The four familiar weeks of Advent are over, finishing with the “coming” of the Christ child on Christmas. But, this week, I would like to share some thoughts on “glory,” for it is the culmination of the advent of Christ. The “great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth, peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Lk 2:13-14).
Mary, the mother of Jesus, sings, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Lk 1:46).
In the OT, God’s “glory” was perceived as his unique qualities of power, mystery, and separateness. His holiness, righteousness, and justice are revealed in his glory; he is “high and lofty” (Isa 57:15). Glory is not an attribute of God, but the shining manifestation of his person; it is the revelation of himself. It is not something that he has; it is something that he is. The OT pictures the glory of God as a “light” (Isa 60:1-3, 19-20), or as a “fire” (Dt 5:23-24). Creation was his first light-filled, glorious “temple,” and his glory filled the whole earth (Ps 72:19; Isa 6:3). Then, God’s glory filled the Tabernacle and the Temple of the Israelites where it appeared as a “cloud” (Ex 40:34; 1 Ki 8:10-11). The glory of the Lord was revealed in his acts of deliverance and the salvation of his people (i.e., Ex 40:34-38; Ps 19:1; 29:1; 57:5).
Nevertheless, the nation rebelled in disobedience, and turned away from God, who had to remove his glory from their midst:
“Then the glory of the Lord departed from over the threshold of the temple and stopped above the cherubim…They stopped at the entrance to the east gate of the Lord’s house and the glory of the God of Israel was above them” (Eze 10:18-19; see 9:3-11).
Only later did the glory of the Lord return to the Temple, in the presence of the Spirit. The light of the Spirit broke into human existence protecting, guiding, renewing, giving knowledge and insight to those who truly seek God (Ps 4:6; 18:28; 19:8; 27:1; 36:9; 89:15; 119:105).
Moving into the NT, we find that there are overlapping meanings for the concept of “glory;” the idea of “doxa” (“radiance, honor, fame, repute”) is something that was always given to God by his people, but it is also that which radiates from him. Again, the glory of God is pictured as “light:” at the time of Jesus’ birth, the angelic host appeared to the shepherds at night, and “the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified” (Lk 2:8-9). Matthew wrote that the Gentiles (yes, the Gentiles!) “have seen a great light…a new light has dawned” (4:16). It is the Spirit who fills believers and makes them “the light of the world” (Mt 5:14-16).
On earth, the glorious Spirit of God is pictured as “light;” Jesus is seen as “light” in John’s Prologue (Jn 1:4, 5, 7, 9) and in Jesus’ great “I am the light of the world” statements (Jn 8:12; 9:5; 12:35, 46). The Son brings glory to the Father (Jn 14:13), and the Son is glorified by the Father (Jn 1:14; 17:1, 5).
In the Fourth Gospel, Jesus prayed a final prayer for his little band of followers, and he repeatedly used the word “glory” (or “glorify”). Jesus prayed that the Father would “glorify” him so that he might “glorify” the Father (17:1). This is the reciprocal glory manifested in the persons and the acts of both the Father and the Son. It appears that Jesus shared glory with this Father before his incarnation (“before the creation of the world,” 17:5, 24). After his work on earth was completed, the risen Christ once again resumed his position of divine glory in heaven with the Father (17:1-5, 24).
We also see that the “glory of God” was revealed on earth in the illness and death of Lazarus, so that the “glory of the Son” was shown in giving life to his friend (Jn 11:4, 40). Glory was revealed by Jesus to humanity (Jn 13:31-32). It was the cross itself that was Jesus’ ultimate glorification because he totally, obediently fulfilled his Father’s plans and purposes (Jn 12:16, 23, 27-28). It seems ironic that the death of Jesus would glorify God and leads to eternal life for his followers (17:2).
Someday, finally, Christ will return to earth “in all his glory” (see Rev 1:6; 4:11; 5:9; 21:22-26). In the meantime, it was, and is, the Spirit who makes the disclosure of Jesus’ glory to his people (Jn 16:15: 17:24):
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14).
Today, the Spirit fills believers so that the glory of the Father and of the Son is displayed. The Spirit teaches and reminds believers so that they will truly know the glory of the Father and the Son (Jn 17:26). Christ is glorified by those people who accept his words and his salvation (17:10b), and, believers are glorified by Christ through the Holy Spirit (17:22, 24). The church is glorified by Christ and the church glorifies her Savior. Furthermore, it is the Spirit who unites all believers as “one” (17:21, 23).
Divine glory is made known as believers “love one another” (Jn 15:17). It is made known through the unity of faith, in the revealing of truth (Jn 16:12), in joining God in his work on earth (Jn 15:8), in facing opposition with confidence (Jn 16:20), in living life to the fullest, and showing his peace (Jn 14:27). His glory is apparent when people turn from sin, “remain” in Christ, and selflessly love one another, just as Christ loves his people (Jn 15:12). Glory is not earned by human merit; “Christ in me” is the Spirit, helping us to practice in this life the position (“in Christ”) that he has already granted to us. And with great anticipation, someday we will “see” his full glory (Jn 17:24).
In the visions recorded in the Book of Revelation, God confirmed the fact that one day, there will be a second Advent, or a return of Christ (Rev 21:1). Our earth will be the “dwelling place of God, with humanity” (Jn 14:2, Rev. 21:3), and the “glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp” (Rev 21:23). Through an abundance of symbols and metaphors, we can “see” the future of the world, and we can hope for God’s newer and better “cosmos.” Jesus has returned to the Father, but he is also very present with us in the form of the Spirit – now and always. It is the Spirit who sustains the “now and later” redemption in every believer; we are “already” saved and justified through Christ, but we are “not yet” fully sanctified. One day, in the future, we will be with him and share his glory (Jn 17:22). As Jesus promised:
“I am the resurrection and the life. [The one] who believes in me will live, even though he/she dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (Jn 11:25).
“Did I not tell you that if you believed, you will see the glory of God?” (Jn 11:40).
Ultimately, to God be the glory, because,
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14).
“Maranatha” – come, Lord Jesus!