Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the December, 2010, magazine. We are including it in this memorial issue because its message was so important to J.R. It was a sermon that deeply impacted him in his early years as a Baptist pastor, but as the end of his life drew near, he cherished its inspirational message even more.
“But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you” (I Peter 5:10).
You and I have been called unto the glory of God. The Shekinah that surrounded our Savior will one day be a very real part of our existence. I want to take you inside the Holy of Holies of Scripture to gaze upon the glory that awaits us. Before I do, let me say that I cannot adequately describe this “glory” of God. I can but stammer about it. I do not have the vocabulary it would take. I suppose if I had all of the knowledge necessary, of all the languages in the world today, I would still feel inadequate on this subject.
The Apostle Paul even admitted that he could not describe it. As a matter of fact, Paul could not relate his experience after ascending into the third heaven. Though he knew several languages — Greek, Hebrew, and Latin, the grandeur of his theme made him silent. Finally, he wrote, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (I Corinthians 2:9).
But our eyes have seen many wonderful things. We have seen the beauty of the sunrise and the majesty of the sunset. We have seen the grandeur of snowcapped mountains as they rise with their pointed peaks toward heaven. We have seen the loveliness of God’s creation, and yet we have never seen anything as magnificent as the eternal glory that shall be ours some day. We have probably enjoyed many things here on earth that would lift our thoughts into heavenly places. But every previous experience will pale in the presence of God. Things that are majestic here cannot compare to His presence. Everything is going to be so glorious there.
I am afraid that we can not possibly describe the awesome beauty of the presence of God. But one of these days you and I will be able to understand it, for he said,
“God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit…” (1 Corinthians 2:10).
And so His glory is not utterly unknown to us. We do know some things about God’s glory. It is essential, I think, in covering such a theme as this, that we pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal His glory to us. Though I cannot adequately describe our being called unto His glory, I want to give you the message in just a few simple points.
First of all, it is the destiny of every Christian to be called unto glory. God, Himself, has given us the invitation. It is as if the president would send you an invitation to come to the White House. I have been to Washington and have toured the White House, but nothing will be quite so magnificent as the day when we arrive in the holy city, New Jerusalem. There is no place on earth to compare to the glory that we shall see in that glorious place.
Does not the very word “glory” astound you? Surely, that word belongs to God alone, yet the Scripture does not exaggerate. The Scripture tells us that we are called unto His glory. We deserve everlasting shame. We do not deserve to spend eternity in God’s presence. And yet, God has called us unto His glory. This glory has been promised.
In Psalm 73:24 the Bible says: “Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive to glory.”
Remember the rapture of Elijah? He went to heaven in a fiery chariot. Well, that chariot contained the glory of God. The appearance of fire was actually the presence of the Shekinah.
In Psalm 84:11 the Bible says: “…the Lord will give me grace and glory…”
Glory is riveted to salvation. It cannot be separated. In Romans 8:30, the Bible says:
“Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”
There’s that word “glory” again. We are “glorified.” Notice the sentence structure placed the glorification in the past tense, and we have received the fullness of that precious glory. It has been given to us by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
II Timothy 2:10 speaks of the “… salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.”
Again and again we can see the term “glory” listed as an essential part of our salvation. It is that eternal life we possess.
At present, blood courses through our veins. But when we get to heaven and receive our new bodies, we will be filled with glory. The blood of Christ was shed that we might obtain His glory. He gives us eternal life. Could it be, then, that coursing through our veins — the veins of our new bodies — will not be blood, but glory – the light of the presence of God – the Shekinah?
In II Corinthians 3:18 the Bible says:
“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
We will be changed into His glory by the Spirit. In II Corinthians 4:17, the Apostle Paul spoke of our glory to come. He said,
“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”
In other words, the problems we face here will be substituted with a greater glory when we get to heaven. We are called unto this glory.
In I Corinthians 15:43 the Apostle Paul speaks of our bodies being “sown in dishonor,” but being “raised in glory.” One day when the resurrection comes, those who have been laid beneath the soil will be raised in glory. The Bible says we shall “shine as the brightness of the firmament” (Daniel 12:3). There will be some kind of light or brilliance to our new energy source. But even so, how inadequate we are in trying to explain the Shekinah!
In Philippians 3:21 the Apostle Paul longed for the Second Coming of Christ:
“Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body….”
