About three years ago, pondering I Cor. 6 about judging angels, over the space of a few days this is what I worked out. It was a curious process, one in which I distinctly felt that insight was being given to me that was not my own.
At the occasion of the first sin, we as humans gained something we did not have previously, the knowledge of good and evil. We were irremediably stuck with that new knowledge / awareness / consciousness, and in the process we lost something as well: life. We died. So, here we are stuck, no way out and hopeless.
In response, Jesus, as God incarnate, took a nature he did not have previously, humanity, so that he, in turn, might give us his nature. That is the essence of I Cor. 15, in the 40s and 50s. Thus we, through rebirth, by his Spirit, have begun a new life as having his nature.
There are a couple of profound consequences to that. One astounding result is that humanity entered the Godhead, as Jesus will never lose his humanity. Another is that ultimately we will be like him.
At the end, when our natures are finally perfected, we will still have that knowledge of good and evil, but by becoming as he is that knowledge will be perfected. The reward of right use of money in the parable of the talents is not more money, but authority. Our destiny is governance in the kingdom; this is consistent with so many things through the NT. And that is how we will judge angels.
As this unfolded it had something of the force of personally given revelation; it changed my thinking. Shortly after coming to this understanding, discussing it with someone, I was introduced to the Orthodox teaching on ‘theosis.’
On this view, salvation is more organic, a process of constant becoming more like, ever being drawn toward the fullness of God, becoming as he is, sharing ever more fully in his life. After learning more about it, I admit that it makes much sense. There are many, many articles on the web about it.
I think this is where we are going, to become ever more like him. The clear teaching is about the new heaven and the new earth, not about ‘going to heaven’. I don’t mean to deny that phrase, but that is not our destiny; it is to be incarnate once again, but as Jesus is now, post-resurrection.
As I see the church, it should be becoming now as it will be fulfilled in that coming age. I have recently been thinking of the Beatitudes as the ethic of the kingdom, not just points of personal piety, but as active expressions of the values of the coming kingdom that should shape the church. As living in his life now, we should be living out these things.