|Topical Bible Study||September 1961|
God’s Plan for Man—Lesson VII
The Glory of the Celestial
THE word “celestial” appears only twice in the Bible. (I Cor. 15:40) It is a translation of the Greek word, epouranlos. The literal meaning of this word is, “above the sky.”*
* Strong’s Greek Dictionary of the New Testament, No. 2032.
This same Greek word is also translated “heaven” in a statement by the Apostle Paul in which he contrasts things in heaven with things on earth. (Phil. 2:10) This indicates that there are intelligent creations of God in the realms of the universe above, or beyond the sky; or more scientifically speaking, beyond the atmosphere of the earth.
Epouranlos is also translated “heavenly” in various associations. It is this word that is associated with Father in the name, “Heavenly Father.”—Matt. 18:35
The Apostle Paul was assured that the Lord would deliver him from evil so that he might participate with Jesus in the “heavenly” kingdom. (II Tim. 4:18) Here also the Greek word epouranlos is used.
It is also this word that is used by the Apostle Paul when, in presenting the hope set before the dedicated followers of Jesus, he uses the expression, “heavenly calling.”—Heb. 3:1
When Nicodemus, a ruler in Israel, expressed surprise to Jesus over the idea of being “born again” Jesus referred to it as among the Celestial “heavenly things which the human mind could not appreciate. (John 3:12) Here again it is the Greek word epouranlos that is used.
The Apostle Paul uses this word in another context in which he emphasizes that celestial, or “heavenly” beings are separate and distinct from earthly, or human beings. (I Cor. 15:48) Paul does explain, however, that some members of the human race will, in the resurrection, be exalted to a “heavenly” or celestial state.—I Cor. 15:49
It is important to keep the import of these various texts of Scripture in mind for they emphasize that there is a great distinction between the heavenly nature and the earthly nature, that the two are in no way blended into one, as erroneously supposed by so many. Man was in no sense whatever a heavenly, or spiritual, being when created, nor will the nature of man ever change.
The Scriptures do teach that those who sacrifice their earthly lives, following in the footsteps of Jesus, will be exalted to the heavenly nature in the resurrection. Indeed, in a future lesson we shall see that there are different planes of life, or natures, “above the sky,” and that the followers of Jesus will be exalted to the very highest of these, even to the divine nature.—II Pet. 1:4
It is this glorious hope that the promises of the Bible hold out to the faithful followers of the Master. It is worth far more than giving up all that we have and are in order to attain that glorious “prize” of the divine nature.
The “glory of the celestial” is indeed a wonderful prize. The Apostle Paul describes it as “the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14) Jesus explained that this “treasure in heaven” was attainable only by giving up all earthly treasures and becoming his followers into sacrificial death, which he illustrated by the idea of taking up one’s cross as his disciples. (Matt. 19:21) May all who have thus set their affections on things above be diligent as they press on in the narrow way which leads to glory, honor, and immortality.
How many times does the word “celestial” appear in the Bible, and what is the Greek word and its meaning from which it is translated?
What other words are used in the New Testament to translate the Greek word epouranlos?
What is implied by Paul’s contrast between the things in heaven and the things in earth?
What did the Apostle Paul mean by a “heavenly” kingdom and a “heavenly” calling?
What did Jesus say to Nicodemus about “heavenly” things?
Are the heavenly and earthly natures ever blended in one being? If not, why do followers of Jesus hope to be heavenly beings in the resurrection?
Are there different planes of being “above the sky”?
“The Divine Plan of the Ages,” pages 181-184.
SUMMARY OF IMPORTANT THOUGHTS
The Bible teaches that God has created beings on higher planes of life than the human, and that the faithful followers of Jesus are promised exaltation to the highest of these, which is the divine.