When John saw the Lord Jesus Christ in Revelation 1, he described His eyes as “flames of fire.” We know that one day “we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (1 John 3:2).
It’s going to be exciting when we get to heaven. Our new bodies may not possess liquid as we now have flowing through our veins. Nor will our bodies experience pain. One day the blind will see; the deaf will hear; the lame will walk; and the dumb will speak. Won’t that be great! There’ll be no disease in heaven; no broken bones; no lame feet; no cancer; and no graves!
The thought of it makes me want to shout, “Glory!” It’s going to be a wonderful experience when we get to heaven and see our Lord Jesus Christ in all of His splendor — in all of His matchless glory. Yes, it is the destiny of every Christian, for the Bible says we have been called unto His glory.
What Is This Glory?
The second thing I want to consider is a question: What is this glory? During his 40-day stay atop Mount Sinai, Moses asked the Lord,
“… I beseech thee, show me thy glory”
(Exodus 33:18). Do you remember what the Lord said? “Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.” But, then He said, “Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock:
“And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by:
“And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.” When God passed by, Moses saw the Shekinah in the backside of God. Surely, how inadequate is my attempt to describe this glory to you! Even His backside is too glorious for us. The glory of God is indescribable. It is not something to fear. It is something to which we can look forward. An exciting future lies ahead for us. When Moses died, God buried him and set an angel to guard his grave. According to Jewish teaching, his body had been translated to the point that it would not decay. The Bible says that on the day of his death,“His eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.” (Deut. 34:7).
Rabbis say that the body of Moses is still in a perfect state of preservation today somewhere in a grave in Moab and has to be guarded by an angel.
Fame and Applause
When we think of glory, we think of fame — the sound of trumpets and the noise of applause. For example, when the Queen of Sheba came up to Jerusalem, the Bible says she came to see the glory of Solomon. She came to see his rare wisdom, immense riches, along with the splendor and the majesty of his throne. And yet, Jesus said that the lily of the field contains more glory than Solomon. Solomon, in all of his glory, was never arrayed like one of these.
Rank, Position and Authority
Glory also refers to rank, position, power, and authority. You and I are going to receive that kind of glory one day. We shall be kings and priests. We shall reign with Christ. We shall have more glory than Solomon had. We shall have more wisdom than Solomon had, because our minds will be perfected. Ah, the presence of God’s glory! I am looking forward to it.
The Bible also says that God’s people shall be wise. We shall shine as the stars forever and ever. Not only will we be wise, for the glory wraps all of that up together, but we shall be joint-heirs with Christ. We shall have more wealth than Solomon had, for even the streets out in front of our houses will be paved with gold. I think the glory of God refers to all of that.
The Purified Character
I also think glory refers to a purified character. No more will we have the taint of sin upon us. Our character will be pure. No more will we have our little idiosyncrasies, our inadequacies. No more will we bear the burdens of our iniquities. No longer will we experience hatred, bitterness, and malice in our hearts, for we shall be filled with goodness. We shall be filled with mercy. We shall be filled with justice and truth. The glory of God includes all of this in its meaning. We shall be holy. There will be no relic of our past. It will all be washed away in the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The glory unto which we are called refers, not only to the light of the presence of God and to the bodies that shall know no pain, no disease, no heartache and no death, but it refers to a purified character. We shall have the perfection we have always hoped to have when we get to heaven.
What is glory? Well, again our lips fail. If Moses could see only the backside of God and even then failed to describe it, I am afraid that I am quite inadequate in my attempt to describe the presence of His glory. But it means light; it doesn’t means darkness. It means life, health, perfection, riches, honor, and fame. And even the angels will be there to help us. Yes, all of that is wrapped up in the meaning of glory. It is the destiny of every one who knows the Lord Jesus Christ. Though I had the tongues of men and of angels, I could not adequately describe this glory.
A Perfected Nature
Then, again, I believe the glory of God refers to our perfected nature. No longer will we have the problems that we have today. No longer will we suffer heartaches. We will have a perfected nature and a purified character. You may recall, in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were perfect. Adam had a glorified nature. In fact, Adam and Eve were clothed in glory. That is the glory we shall receive one of these days when we get our glorified bodies and dwell in the presence of Christ in heaven. What a glory!
According to the words of Peter, you and I have been “called unto His eternal glory.” Adam was a brilliant man. He was not some ape-like creature who lived in a cave. Adam was a genius. He was far superior to any of us. The human race did not evolve. Quite the contrary, the human race has devolved from what it once was in Adam. The Bible says that God made Adam to rule. Well, if He made Adam to rule, we too shall be made to rule. One day, your intelligence will be that of a genius.
