This teaching is primarily about the biblical subject of adoption, but I’ve been perplexed (and sometimes troubled) for many, many years about a teaching among many of God’s children called “The Manifested Sons.” God has not prompted me to teach anything about that subject and adoption until just recently. This teaching will be an overview of both the biblical concept of adoption and a view called “The Manifested Sons.”
The biblical subject of adoption is pretty straightforward—when properly understood—and not controversial. However, the subject of the manifested sons is another matter altogether; it’s very contentious and controversial. I’ve seen it’s adherents split churches and families. I’m only sharing from my present understanding and current state of awareness; I may be wrong about some of the things you’ll read in this teaching, and I’m open to honest, well-intended correction and discussion. BUT, I am not open to negative attacks upon me personally because of what I presently understand and believe.
With that in mind, I often tell people that when reading the Bible, believe what you read, not read what you believe!
Among many people who read and study the Bible, Romans 8: 19 about the manifestation of the sons of God holds some sort of strange fascination and fixation for them. An extensive body of teaching about this single reference in Romans can be found here and there in literature, in sermons, and on the worldwide web. Most of such material is fascinating to read or listen to. Unfortunately, my own view is that many people who are fascinated and captivated by that reference are misguided and mistaken in what they have come to believe about it.
Here, in essence, is what such people teach about Romans 8: 19… They believe that at some point in this life an elite group of “manifested sons” (and daughters) who are followers of Jesus will miraculously be manifested, revealed, or unveiled on earth by God sometime shortly before Jesus returns to establish his Kingdom. Through those manifested sons, God is going to perform powerful miracles, signs, and wonders to lovingly draw people to Himself. Such an elite group of manifested sons will be more mature, more informed, and more filled with God than ordinary, normal, typical believers in Jesus.
There are some variations in what I wrote in the paragraph above, but that’s the gist of what those who hold that view believe and teach based on Romans 8: 19. Unfortunately it’s a widespread teaching that seems to have captivated many followers of Jesus who constantly strive and hope they will be among those elite, manifested sons; I personally know a number of people who spend a great deal of their time trying hard to become one of those manifested sons; I feel such efforts are futile, misguided, and wasted. One cannot work or strive to become a manifested son (or daughter); God alone reveals who are his manifested sons and daughters.
In our modern era, one of the first men to teach and spread that view about the manifested sons through his prolific writings was George Hawtin from North Battlefield, Saskatchewan, Canada, who first began to spread this view as part of the so-called “Latter Rain Revival” that began in approximately 1949. You can read many of his teachings on the internet.
Okay, now let’s take a look at Romans 8: 19 where it states: “For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing [manifestation] of the sons of God.” A couple of more modern English translations read this way: “The entire universe is standing on tiptoe, yearning to see the unveiling [manifestation] of God’s glorious sons and daughters.” (The Passion Translation) “There is a singular event the entire creation awaits with bated breath: to witness the unveiling [manifestation] of the sons of God.” (My translation)
I always attempt to teach that any Bible reference must be studied in context and in its historical setting; that is certainly true of Romans 8: 19. To begin to fully answer the question about what both Romans 8: 19 and adoption into the family of God means, we must always first look at the context in which the references occur.
In a broad sense, the context of the entire eighth chapter of Romans is about the new and exciting relationship the believer in Jesus enjoys with Holy Spirit who comes to permanently reside in them when they are born again: that is, people begin to enjoy new LIFE because Holy Spirit now lives in them, as contrasted and compared with one’s old pre-Jesus life of spiritual sin and death before being born again. Through Holy Spirit’s LIFE inside the believer in Jesus, the very LIFE of Jesus is displayed in the believer, not only in this life but in the life to come.
The more immediate context of verse 19 is verses 18 – 29, a paragraph contrasting the sufferings of believers in Jesus with the glorious future awaiting them when their bodies are resurrected from death and enter Jesus’ coming Kingdom on earth. Now let’s begin to look at what the Bible teaches about the biblical concept of adoption within both this broader and immediate context; we’ll come back to Romans 8: 19 later.
The Bible uses the word “adoption” only 5 times in the New Testament: Romans 8: 15, Romans 8: 23, Romans 9: 4, Galatians 4: 5, and Ephesians 1: 5. The fact that the word appears only those 5 times doesn’t mean it’s not an important theme in the New Testament; it is a major theme, and the explanation of the word requires we study many other references and put them all together to arrive at a definition of the biblical word, adoption.
In two of the references about adoption—Romans 9: 4 and Galatians 4: 5—adoption seems to refer specifically to the Israelites or Jews; we won’t cover that form or method of adoption in this teaching. That leaves us with Romans 8: 15 and 23 and Ephesians 1: 5 to deal with. Romans 8: 15 uses the word adoption, but does not define it nor tell when adoption occurs; Ephesians 1: 5 is the same—not stating when adoption occurs.
