We believe that humanity was created in the image of God with the potential to become children of God, partakers of the divine nature. God formed humanity of flesh, which is material substance. Human beings live by the breath of life, are mortal, subject to corruption and decay, without eternal life, except as the gift of God under God's terms and conditions as expressed in the Bible. We believe that God placed before Adam and Eve the choice of eternal life through obedience to God or death through sin. Adam and Eve yielded to temptation and disobeyed God. As a result, sin entered the world and, through sin, death. Death now reigns over all humanity because all have sinned.

The first chapter of the Holy Bible reveals that God created men and women in His image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-27). The context of this fact is important to understand. Nearly 6,000 years ago, God prepared this world for human habitation during a single week, as explained in Genesis 1. In the several days prior to man's creation, God made different forms of life, each of which was to reproduce "according to its kind" (verses 11-12, 21, 24-25).

This principle rules out evolution as commonly understood—the idea that creatures evolved from one kind into another. (God designed the genetic code to allow limited changes within kinds, but not from one kind to another.)

After repeatedly stating that creatures were to reproduce according to their kind, God said He would make man in His own image and likeness (again, verses 26-27). The clear implication is that man was created according to the "God kind," so to speak, with God intending to reproduce Himself through human beings. In fact, Genesis 5:1-3 compares God having made Adam, the first man, in His own likeness to when "Adam begot a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth."

Humanity was, therefore, created with a truly amazing potential. The future of humanity, as explained elsewhere in Scripture, is to be children in the family of God (1 John 3:1-2; 2 Peter 1:4; 2 Corinthians 6:18). Yet human beings, as physical flesh-and-blood creatures, have initially been formed on a much lower level than God.

As first created, the "likeness" to God in man is quite restricted—limited to such areas as general resemblance in form, feelings, thought, creative abilities and the capacity to govern—all in a rather inferior sense as compared to God. However, God intends for man to ultimately come to share His divine glory, power, intelligence, wisdom and righteous, loving character. (See the chapters titled God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit and God's Purpose for Mankind.)

The character of Almighty God is perfect. He is inherently good and cannot sin. This is also what God desires for His children. Yet even God, who is all-powerful, does not create perfect character in human beings by simply willing that result. The development of righteous character requires a conscious decision by a being with free will to conduct his or her life based on knowledge of what is morally right and wrong, choosing what is right and rejecting what is wrong.

Again, when initially created our first human parents, Adam and Eve, received a life of physical, fleshly existence of limited duration. "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being" (Genesis 2:7).

The Hebrew word nephesh, translated "being" in Genesis 2:7 (or "soul" in the King James Version), is used in the first chapter of Genesis four times in connection with animals (Genesis 1:20, 21, 24, 30) and is translated as "body" in the phrase "dead body" in Numbers 6:6. The first man was later told, "In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return" (Genesis 3:19).

The biblical book of wisdom known as Ecclesiastes contains this exhortation: "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going" (Ecclesiastes 9:10; see also verse 5). So there is no consciousness in death, which is compared elsewhere in Scripture to sleeping in total unawareness (see, for example, John 11:11-14; 1 Corinthians 11:30; 15:51; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14).

Human beings are mortal, subject to corruption and decay. They do not possess immortality in the form of an "immortal soul." Rather, they start out without eternal life. A biblical prayer declares: "What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise You? Will it declare Your truth?" (Psalm 30:9). Another states, "For in death there is no remembrance of You; in the grave who will give You thanks?" (Psalm 6:5). (See the chapter titled The Resurrections and Eternal Judgment.)

Human beings do have a spiritual component to their initial makeup—the human spirit (Job 32:8; Zechariah 12:1). It is this spirit that imparts intellect to the physical human brain, thereby giving the human mind abilities far beyond other physical creatures: "For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?" (1 Corinthians 2:11).

Unconscious of itself apart from the body, this spirit returns to God at death (Ecclesiastes 12:7). In the future resurrection, God will place the spirits of those who have died into new bodies, returning them to conscious intelligence with their personalities and memories intact.

As initially formed, human beings are incomplete creations. God wants to share with them His very nature and enable them to become His literal spiritual children. This is only possible by His Holy Spirit joining with each person's human spirit (Romans 8:16). This gives higher, godly understanding and imparts God's character of love (1 Corinthians 2:10-16; Romans 5:5). It is through the Holy Spirit that God will transform us into beings who will, when resurrected or changed at Christ's return, live with Him forever (Romans 8:11).

God desires to give to every human being the gift of eternal life as a member of His family. Eternal life is not something a person can earn. However, God will not grant this precious gift to anyone who does not yield to Him and His law (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

In the Bible, eternal life in the family of God is called salvation, for those given immortality in that family will never again be subject to death. God reveals to us, through the divinely inspired Scriptures, that salvation is not automatically granted to every human being. He will bestow this blessing on only those who have proven their willingness to obey Him (Revelation 21:7-8).

God was not obligated to elevate human beings to eternal life with Him in the spirit realm, but we know that God is love (1 John 4:8). Therefore, out of unselfish, outgoing concern, He has devised a plan whereby we can be given salvation, the greatest possible blessing a loving Creator can bestow (Luke 12:32).

When God created Adam and Eve, He gave them access to the tree of life, symbolic of eternal life (Genesis 2:9; 3:22). And He commanded them not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which was symbolic of choosing, apart from God, to determine right and wrong for oneself.

But they disobeyed God's command, which constitutes sin or lawlessness (1 John 3:4). And sin leads to death (Genesis 2:17; Ezekiel 18:4, 20; Romans 6:23). Every sin damages the character of the one who commits it. To commit sin harms both the individual sinner and society in general. (See the chapter titled God's Law and Sin.)

Adam and Eve, like all human beings, were given freedom of choice, and under the influence of Satan they violated God's explicit command (Genesis 3:1-6). (See the chapter titled Satan the Devil.) The first human beings thus began to live in a manner contrary to the will of their loving Creator, placing themselves under the penalty of death, about which God had warned them in advance. No human being except Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has lived a sinless life (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:23; Hebrews 4:15).

In spite of human sinfulness, God's ultimate plan for humankind has not been thwarted. In His omniscient wisdom and mercy, God has provided a means by which human beings can be reconciled to Him (John 3:16-17). People can still develop the godly character that is a prerequisite to receiving God's most precious gift of eternal life as His children (1 Corinthians 15:22; Galatians 2:20). But apart from the deliverance God has provided, death reigns over all humanity because all have sinned (Romans 5:12).

God desires harmonious relationships—both between human beings and Himself and among human beings, between individuals and groups. Again, God is in the process of establishing His great family, which the physical human family is to portray. We also see this in the sacred institution of marriage. In creating Adam, God said it was not good for him to be alone (Genesis 2:18). Man needed companionship. So God made woman and established marriage (verses 21-25)—a covenant partnership between a man and a woman and with God (Matthew 19:4-6; Malachi 2:14).

The marriage relationship was intended to model the relationship that Jesus Christ would eventually have with the Church of God (Ephesians 5:22-23). And God also stated that husband and wife are made "one" to produce godly offspring (Malachi 2:15). Marriage is a very serious commitment, safeguarded in the law of God. (Again, see the chapter titled God's Law and Sin.)

For more details, read What Is Your Destiny?, Creation or Evolution: Does It Really Matter What You Believe?, What Happens After Death?, Heaven and Hell: What Does the Bible Really Teach? and Marriage and Family: The Missing Dimension.


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