Glory of God

Over the years, the Lord has given me insights into his glory and what that means.  This study is a compilation of those insights. In it I seek to answer questions about the glory of God.  What is glory?  Is it visible or is it a moral attribute?  How does man give glory to God?  How does God give glory to man?  What is the relationship between glory and character?  And what is the relationship between the kingdom of God and the glory of God?  Is the glory of God something that we can experience now or is it strictly a future expectation? And finally, what is the relationship between light, darkness, and glory?

The Radiance of God's Glory
First, I’ll address the question, “Is glory visible or is it a moral attribute?”

“When Moses came down from Mt. Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands he was not aware that his face was radiant, because he had spoken with the Lord.  When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him.”

“When Moses was finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. But whenever he entered the Lord’s presence to speak with Him, he removed the veil until he came out.  And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, they saw that his face was radiant.  Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the Lord.” (Ex. 34: 29-35).

From this passage, it is abundantly clear that the glory of God on Moses was visible; it was not merely a spiritual or moral characteristic.  His face was radiant.  This means that there was a shining or a glow about it.  We also observe a cause and effect relationship here.  Whenever Moses would spend time in the Lord’s presence and speak with the Lord, this glory would appear on his face.  We also know that this was limited to Moses at that time, as it did not happen to all the Israelites.  It was so unusual that everyone else who saw him was afraid of the bright glow on his face.  That’s why he covered up his face with a veil.

But now under the New Covenant, this is not limited to one man.  All believers have access to his presence, and the Lord’s glory is now reflected on the faces of all who know Him.  In fact, this glory is even more glorious than what Moses experienced.  Paul spoke of this to the Corinthians.

“Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness?”  (2 Cor 3:7-9)

“Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold.  We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away…But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.  Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor 3:12-14, 16-18).

Stephen is a New Testament example of someone on whose face the glory of God was visible. “All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.” (Ac 6:15)

When we spend time in the Lord’s presence, praying, meditating on the Word, worshipping, and adoring Him, our faces reflect His glory in a greater way than even Moses ever did.  At the same time, we are being transformed into His likeness. As we are transformed in this way, the glory that radiates from our faces is always increasing.

Jesus Glorified the Father
Glory is something that may be given to another.  Jesus said to the Father in prayer, “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.” (Jn 17:4).  This prayer was about glorifying God.  How do we glorify God?  Put differently, how do we give God glory? In this statement, Jesus teaches us that the way He brought glory to the Father was by completing the work the Father gave Him to do.

Just as Jesus did, we too bring glory to the Father on earth by completing the good works He has given each of us to do.  Jesus said, “You are the light of the world…let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Mt. 5:14,16).  When people see our good deeds and praise God in heaven, it glorifies Him.  God is glorified by our obedience to Him.

The Father Glorified Jesus
After Jesus prayed about glorifying the Father, He prayed that the Father would glorify Him.  “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” (Jn 17:5).  This is significant, because it shows us that there are two distinct but related things happening here.  Certainly Jesus glorified the Father during his life on earth.  Yet the Father glorifying Jesus was something else.

For the Father to glorify Jesus meant for Him to give Jesus the glory He had before the world began. The “glory” Jesus “had with the Father before the world began” was something Jesus divested himself of when He came into the world in human likeness.  This was the ekenosis Paul referred to.  He emptied Himself and “made himself nothing, taking the very form of a servant…being found in appearance as a man.” (Phil 2:7,8).

Jesus Glorified His Disciples
The Father did give Jesus glory, and Jesus in turn gave that glory to His disciples.  Speaking to the Father in prayer regarding His disciples, Jesus said, “I have given them the glory that you gave me” (Jn. 17:22).

This has application for us today.  We know that Jesus has given us (as disciples) the glory the Father gave Him.  We “all reflect the Lord’s glory” and we are “being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor 3:18).

So it is true that we all reflect the glory of the glorious Lord.  We reflect the glory we have been given.  How do we reflect that glory? We do so with “unveiled faces” ( 2 Cor 3:18).  Just as the glory of God was reflected in the face of Moses, so the glory of God is also reflected in our faces.  Just as it was with Moses, that glory is seen as a certain radiance about us.  “We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away.” (2 Cor 3:13).

