“For as many as are being constantly led by God's Spirit, these are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery again with resulting fear, but you received the Spirit who places you as adult sons, by whom we cry out with deep emotion, Abba, [namely] Father. The Spirit himself is constantly bearing joint-testimony with our [human] spirit that we are God's children, and since children, also heirs; on the one hand, heirs of God, on the other, joint-heirs with Christ, provided that we are suffering with Him in order that we also may be glorified together, for I have come to a reasoned conclusion that the sufferings of the present season are of no weight in comparison to the glory which is about to be revealed upon us. For the concentrated and undivided expectation of the creation is assiduously and patiently awaiting the revelation of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not voluntarily, but on account of the One who put it under subjection upon the basis of the hope that the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and travails together up to this moment, and not only, but we ourselves also who have the firstfruit of the Spirit, we ourselves also are groaning within ourselves, assiduously and patiently waiting the full realization of our adult sonship at the time of the redemption of our body.” (Rom 8:14-19) 
In Romans chapter eight, cited above from the translation of the renowned Greek scholar Kenneth Wuest, the Holy Spirit speaks through the apostle Paul of a future unveiling or revelation (apocalupsis) of the sons of God. It is said to be an event eagerly awaited, not only by all of creation but also by the saints having the firstfruit of the Spirit. Creation has been subjected to futility since Adam forfeited his dominion to Satan when he disobeyed God in Eden. That futility will continue unchallenged until the manifestation of the Sons of God when they will begin to walk in all the authority of Christ, the Last Adam. What is being described here, and when will it begin to manifest? These are questions which will be considered in this section.
Who are the Manifest Sons of God?
Who are these sons of God who will be manifest or unveiled at the close of this age? The language of the passage that Paul utilizes and his references to the Greek culture are very enlightening. In the Greek language there are several words used to distinguish different stages of a son’s development from birth to manhood. The first word is brephos which is used to refer to an infant or even an unborn child. We do not become part of the family of God by adoption but by birth. The term “adoption” will be explained later. We all begin as newborn babes in the family of God:
“Having been born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through the word of God, which lives and abides forever.... As newborn babes (brephos), desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.” (1Peter 1:23; 2:2)
The second word used is nepios. When speaking of the stages of one’s development it refers to a toddler, one who has not yet been weaned or is immature:
“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes (nepios) in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able.” (1Cor 3:1-2)
“For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe (nepios).” (Heb 5:13-14)
The third stage in development from infant to adult is referred to as teknion or teknon. Both terms refer to childhood, but teknion is a more endearing term which is usually translated “little children”. John uses this term throughout his first epistle. In 1John 2:12 he uses it to refer to the spiritual children in contrast with the young mature sons who are overcomers and the older mature sons who have developed intimacy with Christ:
“I write to you, little children (tecnion), because your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake. I write to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the wicked one.” (1John 2:12-14)
In this passage, we can see different levels of spiritual maturity among believers. The little children are at the level where they know that their sins have been forgiven through Jesus Christ. The young men have matured and have learned to walk in the authority of Christ, overcoming Satan. The fathers are those who, having discovered justification by faith and their authority in Christ, have pressed on to greater intimacy with Him.
The word used to express the mature sons is the Greek word huios. While the word huios is also used to refer to lineage without regard to age (even today we would present our baby or child saying “this is my son”), when it is used to refer to the level of one’s growth, huios refers to an adult son along with all the privileges and responsibilities of an adult. In Galatians 4:1-7 we see this illustrated:
“Now I say, that as long as the heir is in his minority, he does not differ one bit from a slave, even though he is owner of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time previously fixed by his father. In like manner, we also, when we were in our minority, were in a permanent state of servitude under the rudimentary first principles of mankind. But when there came the fullness of the time, God sent off His Son, woman-born, made subject to law, in order that He might deliver those under law to the end that we might be placed as adult sons (huiothesia). And because you are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts crying, Abba [namely], my Father. So that no longer are you a slave but a son (huios), and since you are a son, you are also an heir through God.” 
Here we see that a child, even though he is an heir, must mature to the point where the father determines he is a responsible adult (huios) before he can be entrusted with his inheritance.
What is Meant by “Adoption”?
Many have mistakenly applied the western concept of adoption to the Greek word huiothesia translating it “adoption”. The word simply means “to place as an adult son” (it is a compound word composed of “son” <huios> and <tithemi> “to place”).
Both Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words and Doctor C.I. Scofield, make the following comments concerning the meaning of the term huiothesia:
“In Eph 1:5 they are said to have been foreordained unto ‘adoption as sons’ through Jesus Christ, RV; the KJV, ‘adoption of children’ is a mistranslation and misleading. God does not ‘adopt’ believers as children; they are begotten as such by His Holy Spirit through faith. ‘Adoption’ is a term involving the dignity of the relationship of believers as sons; it is not a putting into the family by spiritual birth, but a putting into the position of sons. In Rom 8:23 the ‘adoption’ of the believer is set forth as still future, as it there includes the redemption of the body, when the living will be changed and those who have fallen asleep will be raised.” 
