On the occasion of the visit to the Philippines late last year by the Roman Catholic pontiff Pope Francis, a special song was composed by a Filipina celebrity. It was titled “We Are All God’s Children.” The song obviously aimed to promote compassion, love and solidarity among all people, especially in the face of tragic situations such as that brought about by typhoon Haiyan (locally named “Yolanda”) which had struck the central Philippine islands in 2013, snuffing out upwards of 10,000 human lives and destroying property worth incalculable millions of pesos.
The catchy and rather sentimental song, of course, assumes as self-evident the fact that all human beings are children of God.
The apostle Paul clearly declared, quoting some Greek poet, that “…We [all human beings] are the offspring of God” (Acts 17:28-29). In Verse 26 Paul affirmed that God “…has made from one blood every nation of men.” Paul also acknowledged: “…for in Him we live and move and have our being” (Verse 28) — now an often quoted phrase [see: Being and Doing].
Psalm 82:16 likewise affirms: “I said ‘You are gods [Hebrew elohim, which means either “God” in the plural sense or “judges”], and all of you are children of the Most High.'” In his genealogy of Jesus Christ, the gospel writer Luke traces Jesus’ human ancestry ultimately back to “Adam, the son of God” (Luke 3:38).
Because it is God who created mankind, it is of course but natural to assume that indeed all human beings are God’s children. “The brotherhood of men under the Fatherhood of God” is a phrase I had heard in my earlier childhood from my dad, who was a Free Mason.
Indeed, from a physical (call it “biological,” if you please) point of view, we all are children of God. No question about it!
From a spiritual point of view, however, the Bible also shows that not all human beings are “children of God” — at least, not in this present age. The apostle John clearly defined the “dichotomy” (dividing into two) between “the children of God” and “the children of the devil” (1 John 3:10).
Jesus Himself told the Jews who claimed Abraham as their father: “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44, 39). [See: The Children of Abraham.]
How did it happen that human beings, created by God in His image or likeness and who therefore are His children, have become “the children of the devil?”
In broad brush strokes the Bible recounts the earliest history of man. God had made the first man and woman — Adam and Eve, our first human parents — “very good” (Genesis 1:27-31; 2:7). Israel’s wisest king, Solomon, was inspired to write: “Truly, this only have I found: that God made man upright…” (Ecclesiastes 7:29).
God placed Adam and Eve in what must have been a perfect environment — the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:8). Here God placed all kinds of trees that were “pleasant to the sight and good for food” (Verse 9). Among these trees were two distinct (or distinctive) trees: the “tree of life” and the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (same Verse, 9).
The “tree of life” was one whose fruit — if man had chosen to eat it — would have given man everlasting life. The “tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” on the other hand, was a tree of death. God forbade Adam and Eve to eat the fruit of that tree and warned: “…for in the day you eat of it you shall surely die” (Verse 17).
As just about everybody knows the story, Adam and Eve chose to not heed God’s warning. They chose — they willed — instead to eat the fruit of the forbidden tree. And that because a “third party” (Satan the devil, in the guise of a serpent; see Revelation 12:9; 2 Corinthians 11:2) had persuaded them with a big lie — an untruth — to do so. [See: “Your Eyes Will Be Opened!” and Is There Ever Any Good in Man?]
Some people deny the existence of a devil. But to those who believe God’s Word, the devil (Satan, meaning “adversary” or enemy) is a real being — an angel of God who had rebelled against Him and has now become God’s enemy. [See: Where Did the Devil Come From?]
In the Garden of Eden God allowed Satan to tempt, and thus test, Adam and Eve — to see whether they would obey God or not. As almost everybody knows the story, our first parents failed the test. They chose to obey Satan instead of God. They swallowed Satan’s lie like the proverbial “hook, line and sinker.” They thus “fell” from an innocent state into a sinful state. King Solomon described this fall from being good and upright as proceeding to devise “many schemes” [KJV, “inventions”] (Ecclesiastes 7:29).
As God had warned, the disobedience of Adam and Eve spelled their death eventually. They chose the path which Proverbs 14:12; 16:25 describes: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” [compare with Judges 21:25, which shows that when man does not have righteous guidance, man will choose (and devise) what is “right in his own eyes” — the way of death!].
The apostle Paul declares that, with Adam leading the way, the rest of mankind that descended from him followed his sinful way — the way of death. “Therefore just as through one man [Adam] sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).
Now Satan’s children
Paul declares who and what Christians were before God called them to His purpose and salvation in Christ: “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air [Satan, who “broadcasts” his evil thoughts as though through some “air” waves], the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:1-3).
