The Story of the Glory of God

by Rob Smith

“What is the chief end of man?”, asks the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Its answer is wonderfully simple, but theologically stunning: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever”. For attentive Bible readers, this will come as no surprise; the Apostle Paul even says as much: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31). The glorification of God is what we were made for—saved for; it is indeed our “chief end”. Only when we are engaged in such a pursuit can we truly “enjoy” God.

But what of God? What is his chief ‘end’ or goal? Many assume that the answer must be us and our happiness. This seems only fair; if we are to be God-centred, surely God should be us-centred! But here’s the surprising thing: Scripture reveals that God’s first concern is also for his own glory. In other words, God is thoroughly God-centred. It’s vital that we see the rightness of this, for all glory belongs to God, not to us (Ps 115:1; Rev 19:1). This is why Scripture calls him “the God of glory” (Ps 29:3; Acts 7:2).

But we also need to see that the ‘God-centredness of God’ is, in fact, our only hope. Our salvation, preservation and our glorification are utterly dependent on God acting for the sake his own glory (Ps 79:9; Isa 48:9-11).1 That is, unless God hallows his own name (as we ask in the Lord’s Prayer), we will never be delivered from evil and will never experience the blessings of his kingdom. John Piper is right to insist that “God’s ultimate commitment is to Himself and not to us. And therein lies our security.”2

Not surprisingly, then, the theme of God’s glory is one of the most important in the entire Bible. To open up this strand of biblical revelation is to be taken into the heart of the mystery of God’s being—for glory is not just something that God has, it is what God is. It is a way of talking about the very ‘God-ness’ of God. Furthermore, the Bible’s teaching on glory also takes us into the heart of the mystery of God’s will—that through Jesus Christ, all things in heaven and on earth might be “to the praise of his glory” (cf. Eph 1:3-14). The theme of ‘glory’, then, takes us directly into the eternal purpose of God.

Most studies of this theme begin by noting that the principal Hebrew word for ‘glory’ is kabod, which conveys the idea of ‘weightiness’, ‘splendour’ or ‘reputation’. When used in reference to God, ‘glory’ is a way of talking about his greatness, power and majesty. The New Testament word doxa covers similar semantic territory. But the precise mean­ing of words always needs to be confirmed by the contexts in which they appear. Moreover, in order to understand the wider connotations of the Bible’s teaching on God’s glory, we need to appreciate the narrative connections between this language and the Bible’s unfolding plot line.

The best place to begin our exploration of this theme, then, is with the book of Exodus. For here, we not only meet the Bible’s first real concentration of ‘glory’ language, we discover a number of glory patterns, channels and associations that continue through the entire Bible.

1. The glory and the name of God

a) The connection between the glory and the name

The first connection to note is the link between the glory of God and the name of God. The question of God’s name arises in the course of Moses’ call in Exodus 3. After God appears to Moses and appoints him as his spokesman, Moses asks, “Whom shall I say has sent me?” God answers, “I am who I am” or “I will be who I will be” (hayah asher hayah—3:14), indicating that the meaning of his special name “the Lord” (Yahweh) will be unfolded through Israel’s deliverance. Not surprisingly, then, the whole point of Israel’s exodus is so that God’s “name may be proclaimed in all the earth” and that he might “get glory” for himself (9:16, 14:4, 17-18).

Moreover, the revelation of God’s glory and name is not confined to the beginning of Israel’s salvation experience, but continues as their journey continues—particularly in the face of their disobedience and rebellion. So, for example, as the people grumble and complain, hankering for the food they had in Egypt,

… they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. And the Lord said to Moses, “I have heard the grumbling of the people of Israel. Say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’” (16:10-12)

Here we see the glory of God manifested in the face of Israel’s stiff-necked, stubbornness. Indeed, a key facet of God’s glory is his grace (a point we’ll return to)! We also see an important link between the glory of God and the cloud—the same cloud that had symbolized God’s presence with the Israelites, leading them through the wilderness by day and protecting them from the Egyptians (13:21-22, 14:19-20).

