The Glory of God

The glory of God displays what He is in His attributes and nature, and is seen pre-eminently in the Person of the Son, who is the "effulgence of His glory." In the coming kingdom of the Son of Man the divine glory will be displayed before an admiring universe in the Person of the Son, but not only in Him, also in those whom God has called to share what Christ has secured through His death upon the cross. There is also the divine glory of the Son that He had with the Father before the world was, and this will be displayed before those who share the Son's place in the bliss of the Father's House (John 17:5, 24).

God's Glory in Creation

In Psalm 19 the writer proclaims, "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork": and in the light of this divine glory man feels himself to be a very puny creature, even as it is written in Psalm 8, "When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained; What is man, that Thou art mindful of him?" As human knowledge of the universe increases, the mind of man reels before the immensity of space, and the number, size and speeds of the stars.

Alas! Though men observe the marvels of the universe, they do not always discern in them the glory of God. They can take cognisance of "the glory of the celestial" and of "the glory of the terrestrial", observing that there is "one glory of the sun, and another of the moon" and that "star differs from star in glory"; but how often it has been to worship the host of heaven instead of the God that created all. Even among God's earthly people Israel, who had the oracles of God, there were found in the temple of Jehovah those who worshipped the sun (Ezek. 8:16) and those who worshipped the moon, the queen of heaven (Jer. 7:18).

The testimony of creation to the glory of God remains before men, witnessing to "His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse" (Rom. 1:20). God's love is not to be discovered in the works of His hands; there we see His divinity, His majesty and power; yet, though God's glory in creation is seen by the mortal eye, it can only be discerned as God's glory by the eye of faith, for it is "through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God" (Heb. 11:3). In viewing the light of the sun, or the beautiful colours of a flower, the natural man can only see what belongs to nature, but in them the man of faith discerns the handiwork of God.

When Jehovah answered Job out of the whirlwind, He called his attention to some of the wonders of creation: to the foundations and corner stone of the earth, which man, by searching, has never discovered; to the sea, the cloud and the morning; to the light, the snow, the hail, the rain, the frost and the thunder's flash; to the bands of the Pleiades, the cords of Orion, the Bear with her sons; and to other mysteries of the heavens and the earth. In all these things there is the evidence of God's eternal power and divinity, and man's lack of knowledge concerning them manifests his ignorance and impotence.

Where there is the true knowledge of God in the heart, a knowledge derived from the truth of the Gospel, there can be the discernment of God's glory in the things He has made, and thanksgiving for them to the Father of lights, with whom there is no variableness or shadow of turning. The Christian's main concern is with the glory of God made known and seen in Jesus in all its moral beauty and perfections, and in the new creation that is in Christ; but the heart that knows the Son of God, and has learned that He is the creator of all things, cannot but bow before Him, in the acknowledgement of His glory, as it beholds the work of His fingers, whether on the earth or in the heavens.

God's Glory in Relation to Man

Although man has been made a little lower than the angels in the ranks of created beings, Scripture tells us that he is "God's image and glory" (1 Cor. 11:7). It was ever God's purpose that His glory should be displayed in man, and although it has been dishonoured in the first man, God's glory has been retrieved in the Second Man; and fresh glory has been brought to God through the cross of Christ. As has been remarked, God is indebted to Man in Christ for the glory of redemption, in a work that has glorified Him in regard to every question that sin has raised, and that publicly before the universe; and has enabled Him to carry out all His purposes of love, and to display Himself in love before the whole creation.

God's glory in relation to man is spoken of by Stephen, where he says, "The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia." Abraham was called of God to separate from a world in which He was dishonoured, an idolatrous world which had "changed the glory of the incorruptible God into the likeness of an image of corruptible man and of birds and quadrupeds and reptiles"; and which "worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever" (Rom. 1:23-25). And from the seed of Abraham God chose the nation of Israel, calling them out of Egypt to serve Him, His glory filling the Tabernacle in their midst. After bringing Israel into the land of promise, God filled with His glory the temple that Solomon had built, the evidence of His pleasure in dwelling with man, and signifying what was in His mind regarding a coming day.