Of those five references about adoption, only Romans 8: 23 indicates clearly that adoption occurs when the bodies of Jesus’ followers are resurrected after they have died. Other references throughout the New Testament teach us that the bodies of Jesus believers are resurrected when Jesus returns to earth to establish his eternal Kingdom. For example, the 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians is the key reference in the Bible about resurrection of the body.
The Bible clearly teaches that humans are a “trinity,” or tri-une beings fashioned after God’s tri-une being: Father, Son, and Spirit. A foundational reference for that concept is 1 Thessalonians 5: 23.
The Bible teaches that the human spirit is redeemed (made alive) at the time one is born again into the family of God. The Bible also teaches that the human soul (mind, will, emotions, etc.) begins to be renewed when a person is born again, and that mental renewal process continues throughout the lifetime of one who has been born again and chosen to become a follower of Jesus.
That leaves the human body yet to be redeemed or renewed when the body is resurrected from death when Jesus returns. Jesus’s return seems from Romans 8: 23 (and many other corroborating biblical references) to be the precise point when Jesus’ followers are adopted. We’ll explain that specific adoption later in this teaching.
It is generally believed by many thousands of people in the evangelical world that people who are born again and become followers of Jesus were “adopted” into God’s family of believers. That is NOT true! We are born into the family of God, not adopted! I won’t even begin to cite the many references that teach we are born into the family of God, but four reference come readily to mind as being representative of the many other references: 1 Peter 1: 23: “For through the eternal and living Word of God you have been born again. And this seed that he planted within you can never be destroyed but will live and grow inside of you forever.”
Second, in John 3: 1 – 8, Jesus speaks very clearly about the need for people to be born again. Third, in James 1: 8, the writer states: “God is delighted to give us birth by the truth of his infallible Word so that we would fulfill his chosen destiny for us and become the favorite ones throughout all creation.” (The Passion Translation)
Fourth, John 1:12 and 13 read this way: “But as many as received [Jesus, God the Son], to them He gave the authority to become children of God, to those who believe in his Name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of humans, but of God.”
The four references I have just cited are only four of numerous references that teach believers in Jesus are born into God’s family, NOT adopted. If you mistakenly believe you were adopted, not born, into God’s family, your mistaken belief can strongly influence how you see yourself as a member of the family of God; that is, you may mistakenly feel you are not as authentic or well-loved as a member of God’s family as is a brother or sister who was born into the family—that you are a “step-brother” of “step-sister” who was merely adopted.
Keep in mind that throughout the New Testament there are two “words” of God: Jesus is the living Word of God and the Bible is the written word of God. Both together give new birth to people; in a very real way, the living Word (Jesus) and the written word are one and the same and really cannot be separated.
In the 24th chapter of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus explained that the Old Testament was really all about Him; of course we know that the four Gospels are about Jesus, and the remainder of the New Testament after the four Gospels is about Jesus’ relationship with the Church He is building. Thus, the entire Bible is about Jesus: The living Word and the written word: one and the same. Both the Living Word and the written Word together give new, second birth to those people who become part of the family of God.
I encourage you not to embrace the mistaken view that God adopted you into his family. No! You were lovingly born into the family of God and you will remain a child of God born into his family through all the ages of time and into Eternal Realms. You were not adopted into God’s family!
Now…here’s the crux of this teaching you are reading. Many scholars feel that Romans 8: 19 about the manifested sons of God is a description of what occurs when a person is adopted into God’s family in this life. As mentioned above, I’m not sure that’s true; I may be wrong and I’m open to correction, but for now I do not believe that the manifestation of the sons of God (nor adoption) occurs in this life. As noted above, Romans 8: 23 clearly indicates that adoption occurs when Jesus returns…and that seems to be when the sons of God are manifested, revealed, or unveiled…or adopted.
The manifestation of God’s sons (and daughters) occurs upon Jesus’ return to earth to establish his eternal Kingdom; the adoption of God’s sons (and daughters) occurs simultaneously, but they are two separate events; even though separate events, they are closely intertwined and connected.
The manifestation of God’s children is when it first becomes clear and evident to all waiting creation who God’s born again children really are; in this life no one but God (and the individual person) ever knows with certainty who are God’s born again sons and daughters. Only God and individual persons know what’s really inside people—in their hearts. Sometimes people who profess to be children of God aren’t—but only God and that person know the truth of the matter in this life; upon Jesus’ return, the entire universe will know for certain who was and who wasn’t God’s born again child in this life…because they will then be clearly revealed, manifested, become evident, or made known.
Yes, upon Jesus’ return to earth, the adoption of God’s children (as described later) will occur simultaneously with the manifestation of God’s sons and daughters. Two separate events, but closely connected.