Also, whereas the glorious radiance on the face of Moses was such that it faded away, the glory we have been given is an ever-increasing glory (2 Cor 3:10).  It is shining ever brighter until the fullness (Prov 4:18).  It surpasses the glory given to Moses.  This is both a greater glory and a lasting glory!  “How much greater is the glory which lasts!”  (2 Cor 3:11).

The Relationship Between Glory and Character
According to Webster’s Dictionary, character is “the combination of emotional, intellectual, and moral qualities that distinguish one person or group from another.”  While there can be no glory without a godly character, the glory of God is not the character of God.  It is rather the effulgence of light that comes from His presence.

For us who are still earth-bound, the glory of God is not something we currently display in its fullness, although God is glorified through our lives (as when men see our good works and glorify God in heaven).  While we do have glory in part now, our final glorified state is yet future.

The apostle Peter said, “I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who will share in the glory to be revealed.” (1 Pet 5:1).  Peter spoke of his sharing in the glory as something yet future that would eventually be revealed.  As an elder, Peter was a man who displayed godly character.  We can clearly see that in the book of Acts in the first 10 chapters. Yet he spoke in the future tense of sharing in the glory to be revealed.

Peter also spoke of the Spirit of God as the Spirit of Glory, saying, “The Spirit of glory…rests on you.” (1 Pet 4:14).  So we see that this glorious Spirit already rests upon us presently.  Yet there is an aspect that is yet future.  What is it?

Paul said, “When Christ, who is your life appears, then you will also appear with Him in glory” (Col 3:4).  From this we see that Christ will appear one day in the glory of the Father and His angels.  When that occurs, then we who believe in Christ will appear with Him in glory.  This is not a present state, but a very specific reference to a future event.

Paul also referred to “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col 1:27).  Christ in us presently is the hope of a glory that is yet future. If we already radiated glory in its fullness, then we would not hope for it.  Who hopes for something he already has?  But we hope for what we do not yet have.

While our final glorified state is yet future, Paul indicated that we do presently reflect the Lord’s glory in part. He said that our transformation into Christ’s likeness is happening in such a way that causes us to increasingly reflect His glory more and more.  “We who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor 3:18).

Paul said that if the Lord knew us before we were born, He predestined us to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus.  And if He predestined us, He also called us by name to serve Him.  If He called us, He also justified us.  “Those he justified he also glorified.” (Rom 8:30).  This is an amazing thing that we have been given in Christ by God.  But there is still something much greater to come that is yet future.  Paul spoke of  “The glory that will be revealed in us.” (Rom 8:18). He also said “We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” (Rom 5:2).  Both of these statements refer to something that has not happened yet.

Even Jesus, while on earth, prayed, “Father, the time has come.  Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you…I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.  And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” (Jn 17:1,4,5).  First of all, since we know He is the same yesterday, today, and forever, we know that His character never changed. (Heb 13:8)  Yet we see that Jesus did not claim to be in a glorified state, but spoke of the glory He previously had with the Father (past tense), and the glory he would have in the presence of the Father (a future state).

This is why we certainly cannot claim to have the fullness of the glory of God, nor can we claim we will have it until Christ is revealed.  Even Jesus didn’t claim to possess it while walking the earth, and we know his character was impeccable.  Therefore, the glory of God is not the character of God.  Rather, glory reflects ones true character.

Bright Eyes, Light-filled Bodies, and the Kingdom of God
The holy angels who come from the Lord’s presence carry His glory, which is visible upon their bodies. One example is when an angel of the Lord appeared and announced our Savior’s birth to the shepherds staying out in the fields of Bethlehem, and keeping watch over their flock by night. “And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.” (Luk 2:9)

Pastor Daniel Ekechukwu experienced a terrible car accident in Nigeria in December 2001.  While he was in the ambulance, being taken to the hospital after the accident, he died.  Two angels appeared to him.  He said their appearance terrified him.  They wore bright white robes that appeared to be attached to their bodies and the pupils of their eyes were white.

