Who are the Sons of God?
the sons of god
Understanding the Biblical term
Want to start an argument between church members in a Bible-believing church or among Bible scholars? Hopefully not, but if you’re up for picking a fight, just ask who the sons of God in Genesis six are, step back, and watch the sparks fly. There are few topics that raise more tension between professing Christians than the subject of the sons of God. Personally, I don’t know why. None of the arguments have an effect on a person’s salvation. None of the arguments make a person more spiritual, wiser, or closer to God. Well, maybe, but only if you’re actually studying this in order to know the scriptures so that you can have a more intimate relationship with the Lord.
This won’t be a long post. I intend to show what the Bible says and leave. Why? I have no intentions of arguing with anyone. If, for some reason, you think arguing Bible doctrine with fellow followers of Christ makes you spiritual, you are sadly mistaken and need to repent. If you are a pharisee of any degree, please go to another blog or article. I’m here to equip the saints with knowledge of the Bible so that they may wage a good warfare because the enemies of God’s people (the world, the flesh, and the devil) are real, and they are the ones we should be armed against, not the brethren. With that being said, I won’t be saying anything new, but hopefully I can give you a brief overview to help you better understand this subject so that you can have another key to unlock more doctrine and understand the word of God better.
What does the Bible say about the sons of God?
That’s not a one sentence answer kind of question. There are several times this phrase is used, either as Son of God, son of God, or sons of God. Notice the capitalization because it matters. If the Bible you’re reading doesn’t make a distinction between son of God and Son of God, you might want to consider getting a different Bible. Just saying.
First up...who is called the Son of God?
That one’s easy: Jesus.
Done. See you next time.
Kidding, but not totally joking. I’m going to explain (that part was a joke). Jesus is the Son of God (that’s no laughing matter).
Over and over again, all throughout the New Testament, Jesus is called the Son of God. When Mary was visited by an angel and told that she would be the mother of Jesus, the angel told her that the child would be the Son of God (Luke 1:35). The devil tempted Jesus, at the beginning of his ministry, by telling him that he could turn stones into bread, if he was the Son of God (Matthew 4:3).
The devils he cast out knew that he was the Son of God (Matthew 8:29). After walking on water and calming the storm with his mere presence, his disciples knew and acknowledged that he was the Son of God (Matthew 14:33). He was held on trial because he, allegedly, called himself the Son of God (Matthew 26:63). After his death on the cross there was an earthquake and many supernatural events that caused the centurion to call him the Son of God (Matthew 27:54). These and other references to him being called the Son of God are not limited to the book of Matthew.
What about the controversy, Chad? *sigh* You had to ask? OK. There’s this one verse...the only Old Testament verse that uses the term “Son of God” with a capital “S.” It’s guaranteed to start a fight. Again, I don’t know why. Any answer anyone gives is, at best, a conclusion that cannot be proven dogmatically. Meaning? We’re just not sure about this one, so why argue? Here it is, along with my take that may or may not change through further study:
In the book of Daniel, there are three Hebrews in captivity in Babylon. The king, Nebuchadnezzar, had made an image of himself and commanded all people to worship it anytime they heard certain music playing. Well, everyone did as they were commanded, except Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They refused to worship the idol image, so (long story short) they were thrown into a furnace but not before the heat was turned up. And...they didn’t burn. Not only that, but Nebuchadnezzar looked into the furnace and saw them walking around in it, and he also saw a fourth figure. Here’s what the king said:
“He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God” (Daniel 3:25).
And thousands of years later, the church loses its unfortunately divided mind because half say this is Nebuchadnezzar declaring that Jesus was in the furnace with the Hebrews, and half say it was an angel and there’s no way this pagan king could have possibly known who Jesus was.
For context, we know that the Babylonian king worshipped many gods (Daniel 3:14). We also know that a little while before this, he had a dream and was given insight into the true God. So much so that, after Daniel had given him the understanding of the dream of the image, the king made Daniel ruler over all the province of Babylon (Daniel 2:48).
Daniel requested and got it approved for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to take that job while Daniel sat in the gate (vs. 49). It stands to reason that the king may have sought some additional knowledge from Daniel. It also stands to reason that he erected this image of himself because of the dream where he was told he was the golden head of a great image representing him being ruler of the world.
So he sees the fourth man, and he says it is LIKE the Son of God. He didn’t say it was him. In verse twenty-eight, he said the God of these three had “sent his angel.” Several references throughout the Bible to “the angel of the Lord” could be referring to a similitude of Christ. There’s debate over Moses seeing God face to face (Exodus 33:11) and then not being able to see God and live (Exodus 33:20), but the book of Numbers makes it plain that he saw a similitude, not God in the flesh (Numbers 12:8). I don’t think it’s outlandish to say that the king, despite being a pagan who worshipped multiple gods, understood that this was a similitude. Sorry it that ruins your really excited yet ultimately hollow “Jesus was in the fire with ‘em” sermons, but we’re here for truth, not feel good preaching. Do I believe that God is with me in my trials? Absolutely. The Bible makes it clear that the Holy Spirit is in me (Ephesians 1:13, John 14:20).
