Life for Charlie the Caterpillar seems pretty pleasant.
When Charlie isn’t sleeping, food is everywhere. With a cylindrical body, Charlie can twist and turn in any direction to see the surrounding world with six pairs of simple eyes—whether it’s the sky above, or hanging from the plant Charlie calls home to see the ground below. With thousands of tiny legs, Charlie is quite mobile. Nothing within walking distance is off limits.
But when you think about it, life for Charlie the Caterpillar can get pretty monotonous. This is especially true if you know a basic truth of nature all humans from a young age know: that Charlie has a far more thrilling phase of life ahead.
You know this, because (unlike Charlie) you can think and reason. You know what lies in store for caterpillars. You know Charlie’s destiny. You know the incredible caterpillar potential. You know a life of sleeping, eating, constantly molting and growing is preparing Charlie for something incomparably greater.
You can learn that, when looking at the world, Charlie sees a sky that is sometimes white and sometime black. The plant where Charlie lives and the ground beneath all look gray. There are different hues, but it’s all basically gray. That’s because Charlie can only see in black and white—not really even able to distinguish images, but just simple contrasts of dark and light.
Eventually a world of multiple colors will be available through a pair of highly complex, “compound” eyes—more colors will be visible than even we as humans can see!
You can also learn that, no matter how many legs caterpillars have, nothing compares to the wings they will have, and how much exponentially bigger the world will become for this creature. Formerly confined to one small leaf or twig (or a small group of plants within a few feet of each other at the most), Charlie will eventually be able to embark on a flight from Mexico to Manitoba, or even across the Atlantic Ocean!
Charlie’s dry, veggie diet will soon be replaced with sweet nectar. And as for the small antennae caterpillars have, nothing compares to the long antennae that end in clubs that will form. The tiny caterpillar antennae weren’t that finely tuned and were more like a combination of taste and smell. But these new antennae, in addition to being highly attuned to odors, will help with balance in flight and even protection from predators.
The particular kind of caterpillar Charlie is has been named a “monarch” caterpillar. And with your mind—wired for complex language—you know what associations that word has. Charlie has no idea. Charlie cannot think. Charlie’s existence is unaffected by the fact that this species is named after royalty—kings and queens. Charlie in fact, in this phase of life, is asexual and unable to reproduce—an “it” technically.
But Charlie will achieve this incredible transformation through a process known as metamorphosis. Once mature, caterpillars form a covering or a vessel around themselves. This is the chrysalis, or cocoon, phase during which this protected larva turns into mush and then undergoes a remarkable change.
Once fully developed, a “monarch” butterfly breaks out of this vessel. A butterfly—now either male or female—can take part in reproducing itself. Females lay eggs that will hatch caterpillars that will soon be butterflies. Not only are butterflies able to reproduce, but by traveling from plant to plant drinking nectar, they facilitate the reproduction of other plants.
The Apostle Paul writes: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2). The original Greek word for “transformed” here is metamorphóo—where we get the word describing metamorphoses in nature in creatures like caterpillars.
The Bible reveals that our potential is to be born as spirit beings in God’s Family. Obviously there are differences between the metamorphosis of caterpillar-to-butterfly and that of human-to-God. For one, we look like God in our general composition (more than Charlie looks like a butterfly). And God gives us a creative mind, which (though inferior) is much like His.
Philippians 3:21 states: “Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.” As intricate and awesome as the human body is, it is vile compared to the “glorious body” we will have—one like God’s!
Consider this truth in nature: No caterpillar ever stays a caterpillar. Yes, some transform into moths, some into butterflies. Some types of caterpillars stay in that form a lot longer than others. But they never stay caterpillars.
This is similar to our existence. No human was put on this Earth to remain human. God wants all men to achieve their incredible human potential (1 Timothy 2:4). He wants all to complete this metamorphosis from human to God.
But there the analogy also breaks down. The caterpillar has no choice: If it continues to live, the caterpillar will eventually change. Humans can choose not to be transformed. And their life will end—never being anything more than a simple “caterpillar.”
Be Not Conformed
Philippians 3:19 says of some: “Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.” For these, all they know—all they can think about—is this earthly life. Life is just about eating. Their “glory” is not all the dazzling things contained in humanity’s potential, but it’s just the shame of this life. The Greek word for “shame” implies dishonesty. It’s a deception.
Of all the multiple billions of people who have ever inhabited this planet, how many actually knew the purpose of their existence? How many actually knew there was more than this life (and knew what the “more” was)? How many actually knew of the kind of indescribable metamorphosis awaiting them?
The Bible reveals there is a great deceiver—who is blinding minds, in fact (Revelation 12:9; 2 Corinthians 4:4). The devil doesn’t want us to know about the incredible “caterpillar” potential. Satan doesn’t want us ever to think about life as a “butterfly”—or to make any comparisons between this life and next. Because those two phases of life don’t really even compare!
And yet, our entire world is built around the “caterpillar” existence! The limited smells, tastes and sights. The limited range of motion—basically being stuck to theground. You could say that’s us being “conformed” to this world, as Romans 12:2 puts it. But God wants a renewing of your mind.