In times of crisis, during Israel's sojourn in the wilderness, the glory of the Lord appeared, the presence of Jehovah resolving the trouble, as when Korah rebelled (Num. 16:19), and when the people contended with Moses because of the lack of water (Num. 20:6). But the time came when the glory departed from Israel, first, when the ark of God was taken in the days of Eli, (1 Sam. 4:21-22); then when Israel went into captivity because of their departure from God. In Ezekiel the departure of the glory is traced step by step, manifesting the reluctance of Jehovah to leave the nation that had so gravely dishonoured His Name; but even then God gave the prophet a vision of the return of the glory, as it surely will in a day not far distant (Ezek. 43:1-4).

God's Glory in Relation to the Second Man

Prophetically, in many Old Testament Scriptures, God's glory is viewed as secured in Christ, the Son of Man. In Psalm 8 God's glory rests on the Son of Man, whom He has "crowned with glory and honour." In Ezekiel there is the mystical presentation of a Man above upon the heavenly throne, and in the midst of the divine glory, the One in whom God's glory is secured during its absence from the temple at Jerusalem. How comforting for the prophet to behold in vision the safeguarding of God's glory by the mighty cherubim under the control of a Man in heaven.

When the Lord Jesus was born a Babe in Bethlehem, a multitude of the heavenly host celebrated His advent praising God, saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good pleasure in men." God's glory was now viewed in relation to the Second Man on earth, of whom the apostle John wrote, "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us (and we have contemplated His glory, a glory as of an only-begotten with a Father) full of grace and truth." The glory that once had tabernacled among men, with Israel in the wilderness, was now found among men in the Person of the Son of God, "the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father."

The consuming desire of the Son on earth was for the glory of His Father. When the sorrowing sisters of Bethany sent and told Him of their brother's sickness, He said, "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby." He viewed every circumstance of life in relation to the glory of God; and He saw that the sickness and death of one He loved would bring glory to God through his being raised from the dead.

When His soul was troubled, in anticipating the cross, He said, "Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify Thy Name." He knew full well all that the dread hour of the cross would mean to His holy soul, sufferings beyond all creature knowledge, all that the evil heart of man energised by the power of Satan could devise, all that the powers of darkness could marshal to assail Him, and the wrath and judgment of a holy God against sin, when He would be made sin and bear our sins. Awful as the anticipation of all this was, and as would be the drinking of the cup of wrath, the one thing that mattered to Him above every other was the glory of the Father's Name.

Looking beyond the cross, the Son said, "I have glorified Thee on the earth: I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do." In every moment of His life on earth the Son had brought glory to God: all His thoughts, feelings, desires, words and actions were for His Father's pleasure and glory. His every work of power was in testimony for the Father, His every word to reveal the love and goodness of the Father's heart in grace to men, and to expose the evil that refused and resisted the revelation of divine love.

After Judas had gone out from the presence of the Lord, the Son of God was free to speak to His own of His death and resurrection in relation to the glory of God, saying, "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him. If God be glorified in Him, God shall also glorify Him in Himself, and shall straightway glorify Him" (John 13:31-32). The moral perfections of the Son of Man never shone more brightly than in the cross, where, in obedience to His Father's will, He submitted to all that was necessary to meet the claims of the divine throne in relation to every question that sin had raised in God's universe. In this act of perfect obedience the glory of redemption was brought to God, and there the nature of God was revealed, and His attributes displayed in glory. In answer to the glory procured for God by the Son of Man, God has glorified Him in Himself, His glory saluting Him in resurrection, and setting Him down in glory at His own right hand.

Whether in His life on earth, in His death upon the cross, or in His present place of exaltation, the Son's great concern was for the Father's glory, therefore do we hear Him say, "Father, the hour is come; glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son also may glorify Thee" (John 17:1). From His exalted place on high, the Son now glorifies the Father in communicating eternal life to those that the Father has given Him. This is the life that He manifested in flesh here below, and which He made available for men by His death on the cross.

But the Lord could also look forward to the day of the display of the divine glory, speaking to His disciples of the time when as Son of Man He would "come in His own glory, and in His Father's, and of the holy angels" (Luke 9:22-26); then He added, "But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God."