Jesus said that if our eyes were good then our whole body would be filled with light.  The reason is that our eye is the lamp of the body.  He said that if our eye is bad then our body would be filled with darkness.  He went on to say, “see to it that the light within you is not darkness.” (Lk 11:35)

So from this passage we learn that there is supposed to be light within our bodies.  This is God’s purpose.  But it depends on the quality of the eye.  In the natural, a person whose eyes are bad (or who is blind) sees nothing but darkness.  But when our eyes are good, we see the light around us as it enters our eyes and reaches the optical nerves, sending signals to our brain to interpret the images we’ve seen.  Likewise, in the spirit, if we are able to see well spiritually, then our whole body will be full of light.  Jesus concluded saying, “Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be completely lighted, as when the light of a lamp shines on you.” (Lk 11:36).

This final state that Jesus described indicates how we will appear if our whole body is full of light and no part of it dark.  When that happens, then our whole body will be completely lighted.  In fact he said it would be like the light of a lamp is shining on us.  Clearly he meant our bodily appearance would be visibly affected.

On the contrary, when someone is filled with wickedness, they will not have this bodily appearance.  We have all seen someone who is living in sin and depravation, and it seems they have an actual darkness about them.  In order to understand this phenomenon, it is helpful to see an illustration in real life.  First we find an example of those whose eyes were bad in Luke 11:37-54.  The Pharisees wanted to look bright and clean and to have their cups and dishes look that way also.  So they cleaned the outside.  But Jesus said they were full of greed and wickedness, which is darkness.  So they were going about it backwards.  If they would rid themselves of the darkness in their hearts, they would be bright and clean on the outside.  But it all began with the eye, and their eyes were bad.  As we read the rest of the passage, it is clear that they did not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ. They were blinded.  That’s why they “opposed Jesus fiercely, besieged him with questions, and waited to catch him in something he might say.” (Lk 11:53,54)

Now for an illustration from real life of someone who had good eyes and whose body was full of light.  For that we turn back to Lk 9:28-33.  Jesus’ eyes were good and, of course, His whole body was full of light.  But he took upon Himself the nature of a servant. He was made in human likeness being found in appearance as a man.  Just as the angels can allow men to see their glory or not, so Jesus chose not to allow His glory to be seen.  He also told demons to hush when they declared who he was.  And when he healed people, he told them not to tell anyone who did it.

But he told His disciples that He would come in His glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (Lk 9:26).  That coming will usher in the kingdom of God visibly into the world.  For He went on to say, “Some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.” (Lk 9:27).  The way Mark recorded it, Jesus said, “Some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power” (Mark 9:1).

Only 8 days later, “He took Peter, James, and John up onto a mountain to pray.  As He was praying, the appearance of His face changed, and His clothes became as bright as a flash of lighting.” (Lk 9:28, 29).  Mark recorded that “His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them”  (Mk. 9:3).  So these three disciples got to see the kingdom of God before they tasted death, just as Jesus said.  They saw the kingdom of God as Jesus allowed them to see His glory. It says, “They saw His glory and the two men standing with Him.” (v.30).

Peter, James, and John were the closest disciples of Jesus.  They had walked with Him for nearly 3 ½ years at this point and knew Him.  They had seen His holy, loving, and merciful character every day.  But now for the first time they saw His glory.

Moses and Elijah also appeared with Him in “glorious splendor” speaking about His departure.  So we find here a perfect example of those whose eyes are good, whose bodies are completely lighted as when the light of a lamp shines upon them.

Does this mean I can have that today?  What’s the practical application for my life?  Well to a degree I can have this today.

A Modern Day Transfiguration
Dr. Richard Wurmbrand once told of his experience in the communist Romanian prison, where he was confined for fourteen years for his faith in Jesus Christ, because he was a pastor.  There were others in the prison, too, besides Christians, including political dissidents and capitalists.  During his years in solitary confinement, kept in a dark, sound proof cell underground, there were times when the Light of Christ appeared to him.  And later when he was put into a common cell with about two hundred other prisoners, there was a Christian peasant there who had determined to lead one particular professor from the Royal Academy of Science to Christ, who was also a prisoner in that cell.