The whole world will eventually be taught about this potential. For now, miraculously, God has opened our minds to that—to your “monarch” future as royalty in God’s Family (Psalm 45:16; Revelation 5:10). That would be like you being able to get Charlie the Caterpillar to think, and then to understand the far-more-magnificent next phase of life.
You can understand this now! All the other “caterpillars” you interact with in the world don’t know this destiny. They’re unaware of the metamorphosis that can be in your future. That’s why you’re a different caterpillar than the caterpillars running the schools, businesses and governments, those you see on the big screen, and those you hear in this world’s music. That’s why you can think so much bigger.
In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul talks about a more well-known change in life: “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (verse 11) Though this isn’t as dramatic a metamorphosis, it is something you can grasp—depending on the kinds of adults in your life. You even know what it’s like to “put away” a toy you had when you were much younger, that you don’t ever have a desire to play with again.
As for our spiritual transformation, Paul says in the next verse: “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (verse 12). We cannot fully comprehend the next phase of our existence in terms of this spiritual potential. It’s like looking into a mirror mostly in the dark, and perhaps it’s even a bit foggy.
With our human eyes, our vision is about as limited as a caterpillar compared to a butterfly. We can see, but it’s like we’re seeing in black and white. We can’t really make out images even—just dark and light.
This is similar to what the Apostle John wrote in 1 John 3:2: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”
The point Paul is making in 1 Corinthians 13 is that, after our spiritual metamorphosis, so much that seemed significant will just be “put away.” So much of what occupied Charlie’s existence is obsolete in the butterfly stage.
A bit later in his epistle to the Corinthians, Paul pens what we refer to as the “resurrection chapter”: “And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (1 Corinthians 15:17-19).
If all we have is this life, then we are going through a lot of trouble for nothing!
“But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept” (verse 20). Much emphasis was placed in the early New Testament Church on the basic fact that Christ was resurrected. The opening verses of this chapter talks about the witnesses to His post-resurrection appearances. It’s such a basic truth, and it is our only example to this point of this kind of metamorphosis—a human dying and being resurrected as a God Being. (See “Can You ‘Handle’ Eternal Life?” from the September-October 2015 Royal Vision for more on this.)
Change to Immortality
Paul continues with another remarkable analogy from nature: “But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body” (verse 35-38).
The planting of a seed pictures the resurrection. Much like the caterpillar-to-butterfly transformation, a seed doesn’t look much like the plant it will become.
Paul goes on to say there are different types of fleshly bodies (man, animals, fish, birds) and there are different kinds of heavenly bodies (different levels of brightness from star to star). “So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body” (verses 42-44).
Paul tells us that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (verse 50). God won’t let any human stay in that form forever. And for those still alive when Christ returns to resurrect the saints, Paul describes their instantaneous change: “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (verses 52-53).
A physical life can feel quite long—but it is just a short, temporary existence. Similarly, the life of Charlie the Caterpillar might seem long: countless repetitions of going to sleep, waking up and eating. But at the end of that process, life as a monarch caterpillar doesn’t even last three weeks! At the end of our short life, we are to become immortal—living forever!
Romans 8 also describes this coming change: “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you” (verse 11). Youth in God’s Church have access to His Holy Spirit. Once it dwells in you, it is to grow. And if it’s maturing in you, and you’re still alive at Christ’s return, your body will be “quickened” by the same power that resurrected Jesus Christ!
Verse 17 calls us “joint-heirs with Christ” as we “suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” Verse 18 states: “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
There are struggles. For the caterpillar, the struggle coming out of the cocoon actually make it so the butterfly wings can fly (“Lesson of the Butterfly,” page 12). The sufferings of this present life make it so we can “fly.” And these sufferings—as important as they seem right now—cannot even be compared to being glorified with Christ!
That doesn’t mean God doesn’t also want us to have joys and fulfillments in this life also. Jesus said He wants us to have “life … more abundantly” (John 10:10). He promises rewards and blessings in this life, if we’re obedient (Mark 10:30). But even then, still yet, none of that really compares to what we’re seeing in the foggy mirror in the dark.
“For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:5). Don’t be wrapped up in the “caterpillar” existence. Think about the potential of life as a “butterfly.”
“Imagine this metamorphosis from a human to God,” Gerald Flurry writes in The Epistles of Peter—A Living Hope. “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, we are born as sons into the Father’s Family! Instantly, we become Gods of the universe—sons of God. This majestic goal makes anything physical seem trivial! Do we really fathom our mind-stretching potential? Only here do we find the living hope!”
This is real life, and it’s available. Stay focused on that.
“Because the [creation] itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (verse 21). The whole universe is waiting for our metamorphosis! Once confined to a tiny plant (well, a tiny planet), we will soon be able to traverse all stretches of the universe. God wants us to “pollinate” His entire creation.
An astounding transformation awaits you. It’s going to be offered to every human being who has ever existed. But God gives us a choice in the matter.
Choose this kind of life. Choose to think beyond the tiny, temporary, confined, fleeting condition of this “caterpillar” world. Dwell instead on the entire purpose for your existence: the endless, eternal, extraordinary expanse being offered—the glorious power and beauty of God life.