Then comes the account of the transfiguration, when the three chosen disciples saw the glory of the Son of Man in the garments and face of Jesus, and the Father's glory in the bright cloud from which His voice was heard declaring His pleasure in His Son.

God's glory will indeed be seen in the Lord Jesus personally in the coming day, even as foretold in Revelation 1:7, "Behold He comes with clouds; and every eye shall see Him". This will be God's answer to all that the Son was for Him as the rejected of earth, and to those "which pierced Him", and to "all the kindreds of the earth" which belong to the world that crucified and slew His well-beloved Son.

Although the heavens declare the glory of God, there are relatively few that have the capacity to discern the divine glory, even if they behold the glories of the heavenly bodies, for they know not God as the Creator of the universe. When the glory of God dwelt in the tabernacle, not even Moses could remain within (Exodus 40:35); nor could the priests of Israel stand within to minister when the cloud filled the temple (2 Chr. 5:14). When the glory was here in the Person of the Son, few there were who saw the Godhead glory shine through the human veil; though there were some to whom the Father made known who Jesus was. Now that the Son of God has gone on high, and the Spirit of God has come, there are those who have received the testimony of God concerning His glory and Jesus.

The Testimony to the Glory of God in Jesus

When the Lord Jesus ascended to heaven, the disciples witnessed the cloud that received Him out of their sight. Then Stephen, "being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God" (Acts 7:55). This testimony of the Spirit to the glory of God was rejected by the leaders of Israel, who had already refused the testimony of the Son of God in whose flesh the divine glory was veiled as He passed through this world.

But there was one present at the martyrdom of Stephen, the man at whose feet the clothes of Stephen's murderers were laid, that God, in the sovereignty of His grace, had chosen to carry on the witness of Stephen to the glory of God and Jesus; a testimony that was not only for Israel, but especially for the Gentiles. As Saul of Tarsus journeyed to Damascus, pursuing his persecuting course, "suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven". In Acts 22, when addressing the multitude in Jerusalem, he spoke of it as "a great light"; and in his defence before King Agrippa, he said it was "a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun".

Paul never forgot what he saw that day, and long after when writing his second epistle to the Corinthians, he wrote, "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels…" The light of the knowledge of God's glory was not only told out in words, but it was manifested in the lives of His servants. It was as the light in the pitchers of Gideon's three hundred men; when the pitchers were broken, the light shone out. All the trials, perplexities, persecutions and sorrows through which Paul and his fellow-labourers passed, were used of God to reflect the light of the knowledge of the divine glory shining in Jesus' face. And it is still the same today: God allows His saints and His servants to pass through trying conditions of life that they never would have chosen for themselves, so that through them there might be a testimony to Christ who is glorified at God's right hand.

The testimony to Christ being received up in glory is part of "the mystery of godliness", spoken of by Paul in 1 Timothy 3. In that chapter the Apostle wrote of "the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth"; and immediately after he writes of the secret of piety. The church has been left in this world to bear witness to the truth, a witness in true piety that supports the spoken testimony. The secret of all true piety springs from the coming into the world of the Son of God, who was "justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory". We look back to the incarnation, and see in Jesus the perfect revelation of God in the Person of the Son, the vessel in which by God's Spirit all His will was fulfilled. We delight to learn that it was in flesh the angels beheld their Creator, that He is the subject of God's testimony to men, and that the Gentiles, who by nature and practice were far from God, have believed God's testimony to His Son, and that the subject of God's testimony has been received up in glory, the witness to God's good pleasure in all that Christ was and wrought for Him in this world. It is the knowledge of the Son of God that has brought piety into our lives, the same piety that was seen in its perfection in Jesus here, and that gave unbounded and unbroken pleasure to God.

God's Glory in Relation to the Saints

In the Lord's closing discourse to His disciples, He said to them, "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples" (John 15:8). The Father had been perfectly glorified in the Son, in a life that gave Him constant delight; the Father would still be glorified in beholding the same precious traits that came out in Jesus manifesting themselves in His disciples. This would indeed be the proof that they were Christ's disciples, for only true followers of Jesus could manifest the same features of beauty that gave God pleasure.