I might point out also that the Bible clearly teaches there are two resurrections of people from the dead. In John 5: 29 Jesus clearly stated there are two resurrections: one for those who have done good, the other for those who have done evil. Revelation chapters 19 and 20 (especially 20: 5) seem to confirm Jesus’ statement about two resurrections. There are other teachings on this website which explain resurrection more fully.
It would seem that the bodies of believers in Jesus are raised from the dead in the first resurrection, and pre-believers in Jesus at the second resurrection. In between the two resurrections, it appears that there is a thousand-year period some call the Millennium in which all resurrected followers of Jesus rule and reign on the earth with Jesus. Many Bible scholars believe and teach that the 1,000 year Millennial period may not necessarily be a literal 1,000 years; they believe the 1,000 years is symbolic and may be much, much longer than 1,000 years. In the second resurrection, pre-believers in Jesus (those who have not been born again in this life) are resurrected to have their sin and evil cleansed from them in the lake of fire that burns for ages of time…but not forever!
Nowhere does the Bible state that an elite group of Jesus’ followers become manifested sons in this life. ALL believers are adopted and become manifested sons at the first resurrection. There will NOT be an elite group of manifested sons in this life before the first resurrection!
Before we go any further with this study, I want to cover a couple of foundational truths; without first understanding these foundational truths, the main theme of this teaching will be unclear.
First, the Bible teaches clearly that in terms of a person’s spiritual growth after being born again, there are “stages” or levels of spiritual growth and development. When one is born again, one does not immediately become a mature follower of Jesus. The same is true for one’s mental “growth” after a person is born again, but we won’t cover such mental growth in this teaching, other than to say that such references as Romans 12: 1 and 2 refer to such mental growth. Again, other teachings on this website explain our mental renewal, growth, and transformation after we are born into God’s family.
As to spiritual growth after a person is born again, the Bible clearly teaches that spiritually one is first a newborn baby, just as in the natural realm. For example, here are two primary references about newly born spiritual babies and infants; I hope you will look up these references and study them for yourself: 1 Peter 2: 2, and Hebrews 5: 13. The next stage is spiritual childhood: Romans 9: 26, 1 Corinthians 14: 20, Ephesians 4: 14. Then we find teenagers and young adults: 1 John 3: 2 (see our explanation of this reference later in this teaching). The New Testament is not clear that any believers in Jesus become fully mature spiritual adults in this life…and adopted because they have become fully mature.
There are no time parameters about when followers of Jesus reach each of those stages of growth in this mortal life; some develop and “grow” faster than others, some slower. When we die and our bodies are later resurrected and re-joined with our spirits, we enter the afterlife at the same level of spiritual and mental development as when we left this life.
I feel it should be pointed out that just as it sometimes occurs in the natural realm that some people are stunted in their growth physically because of some congenital abnormality, illness, accident, or disease, it is also true that for reasons known only to God some believers in Jesus are stunted in their spiritual and mental growth, leading to ongoing immaturity during this mortal life.
The Bible clearly teaches that we immediately receive new, glorified spiritual bodies when we are resurrected, but there is no indication in the Bible that spiritually or mentally we magically and immediately become all “grown up” and mature immediately when we enter the next life. In fact, just the opposite is true: we enter the next life at the same stage of spiritual and mental development as when we leave this life; we continue to grow and develop spiritually and mentally throughout eternity. We are not magically transformed into perfectly mature spiritually and mentally redeemed and restored immortal beings the moment after we die!
I speculate—but I am not certain by any means—that beginning with Jesus’ return and throughout that Millennial period is when believers in Jesus are adopted as they continue to grow and become fully mature enough to be adopted…each in his or her order as they progress through that 1,000 year period.
Having stated those foundational truths, now let us continue our study about adoption in the New Testament.
Back to Romans 8: 19: What does it mean that all creation waits with eager anticipation for God’s sons to be revealed or manifested? The word translated “sons” refers not to children or teenagers, but to spiritually mature sons and daughters of God.
When Paul wrote to the Jesus believers in the cities of Galatia, he clearly showed the purpose for which God sent Jesus: “But when the fullness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that are under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” (Galatians 4: 4 and 5) This seems to refer specifically to Israelites or Jewish believers in Jesus, but there are many other references teaching us that Jesus has also redeemed all those not under the law, i.e. all non-Jewish believers in Jesus, Gentiles.
Generally speaking the biblical truth of adoption by God is not clearly understood, simply because many readers and students of the Bible mistakenly believe that God’s adoption is the same as human adoption practices. To those of us who live in the modern world of adopting children, adoption means something entirely different from the meaning it has in the Bible. When we in the modern world think of adoption, we think of an orphan or a homeless child being adopted by loving parents who either cannot have biological children or their own, or who simply want to have a larger family of children for various reasons.