“Adoption (huiothesia, ‘placing as a son’) is not so much a word of relationship as of position. The believer’s relation to God as a child results from the new birth (John 1:12, 13), whereas adoption is the act of God whereby one already a child is, through redemption from the law, placed in the position of an adult son (Gal. 4:1-5). The indwelling Spirit gives the realization of this in the believer’s present experience (Gal. 4:6); but the full manifestation of the believer’s sonship awaits the resurrection change and translation of saints, which is called ‘the redemption of the body’ (Rom. 8:23; 1Thess. 4:14-17; Eph. 1:14; 1John 3:2) (emphasis added).” 
The Three Stages to Sonship in Hebrew Tradition
These three stages of development of a Hebrew son into adulthood were celebrated with three Jewish ceremonies: 1) Circumcision, 2) Bar Mitzvah and 3) Huiothesia or placement as an adult son. The first stage is from circumcision on the eighth day after birth until the child reaches twelve years of age. During this stage, the child is taught the law. In his thirteenth year the child enters into adolescence. During the second stage the son learns the statutes of the Torah and is instructed in the father’s business. Reference is made to all three stages in Doctor Kittel’s authoritative work:
“In the Jewish family sons received the covenant sign of circumcision the eighth day after birth and from early youth were instructed by their fathers in the Torah. When taught the Law the boy in his thirteenth year becomes fully responsible for observance of the commandments from that time on.... In the Qumran and Rabbinical literature there are precise rules for each age. 1 QSa 1:6-19a says that in the end time the instruction of the young Israelite in the statutes of the covenant will take place from youth up….The stages of human life are divided ...with 30 to maturity, with 40 to understanding, with 50 to counsel, with 60 to age, with 70 to old age, with 80 to hoary old age, with 90 to being bowed down, with 100 as dead and gone from the world (emphasis added).” 
When did the full manifestation of sonship occur in the development of a Hebrew son? Upon reaching maturity around the age of 30, the father would make an open declaration in a public place, usually the market. David Webber comments on this ceremony:
“The word ‘Huiothesia’ means ‘Son Placement,’ and indicates the time when a male child reached what was considered to be the age of maturity (somewhere around 30). At this time, the father of the young man would place his hand on the head of his son and openly proclaim, ‘This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased! I bestow upon him now all of my riches and power and authority (through power of attorney) so that he might act on my behalf in all of my affairs’." 
Some associate the term huiothesia with the Bar Mitzvah when a child turns thirteen and is considered morally responsible for his actions (bar mitzvah means “son of the commandments”). However, a child beginning his adolescence in his thirteenth year would not have been considered sufficiently mature to receive his inheritance, as we saw described in Galatians 4:1-7.
Jesus’ life and ministry illustrates the stages toward sonship. He was circumcised on the eighth day (Luke 2:21). When He was twelve years old, He spoke in the temple and all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers. When His parents found Him in the temple, he said to them: “Do you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” (Lu 2:49). This transition marks the second stage of His development from Bar Mitzvah until he was thirty years old, during which time a son learned his father’s business. Then at thirty years of age He was baptized, fulfilling all righteousness. At that time the Holy Spirit descended upon Him, and His Father said publicly “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.” (Lu 3:22). The following verse says: “Now Jesus Himself began His ministry at about thirty years of age….” Though He was a Son, he learned obedience, awaiting the time of His Father.
It is the Mature Sons who will be Manifest in the End of the Age
Looking again at Romans 8:14-19, we can see that it is the mature sons of God that are being referred to. In verse nine he says that every child of God has the indwelling Spirit of Christ: “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.” Every child born of God has the Spirit of Christ dwelling in them, including the immature. Even the carnal Christians in Corinth who were reproved for fornicating had the Holy Spirit dwelling in them. Paul said to them: “…do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you?” (1Cor 6:19). He exhorts believers in Ephesians 4:30 saying: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
However, from verse fourteen on in Romans 8, Paul begins to speak of those mature sons who not only have the indwelling Holy Spirit but are also led by the Spirit: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons (huios) of God.” While it can be said of every child of God that they have the Spirit of Christ, only the mature sons are continually led by the Spirit. They are no longer driven by every need that presents itself, but only do that which the Spirit leads them to do, even as Jesus only did what He saw the Father doing. An immature believer is usually governed by circumstances, reason and the opinion of others. The adult sons, however, are led by the Spirit and the rhema Word of God. The Spirit bears witness with every child of God that we are his children (teknon), that we have the Spirit that brings us to sonship, and are also potential fellow heirs with Christ, if we mature into adult sons, having suffered with Him, thus qualifying us to reign with Him (vv. 15-17).
