Recently, I preached badly on the hope of glory. No matter how many analogies or metaphors I grabbed, none seemed to communicate the power and joy of sharing God’s glory. It felt like I was trying to kindle a fire with two wet sticks.

Despite my failure, I am convinced that a right understanding of the hope of glory is essential to our faith. Paul declared that our present sufferings “are not worthy to be compared to the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). He develops this idea more fully in II Corinthians 4:17: “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.” After you read about all the beatings, shipwrecks, stoning, and imprisonment Paul endured, understanding this “eternal weight of glory” seems urgent. In verse 16 he said this hope of renewal and future glory is one of the reasons we don’t lose heart even as we decay.

However, I think most Christians have no idea of what Paul means by glory. We understand God possessing glory, majesty, and splendor and being exalted on the praise of all creation. But what is the glory God gives us and we receive?

C. S. Lewis tackles this question in his essay “The Weight of Glory”. He says one basic aspect of glory is praise and acknowledgement. Since many of us have little desire for a pat on the head or a gold star pasted on our life, this kind of glory does not capture our imagination. Many of us simply hate attention.

It is here that Teckla helps me. She is, as any who knows her can attest, completely without pride and personal vanity. Yet, if you ask her what she desires most deeply, with tears in her eyes she will say, “To hear Jesus say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’” This is the glory of being seen and known by God—understood perfectly by someone who all our life has seen us as we truly are.

The glory of this kind acknowledgment matters so much because it comes from God. No approval matters as much as His. We get a glimpse of this on the TV show The Voice during what is called the blind auditions. The judges have their backs to the singers and turn around if they want the singer to be part of their team. The opinion of these judges matter because they are all award-winning singers themselves. The best singers may see all four chairs turn. Heaven, for all who put their faith in Jesus, is God turning his chair for us and recognizing who are we are in His Son, Jesus.

In graduate school I tasted, in a small way, this kind of glory in a course taught by Dr. Towne. He had taught at the University of Athens and was now teaching my literary criticism course at WSU. His comments on my essays were always perceptive and penetrating. On one essay, into which I had poured my heart and argued for Christian philosophy of creativity, he wrote at the end, “A beautiful essay.” I still have the essay. Because of who he was as a scholar, his words meant more than the words of any other professor. Because of who God is, his praise is everything and rightly brings us joy.

C. S. Lewis says the second is the kind of glory we receive is “luminosity”. I think this idea is even more difficult to adequately communicate. The moment we see Jesus we become like Jesus. We receive the kind of resurrected body Jesus has. We see a glimpse of the glorified Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration where his garments glowed, and his face shone like the sun. We also have similar descriptions of Jesus by John in Revelation where Jesus’ eyes are a flame of fire and his feet glow like burnished bronze.

Paul’s point is that eternally possessing the kind of body Jesus now has makes our present aches, pains, cancers, and dementia nothing in comparison. Throughout the Scripture prophets and God’s people got glimpses of God’s glory, but when see Jesus, we become God’s glory. We don’t just see the beauty of God, we become His beauty. We don’t just sing a song, we become the song of praise.

It was perhaps at this point that I lost the congregation. I argued that the desire for a glorified body is present in all our childhood dreams of being a super-hero. The radiance of God, after all, is both light and power. I especially had in mind the image of the recent Captain Marvel movie after the hero gains her powers.  She glows and pulses with power. We may find the desire for an indestructible body childish, but it becomes a glorious idea as your body sags and drags, aches and decays. Jumping off the couch in my Superman pajamas was just practice for the return of Christ when I meet him in the air and in the twinkling of an eye become like Him.

As we age, we often feel we have lost who we once were. Those with dementia can even lose the memories that time has stitched together into their identity. But In Colossians 3:3 Paul explains that right now our “life is hidden with Christ in God.” No matter how much we forget we are perfectly remembered by God. Paul goes on to say, “When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.”

This hope of glory not only helps us endure suffering, but it purifies our heart. In 1 John 2:3 we are told: “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is.” John goes on to claim: “And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” When we place all our hope on the day of His appearing, we discover a passion for holiness. We long to be like Jesus on the inside, so one day we will be like Him through and through. Glory!

About Mark

I live in Myrtle Point, Oregon with my wife Teckla and am the father of four boys. Currently I teach writing and literature at Southwest Oregon Community College. I am a graduate of Myrtle Point High School, Northwest Nazarene College, and have a Masters in English from Washington State University.
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