The Image of God

I’ve been thinking about Christ’s return a lot lately. While some of my thoughts may be on how close we are to that coming moment, most of them are instead on heaven, on me, and on God – and the connection of those three things. If Christ’s righteousness is imputed to me, if God sees Christ when He looks upon me – God gets all of the glory and I get to dwell in His presence – then what does that mean I will become? Because I can’t stay as I am right now.


And so I ask: How will I be in heaven, with God, without this sin-stained vessel of humanity clinging to me – how will I retain my humanity yet also be white as snow? My limited imagination doesn’t help so much, but neither does the far superior imagination of CS Lewis’ who said that we aren’t bodies with souls, but rather we are souls with bodies, (okay, he didn’t say that, but…). That doesn’t help me in this particular quest, because it seems as though my soul uses my body to sin. Jesus put His finger on it when he stated how it’s what goes on inside that is the issue.

How do I look if I am fully human yet also fully righteous and holy? What does a pre-Fall Adam look like? How does a redeemed person who has come to the knowledge of good and evil, appear in God’s presence? Will such knowledge, with all of its memories, fall away? Or perhaps a better question: Will I be returned to Adam’s original design, or will I somehow be more than Adam was originally created to be – as a result of His redemptive work within me, post-Fall?

These questions are not answered in Scripture. To ask them sounds rather sophomore-ish, as I certainly don’t need to know this in order to live a faithful life now. I do need repentance, faith, and obedience – and Scripture is more than sufficient in that regard; it is living water, in fact.


Apart from sin, what am I? – leads me onward into: What does it mean to be made in the image of God? – in the first place. Maybe eschatology and ontology aren’t far apart.

I’ve been ruminating on the Image of God for a minute (as the kids say, these days), with many different starting-thoughts and half-thoughts. To begin with, Scripture makes it clear that we are all made in the image of God, but that we are not all children of God:

One: Genesis 1:27 (NLT) – So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

The Other: In John 1:12 Jesus said, “But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.” Later in that same chapter, He presented the inverse with, “But you don’t listen [to the words of God] because you don’t belong to God.” John 1:47b (NLT).


I recently stumbled upon Rosaria Butterfield’s fourth book, Five Lies of our Anti-Christian Age, and she steps into this very idea of the Image of God in her introduction.

She writes, “...[W]e are made not as God’s image but in God’s image. We reflect the image of God ... by looking to God through his word and growing in the knowledge of God, the holiness of God, and the righteousness of God (Ephesians. 4:24; Colossians. 3:10). Our authenticity comes from God and not from our feelings.”

She continues: “Joel Beeke writes, ‘When man fell into sin, knowledge gave way to ignorance, righteousness to iniquity, and holiness to ungodliness.’ God is holy, and therefore ignorance, iniquity, and ungodliness reflect our sin nature in Adam. The good news of the gospel is that when we put our trust in Christ and walk in his love and his commands, God’s image in man is restored in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness.’”


The distinction of not being created as the image of God, but rather being created in His image, helped me see more clearly – in that we reflect Him. It further helped me to understand the image of God by comparing His characteristics with with those of the image of Adam.

She concludes this section by identifying why our understanding of this is so important: “This restoration process proceeds from the powerful word of God being engrafted into a believing heart. Beeke describes the order by which God renews his image in man: ‘First, we must acquire knowledge of the truth, which is imparted through the preaching of the Word (James 1:21).’ Next, we do the will of God (Psalm 15:1; 1 John 5:3). And, finally, we ‘consecrate ourselves, soul and body, to serving God with loving reverence and godly fear.’”


We are now in the image of Adam; yet also in the image of God. That’s the starting point for all of us – we aren’t conceived in the womb as redeemed, but we are absolutely conceived in the image of God. For those who come to a saving grace in Christ, there is a continual, ongoing shedding of the skin of Adam, and putting on that of Christ – it sounds like Jesus’ summary of the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37-40), as well as Paul’s instructions to the Romans (12:2 and 13:14).

In Jesus’ incarnation He remained fully God but also stepped into full humanity – this boggles the mind, to be sure. But I find the inverse even more boggling: In our redemption, we retain our full humanity, yet as we step into eternity with Christ, we will be without sin. We will be holy, righteous and fully alive. What does it mean to be fully human without blemish? That revelation is coming.


What about relationships with other people? What will those look like without the stain of sin? If other people are holy, and if I am holy, how will we interact? I am sure that we will interact. Scripture points to angels interacting with each other, as well as with us. But if eternity involves God removing our sorrow, and there is no more weeping, will our memory of those we love, of those who refused to bend their knee to Christ in this life, also be wiped away? If so, or if not, how does that work?

How it works is up to God. My limitations are not His limitations, and I am content in Him – no matter my questions.

Butterfield, Rosaria. Five Lies of our Anti-Christian Age. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2023). pp.9 and 10.

Ephesians 4:24 (ESV) - and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Colossians 3:10 (ESV) - and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.

When Butterfield quotes Joel Beeke, Image of God, she is not quoting from a book by that name, but instead from, The Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage, 2014), p. 1733.

James 1:21 (ESV) - Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

Psalm 15:1 (ESV) - O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?  Who shall dwell on your holy hill?

1 John 5:3 (ESV) - For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

Matthew 22:37-40 (ESV) And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Romans 12:2 (ESV) – Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 13:14 (ESV) – But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Matthew 23:25,26 (NLT) – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.”

God is knowledge – that’s a thought I want to explore more. Later.