It’s not surprising, then, that when the Lord meets the people of Israel at Mount Sinai and establishes his covenant with them, he comes in a “thick cloud” of “thick darkness” (19:9, 20:21). This, as we’ve seen, not only symbolizes his presence, it again speaks of his glory—his unapproachable majesty. And so the people go through the awesome experience of hearing God address them directly and seeing his glory cloud settle on the mountain like “a consuming fire” (24:15-17 NIV).

b) The proclamation of the name

Despite Israel’s enthusiastic acceptance of the Sinai covenant (19:8), it is broken within moments of its inception. Before Moses descends from the mountain, the people catapult themselves into idolatry (32:1-6). In spite of this, God graciously determines to persist with his people, saying “My presence [paneh] will go with you” (33:14). It’s in response to this that Moses (rather daringly) asks God to show him his glory (33:18). The Lord’s reply, which involves an interesting play on the Hebrew word paneh, is one of profound theological significance:

“I will make all my goodness pass before you [paneh] and will proclaim before you [paneh] my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face [paneh], for man shall not see me and live.” And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face [paneh] shall not be seen.” (33:19-23)

God fulfilled his promise the following day when Moses again went up Mount Sinai:

The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “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.” (34:5-7)

The equations are crucial here: Moses asks to see God’s ‘glory’; God tells him that he will see his ‘goodness’ (i.e. his compassion and mercy) as he hears his ‘name’ proclaimed. In other words, the glory of God is bound up with the name of God, because the name of God is the expression of his nature: he is a holy God, implacably opposed to all forms of wickedness, rebellion and sin, and yet is astonishingly merciful, gracious and forgiving.

c) Glorifying the name of the Lord

If we jump forward to the book of Psalms, we see something of the significance of these connections. The link between God’s glory and God’s name leads to repeated calls to glorify the name of the Lord: “Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!” (Ps 34:3; cf. 86:12).

But what does this mean in practice? How can God’s people glorify his name? The answer is by ascribing to him the glory due his name (Ps 29:2), and that is done by praising his name in song, glorifying him with thanksgiving, walking in his truth, seeking his face, remembering the wonders he has done, and telling others of all his wonderful acts (Pss 96:1-2, 69:30, 86:11, 105:2, 4-5).

As we’ll see in part 2 of this article, these insights are highly relevant for new covenant believers (not just ancient Israelites) because we are no less obligated to glorify God’s name in all that we do. But first we must return to the book of Exodus, for we have yet to explore its most important contribution to our knowledge of the glory of God: its teaching about the tabernacle.

2. The glory and the tabernacle of God

a) The heavenly tabernacle

In Exodus 25:8-9, God tells Moses to make him a sanctuary according to the pattern revealed to him so God can “dwell in their midst”. According to the writer of Hebrews, the pattern Moses was shown was that of the heavenly tabernacle—a greater and more perfect tabernacle “not of this creation” (Heb 8:5, 9:11). Moreover, in that true tabernacle, Christ would one day offer himself unblemished to God for the sins of many (Heb 9:14, 28), and so open the way for those who have been perfected by his sacrifice to draw near to God in worship (Heb 7:25, 10:14).

b) The purpose of the earthly tabernacle

Not surprisingly, then, the earthly tabernacle was fundamentally a place of both revelation and reconciliation. The sacrifices offered on the altar provided both access into God’s presence and fellowship with God’s person. In that sense, the tabernacle functioned as a bridge between heaven and earth—a portal between God and his people. It was a place of relationship—a “tent of meeting” (Exod 27:21).