By contrast, the biblical picture of adoption is a public ceremony in which a young male (or female) as a teenager—or early post-teenager—in a family who proved their responsibility and faithfulness to the parents and to the entire family are proclaimed “grown up” and entitled to all the rights and responsibilities of a fully grown adult ready to take over the family business or profession. This public ceremony was called an adoption ceremony; it was widely practiced by the Romans; that is what the Bible is referring to when it mentions adoption.
At the ceremony of adoption, with friends, neighbors, and relatives present, the parents publicly proclaimed that their adolescent child was now considered their fully grown, adult child. This proclamation gave the now adult child certain privileges not enjoyed by the child before this time. These privileges were very important, and understanding them will teach us much about our individual relationship with God our Father. The adoption ceremony is when God declares each fully grown child to be thoroughly and completely his own born, adult child, and finally to be Home where he or she belongs.
First, the child after the adoption ceremony was given the right to use his or her father’s name. The newly adult child could buy or sell or do business in his or her father’s name. In short, the new adult child was given power of attorney for the family. Second, at the adoption ceremony the child was given access to his or her inheritance, and thus was able to use the wealth that the father had saved for the child. From then on, the newly “adopted” adult no longer had to depend upon the parent for the distribution of the inheritance. Third, at the adoption ceremony the adopted child was given full equality with the father.
Parenthetically, the modern Jewish practice of bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah is patterned loosely after the Roman and biblical practice of adoption; that’s a long story in and of itself that I won’t cover in this teaching.
My own view is that such adoption ceremonies referred to in the Bible begin to occur when our bodies are resurrected, and continue to occur during the Millennial period as each redeemed believer in Jesus matures in Jesus’ Kingdom on earth throughout that time.
Without any solid biblical evidence, there are some students of the Bible that speculate certain spiritually mature followers of Jesus have been adopted in this life because of their spiritual maturity. They claim, for example, that certain followers of Jesus such as Paul and Peter, St Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Billy Graham, and others throughout 2,000+ years of church history have been mature enough that for all practical purposes they became adopted sons and daughters of God. Personally, I’m not certain that is true.
I’m not a scholar of biblical languages, and make no claim to being a Greek scholar, but any good Greek-English lexicon or concordance can give us much help about the true meaning of original words. They list three words in the Greek New Testament which clearly indicate three stages in our progression toward becoming mature followers of Jesus.
These words are:
1. Teknion. This is the equivalent of our English word infant. An example of this word can be found in Matt. 18: 2.
2. Teknon. This word means an adolescent or youth. An example of this word is found in 1 John 3: 2 where in most translations the word is “sons,” leading to an incorrect understanding. The word sons gives the wrong impression. The word is actually defined as adolescents, youths, and children, and it should read, “Beloved, now are we the children of God.” So the writer goes on: “It does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him.” That seems to me to be the point when children in the family of God begin to be adopted as mature sons or daughters, i.e. when Jesus appears—and throughout the 1,000 year Millennium. Romans 8: 23 seems to reinforce this view that when we are bodily resurrected that is when God’s adoptions begin to occur.
3. Huios. The Greek word Huios means a mature child, a child who has received the rite of adoption. An example of this word is found in Heb. 1: 2 where the writer says that “God has spoken to us by His Son (Huios)… whom He has appointed heir of everything.” If we look closely at the life of Jesus in the four Gospels, we will plainly see that His life and experience progressed from infancy through adolescence to full adoption, or from teknion (infancy) to teknon (youth) to huios. My own view is that Jesus was “adopted” (in the Roman sense of the word) by God the Father when Jesus was baptized in water by John, and Holy Spirit filled Jesus in a “public ceremony.”
When all believers in Jesus are resurrected from among the dead at Jesus’ second coming to establish his Kingdom, they will then begin to become fully grown, adopted sons and daughters in the family of God who will rule and reign (with power and authority) with Jesus in his Kingdom through the remaining ages of time and then in Eternal Realms. Although fully grown and mature, they will still continue to learn, grow, and mature even more throughout eternity. Lacking biblical evidence, it does not appear, however, that in this life some believers in Jesus become mature enough that God adopts them in the sense we have seen in this teaching.
But for now, my present level of understanding and current state of awareness informs me that adoption of all God’s children begin to occur when Jesus returns to earth to establish his eternal Kingdom. And…there will not be an elite group of adopted, “manifested sons” in this life before Jesus’ return to establish his Eternal Kingdom. All Jesus’s true sons and daughters will be manifested—exhibited—to all creation at that time, not in this life.
Although already lovingly born into God’s family, I eagerly await my public adoption ceremony in God’s timing after Jesus returns…and my manifestation or unveiling as a son of God. How about you? Are you preparing for YOUR public adoption ceremony before the throne of God with other redeemed humans looking on surrounded by angels, Seraphim, Cherubim, and other created beings? And…do you understand that all creation longs to see you exhibited to them as a revealed, manifested son or daughter of God?
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Revised and Updated December 2022