There’s argument over the Aramaic and various translations for “God,” stating that it could be “gods.” I don’t pretend to have an understanding of ancient languages, but the experts that translated that word for hundreds of years (the guys that could actually speak those languages) said it was “God” based on the context. If you read Daniel two and three, you find out that the king acknowledged the God of the Hebrews was a “God of gods” and the only “God that can deliver after this sort.”
So what’s my take? I don’t know. No one does. If anyone says, dogmatically, that they know for sure it was Jesus, or it was an angel, or anything else, they’re wrong. No one knows. Me, I tend to think it was an angel, but that angel was the similitude of Christ, the Son of God. Does my salvation depend on that? Not a chance. Moving on.
What about a son of God?
In this, singular form, there’s just one. It’s pretty significant, which may be why God had it written that way. In Luke chapter three, we get the genealogy of Jesus Christ. Unlike Matthew, which traces his kingship, Luke traces him all the way back to Adam. Why? Well, Jesus IS the Son of God, but he is also the Son of man. It’s very interesting, though, the way Luke labels these ancestors.
It starts out with Jesus being the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli (Luke 3:23). Every person after that is listed as “the son of” and then a name is given. The name of a man. That is, until we get to verse 38:
“Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God.”
Pay attention to the article there because it’s important. Jesus is THE Son of God, but Adam is also called THE son of God. There are many ways of dividing the Bible, and we are told in 2 Timothy 2:15 to “rightly divide the word of truth.” One such way is by the generations of the first Adam and the generation of the second Adam. No, I didn’t make a mistake in plurals just now. This is exciting stuff, so try to stay with me.
If you look through your Bible, you will only find two verses with the phrase “the book of the generation(s) of…” Why? One is the book of the generations of Adam (Genesis 5:1), and one is the book of the generation of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:1). Adam was created from the dust of the ground, and then God breathed the breath of life into his nostrils. He was born of God and, therefore, was the son of God. All of his descendants were born to Adam. Adam was created in God’s image, but Adam’s sons were born in likeness and image (Genesis 5:1-3). Jesus, on the other hand, was born of a woman (descendant of Adam) but also of God. This is why the virgin birth is so important and should not be discounted. As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive (1 Corinthians 15:22).
This also helps to clear up why Jesus referred to himself as the Son of man, but he IS the Son of God. He was fully man (born of a woman), and he is fully God (not born of the seed of Adam). This is how he was able to die in our place and pay the price for our sin. This, again, is why the virgin birth is so vital. We cannot and should not allow so-called scholars to rationalize everything into a historical error or discount the scriptures as myth and fairy tale. Hollywood cannot be the conveyors of the word of God; that is the responsibility of the church!
Well, not much controversy there. *sigh* I’m not done. It has to be done, but remember that we’re after truth, not arguments.
Who are the sons of God?
Dealing with the plural form, this is a complicated question, so we’ll try and stick with the basics. There are many references to “sons of God” in the Bible. If you have believed in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ; if you have trusted in Christ: you are a son of God. Sorry, the Bible doesn’t say daughter of God anywhere. I’m just going to leave that one alone. You’re a child of God. K? Let’s move on. As I said, there is more than one class of “people” this term applies to.
Where are you going? Get back here. Listen, some truths are difficult. I don’t see why this one is, but some people have a real problem with it. In my fictional book, Fate of the Watchman, I have an angel guiding the main character around through a frozen moment of time. In the sequel, Fate of the Redeemed, the angel is revealed to be a watcher. One person said that she wasn’t comfortable with the thought of angels watching over the affairs of mankind, so she wasn’t so inclined to believe it. One, the book is fiction. Two, the fact that angels do much more than watch is based on a large body of scripture. I cover angels in depth in my post, A Third of the Stars of Heaven. No being comfortable with something is a terrible excuse for trying to convince yourself it isn’t true. I’m not comfortable with the price of my water bill; it still comes once a month, and I have to pay it. Grow up.
Anyway, angels. Yes, these are called the sons of God. In the book of Job, God shows up to declare truth to Job and those with him. He asks him if he was there when God laid the foundations of the earth. This, obviously, is before the earth existed, which means it was before man’s creation. In Job 38:7, God says, “When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” It can’t be talking about humans because they didn’t exist, yet. These are the angels, or at least some other race that existed before the earth was even formed.
