America is in a time of constitutional crisis. Our political system is unstable, and our religious freedoms are in peril. A chasm has opened between the political right and left that seems unbridgeable, and Jesus warned us that “Every kingdom divided against itself… will fall” (Luke 11:17). This means uncertainty, and anxiety is the typical response to uncertainty. Throughout history, however, Christians have conquered their anxieties through hope in the world to come
For many, this hope means a reunion with lost children and spouses. Others think of it as a time of rest and pleasure—no work, no sweat—just peace and joy. Yes, these are part of our reward, but true Believers hope for something else, without which heaven will not be heaven. They anchor their hope in a direct, unmediated view of God’s glory— seeing, savoring, and enjoying God in all of his moral beauty. This is what Paul had in mind when he wrote, “Christ in you the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). Here is real power to persevere through times of trial and uncertainty.
What is the glory of God, and why is it central to our hope? “The glory of God,” writes Dr. Hamilton, ”is the weight of the majestic goodness of who God is, and the resulting name, or reputation, that he gains from his revelation of himself as Creator, Sustainer, Judge, and Redeemer, perfect in justice and mercy, loving-kindness and truth.”[i]
Throughout Scripture, this glory appears as fire or intense light. It inhabited the cloud that led Israel through the wilderness by day and night (Exodus 13:21-22). It filled the tabernacle, then blazed over the Mercy Seat in the Holy of Holies (Exodus 40:34-38). When it shone from Christ’s face on the Mount of Transfiguration, the disciples cowered in fear (Matthew 17:6).
When Moses asked to see it, using his “face” as a synonym, God responded, “You cannot see my face for man shall not see me and live” (Exodus 33:20). The multi-faceted splendor of God’s infinite goodness is so intense, so morally beyond our sin-wracked frames, that an unmediated sight would mean instant death. So instead, in kindness and grace, God spoke his glory.
Exodus 36:6-7, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
Notice. In this definition, God’s glory is both grace, (“merciful and gracious”), and justice, (“visiting the iniquity).”
Because Moses associated God’s glory with Paradise, he preferred to stay in the desert with God’s glory rather than leave for the Promised Land without it (Exodus 33:15). Those born again increasingly feel the same, and that is why, for them, reunion with loved ones is not the main thing. Heaven is wherever God is, and all of our future happiness is tied up in seeing and savoring the many-faceted splendor of his glory, not people or created things.
The second to the last chapter of the Bible, Revelation 21, amplifies this hope. It predicts that the New Creation will be a temple to house God’s glory. An angel announces the arrival of the New Jerusalem. It is the New Creation, and it is coming down out of heaven from God. But curiously, this city is a perfect cube (Revelation 21:16). The only other cube in the Bible is the Holy of Holies in the Old Testament tabernacle. There the unapproachable glory flamed over the Mercy Seat. It was the only light in that space.
Then, the angel makes another astounding statement.
Revelation 21:23, “And the city has no need of the sun or the moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God gives it light and its lamp is the Lamb.”
Remember, no one could enter the Holy of Holies, except the High Priest, and then only once a year (with fear and trembling) on the Day of Atonement. But what the Old Testament saint could not experience is now central to our hope. The New Creation we await will be the Holy of Holies. God’s glory will be visible, touchable, and tangible 24-7.
The Bible makes a second staggering promise. For Believers seeing Christ face to face will not be terminal like it was for Moses. Instead, it will change us, allowing us to actually share the Glory of God!
1 John 3:2-3, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”
With this in mind, C.S. Lewis’ ever-fertile imagination attempted to draw out the implications of for human relationships:
“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship.”[ii]
Lewis is asking the obvious question:
“How will we respond to Christian friends and relatives, clothed in glory—a glory that if we saw it today would be terminal—radiating God’s holiness, filled with “joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8), and transformed by God’s splendor into spiritual kings and queens? Would we be totally intimidated? Would the sight be terminal?”
How Should We Respond?
The hope of seeing and sharing God’s glory has two big implications, and the apostles constantly refer to them.
Hope In the Glory
First, to a persecuted, suffering church Peter wrote, “Set your hope fully on the grace of God that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13). The “revelation” that Peter has in mind is Christ’s Second Coming in glory. With similar words, Paul exhorted Titus, “Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). Here is an anchor for the soul, sure and steadfast, rooted in the hope that I will someday be swallowed up in the Transcendent Glory. God has designed this hope to pull us through times of anxiety, testing, and temptation (Hebrews 6:19).
Grow in the Glory
Second, grow in your capacity to glorify God. Participation in Christ’s glory begins now, but it will only be perfected when we see Christ face to face. We increase our capacity to share God’s glory by meditating on it. Christ is and was the glory of God. “We have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father” (John 1:14). Jesus reveals the glory of God in a way that we can see and survive, and the cross is its culmination (John 12:23-24). “On the cross,” writes Michael Reeves, “we see the glorification of the glory of God, the deepest revelation of the very heart of God.”[iii]
The Christian life revolves around the glory of God. What is the New Birth but a glimpse of God’s glory? “For 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” (2 Corinthians 4:6). What is sanctification but participation in God’s glory? “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.” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
In summary, this hope is what Paul had in mind when he wrote the Corinthians, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19). Brothers and sisters, hope for reward in this life is not enough. Our ultimate reward is future and eternal. It is seeing and sharing the glory of God in the face of Christ. This reward alone is worth persevering through great difficulty to experience.
[i] Dr. James Hamilton Jr. God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010) pg 56
[ii] C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory,
[iii] Reeves, Michael (2012-07-03). Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith (p. 127). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.