In the Image of God

Let’s talk about being “made in the image of God” – the “Imago Dei.” Perhaps we’ve played right into our enemy’s plans to disrupt the maturing of the eternal Body of Christ.

The Creation of Mankind

The NASB translates Genesis 1:26-27 this way: “Then God said, ‘Let Us make mankind in Our image, according to Our likeness,'” … “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

I observe that there are four different “created” statements in those two verses. The first three seem strangely redundant – probably to strongly emphasize that mankind was created to be God’s image and likeness on the earth.

But the “male and female” part has a different focus, thematically somewhat more tied into verse 28’s command to be fruitful and multiply. And lacking punctuation and verse markings, the original Hebrew doesn’t really insist that the “male and female” be coupled to verse 27 instead of verse 28, other than perhaps seeming logically tied with the other “created” phrases.

Interestingly, Genesis 5:1-3 also separates “in the likeness of God” (verse 2) from “male and female” (verse 3). A literal translation of the Hebrew reads “In the day that God created man in the likeness of God, He made him male and female.” This also seems to separate the idea of Imago Dei from the creation of gender.

The Bible’s Big Picture

Now, on a related topic, I’ve been looking hard at prophecy in the Bible lately. I have observed that the Book of Revelation, rather than just an end-times description, actually seems to be a summation of all of Scripture, to encompass the story from creation all the way until its future end. There are quite a few symbolic depictions of the Body of Christ in Revelation – as a single spiritual being, as a composite of four “Living Creatures” under the Throne, as the Bride, a city coming down out of heaven, and so forth. They all involve all of God’s children being assembled together “in Christ.” None of those descriptions in Revelation could reasonably be considered already completed in today’s still-broken world.

God’s intent, clearly stated in Genesis 1:26 and Psalms 8:4-6 and Colossians 1:13-15 and 2 Corinthians 4:4-7 and other verses, was to create an truly accurate representation of Himself. That representation would show His glory to the universe and in fact even to spiritual authorities and powers, and ultimately will rule over all creation. And I don’t think anyone would argue that we really accurately represent Him yet – either individually, or corporately as the Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ.

So how does Imago Dei tie in with Revelation and Genesis?

I have a sense that in Genesis 1:26-27, “created” may be written in past tense, but it’s not yet a completed work.

Since we were created in physical bodies (“male and female He created them“), it seems clear that the third statement of “created” in Genesis 1:27 was in fact fully completed with Adam and Eve.

But the first two “created” statements in verse 27 are hard to describe as complete, given the state of our world and the rather divided church. God’s intent that the Imago Dei, “in His image,” would be fulfilled in the corporate Body of Christ seems still very much incomplete and a work in progress. Only when viewed from eternity’s perspective will we see it truly completed in the past tense.

The Importance of Completion

In all the current fuss over transgender identity and homosexuality and even gene editing, mainstream Christians have consistently argued that “male and female” and “in the image of God” are synonymous, and thus homosexuality and anything that blurs the line of male/female or changes the human body – even tattoos or piercings in some denominations – represent the worst possible sins because they attack the very essence of “the image of God.”

But God is spirit, not flesh.

If God is spirit, then being made in His image would imply that the “image” of God in man would also be a spiritual image, not a physical image. God had to deliberately reveal Himself in fleshly form in Jesus, to truly undertake the process of reconciling man’s spirit to Himself. That fleshly form was not native to God. In fact, Jesus’ resurrection proved that killing his body could not kill Him as a spirit.

The Great Distraction

I’m not at all proposing that the church should encourage or celebrate LGBTQ identities and activities; I personally find that the scriptures are fairly clear that Christians have certain standards by which we should live, and it appears to me that sexual purity is pretty high on God’s list for His people, in both the Old and New Testaments. We shouldn’t ignore sin within the Body of Christ.

I am, however, proposing that the current intense focus on and vehement opposition against any and all LBTGQ issues – especially among the lost who desperately need God – is a massive distraction to the church. The enemy has deceived us by redirecting our focus onto the particulars of the sex organs of briefly-animated collections of the dust of the earth. But those bodies are merely a temporary carrier of our eternal spirits. Our enemy’s strongest tools are deception and distraction, and we’ve played right into his plans to disrupt the maturing of the eternal Body of Christ.

So perhaps physical issues are not as central to “the Image of God” as I once thought.

The Refocus

If we believe that God intends to fulfill His intention to “create mankind in Our image” beyond a simple creation of two fleshy beings with orders to reproduce, then I suggest that our focus should be on assembling ourselves to the corporate Bride of Christ, and bringing God’s love to every soul – regardless of body shape or self-identity. We should refocus on becoming the spiritual image of God, the Imago Dei, as accurately manifested in a single, complete, corporate spiritual being, “from every nation and all the tribes, peoples, and languages.” (Rev. 7:9 NASB)

That, I truly believe, is the Image of God.

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