. Without freaking out, Mk 9.2-8 passing out, Rv 1.17 or going blind. Ac 9.4-9

This is what John refers to in today’s 1 John snippet:

1 John 3.2-3 KWL
2 Beloved, we’re now God’s children—and God’s not yet revealed what we will be.
We’ve known once he reveals it, we will be like God: We will see him as he is.
3 Everyone who has this hope in God, he cleans them like he is clean.

Now the bit about becoming like God: This tends to weird out certain Christians. Partly ’cause a number of us misinterpret it and think we’re gonna become gods. Lowercase-G gods; we certainly won’t be the God, like Jesus is. But uppercase or lowercase, the idea of us having any form of divinity strikes em as disturbing.

Lesser gods.

Humans define God in two ways:

  1. As the Almighty, the mightiest being in the cosmos.
  2. As the Creator, the first cause, the origin of the cosmos.

If you’re those two things, you’re God. If you’re not, you’re not. The pagan gods, which claimed to rule the universe but never created it, aren’t really gods; either they’re mythical people which never really existed, or powerful spirits which appropriated the titles (and myths), and got worshiped as gods, but were frauds.

But that’s actually a western idea of God, developed under centuries of Christian philosophy. Other cultures define a god as a mighty and long-lived spirit, with a certain amount of power over nature. All the pagan cultures surrounding the ancient Hebrews defined gods that way. And arguably the bible describes lowercase-G gods that way; that the One God, YHWH, the LORD, created lesser gods subordinate to him, and put ’em in charge of certain things—in precisely the same way he put us humans in charge of the earth. Ge 1.28

And if we’re in charge of the earth, doesn’t that kinda make us humans lowercase-G gods? I would argue that’s exactly what Jesus meant when he said so.

John 10.34-36 KWL
34 Jesus answered them, “Isn’t this written in your Law, ‘I say you’re gods’?
35 If God’s word came to the one who said those people are gods
(and the scripture can’t be dismissed),
36 now for the one the Father sanctified and sent to the world:
Do you say, ‘You slander God!’ because I say I’m God’s son?”

Then again, the psalmist says God made us humans lower than the אֱלֹהִ֑ים/elohím, “gods” Ps 8.5 (KJV “angels,” ESV “heavenly beings”); we’re not at the level of gods yet. We might have glory and honor, Ps 8.5 but we’re not quite that mighty.

But yep, there are such beings as lowercase-G lesser gods. These’d be the “sons of God” Ge 6.2, Jb 1.6 which are mighty beings which work for God… or not, in which case he has to judge them. Ps 82 In the Lucifer myth, Satan is one of those beings, gone horribly wrong; since Satan’s a dirty liar, I suspect it’s padding its résumé a lot. Regardless, God has plenty of mighty spirits working for him, and whether we call ’em gods or not, we don’t prioritize ’em over the LORD. Ex 20.3 We only worship the One God. He was really explicit about that.

The idea of other gods or multiple gods, tends to weird out western Christians: If there are multiple gods, doesn’t this diminish the One God? Absolutely not. There might be other mighty beings, but none of ’em are all-mighty. It’s the difference between a Matchbox car and a monster truck: Yeah, we call ’em both cars, but they’re way different from one another. The LORD isn’t really the same species.

So if God’s goal is to make us Christians into lowercase-G gods, no it doesn’t make us equal to him. Not in power, not in rank. Jesus is still the uppercase-G God; he’s still king.

Ancient Christians recognized this. They were familiar with pagan ideas about the gods, and whenever they talked about “how God became human so that humans could become gods,” that’s the idea they had in mind. Not that we were evolving into cosmic beings, not that we were gonna eventually become the divinity over a new planet, like Mormons believe. We were gonna become mighty, like Apollo or Athena; not almighty.

And, unlike Apollo or Athena, good. ’Cause pagan gods were awful. They sinned as much as humans!—and got away with it most of the time. Whereas we Christians are gonna be like Jesus: We’re not gonna sin any longer. We’ll have a good nature, a godly nature, instead of a corrupt one. We’ll be led by the Spirit, ruled by Jesus. We’ll continue to rule the world—but Jesus will rule us, and that’s as it should be.

Western culture has conditioned a lot of us Christians to be extremely uncomfortable with this talk about becoming lowercase-G gods. Feels like blasphemy, doesn’t it? Relax; it’s not. God’ll make us ready for it. We’re so not ready yet. But he’ll get us there.

God’s goal is to make us like Jesus. Not in rank, ’cause he’ll still be our king, but in species. We’ll have a perfect human body like his. As to what “perfect human body” means, we first need to get out of our heads this idea of bodybuilders or fitness instructors; or even perfect skin, ’cause Jesus has scars. Jn 20.27 Perfection comes from having a body that’s not instinctively sinful. Corruption won’t be built-in. There might still be a bit of corruption in our minds, and this may need to be purged from us a bit more; I won’t get into that right now. I’ll just say there will no longer be any physical limitations keeping us from doing God’s will. We’ll physically be like Jesus.

We’ll be clean, as John said. God’ll cleanse us. Cleaner than ritual cleansing does. God’s children will no longer sin, and we’ll be perfect like he is. Able to see him, and be with him face-to-face, just as he’s always dreamed of.