The professor would ask the peasant some challenging questions, many of which he could not answer, while others stood around them in a circle listening.  And one time brother Wurmbrand heard the peasant say that although he may not be able to answer all those questions, He knew Jesus was real, because he walked with Him.

The professor ridiculed him, saying that it is impossible to walk with Jesus, since He lived far away in Palestine two thousand years ago.  He said that even if he were to give the peasant a globe, he could not even point to Palestine on it. And besides that, he said, Jesus is supposed to be in heaven, which is millions of light years away, so it would be impossible for him to walk with Jesus here on earth.

The peasant replied, “You may be right in your thinking, but I walk with Jesus.  I talk with Jesus. I see Jesus.”

The professor was really indignant.  “You dare to say that you see Jesus?”

He replied, “Yes, sir. I see Him.”

He continued to ridicule him further by saying, “You say that you see Jesus. How does Jesus look to you? Indignant? Annoyed? Bored? Indifferent? Happy to see you? Or does He sometimes smile at you

The peasant replied, “Sir, how did you guess? He sometimes smiles at me.”

The professor laughed, “Jesus smiles at you?” He said to all the prisoners, “What a stupid thing! This man says that Jesus smiles at him.”  He turned to the peasant, “Jesus smiles at you?”

“Yes He does,” replied the farmer.

So the professor said to him, “Show me how Jesus smiles.”

Brother Wurmbrand says that all the prisoners were hungry, ugly, due to malnourishment, they were unwashed, and there faces were like scarecrows.  Their faces were only skin and bones with dark circles under their eyes. They wore the uniform of prisoners.  They were very, very ugly – unimaginably ugly. But when the peasant smiled at the professor to show what Jesus looks like when He smiles at him, his face shone with the glory of God. Brother Wurmbrand says it was like the transfiguration of Jesus before His disciples on the mount, and it was the most beautiful episode he had ever seen in his entire life.  The peasant began to shine and a gorgeous smile appeared on his face, as he radiated the light of God’s glory that is in the face of Christ.  Brother Wurmbrand said that he had seen many smiles in his lifetime, but never one so beautiful as the peasant’s smile that day. There was so much yearning in this smile, and so much compassion for the lost soul whom he had near him, and so much desire to see him saved, and so much love and so much goodness.  The whole splendor of heaven was in this smile. And the professor bowed his head and said, “Sir, you have seen Jesus.”  (See Dr. Wurmbrand tell the story here.)

That simple peasant had walked with the Lord and had seen Jesus.  He radiated His glory on that day supernaturally when he smiled.  That was a supernatural manifestation, which God can do anytime through the earthen vessels of His servants here on earth.

So I can experience this today, if the Lord wills it. Then ultimately in my glorified state, I will appear fully glorified.  “When He appears, we shall be like Him.” For the time being though, I am being changed from glory to glory in a gradual way.  And since Jesus was telling the truth, I will experience the light of His glory now to the extent that my eyes are good, and to the extent that I rid myself of all darkness.  Then one day I will be completely glorified (Rom 8:30).

What will my body be like?  The “sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another, and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.” (1 Cor 15:41). The word we translate as “splendor” here is doxa, which means glory.  Notice that the sun, moon, and stars all have a splendid light, or a glory, about them.  But they vary in intensity and brightness.  Likewise, my final glorified state will have a splendid light, a glory, about it.  Its intensity and brightness will be in proportion to the extent I follow the Lord in obedience now and walk in the light during this earthly journey.  As Dale Rumble once said, “The garments we’ll wear for eternity are the ones we’re weaving today.”

“See to it then that the light within you is not darkness.” (Lk 11:35).        

Suffering Produces Glory
The apostle Paul’s life was full of sufferings like persecution, afflictions, hardships, distresses,
beatings, imprisonments, tumults, labors, sleeplessness, and hunger. He said he was “always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus.” ( 2 Cor 4:10a). He also said,  “We who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake.” (2 Cor 4:11a). But he did not get discouraged by his sufferings, because he knew they were producing glory.

