Whereby [God] has granted to us his precious and exceedingly great promises; that through these you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world by lust.
2 Peter 1:4
The manner in which many use the term “divine nature” is not found in the Bible. Many often attribute to the expression “divine nature” meanings such as uncreated, omnipotent, self-existent, immortal. In reality, the Bible never presents the expression, “divine nature”, as such, with such meanings. What do the scriptures actually say about “divine nature”?
Some often point to Philippians 2:6 as reference to Jesus’ “divine nature”, as supposedly meaning his being the Almighty Himself, self-existent, immortal, etc. We read that Jesus was in the “form (Greek, Morphe: Strong’s #3444) of theos” before coming to the earth. (Philippians 2:6) Nevertheless, it is but an assumption to read into this traditional definition often given to the expression “divine nature”. The Greek word morphe has the meaning of:
1. the form by which a person or thing strikes the vision
2. external appearanc
The word relates, not to what a person “is” in being, substance or body, but rather to the external appearance. At best, it could be understood as divine external appearance, as contrasted with his external appearance in the likeness of a bond servant, in the likeness of sinful flesh, as though he were under the bondage of corruption. The external appearance spoken of here is contrasted with the “external appearance” of a bond-servant, one in slavery to sin, the likeness of man — sinful flesh — in bondage to moral corruption. (Philippians 2:7,8; Romans 8:3,20,21) Remembering that the word “theos” in the Bible is based on the Hebrew usage of EL and ELOHIM, and taken in the context of Philippians 2:6, we can conclude that the “external appearance” of theos refers to the external appearance of Jesus before he was in the days of his flesh as though he were God Himself (although he was not the Almighty in reality) as differentiated from the outward appearance of a human enslaved to sin. Jesus, although he had that external appearance, a glory that make him appear like God Himself, Jesus did not aspire to be equal to God, but emptied himself that glory, and became in the outward appearance of a slave, as though he were in bondage to corruption and sin as all men are who are dying in Adam.
The word “morphe” is paralleled with the word “homoioma”, which is usually translated as “likeness”. Jesus was in the likeness of men, who are bond-servants, in slavery, who are born into the world under bondage of corruption God that placed upon men due to Adam’s sin, from which Jesus died in order to deliver the creation from. (Romans 8:21; 5:12-19; 1 Corinthians 15:21,22; 1 Timothy 2:5,6) Thus, Jesus was born into this world, not under the bondage, but in the likeness of that bondage, in order to pay the price for sin. Jesus was born into this world, not with sinful flesh (flesh of sin), but he was born into this world with the “likeness” of that flesh (Romans 8:3), for he who was without sin was made sin for the world of sinners. (2 Corinthians 5:21) Being in the outward appearance, or likeness, of sinful flesh, does not mean that he was actually sinful, or that Jesus actually had flesh of sin, but that he had the appearance of all men [mankind] dying in Adam (whose flesh became sinful due his disobedience), since Jesus suffered as though he were under the condemnation of sin. Though he was rich [in the glory he had with his Father before he came to be in the days of his flesh — John 17:5; 1 Corinthians 15:40], yet for your sakes he became poor, taking the outward appearance of a slave, ‘in the likeness of sinful flesh’ (Romans 8:3), that is, he suffered for our sins, and sin’s condemnation by means of his sacrificial life and death, as the offsetting, corresponding, price for all condemned in Adam — Romans 5:12-19; 1 Corinthians 15:21,22; 1 Timothy 2:5,6; Hebrews 2:9], that you through his poverty might become rich. — 2 Corinthians 8:9.
It should be apparent that “morphe” in Philippians 2:6,7 is not directly speaking about two different planes of existence, although indirectly such is implied, but not that in the sense that many would like to read into, that is, that had two planes of existence at once, as some teach in their “hypostatic union” theory which they like to add to and read into many scriptures.
Most translations have the expression “divine nature” only once, and that is at 2 Peter 1:4. Is Peter there speaking of an plane of existence, self-existence (life totally separate from any other source of life), omnipotence, etc.? We don’t think so. If we study this closely we can see that the term, “divine nature” (Theios Phusis), used in 2 Peter 1:4, has been traditionally misused by many. For centuries the popular trinitarian philosophies as well as the idea of “going to heaven” at death have evidently led to this misuse. It has been thought by some that partaking of the divine nature would mean to be of the form and plane of existence as God Almighty, having self-existence, life not dependent on any outside source, etc. Such a level of life would make those who possess it actually equal to God himself, as far as being is concerned. The Bible, however, does not ever say that anyone will ever have such equivalency with the Most High, not even Jesus. Additionally, the context of 2 Peter 1:4 and the Greek word translated “nature” does not support this idea. The Greek word phusis (Strong’s #5449) is nowhere else in the scriptures used to mean a form or plane of existence, at least in the sense that it is often attributed in 2 Peter 1:4, and/or by the way many use the term “divine nature” by tradition.
Here are the places where phusis appears in the Greek text: Romans 1:26; 2:14,27; 11:21,24; 1 Corinthians 11:14; Galatians 2:15; 4:8; Ephesians 2:3; James 3:7; 2 Peter 1:4) It carries the thought of a common course of events or matter. According to Strong it means: “growth (by germination or expansion), i.e. (by implication) natural production (lineal descent); by extension, a genus or sort; figuratively, native disposition, constitution or usage: — ([man-])kind, nature([-al]).” The world, the old creation through Adam, is developed through the corrupted genus of Adam, and are thus, from the very time of conception, included as sons of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2), children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3; Colossians 3:6), sons of the evil one (Matthew 13:38), children of the devil, (1 John 3:10) this crooked [and perverse] generation (Acts 2:40; Philippians 2:15), Of this world (John 8:23; 1 Corinthians 5:10; 7:31; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2), the creation subjected to vanity (Romans 8:20,21), partakers of the corruption that is this world through lust. (2 Peter 1:4) Those born under this corrupted condition, brought on by Adam’s sin (Romans 5:12-19), cannot bring themselves out that crooked condition. — Ecclesiaste 1:15; 7:13.