The Lord told His disciples the secret of fruit-bearing, when He said, "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me" (John 15:4). Only by dependence upon and communion with the Lord can we manifest the traits that are His, and thus live for God's glory in this world.

But God's glory is not only connected with the present witness of the disciples of Jesus; it will soon be displayed in them in the coming day. Of this we read in John 17, where the Son said, "And the glory which Thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and Thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that Thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved me". All the true disciples of the Son of God will share the glory He has received from the Father, and in them the glory will be displayed before the wide universe.

All who have part with Christ in that day are the fruit of His work on the cross; not one could ever have been in His likeness and sharing His glory had He not died for them. When the Son was on earth the world refused to own that He was the Sent One of the Father, but when the world sees the great company of the disciples of Christ sharing His glory they will realize that it was the Son that brought them there, and that He came from the Father to procure a company in which He would be glorified. When the saints are in the glory with Christ it will be evident that to share His place they must be loved by the Father as the Son is loved.

In the day of glory the unity of the saints will be manifest to all; they are made perfect in one. The features of the Son will be displayed in the saints in glory, even as in the days of their testimony on earth they manifested, though feebly, the beautiful traits that had been set forth perfectly in the Son while here. On earth the disciples had not only Christ in them, but also the flesh; in the day of glory there will be nothing but Christ, even as He said, "I in them"; but He could add, "and Thou in me", for the glory of the Father, that which He gave to the Son as Man, will shine out in those He has brought to share the portion of His Son in that day.

Paul, in 2 Thessalonians 1, teaches this same thing, writing, "When He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe". Christ will not only be Personally displayed in the divine glory, He will also be glorified in His saints, in those who on earth were set apart for the will of God. Christ is persecuted in His own now, as Saul of Tarsus learned when Jesus said to Him, "Why persecutest thou me?", but in the coming day He will be admired in those in whom He was persecuted and reproached.

God's Glory Displayed in the Church

In Revelation 21, from verse 9, there is a detailed description of the heavenly Jerusalem, the Bride, the Lamb's wife. Here the saints of this present period are viewed in their collective and corporate relationship to Christ. The church is seen by the Apostle John "descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal". On earth there will be the display of the glory of Christ as Israel's King in the earthly Jerusalem; but the glory of God will be seen in the church in the heavenly city. Have we not here the fulfilment of the Lord's words in John 17:22-23, and of what the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians 1:10? The divine unity of the saints is seen in the city, and in its street of pure gold; and the lovely features of Christ, displayed in their rich variety in the different precious stones, will be admired in the vessel where God's glory dwells.

The same chapter in Revelation portrays before us "the holy city, new Jerusalem", in which we see what the church is for God and for Christ throughout the eternal day. For Christ, it is as a Bride adorned for her husband; that which is for the joy and satisfaction of His eye and heart for evermore. For God, it is a city of new creation in the midst of a scene where all things are new, fresh from His creatorial hand, and where nothing can ever be tarnished or defiled by the intrusion of sin. This fair city, the masterpiece of God's wisdom and creative skill, is the depository of His glory, and the tabernacle in which He shall dwell with men when all tears, sorrows and other marks of the old creation have for ever gone.

At the close of Ephesians 3 Paul also writes of the church as the vessel of God's eternal glory, "Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus, throughout all ages, world without end. Amen". The glory is in the church, but it is by, or in, Christ Jesus. The church owes its existence to the work of Christ on the cross, and the glory of redemption that is in Christ Jesus will be displayed through the church, which has been procured for God, for ever and ever. Moreover, in the eternal day, the glory of God's grace will be displayed in the church, which is not only the fruit of His wisdom and the work of His hand, but which has come from "His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began" (2 Tim. 1:9). The exceeding riches of God's grace shine out in those who once were far from God, dead in trespasses and sins, but who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, and united to Christ as His body and His bride. But the love of God will also be displayed in that glory, even as it is written in John 17:23, "that the world may know that Thou hast sent me, and hast loved them as Thou hast loved me". The eternal satisfaction of God in all that has been done by the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit will for ever be before the creation in the display of His glory in the church.