“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2Co 4:16-18)

All the sufferings we experience for the sake of the Lord and for the gospel are producing an eternal weight of glory that we will enjoy in heaven far beyond any comparison to our sufferings. In fact, our sufferings here on earth are merely light and momentary compared with the eternal weight of glory to be revealed in us one day.  So if we want to experience that glory, we must not be afraid to suffer for the Lord.

Radiating the Light of God’s Glory
“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His Powerful word.” (Heb 1:3)  Jesus is described as the radiance of God’s glory.  The Greek word for radiance is apaugasma, which means radiance or effulgence.  Effulgence is a brilliant radiance.  So apaugasma may be seen as a brilliant radiance.  In this passage, the writer says Jesus is the apaugasma  tas doxas, which is the brilliant radiance of the glory of God. The church fathers (Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, Theodoret, and Chrysostom) said that the Greek meaning of this verse was phos ek photos, which means Light out of Light or Light from Light.  That’s what Jesus is.  He described Himself as the Light.

“The light shines in the darkness…The true Light that gives light to every man was coming into the world…We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son.” (Jn 1:5,9,14).

The apostles who walked with Jesus saw His glory.  And we see that same glory with the eyes of our hearts, when we believe in Jesus.  “For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” (2Co 4:6)  Where there was once darkness within, now there is the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God.

God is the One who has shone in our hearts, just as He caused light to shine out of darkness at the creation. Until He did so, we were all perishing as unbelievers, and the god of this world had blinded our minds, so that we could not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ. “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2Co 4:3-4)

Saul of Tarsus was one unbeliever, who was perishing and could not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ. Yet the Lord in His mercy revealed Himself to Saul on the road to Damascus, and the Lord’s glory is so bright that when Saul saw Him in the brilliance of the noonday, the Lord’s glory blinded him.  “Suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.” (Acts 9:3).  Afterward, “Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing.” (Acts 9:8).  The glory that the Lord radiates is far brighter than the sun.

Perhaps one of the most powerful passages in the Bible is in Revelation 1.  There the apostle John described what the glorified Lord Jesus looked like when he saw Him on the Isle of Patmos.
“And among the seven lamp stands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest.  His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire.  His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of rushing waters.  In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp double-edged sword.  His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance” (Rev. 1:16).

When John saw Jesus like this he fell at His feet as though dead.  Who can see the glory of God’s face and live?  Who can see Jesus in this glorified state and not be forever changed.  The brilliant light in his eyes and body is unlike anything we have ever seen.

We shall be Like Him
Yet we will be like Him when He appears.  John said, “What we will be has not yet been made known.  But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself” (1 Jn 3:2,3).  We who believe in Jesus have this hope in us of seeing Jesus as He is, and being made like Him.  As John said, we purify ourselves in preparation for it.  Until then, we continue to reflect his glory in an ever increasing way as we do the good works He created us to do.

As the Scripture reveals to us, glory is something visible.  As Dr. Rodman Williams states, “The divine glory is the radiant splendor and awesome majesty of God Himself. Glory is not so much a particular attribute but the effulgence of splendor and majesty that shines through in every aspect of God's being and action.”

We give glory to God by completing the good works He has given each of us to do.   This includes spending time in the Lord’s presence and speaking with the Him.  When God gives glory to man it affects his appearance, making his face positively radiant.  When we walk in the light, that light is reflected and seen in our being.  Those who walk in darkness cannot experience this divine glory.  In fact, they cannot experience glory at all, except in some temporal, worldly sense, such as that associated with fame, fortune, power, and physical beauty.

But the path of the righteous is like the dawn, shining ever brighter until the full day.  As our character is gradually transformed to become more like Christ’s, there is a gradual increase in his divine glory upon us.  Glory follows godly character, but is not itself that character.

In the kingdom of God, Jesus rules and reigns supreme.   Because of that, His glory is evident in His kingdom.  When the disciples saw His kingdom, they saw His glory, and it was brighter than the sun.  While the glory of God is something that we can experience now, there is a future consummation of glory in the world to come for those who know Christ.  The deepest longing of mankind is to see God Himself, and that will be fulfilled when we see his face.