Of course, the Israelites knew that God was not confined to the tabernacle. How could he be? The highest heavens could not contain him (cf. 1 Kgs 8:27)! Nevertheless, they also knew that God had elected this tent, made it his throne and filled it with his glory so that when they met him there, they really met him! In that sense, the tabernacle was a little like a computer ‘alias’ or shortcut—a symbolic replication of a programme or file that connects the user to the real thing. The tabernacle was a symbol of God’s presence, but not just a symbol; it was the glory-filled point of access into God’s presence. Consequently, when the construction of the tabernacle was complete, we read,

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys. (Exod 40:34-38)

b) The ark of the testimony

There’s one final ingredient we need to appreciate at this stage in the unfolding story of God’s glory. It concerns the role of the “ark of the covenant” or “ark of the testimony”. Why was it called this? Because inside the ark was the very testimony of God himself—the word of the covenant, issued from God’s own mouth, that was to be Israel’s “very life” (Deut 32:47).

Consequently, the ark made the tabernacle the place from which God ruled his people. In fact, the specific focus of God’s ruling presence was sometimes spoken of as between the two gold cherubim, which stood at each end of the cover (Exod 25:17-22; cf. 2 Sam 6:2). Indeed, such was the theological link between the ark and the glory of God that when the ark was briefly captured by the Philistines during the time of Eli, it was remarked that “The glory has departed from Israel!” (1 Sam 4:21).

Apart from this brief excursion into Philistine territory, the ark dwelled in the tabernacle at Shiloh up until David’s time. He not only brought the ark to Jerusalem, but determined that he should build a temple for the Lord (2 Sam 6, 7:2). However, as the prophet Nathan revealed, it was not God’s purpose that David build the temple, but that his son should (2 Sam 7:5-16). Here is another important link forged in the unfolding ‘story of glory’—a link between God’s glory, God’s temple and the Son of David.

3. The glory and the temple of God

a) The glory of Solomon’s temple

In the first instance, David’s son Solomon fulfils this role, building a temple of extraordinary beauty (1 Kings 5-7). 1 Kings 8 recounts what happened when the temple was completed and the ark brought into it: the cloud filled the house so that the priests could barely continue their work. Then, as part of his prayer of dedication, Solomon, says,

“But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built! Yet have regard to the prayer of your servant and to his plea, O Lord my God, listening to the cry and to the prayer that your servant prays before you this day, that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you have said, ‘My name shall be there,’ that you may listen to the prayer that your servant offers toward this place. And listen to the plea of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen in heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.” (1 Kgs 8:27-30)

Again, the connections here are highly illuminating: while God cannot be controlled, let alone contained in a human structure, it is clear that he has chosen the temple to be the focal point of his presence on earth. Like the tabernacle, the temple is both a place of revelation (where his name dwells) and reconciliation (where his mercy can be obtained). Because of the role of the ark, it is also a place of rule. It should hardly surprise us, then, that, as the ark was brought into it, “the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord” (1 Kgs 8:11).

b) The glory of Ezekiel’s new temple

Now we must rush over several hundred years of Old Testament history and simply note that, in accordance with Solomon’s request in 1 Kings 8, the Lord did hear Israel’s cries for mercy and forgave his people many, many times. But there came a point when the only fitting response to Israel’s persistent rebellion was to bring judgement upon her—a judgement that involved the nation being cast out of God’s presence (ejected from the land) and the temple being utterly destroyed.

So the prophet Ezekiel is firstly given a vision of the glory of the Lord departing the temple (Ezek 10). But then, 14 years later, he’s given another vision—a vision of a new temple—unbelievably magnificent and glorious. As the prophet is led to the east-facing gate of the this new temple, he says,

And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the east. And the sound of his coming was like the sound of many waters, and the earth shone with his glory. And the vision I saw was just like the vision that I had seen when he came to destroy the city, and just like the vision that I had seen by the Chebar canal. And I fell on my face. As the glory of the Lord entered the temple by the gate facing east, the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the temple. (Ezek 43:2-5)

c) The promise of the future

As we draw our exploration of the Old Testament to a close, it is important to underscore the point that the hope of Israel was bound up with the building of a new temple—a temple that would once again be filled with the glory of God, and so function as a place of revelation and reconciliation—a true ‘tent of meeting’. In addition, the future was bound up with the coming of a messianic servant (a greater son of David), who would build the new temple and mediate God’s glory—not only to Israel, but to the nations as well.3 Indeed, his coming would usher in the day when “the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together” (Isa 40:5).