Comparing the use of huiothesia in Romans eight with the other places it occurs, we can see that sonship is reserved for the mature. In 8:17 we see that the inheritance is reserved for those who have participated in Christ’s suffering, qualifying them to reign with Him. In Hebrews 5:8 we discover that even Jesus “learned obedience by the things which He suffered.” We also are matured in the school of suffering. Our level of maturity is measured by the degree we are conformed to the image of Christ, only doing what we see the Father doing - obeying the Father in all things.
In Ephesians 1:4-6 we see that “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him. In love having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.” The term, “predestined,” is pro-orizo which is pro “beforehand” and horizo “to set boundaries (horizon), to mark out.” Put together, the word means literally “to set boundaries beforehand”. The idea expressed is that God sets out boundaries beforehand in the lives of His elect that will bring them to the place of maturity required in order to receive sonship. Predestination is like a fence on either side of us which becomes closer and closer one to the other. As we move forward, the set boundaries narrow us down to the place where God destined us to arrive – the place of sonship. Comparing this with Romans 8:29, we see what the measure of maturity is that God has predestined us to:
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” (Rom 8:28-30)
Here we see that the boundaries set beforehand in the lives of those whom He has foreknown are designed to bring us into conformity to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. When we have reached the measure of the fullness of the stature of Christ (Eph 4:13), then we as the body of Christ will be mature and will enter into the fullness of sonship.
In Galatians 3:23 thru 4:7, we see the relationship of the people of God under the Old Covenant compared to that of a child under the tutor of the Law to bring them to Christ – the place of sonship. Under the New Covenant, our relationship is no longer comparable to that of a child under tutors but to that of an adult son:
“Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’ Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” (Gal 4:1-7)
Here we see that adoption or sonship is not conferred to a son until the time appointed by the father, when he determines that the son has matured sufficiently to be recognized as an adult son. We see that a child, though he is an heir, does not receive his inheritance until such a time as his father determines that he is sufficiently responsible, which traditionally was 30 years of age. However, Paul’s use of the term “adoption” (huiothesia) to describe our new relation to God as adult sons, in contrast to the Old Covenant relation under the law as children, is not to be confused with what he is describing in Romans 8 when he speaks concerning the manifestation of the sons of God. In Galatians 4, it is referring to something that commenced in the past with the initiation of the New Covenant. In Romans 8, it is describing something yet future that Paul and the early believers were longing for but had not yet experienced:
“because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.” (Rom 8:21-23)
As both Scofield and Vine point out, the full manifestation of sonship (huiothesia) awaits the time of the transformation when the sons receive the redemption of their bodies. Paul said that even they themselves who had the firstfruits of the Spirit were still awaiting the manifestation of the sons of God.
Although the full manifestation awaits the millennium, there are indications that the manifestation will begin through those who have reached the maturity of sonship prior to Christ’s physical return to earth. Isaiah 60 says that the glory of the Lord will arise upon His sons of glory during a time of great darkness:
“Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; but the Lord will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.” (Isa 60:1-3)
The latter glory described here, which will begin to dawn during the darkest hour, seems to be what Paul anxiously awaited: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.” (Rom 8:18,19).
It appears that it will only be the mature sons at the close of the age, prior to the Great Tribulation, who will make up the man-child company and manifest the latter glory during the time of greatest darkness. However, all those who have attained maturity in past generations will also be manifested as sons of God to all of creation during the millennium. Those who have been purified by the fires of the Great Tribulation will also reign in glory with Him during the millennium. Though we of this generation should count it a great privilege to potentially be the firstfruits of the manifestation of the sons of God at the close of the age, the rest of the overcomers will also reign with Him and manifest His glory in the coming ages. All those who suffer with Him will also reign with Him.
Before the Throne of God and on Earth at the Same Time?
There is an indication that the sons of glory in Isaiah 60, in addition to being the manifest sons of God, are also the man-child company of Revelation 12. Many conclude that, since the man-child is caught up to God and to His throne, the man-child company cannot also be on the earth. However, it is possible to be in the heavenlies and on earth at the same time. Jesus, even in the days of His flesh, when speaking with Nicodemus said:
“No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.” (John 3:13)
Jesus stated that He who was speaking to Nicodemus on earth was in heaven in that same moment. After His resurrection, Jesus ascended and descended at will. Jesus, after His resurrection, could manifest His presence on earth or in heaven at will. He didn’t have to become absent from heaven in order to appear on earth. John says: “...it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (1John 3:2). In Revelation 14:3 it says that the 144,000 are “before the throne”. However, in verse four it says that they “follow the Lamb wherever He goes”. In the natural this is not possible, but it is possible in the spirit realm.
