This is the 13th in a series of excerpts from the new MBC resource, What Every Christian Should Know About Salvation, available at mobaptist.org/apologetics.
Glorification is the final stage in God’s work of salvation. It is the crowning achievement of sanctification, in which Christians are fully conformed to the image of Christ. It is the perfection of the body, rejoined with soul and spirit in resurrection, as well as the restoration of the universe to its original state.
Put another way, glorification is the means by which God fully reverses the effects of the Fall, purging creation of sin and its stain. It involves the return of Jesus, the future resurrection and judgment of all people, and the creation of new heavens and a new earth.
For the most part, when Christians talk about glorification, we are referring to our future resurrection, at which time we receive incorruptible bodies similar to the body Christ had when He rose from the dead.
In this respect, Wayne Grudem provides an excellent summary: “Glorification is the final step in the application of redemption. It will happen when Christ returns and raises from the dead the bodies of all believers for all time who have died, and reunites them with their souls, and changes the bodies of all believers who remain alive, thereby giving all believers at the same time perfect resurrection bodies like his own.”
The meaning of glory
The term glory translates a number of biblical words. One such word is the Hebrew kabod, which refers to an individual’s display of splendor, wealth, and pomp. When used to describe God, however, it points to the greatness of His whole nature (see Ps. 24:7-10).
In the New Testament, the Greek doxa carries the meaning of honor, splendor, brilliance, fame, and glory. God is the “glorious Father” (Eph. 1:17) and the “God of glory” (Acts 7:2). In the Incarnation, Jesus bears “the glory as the one and only Son from the Father” (John 1:14).
Paul sees Christ’s glorification in His ascension; Jesus is “taken up in glory” (1 Tim. 3:16). Further, the apostles preach that Christ is now exalted at the right hand of God (Acts 2:33; 5:31). And, when He returns, His appearance is glorious (Titus 2:13).
William Mounce writes, “Because God is so glorious, it is only natural that his people want to ascribe ‘glory’ to him. For this reason, there are many doxologies (ascriptions of glory to God) in the NT. Furthermore, every part of our lives should reflect the fact that the glorious God lives in us.”
The stages of glorification
There is glory now. God has begun the glorification process in us. The apostle Peter writes, “His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. By these he has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire” (2 Peter 1:3-4).
Peter does not mean believers become little gods or acquire the unique qualities of deity such as eternality, omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence. Rather, he seems to be saying we participate in God’s moral excellence and one day are morally perfected.
There is glory in death. When we breathe our last, followers of Jesus leave our earthly bodies behind. Our souls and spirits pass into the presence of God in heaven, where we glorify God in ways previously unknown as He endows us with moral and spiritual perfection.
There is glory in resurrection. Full glorification for followers of Jesus takes place when He calls our bodies from the grave and gives us incorruptible bodies similar to the body He displayed when He rose from the dead.
There is glory in restoration. Jesus refers to this as “the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne” (Matt. 19:28). Peter urges us to wait for “new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13). And in John’s vision of the world to come, he sees “a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 21:1).
For now, Christians are not promised an earthly walk in the park but an arduous race through enemy territory. If we’re living faithfully, we may expect hardship, shunning, persecution, and pain – not health, riches, fame, and ease.
Christ is not the means to an end; He is the end Himself, accessed through a narrow gate (Matt. 7:13) and pursued down a path of good works He laid out for us ahead of time (Eph. 2:10). He walks with us, however, urging our faithfulness while we “go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
In the end, we may rejoice with the apostle Paul that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18).