Having experienced the glory of God in judgement, Israel’s hope lay entirely in the glory of God’s grace (cf. Zech 4:7)—that is, in the Lord dealing with them for his own name’s sake, not according to their “evil ways” and “corrupt deeds” (Ezek 20:44). While the Jerusalem temple was rebuilt under Ezra and Nehemiah,4 the people of Israel were under no illusion that this was the full extent of the fulfilment of Ezekiel’s prophecy. Indeed, this second temple was a pale reflection of the original. This is what lies behind the reassuring promise that “the latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former” (Hag 2:9). Similarly, although David never lacked a man to sit on his throne, as God had declared (Jer 33:17), the Old Testament ends without the promise of the coming messiah being fulfilled.

So when would the coming one appear? And what would be the shape of the house he would build for the Lord’s name? How would he fill the earth with “the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Hab 2:14; cf. Isa 11:9)? And what does this all have to do with us? Answers to these questions are found in the way the New Testament brings the story of God’s glory to a crescendo, directing us to Jesus Christ, in whom all the promises of God find their ‘Yes’ and ‘Amen’ (2 Cor 1:20).

10 July 2009 marks exactly 500 years since the birth of John Calvin, arguably the greatest Christian mind of the Protestant Reformation. As any of his biographers and his own writings will testify, Calvin was a man obsessed with the glory of God. Indeed, the great Princeton theologian Benjamin Warfield once wrote, “Into the heart of none more than into his did the vision of the glory of God shine, and no one has been more determined than he not to give the glory of God to another”.1 In his reply to the Roman Catholic cardinal Jacopo Sadoleto, Calvin himself put it like this:

it is not very sound theology to confine a man’s thoughts so much to himself, and not to set before him, as the prime motive of his existence, zeal to illustrate the glory of God. For we are born first of all for God, and not for ourselves. As all things flowed from him, and subsist in him, so, says Paul, (Rom xi. 36,) they ought to be referred to him.2


Part 2

In Part 1 of this two-part series on the story of God’s glory, we began to see that Calvin’s concerns are none other than the concerns of God’s own self-revelation in Scripture. In an all too brief survey of the Old Testament, we explored a number of the key ‘glory connections’ and ‘glory associations’ (in particular, the name of God, the grace of God and the tabernacle/temple of God), and ended by seeing that Israel’s hope lay in the building of a new temple that would so be filled with God’s glory, it would function as the ultimate place of revelation and reconciliation (e.g. Ezek 40-48). But what was this new temple the Old Testament prophets foresaw? How would their prophecies be fulfilled? Was it destined for literal (brick and mortar) fulfilment in some future millennial age? Or did God have something even more wonderful and permanent in mind?3


1. The glory of God and the Son of God

a) The tabernacle incarnate

According to the New Testament, the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the new temple is found in the person and work of one who was both son of David and Son of God—the Lord Jesus Christ. This is what John was speaking about when he penned these words in the opening chapter of his Gospel:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14).

The connections with Exodus 33-34 are hard to miss. Not only does John use the language of ‘dwelling’ or ‘tabernacling’, he links it with the language of ‘glory’. Furthermore, he does so in a context revelatory of God’s name and nature (vv. 12, 18)—a revelation that clearly surpasses that given to Moses (v. 17).4 A new tabernacle has arrived.