Is there any limit to the mind of man? Scientists claim that we use only a very small percentage of our mental capabilities. It seems as if our minds have been placed under some kind of limitation. But one of these days that limit will be lifted. Our minds will be sharper than Solomon’s. Solomon was called the wisest man who ever lived. As Solomon was keen of mind, so shall we be, for we have been called unto God’s eternal glory.
The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 13:12,“but then shall I know even as also I am known.” Perhaps we will automatically know everybody. We will not need to be introduced. Furthermore, we will have no problem remembering anybody’s name.
No one will have to come up and say, “I’d like to introduce you to Elijah.” I will know Elijah. Why am I convinced of that? On the Mount of Transfiguration, when Peter, James, and John saw Moses and Elijah, who came down to meet with Jesus, they knew them immediately. They did not have to be introduced. In like manner, you and I will know every other person when we get to heaven. So, the glory that will be ours one day, means not only a purified character, but also a perfected nature.
A Completed Victory
This glory also means a completed victory — complete, not partial. Today we know only partial victories. We have our mountain peaks, but we have our valleys, too. We know, for example, when God’s blessing is upon us. What a joy it is to serve the Lord. We go to church on Sunday morning, sing the songs of Zion, and are lifted into heavenly places.
We know victory for a little while, but then sickness or death comes to the family. Or, financial reverses can make our lives difficult. We do not have a complete victory in this life. But one day our victory will be complete. One day we will be on the mountaintop forever. And we will never get used to it.
David wrote in Psalm 23: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death …”
Some day, we will have no more valleys. Glory, then, refers to a completed victory.
When a Roman soldier returned from battle, he was given a hero’s welcome. The ancient Romans would have a parade. He would march through the streets of Rome, and the people would cheer and give him a crown of leaves. They would give him a hero’s welcome. The Apostle Paul, while in the Mamertine Prison in Rome, referred to that occasion when he said, “I have fought a good fight. I have finished my course. I have kept the faith. Henceforth, there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness.”(2Tim. 4:7-8).
In a similar manner as that crown or wreath that the Roman soldier got when he returned in victory from a battle, you and I will receive a crown. But our crowns will far exceed any Roman wreath. That glory will mean a completed victory.
Glory also means divine approval. You and I will be approved of God. Glory, to a man, is a series of medals to hang on his chest or a series of stripes on his shoulder. Glory to a man is a commission or an honor. Well, someday you and I are going to stand before the Lord Jesus Christ and hear Him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21).
He will pass out the rewards. We will receive that honor — that royal crown. We will receive that glory. Oh, I know we do not deserve it, but because of His grace and love for us — because He saved us we are called unto His eternal glory.
Remember the story of Mephibosheth in the Old Testament? Mephibosheth was a little crippled boy. He was Johathan’s son, and grandson of King Saul. After Jonathan and Saul died, David became the king. One day David said to Ziba, the captain of his guard,
“Is there not yet any of the house of Saul, that I may show the kindness of God unto him? And Ziba said unto the king, Jonathan hath yet a son, which is lame on his feet” (II Samuel 9:3).
“Yes,” said Ziba, “there is. There’s a little crippled boy who was crippled when his nurse fled with him in battle. She dropped him and broke his feet, and he’s been crippled ever since. He can’t walk, but he is alive.”
And David said, “You send for him, and we’ll give him the glory and the honor that is due to him.” And so Mephibosheth was called to the palace of the king. I can imagine that he entered somewhat fearful. He did not deserve what he was about to receive, nor do you and I deserve what we shall receive in glory.
But David said, “Mephibosheth, I’m going to take care of you. I’m going to return to you the inheritance of your grandfather, Saul, and your father, Jonathan. Besides that,” he said, “you’re going to wear king’s clothes from now on. You’re going to eat at the king’s table. You’re going to live in the king’s palace. You’re going to be royalty, Mephibosheth.” This was a wonderful day for Mephibosheth when he received the glory of the kingdom. It was not due to him. He was just a little crippled boy.
Oh, I’m glad that one day, like Mephibosheth, you and I will receive the glory, the majesty, and the honor of the kingdom — because we are children of the King. If you know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, you’re a child of the King of kings, and one day we shall be called unto His glory!