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Lack of glory

Glory. It is a word we often use, but seldom define. What exactly does it mean? The Hebrew word for glory signifies weight or gravity. So, God’s glory has to do with the gravity of God, that is, his worth or value. John Piper defines it like this: “The glory of God is the infinite beauty and greatness of God’s manifold perfections.” Since God is perfect, he is eternally glorious or eternally valuable.

Anyone with working sight has access to the glory of God, according to Psalm 97; “The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all the peoples see his glory” (v. 6). All you need to do is look up to the sky (Ps. 19:1). The Bible also teaches that anyone who sees the glory of God with his physical eyes will stand without an excuse on the last day (Rom. 1:20). But the person united with Christ is able to behold the glory of God, not only with his physical eyes, but also with his spiritual eyes. And each person who beholds his glory with spiritual eyes will be transformed by it.

Anyone with working sight has access to the glory of God, according to Psalm 97.

Let’s back up. In Eden Satan told Eve, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5). Truth mixed with lie! “…the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes…” (v. 6). And so, both she and the man ate of the fruit. “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked” (v. 7). Just as Satan had promised, their eyes were opened, and they now noticed what they had not seen before. But at the same time their eyes were seriously damaged. In fact, simultaneously as their eyes were opened in one sense, they were spiritually blinded. Humankind was blinded to the glory of God.

“The darkness has blinded [the sinner’s] eyes,” says 1 John 2:11. The starting point for humans is not only that we have an appetite for unrighteousness (2 Thess. 2:12), but also that we are blind to true beauty—or rather, to the source of true beauty. 2 Corinthians 4:4 says, “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Thus, the famous words of John Newton, “I once was blind!

Regeneration—the glory of Christ revealed in the gospel

When the gospel is proclaimed and Jesus Christ is publicly portrayed as crucified before our eyes (Gal. 3:1), we are born again and thus our eyes are opened to God’s glory in Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6 says of this experience, ”God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Paul uses similar terminology in Acts 26:18 when he is explaining how the risen Christ sent him “to open [the Gentile’s] eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God.” Thus, through the proclaimed gospel message, the eyes of sinners are opened to how beautiful, satisfying, and glorious Christ is. To quote Jonathan Edwards, “One sight of the divine beauty of Christ bows the wills and draws the hearts of men.” Through the gospel we are at first captivated by the glory of Christ.

Through the gospel we are at first captivated by the glory of Christ.

Sanctification—the glory of Christ revealed in Scripture

Then what? Do we move on? Yes and no. We do move on, but we move “from one degree of glory to another.” In 2 Corinthians 3 Paul is describing the hardened and veiled minds and hearts of his fellow Jews that hinder them from understanding the holy Scriptures. “But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed” (v. 16). “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (v. 18). This is well worth pondering. When the born-again believer hears or reads the Bible he continually, with his spiritual eyes, beholds what the Bible reveals: the glory of Christ. The sight of this glory will gradually transform him, from one degree of glory to another. That is why Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians is for the eyes of their hearts to continually be enlightened (Eph. 1:18). No wonder the Psalmist prays for open eyes that he might behold wondrous things in the law of the Lord (Ps. 119:18), not to mention what Jesus says about the sanctifying effect of God’s Word (John 17:17)! Through the Scriptures we are slowly being transformed by the glory of Christ therein.

When the born-again believer hears or reads the Bible he continually, with his spiritual eyes, beholds what the Bible reveals: the glory of Christ.

Glorification—the glory of Christ revealed in his physical person

So we were born again when we first saw the glory of Christ in the gospel message, and we are now progressively being sanctified by beholding it in the Bible. But that is not all. The Bible says that one day we will behold the physical Christ in matchless glory – and then we also will be completely transformed. Paul writes that Christ “will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Phil. 3:21). One day, Christian, you will undergo a complete transformation. All our remaining sin will be gone and “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed” (1 Cor. 15:52). On that day we will be clothed in the glory we so flippantly exchanged for worthless substitutes (Rom. 1:21, 3:23)! We will have what Adam never had. And what is it that causes this glorification, this climax of God’s transforming of our person? John gives us the answer: “we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). Paul agrees; “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face” (1 Cor. 13:12). We will see the face of the Son of God—the same face from which the earth and sky will flee away (Rev. 20:11, 22:4)! John Owen is right when he says, “In the immediate beholding of the person of Christ, we shall see a glory in it a thousand times above what we can here conceive.” In the physical meeting with Christ, we are eternally glorified in a moment through his glory.

Lord, open our eyes!

In John 17:24 Jesus prays, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me…” The Father always answers the prayers of the Son. God’s elect have beheld, are beholding, and will behold the glory of Christ. What could possibly be greater than this? Therefore, the Christian wholeheartedly joins in with the prayer of Moses; “Please show me your glory” (Ex. 33:18).

Who could have known that God in his providence, would make the crafty words of Satan a prophecy of his transforming plans for his people? When we see and eat, not from the forbidden fruit, but from the living bread that is Christ himself, we get to share in the beauty of his manifold perfections, and we become like him. We are conformed to his image (Rom. 8:29). And so, we wait patiently for the glorious return of the King (Matt. 16:27). And as we wait, we longingly assure ourselves; “Your eyes will behold the king in his beauty” (Isa. 33:17).

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