But John’s statement is even more profound when seen in the wider context of his prologue, for the new tabernacle is none other than the divine, eternal Word of God, by whom all things have been made and in whom is all life and light (vv. 1-5). Indeed, this is the same Word who once expressed his will in the form of laws written on tablets of stone, the symbol of God’s revealing and reconciling rule over Israel (v. 17). He has now, however, taken human form and become human flesh. In other words, the new tabernacle/temple is none other than Jesus Christ, God the Son incarnate (v. 14).

b) The new temple builder

Jesus, then, is the living, breathing presence of God in our midst—“God with us” (Matt 1:23). As the new tent of meeting—the true bridge between heaven and earth (John 1:51)—he is the ultimate place of both revelation and reconciliation (John 1:18, 14:9, 1:29, 19:30). Moreover, as the Christ, he is not only the ultimate expression of God’s rule, but as the great son of David, he is also the new temple builder (cf. 2 Sam 7). At first glance, this presents something of a puzzle: how does the new temple build himself?

In John 2, just after Jesus revealed his “glory” through his first sign in Cana (v. 11), John records Jesus’ act of cleansing the Jerusalem temple (fulfilling Ps 69:9). The key statement comes when the Jews press him for a sign to prove his authority (v. 18). Jesus says, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (v. 19). The Jews are somewhat bemused by his reply. But Jesus, as John tells us, was referring to “the temple of his body” (v. 21)—a fact the disciples only understood once Jesus had been raised from the dead (v. 22). The point, however, is clear: Jesus himself is the promised new temple—the fulfilment and replacement of the old.5

c) Jesus’ hour of glory

Jesus’ statement in John 2:19 also helps us to appreciate something of profound importance. While Jesus was the new temple from the moment of his birth, and genuinely revealed God’s glory throughout his ministry, there is a crucial sense in which the temple is not yet ‘open for business’. Jesus will only fully function as the new temple of God when he has been ‘destroyed’ and ‘raised up’—or, to use Jesus’ language elsewhere in John’s Gospel, once he has been “glorified” (e.g. 7:39, 12:16, 13:31).

This is why, for most of his ministry, Jesus made very clear that his full glorification or “hour” of glory had “not yet come” (e.g. 2:4, 7:6, 8, 30, 39). Its arrival, however, is unambiguously signalled with the following announcement:

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit …

“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” … Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. (John 12:23-24, 27-28, 30-33)

The cross, then, is the place where the glory of God fills the new temple and where the name and knowledge of God (the Father and the Son) is most fully manifested (John 17:1-5). It is likewise the place where the love of God is fully demonstrated, as the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep (John 10:11) in order to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29). In short, the cross is the place where the revelation of God’s glory is fully and finally given, and the reconciliation of sinners fully and finally accomplished.

However, the full glorification of Jesus is not complete until the new temple has been raised up and then glorified in the Father’s presence with the glory that was his “before the world existed” (John 17:5). In other words, it’s not until Jesus has risen from the dead and has ascended to the Father that the new temple is fully and finally operational.

2. The glory of God and the church of God

a) Christ’s gift of glory

This brings us to the next chapter in the ‘story of glory’. The plan of God was never to simply display his glory and leave it at that, nor was it to glorify himself at the expense of his creatures. Rather, God’s eternal commitment to glorify himself has always been with a view to sharing his glory with those “vessels of mercy” whom he “prepared beforehand for glory” (Rom 9:23). Put another way, God’s eternal purpose to create and redeem a people for “the praise of his glory” cannot be rightly understood apart from our participation in that glory (Eph 1:12, 14; Rom 5:2, 8:30). This is both theologically mind-blowing and spiritually stunning. What it means is that Christ’s glorification was not only for himself, but also for others.6

But how is it possible for sinful creatures to so obtain “the freedom of the glory of the children of God” that we actually become “partakers of the divine nature” (Rom 8:21; 2 Pet 1:4)? The answer is through the gift of the Holy Spirit. For as the victory of the crucified Christ is proclaimed, the now glorified Christ pours out the Spirit (the gift of God’s own glorious indwelling presence) on all who believe in him (John 7:38-39). His purpose is that we might know the love that the Father and the Son have for each other from the inside—for the Spirit both “proceeds from the Father” and is “the Spirit of his Son” (John 15:26; Gal. 4:6). This reality is the denouement of Jesus’ prayer: “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one” (John 17:22).