So, here comes the controversy. In Genesis six, God decided that man was so corrupt he was going to destroy the earth with a flood. He spared one man and his family out of all the people on the earth. One. God makes it clear that man had been corrupted, but not just in his heart, which is stated in Genesis 6:5. No, the race of man had been corrupted, according to verse two.
“That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.”
I’m just going to say it: These are angels that sinned (2 Peter 2:4). They left their “first estate” (Jude 1:6). They mingled with human woman, had children, and those children were an abomination. I go more in detail on this topic in my post, Satan’s Mighty Men. This isn’t a racist thing. The Bible doesn’t say anything about white and black or any other colors, so it would be great if so-called “men of God” would stop preaching that nonsense. This is an angel, fallen from heaven (by choice), having intercourse with a human. You didn’t really think there was no element of truth to all those mythologies, did you? Here’s a thought: If nations who could not communicate with one another for centuries all came up with very similar origin stories, involving “gods” who had children with humans, do you think there might be something to it?
OK, so not everyone likes this idea. They are uncomfortable with it and try to explain it away. I guess those giants just naturally appeared, huh? No. We need to let the Bible interpret itself. The go-to verse for those denying this doctrine is Matthew 22:30 (also Mark 12:25 and Luke 20:35). This verse is Jesus telling the pharisees that, in the resurrection, people will not be married but will be like the angels in heaven. People then say: “See, the angels can’t have children.”
Sorry, the verse doesn’t say that. It ONLY says that the angels IN heaven are not given in marriage. It never says they can’t have children. It is also talking about angels which are actually in heaven.
The argument then carries to the “sons of God” in question here are the ungodly line of Cain. They have been corrupted through their sin and mingled with the godly line of Seth. I can’t even with that.
First, Adam sinned, and all of his children were born after that. So both Cain and Seth had a nature of sin.
Second, the Bible is clear that all have sinned (Romans 3:23), which includes me, and I’ve never mutated. My kids are crazy, but they’re not mutants. My third son is big for his age, but I think the Bible was a bit more literal when it talked about giants.
Third, they’re all the sons of Adam. We’ve established that, to be a son of God, you must be born of God. Cain, Abel, and Seth were all sons of Adam, not God.
If the Bible says there were sons of God with him before the foundation of the earth, then plainly there are some non-human sons of God abiding in the heavens. We know from the Bible that a third of the angels rebelled and left heaven with Satan. I don’t understand why it’s far fetched to say that these angels became further corrupted in their hearts and committed further acts of sin. That’s as far as I’ll go with this. The sons of God in Genesis six are not the ungodly line of Cain. Cain may have lived a long life, but he was just as human as the rest of us. Furthermore, he committed murder, something millions have done, and none of them turned into giants or had offspring that became giants. Last thought, Cain asked God for mercy. Just saying. Now, on to the other “sons of God.”
Believers in Jesus Christ
It’s always good to end on a positive note, and here it is. Those who have trusted in Christ, believed in their hearts that he rose from the dead, and confessed with their mouths that he is Lord are the sons of God. There’s no real controversy here. All we have to do is turn to the book of John, the book written to declare Christ as God, and we see this truth plainly written out.
Oh that men would believe in Jesus, but many do not. Oh that the Jews would have received him, but many of them did not. The Bible says, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:11). But I’m glad it didn’t stop there! Let’s take a minute to end all arguments, sweep our frustration with one another aside, and rejoice in what the next verse says:
“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12).
Wait! Not done:
“Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13).
This is the difficult truth that Nicodemus couldn’t understand. We are all born once. That is our human birth, our birth into a sinful, corrupted body of flesh. The flesh comes from the earth, the same earth that was cursed by God after man sinned. In this body of flesh, we have no hope of heaven, no redemption for our sin. However, through a second birth, a birth of the Spirit, we have new life, hope, and redemption through his blood, even the blood of the cross!
Your greatest effort to live a clean life will come short of God’s glory. Your righteousness is filthy in God’s sight. Your best, my best, is failure. Without Christ, we can do nothing but fail. No sacrifice we could offer would ever be holy enough, righteous enough to cleanse us from sin. So God sent his only begotten son, the Son of God, to die in our place, be buried, and rise again that all who will believe can become the sons of God. I have no claim to heaven in my flesh, but through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, I am a joint heir with Christ. I am just as much a son as Jesus is THE SON!
Forget the controversy and rejoice in the truth. There is so much that we don’t know, and spending too much time dwelling on that will only lead to frustration. However, the little we do understand about God and salvation through Christ should fill us with the peace that passes all understanding!
Do I begrudge you if you believe differently than me on some of the points I’ve espoused in this post? No. Not at all. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind! I am way too busy enjoying the truth of salvation, and I pray you do the same. If you haven’t believed, today is the day of salvation!