The Greek word *Theios*, translated as “divine” in the KJV and used in connection with “nature” in 2 Peter 1:4, likewise, does not in itself reflect any plane of existence or form. The “Lexical Aids” in the *Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible* says of Theios: “an adj. meaning divine, what is God’s especially and what proceeds from him…. Theios denotes an attribute of God and not the character of God in its totality.”
The KJV translates this word as “Godhead” in Acts 17:29, denoting divine quality or attribute. Some translations render the word as “divine nature” or “deity” in Acts 17:29. The word “Theios” is also used 2 Peter 1:3, where the KJV translates it again as “divine”, as an adjective of “power”, referring evidently to the power of Jesus. (verse 1). Again, of itself, *Theios* does not refer to any form or plane of existence, although in reference to God in the context of its usage in Acts 17:29, the qualities do seem to include his form of existence as a mighty spirit being, as opposed to the form of idols, which are formed by man, and which have no power in themselves — they are not gods by nature, since the nature of the words “theos”, “el”, “elohim”, etc., denote power, mightiness. — Galatians 4:8; See also Psalm 115:4-8; 135:15-18; Isaiah 44:9-20; Romans 1:23; 1 Corinthians 8:4; 10:19,20; 12:2.
In connection with the context of 2 Peter 1:4, where Peter speaks of many qualities that Christian should develop, we should understand that, by “divine nature”, Peter is speaking of being called to partake in divine-like qualities, such diligence, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, patience, godliness (piety), brotherly affection, love. (2 Peter 1:3-7) It is in this relation that “divine nature” is contrasted with corruption that is this world. (2 Peter 1:4) Peter speaks those to whom he is writing as being called to partake of this divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is this world through lust. If those under the present bondage cannot be made straight, how is it that Peter speaks of having escaped from such corruption?
God himself provided the basis for such escape. While the human creation under bondage could not bring forth any new creation (Ecclesiastes 1:10) that would be straight, God could. God sent his son, who was not begotten of this crooked and perverse generation through Adam, but Jesus was begotten (Greek, gennao) by means of God’s holy spirit. (Matthew 1:28) His body was not of the flesh of sin common to mankind that is dying in Adam, for his body was specially prepared by God. (Hebrews 10:5) His very purpose for coming into this world, however, was take upon himself the condemnation in Adam, so as to offer that sinless body in sacrifice for sin. (Hebrews 10:10) Therefore, his life was placed under a sacrificial dying, corresponding to the wages of sin that had been placed upon mankind through Adam, so that “he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was on him; and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5) Additionally, however, being without sin, Jesus had a basis for partaking of the divine nature that Peter spoke of, which he did by his full obedience, even to his sacrificial death. — Philippians 2:8.
By means of Jesus’ sacrifice, since he paid the wages of sin for Adam and the human race through Adam, the provision of regeneration is made available to all dyng in Adam. This regeneration allows one to be begotten again (or, as many prefer, “born again” — Matthew 19:28; John 3:3,7; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 1:3) as new creatures who are not under the bondage of corruption, since for them, all things become new (by partaking of the powers of the age to come, as though they were in the age to come, when God makes all things new — 2 Corinthians 5:17; Hebrews 6:5; Revelation 21:1-5). The Christian, by means of the begettal of the holy spirit, are begotten as sons of God, new creatures who are also should develop a moral constitution like that of the divine. Thus verses 5-8 of 2 Peter 2 deal with the developing of the divine-like qualities. These were by nature [phusis] children of wrath, sons of disobedience. (Ephesians 2:2,3) Because of Adam’s sin the nature of man was changed, and the human race became by nature children of wrath. The human plane of existence itself was not changed — Adam was still a human – on the human plane of existence – after he sinned, but the “nature” of mankind was changed. But Peter speaks of the new creation when says “we” have escaped the “corruption that is in the world”, no longer children of wrath, but called to be partakers of the divine nature.
Nevertheless, as we have shown elsewhere, it is true that the full development of the divine nature (in this age) would result in the receiving a spiritual body in the resurrection for those who prove themselves to “joint-heirs” with Messiah. Nonetheless, the “divine nature” itself, as expressed in 2 Peter 1:4, is not equal to a resurrection in a spiritual body as though equal to God. It is by developing this divine nature that one becomes incorruptible.
Thus, we conclude Adam also was called to be a partaker of the divine nature on the human plane as bearing the image of God, but failed by putting his mind on the flesh rather than the spirit. Had Adam crystalized his character in righteousness, he would have been incorruptible morally, no longer subject to being morally corrupted. — Genesis 1:27; 1 Corinthians 15:53; Romans 8:5-9.
In harmony with these scriptural findings, we have been careful in how we present the matter of divine nature in the studies that you may find on the Restoration Light website. Nevertheless, Jesus did have a divine, celestial, spiritual body — a body as a mighty spirit being — before coming to the earth. In his resurrection, he was raised in a spiritual body, and given the attribute of immortality. He is no longer subject to death.