The Holy Spirit, then, is “the bond of our union with Christ, the one who comes from his side of the relationship over to ours and enables us to receive and to respond”.7 For this reason, he bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children, authoring and enabling the cry “Abba! Father!” (Rom 8:14-16). We thus have divine confirmation that we are “fellow heirs with Christ” and that our ultimate destiny is to be “glorified with him” (Rom 8:17).

b) Glory in the church

Far from leaving the temple theme behind at this point, the New Testament now develops it in a wonderfully new direction. The same Spirit who joins believers to Christ (the true temple) also unites us together in him, and in so doing, establishes the church (and every local expression of it) as “the temple of the living God” (2 Cor 6:16). As Paul says to the Corinthians, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” (1 Cor 3:16-17).8

Of course, it is not as though the church has somehow replaced Christ; that is neither how the theology nor the imagery works. Christ is the “foundation” or “cornerstone” upon which the temple is being built (1 Cor 3:11; Eph 2:20). It cannot exist apart from him. As David Peterson remarks, “Christians in union with Christ fulfil the Temple ideal”.9 The Apostle Paul stresses this very point:

in whom [Christ] the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Eph 2:21-22)

The church, then, is utterly dependent on its union with Christ and the indwelling of his Spirit if it is to be on earth what it is already in “the heavenly places” (Eph 1:3, 2:6). For, as Peter O’Brien notes, “glory can be ascribed to God only within the realm of Christ Jesus”.10 The new temple, then, must remain founded on Christ, the “cornerstone”, and faithful to the “truth as it is in Jesus” (Eph 2:20, 4:21). Filled with the Spirit, its mission is to build itself in love and so function as a witness to and a vehicle of praise to the glory of God in Christ (Eph 5:18, 4:16). This is why Paul prays,

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Eph 3:20-21)

Peter’s way of speaking of the business of the new temple is in terms of the offering of “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 2:5). In the context of Peter’s first letter, such sacrifices are clearly not confined to the gatherings of believers (although they are not excluded from them either), but must include “the whole pattern of obedient lifestyle set out in the central section of the letter” (i.e. 1 Pet 2:11-4:19).11 Otherwise put, our glorification of God is both individual and corporate, public and private, involving our “social conduct, praise and evangelism”.12

c) The glory to be revealed

As the new temple, the church exists to magnify and make known the glory of God in Jesus Christ. It has also received glory, for “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 Cor 3:18). However, the full reality of that glory is presently hidden with Christ in God (Col 3:3). For, like our Lord, we have been called to walk a path of suffering. This is necessary, and a cause for rejoicing, for our being glorified with Christ in the future is on the proviso that “we suffer with him” in the present (Rom 5:3-5, 8:17; cf. 2 Tim 2:12). This is why Peter says,

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you … But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. (1 Pet 4:12-14; cf. vv. 15-16)

Here is a precious promise for each of us to take to heart: the Spirit of glory not only rests upon you in your sufferings, but “after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Pet 5:10). In other words, by God’s power, we are being guarded for that day when Christ’s glory will be fully revealed and every tongue will confess him as Lord, “to the glory of God the Father” (1 Pet 1:5; Phil 2:11).

On that day, tragically, some will “suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (2 Thess 1:9). Yet this too will display his glory—the glory of his justice (Rev 19:1-3). But the primary purpose of Christ’s return is a saving one: he comes to be “glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed” (2 Thess 1:10).

Finally, on that day, not only will our bodies be “raised in glory”, being conformed to Christ’s glorious body (1 Cor 15:43, Phil 3:21), but “the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rom 8:21). In that sense, not only will we, God’s people, be God’s dwelling place, but the whole world will become his glory-filled temple13 (Hab 2:14). This is the future that John speaks of in Revelation 21:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth … And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God …”

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. (Rev 21:1-3, 22-26)

Sharing in the story of glory

So then, how should we, as believers in Christ and joint heirs of his glory, participate in story of glory now? The answer is clear and simple: by being passionate in our pursuit of God’s glory and single-minded in our desire that he receive “the glory due his name” (Ps 29:2, 96:8). This will mean not seeking glory for ourselves (for God will exult us at the proper time), but rather being jealous that God’s glory is not given to lesser things (e.g. trivial goals and petty idols). Our modus operandi is summed up the Apostle Peter:

… whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. (1 Pet 4:11).