That is not to say that the man-child company will be omnipresent. That is an attribute only God possesses. But even now in the days of our flesh it is possible to be aware of our presence in the heavenlies where we are seated with Christ. The reality that we are seated with Christ in a place of authority is more than simply “positional truth”. Until we begin to see ourselves seated with Christ, far above all principality and power and dominion, we will not mature into the place of sonship. Our spirit is always before God as believers in spite of the fact that our body and soul are earthbound. It is thus possible to be in communion with God while at the same time carrying on our responsibilities here on earth, following the Lamb wherever He goes. In addition to the promise to the overcomers of the church in Philadelphia that they would be kept from the hour of trial, it is also said: “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more.” (Rev 3:12). We all understand that this is not saying that those who overcome will never do anything or go anywhere else for all of eternity, but rather that he will always be spiritually in the very presence of God, even while serving Him and following the Lamb. When David speaks of dwelling in the house of the Lord forever, are we to understand that he will never be anywhere else, or that he will be reigning in the millennial kingdom, among other activities, at the same time he is in the presence of God?
When Jesus delayed His arrival in Bethany, Lazarus had already been dead four days. When Jesus said to Martha, “Your brother will rise again” she replied, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” To her faith in the resurrection at the last day Jesus replied, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26). I believe that Jesus here presents two levels of faith concerning death that are greater than that expressed by Martha when she said she believed in a future resurrection. The first was that which was demonstrated, raising Lazarus from the dead; faith to come back to life after having died. This level of faith has been demonstrated many times in the Bible and in history when the dead have been raised. The second level of faith has rarely been seen as of yet; “he who lives and believes in me shall never die.” Apart from Enoch and Elijah, this faith for translation without seeing death has not been manifested. However, it seems that there will be an Elijah company of saints that will be given revelation for this level of faith. Even as Elijah knew he would be translated without seeing death, there will be a man-child company who will be caught up to the throne of God without seeing death.
It seems that this man-child company is also referring to the sons of glory who will shine in the midst of the darkness at the end of the age, resulting in a great harvest of souls. They will do the greater works that Jesus spoke of. They will be able to tirelessly reach the unreachable, going where the Church has not yet been able to go – to the ends of the earth. This may seem incredible to some. However, it seems that God will do many incredible things at the close of this age in order to bring in the final harvest before the Second Coming. Although Chuck Girard probably does not share this interpretation - at least not in its entirety, he expresses this well in his prophetic song “Name Above All Names”: “I am Jehovah, I am that I am, and my trumpet shall soon call out. I formed the worlds with just a whisper, but I’m getting ready to shout!” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owJ62Yu95S0) He is coming soon but He will not come before the gospel of the Kingdom has been heard throughout the whole earth.
Also, in the Gospel of Matthew there seems to be a precedent for glorified saints giving testimony to mortals. In Matthew 27, we see that many saints were resurrected and went into Jerusalem and appeared unto many, apparently in order to give testimony to His resurrection.
“And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.” (Matthew 27:50-53)
Some would say that these saints were not glorified but only reunited to their mortal bodies, returning to life, only to die in time, as was the case with others like Lazarus who were resurrected during Christ’s ministry. However, it says that they “appeared” to many, and not that they remained in Jerusalem. If they had continued to live among them, Matthew would have said that they remained with them until the time of his writing, since the generally accepted date of the writing of the Gospel of Matthew is around 80 A.D. which is less than 50 years after they were resurrected.
In Revelation 14:6-7 it appears that even the angels will take part in the proclamation of the everlasting gospel at the end of the age. Why would he not also use the manifest sons of God – the glorified man-child company?
Some have argued that it is elitism to teach that the manifest sons of God are a group distinct from the Church at large. However, the privilege is for all who attain the conditions of sonship. The responsibility lies, to a great extent, with us. Are we willing to suffer with Him in order that we may be glorified with Him? Will we cleanse ourselves from the flesh so as to be vessels of honor fit for the Master’s use? Will we humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt us in due time? Will we be among those who endure, so that, after having done the will of God we may receive the promise? Will we be watchful and praying that we may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass? The overcomers – not an elite group, will rule with a rod of Iron. Those who have kept the word of His patience will be those kept from the hour of trial. The wise virgins will be those permitted to enter in. God is not a respecter of persons. Let us make it our goal to lay hold of everything Christ desired for us when He laid hold of us.
“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward (high) call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.” (Phil 3:12-15)
 Kenneth S. Wuest, The New Testament: An Expanded Translation (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1961).
 Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1985).
 Scofield Reference Bible, ( Oxford University Press, New York, 1945), note on Eph. 1:5.
 Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (10 volumes). By Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1972-1989), huios strongs 5207