The apostle John also wrote: “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning…whoever does not practice righteousness [obedience to God’s commandments, Psalm 119:172] is not of God, nor he who does not love his brother….Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:8, 10, 15).
As Jesus told the Jews, all sinners — chiefly liars and murderers — have become children of the devil, Satan (John 8:44). Unlike God, Satan as now mankind’s “father” has no other intent than to oppress men and to bring them to their death through sin (Acts 10:38; Romans 6:23), as he did Adam and Eve. Like the cruel Egyptian taskmasters over the children of Israel, Satan and his demon cohorts oppress mankind and have kept sinners in cruel bondage — slavery to sin (Romans 6:20-21; Acts 10:38).
Revelation 9:11 calls Satan “the angel of the bottomless pit and whose name is Abaddon [Hebrew] or Apollyon [Greek]” — meaning “Destroyer.” [It is another angel — not Satan — who has the “key to the bottomless pit” (Verse 1). He is that “fifth angel” mentioned here, and in all probability the same “angel” from heaven who has the key to the bottomless pit, who will bind and lock up Satan in that pit (Revelation 20:1), and who will release him for a brief period after the 1000-year reign of Christ on earth (Verses 2-3).]
Revelation 9:1-2 is a prophecy about Satan being released from the bottomless pit to lead demonic and human hosts into battle — something that has taken place on this earth for several centuries now and will continue unabated until “the battle of that great day of God Almighty” (Revelation 16:14) at Christ’s return.
Called out of Satan’s “house”
The God of Israel is known to the children of Israel as One who “brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (Exodus 2):2). Deuteronomy 7:8; 13:5 describes this act of God as redeeming them out of the house of bondmen or the house of bondage. Hosea 11:1 also describes God’s act toward the children of Israel [collectively God’s “son”] as calling them out of Egypt. [This prophecy, of course, refers as well to Jesus Christ, as Matthew 2:14-15 explains. This shows the “duality” of a good number of Bible prophecies.]
Likewise God has also chosen to call out of Satan’s “house” of sin those whom God has “appointed” or “elected” to salvation in this present age. [See: Predestination, This Is Not the Only Day of Salvation and On Elections and Appointments.] 1 Peter 2:9 says that God has called — and chosen — His people “out of darkness [descriptive of Satan’s world and power, the way of sin and wickedness, see Ephesians 6:12] into His [God’s] marvelous light” — God’s way of righteousness and truth.
Paul says that God’s people have been called to peace (1 Corinthians 7:15) — especially “peace with God” through Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1). He calls Jesus “our peace” who has broken down the wall that separates God’s children from those who remain as Satan’s children (Ephesians 2:14-15). [See: No Walls, No Ceiling?]
Whereas before we had been God’s enemy, now we have become reconciled to God through Christ and have now become His friends (Romans 5:10; John 15:14), as Abraham was when he obeyed God’s commandments (James 2:23). And better than friends, God has called us to be — once again, as we were created originally — His sons and daughters, as we will explain.
Into God’s house
God’s true spiritual people comprise the “church” — which is translated from the Greek ekklesia, meaning a group of “called out ones.” These are the “elect” whom God has chosen to call out from Satan’s house of sin and bondage into God’s house or “family” as His very own “sons” or “children.”
1 Peter 1:18-19 says that true Christians (the “elect”) are redeemed [from darkness and the house of Satan] through and with the “precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”
Paul used the analogy of this calling and redemption [or being “bought back,” or “ransomed,” from death] as that of adoption as children of God. He spoke about Christians being redeemed so they might “receive the adoption of sons” (Galatians 4:5). Likewise, he said about God “Having predestinated us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself according to the good pleasure of His will” (Ephesians 1:5). [See: The Ransomed of the LORD.]
Roman law, under which Paul and his contemporaries lived, stipulated that adopted children were to have the same, exact privileges and rights [to provision and inheritance] as natural-born children.
Better than adoption
Far better than mere adoption, God’s elect have been begotten by God the Father through Jesus Christ. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).
Jesus Himself was “begotten” by God the Father, through His Spirit (Luke 1:30-35). Jesus is called the “only begotten Son” of God (John 3:16; 1:14, 18). Through Jesus’ resurrection, and the power of the Holy Spirit, those who truly believe in Jesus also become begotten of God the Father and become His genuine children.
Revelation 1:5 describes Jesus as “the first begotten [KJV, or “firstborn” (NKJV)] from the dead.” Those who are Christ’s — Jesus’ true followers — will also be among the “firstborn from the dead” at Christ’s return [see: “I Never Knew You! Predestination, and The Value of the “Firstborn”.]