As the focus of God’s glory is “the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:7), those who are most conscious of this grace will be most conscientious in living for his glory. This certainly explains the self-denying and God-glorifying focus of John Calvin, and why, at the very end of his life in 1564, as part of his last will and testament, he could pen these moving words:

I have lived amidst extraordinary struggles here; I have been saluted in mockery at night, before my door, by fifty or sixty shots from guns … While I am nothing, yet I know that I have prevented many problems that would otherwise have occurred in Geneva … God has given me the power to write, but I have written nothing out of hatred to any one, but I have always faithfully propounded what I esteemed to be for the glory of God.14

Calvin’s exhortation to us in the 21st century would, no doubt, simply be that of the Apostle Paul: “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31). Soli Deo Gloria (“to the glory of God alone”): that must be our motto and the banner under which we march.




Endnotes Part 1

1 See also 1 Samuel 12:22; Psalms 25:11, 106:8, 143:11; Ezekiel 20:22, 36:22.

2 John Piper, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry, Broadman & Holman, Nashville, 2002, p. 7.

3 See Isaiah 42:1-4, 49:1-12, 52:13-53:12, 58:8, 60:1-2, 62:2-3, 66:18-19.

4 It was completed around 516 BC.


Endnotes Part 2

1 Taken from the closing paragraph of BB Warfield’s essay, ‘John Calvin the Theologian’, Presbyterian Board of Education 1909, available at (accessed 29 June 2009).

2 J Calvin, ‘Reply to Sadoleto’, in John Calvin, Tracts Relating to the Reformation, Volume 1, translated by H Beveridge, Calvin Translation Society, Edinburgh, 1844, p. 33.

3 Those who embrace a system of biblical interpretation known as Premillennial Dispensationalism usually hold that Ezekiel’s temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem during the 1,000-year earthly reign of Christ mentioned in Revelation 20:1-9. The temple (supposedly) will be built very near the site of the original temple. The animal sacrifices (which will again be offered in the new temple) are understood to be memorial, rather than atoning. As we’ll see, the New Testament has a very different understanding of how Ezekiel’s prophecy has already been fulfilled.

4 See Bill Salier, ‘The Temple of God in the Gospel of John’ in Heaven on Earth: The Temple in Biblical Theology, edited by TD Alexander and S Gathercole, Paternoster, Carlisle, 2004, pp. 126-127.

5 DA Carson, The Gospel According to John, IVP, Leicester, 1991, p. 182.

6 RB Gaffin, ‘Glory’ in New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, edited by TD Alexander, BS Rosner, DA Carson and G Goldsworthy, IVP, Leicester, 2000, p. 510.

7 T Smail, The Giving Gift: The Holy Spirit in Person, Darton, Longman & Todd, London, 1994, p. 61.

8 The word ‘you’ in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 is plural in each instance.

9 DG Peterson, ‘The New Temple: Christology and Ecclesiology in Ephesians and 1 Peter’ in Heaven on Earth: The Temple in Biblical Theology, p. 165. Emphasis his.

10 PT O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1999, p. 269.

11 DG Peterson, ‘The New Temple: Christology and Ecclesiology in Ephesians and 1 Peter’ in Heaven on Earth: The Temple in Biblical Theology, p. 175.

12 Ibid.

13 See GK Beale, ‘The Final Vision of the Apocalypse and its Implications for a Biblical Theology of the Temple’, in Heaven on Earth: The Temple in Biblical Theology, pp. 191-209.

14 John Dillenberger, John Calvin, Selections from His Writings, Scholars Press, Atlanta, 1975, p. 89.


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