Glory, in the theological usage, refers to the greatness of God’s entire nature, to his brightness, splendor, magnificence, and fame, to his visible and dwelling presence among people. “The Lord Almighty, he is the King of glory” (Psalms 24.10), and “his glory covered the heavens” (Habakkuk 3.3) and “filled the tabernacle” (Exodus 40.34).
When God creates humans, he shares his glory by crowning them with glory and honor (Hebrews 2.7b). This reveals the goodness of God. He creates humans in his image and likeness, and thus humans experience the grandeur of his being and reflect his glory back to him. This is how humans glorify God. They are to be holy as he is holy; they are to be good as he is good; they are to love as he loves. They are to live as signposts pointing to God and spotlighting his greatness and goodness.
After the fall of Adam and Eve and the entrance of sin in the world, the human privilege of reflecting God’s glory was forfeited, and the glory diminished in humans. “[G]od made people upright, but they have each turned to follow their own downward path” (Ecclesiastes 7.29). “[F]or all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3.23). “Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things” (Philippians 3.19). Sinful humans are separated from God. They are seeking their own glory. They want others to glorify them. This is pursuing false glory because true glory belongs to God alone, and he does not share his glory with rebellious humanity or idol gods.
The human condition did not deter God’s greatness and goodness towards humanity because he continued to reveal his glory throughout history and ultimately through Jesus Christ. Hebrews 1.3 states that “he [Jesus] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” John 1.14, referring to Jesus, states, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” God-the Father sent God-the son (Jesus) as a visible dwelling presence among people. Jesus is the glorious divine light that shines in the darkness, and he came to sacrifice his life for the sins of the world. At Jesus’ crucifixion, his status as “the Lord of Glory” was veiled (1 Corinthians 2.8), and they esteemed him stricken of God (Isaiah 53.4). To say that any good could come through crucifixion was “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” (1 Corinthians 1.23).
But in the greater scheme of things, the glory of God was revealed in Jesus’ death, and he was raised from the dead in glory. In Acts 3.13-15, the apostle Peter preaches that although Jesus, the Holy and Righteous One, was disowned and killed, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob has glorified his servant and raised him from the dead. When Jesus was raised from the dead, he conquered the physical and spiritual death that began at the sinful fall of Adam and Eve. The glory that was universally defaced and perverted at this sinful fall is restored and consummated in Christ. He is the firstfruits of the glorious resurrection life. Jesus’ glory and resurrection life is not only for himself but is shared with others.
Because of his greatness and goodness, God calls people to Jesus Christ so that “just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6.4). Those who are followers of Jesus partake of his glorious new life. They “with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3.18). But like Jesus before his resurrection, Jesus’ followers will experience suffering. They will share in Jesus’ sufferings in order that they may share in his glory (Romans 8.17b), but “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4.17). Thus, Jesus’ followers are to rejoice because they experience the sufferings of Jesus, which will result in great joy in the future when Jesus’ glory is revealed (1 Peter 4.12-13)
In this present age, followers of Jesus undergo the process of sanctification (of being made holy). Sanctification is closely related to glorification, in that glorification involves the completion of sanctification. While glorification has begun in this present age, final glorification occurs in ‘the life of the world to come’ at the glorious return of Jesus (Colossians 3.4). 1 John 3.2 states, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” This is “the blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” and when he appears, his people will “receive the crown of glory that will never fade away” (Titus 2.13; 1 Peter 5.1, 4). Future glorification depends on the greatness and goodness of God. God could have left humans in their sinful self-glorifying state, completely separated from him and his glory, but because of his love, mercy and grace, God made a way of redemption in order that humans could experience and share in his glory once again. Because of his power, almighty God carried out his plan of salvation through Jesus so that humans could receive glorification into the image and likeness of his glorious son. All honor and glory to God forever and ever! (1 Timothy 1.17)