The complete picture of the divine family of God includes a “mother” — whom Paul describes as “Jerusalem above [which] is free, which is the mother of us all” (Galatians 4:26).
Revelation 12:1-17 describes an allegory of a “woman” [the spiritual and not merely the human mother of Jesus, Mary] who gave birth to Jesus Christ and “the rest of her offspring” — God’s elect — “who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Verse 17).
1 Peter 1:23 shows that the elect are “born again…by the word of God.” Thus Paul could say that, through his preaching of the gospel of Christ, he had “begotten” those Church brethren whom he had reached (1 Corinthians 4:16). [For more on the “born again” question, click this link: http:www.herbert-armstrong.org, click ENTER HERE, select “Books and Booklets,” and scroll down to the booklet titled “Just What Do you Mean — Born Again?”]
Signs of the true children of God
Jesus said that we can tell a tree by its fruit (Matthew 7:16-20). So we can also tell a true child of God from a false child of God — who, in other words, is the child of the devil. Among other Scripture passages, we have the following testimony about who the true children of God are:
- Revelation 14:12 — “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” The “saints” or “holy ones” of God are those people who have been “sanctified” or set apart for God’s holy purpose — for salvation in this age — through His Word and His Spirit. They are the true children of God!
- 1 John 3:10 — “In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness [Psalm 119:172 says “For all Your commandments are righteousness”] is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.”
- 1 John 5:2-3 — “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.”
- Matthew 12:49 — “For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.” The true children of God — and Jesus’ true brothers and family — do the will of God the Father, which is expressed in His Word, the Holy Bible.
The future of God’s children
Hebrews 2:10 declares: “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons [and daughters too!] to glory…” This is speaking not of mere human or physical glory but of far greater glory — the very glory of God!
As Jesus prayed to the Father about those whom the Father has given to Him (His true and faithful disciples): “And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one…”
The apostle Paul also put the glorious future of God’s children this way: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself (Philippians 3:20-21).
In the famous “Resurrection Chapter” (1 Corinthians 15), Paul describes the transformation or change which is to occur in true Christians at the soon return of Jesus Christ: “So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body….Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep [remain dead — see: What Happens to Man After Death?], but we shall be changed — in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet [announcing the return of Jesus Christ]. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O Death, where is your sting? O Hades [the grave or death], where is your victory?'” (Verses 42-44, 51-55).
God the Father has His plan to save, at a time He has appointed, all of mankind who will truly believe in Him and His Son Jesus Christ. [See: Predestination and This Is Not the Only Day of Salvation.] Every single human being will eventually have his or her chance to be saved and become a part of God’s divine family as His very own spiritual children.
It behooves everyone who professes to believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior to examine themselves, to see if they are truly in the faith of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 13:5). [Also see this vital article: “I Never Knew You!”] You will want to make sure you are truly and fully a son or daughter of God through a resurrection or change to glory at Jesus’ return.
As Jesus said: “But those who are counted worthy to attain that age [the age of God’s kingdom], and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons [and daughters] of God, being sons of the resurrection” (Luke 20:35-36).
Whenever God will call you to His purpose and salvation, remember what God requires in order for you to become truly His son or daughter. In the ultimate analysis, it is those who keep God’s commandments who will become truly His children. “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life [symbolic of everlasting life], and may enter in through the gates into the city [the New Jerusalem[” (Revelation 22:14). [See: Saved for Good Works.]
When your time of salvation comes, remember this Scripture! If, sadly, you will choose to remain a child of Satan, you will be among those who will find themselves “…outside [excluded forever from the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, the ultimate dwelling place of all those saved] [where there] are dogs [sodomites] and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie” (Verse15). See also Revelation 21:8.
These incorrigibly wicked who are excluded from the kingdom will have been burned to ashes in the lake of fire in a “second death” (Revelation 20:13-15; see also Malachi 4:1, 3). They will be condemned to oblivion — with no chance of ever having life again in any shape or form.
The promise of “no more death” (Revelation 21:4) applies only to those who will have been given everlasting or eternal life (however one likes to put “life without end”) — those who will be given the right to partake of the “tree of life” and enter into the Holy City (Revelation 22:14) — the New Jerusalem.
Only then will 1 Corinthians 15:26 be fulfilled [when “the last enemy” (death) is destroyed] — after Christ will have “put all His enemies under His feet” (Verse 25) and destroyed them in the “second death.” [See: Why Is the “Unpardonable Sin” Unpardonable?]
May you choose life — not death (Deuteronomy 30:19) — and become a glorious, immortal child of God!
Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.