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Glorification

May 23, 2016

The sound doctrine of glorification completes the ‘Ordo Salutis’ as it relates to the doctrine of salvation. It is the believers’ blessed hope (Titus 2:13; Romans 5:5). Glorification is a consummative reality, as believers are, at their death or return of Christ, outfitted with glorified bodies to enjoy eternal, unmitigated, and unbroken fellowship with God forever (1 Cor. 15:42-44). The Westminster Catechism expresses this reality as the ‘chief end of man’. Redeemed sinners, glorified in Christ, are brought to full reconciliation, by the work of the Holy Spirit, through grace alone, by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. Therefore, glorification is a Trinitarian work of God. Since its inception points to the eternal decree, it cannot be thwarted by human, creative, demonic, or angelic scheme. It is impossible for God to lie (Titus 2:1; Hebrews 6:18), therefore it is a sealed work, and an unbreakable promise. Paul called this reality, “a hope that will not make us ashamed” (Romans 5:5).

Although it is conceptually observed by Christians as a process, and encompasses time and space, it is a monergistic work of God that has been completed before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4) and therefore transcends time and space. Glorification is the eternal decree of God whereby He elects unto Himself sinners and reconciles them to Himself causing them to be pure, blameless, holy and without sin. It is to such persons that He grants imputed righteousness based upon the merits of Jesus Christ, and not of any human merit whatsoever. These merits include His perfect, sinless life, and His sacrificial death on the cross by substitutionary atonement whereby He made propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:2) (Romans 5:8; Ephesians 1:7) and His resurrection from the dead for our justification (Romans 4:24-25). Glorification is the work whereby God the Father, by His Son, and the work of the Holy Spirit, brings the believer from justification, through sanctification, and at His coming or the death of the Christian, the believer is conformed to the perfect image of Jesus Christ, from faith to faith (2 Cor. 3:18; Romans 1:17). Reconciliation is the proper notion because every person is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26), however not every person will be reconciled to God (Matthew 7:13-14; Revelation 22:15). We do not become ‘Christ’, as this is false teaching of the cults and the humanists. Instead, we are made ‘like’ Him in perfecting holiness. Therefore, one distinction between God and man, is that Christ is not ‘made like’ God, He is God (John 8:58). He never sinned, and thus never possessed the intrinsic need to be sanctified (cleansed from sin) or justified, because He is the justifier and One with God the Father.

Glorification

Glorification is an eternal reality. It is called such because God is eternal and reigns in righteousness from everlasting (eternity) to everlasting (eternity) (Psalm 90:2). Glorification, like all other biblical doctrine, is wed to God’s perfections. In other words, glorification tells us who God is in the scope of time from our perspective and throughout eternity. God is not bound by time. He created time. What is revealed about this heavenly doctrine is given to us through Jesus Christ in Scripture. It was Jesus who explained the Father to us (John 1:18). John the apostle used the term εξηγασατο from the root word ‘εξηγση’ (exegesi’) from which we derive our word ‘exegesis’. The term literally means ‘to lead out’. This means that Jesus did not read meaning into the person or work of God. He was not a mere teacher, nor a philosopher who attempted to explain things about God to His contemporaries. Jesus, perfectly, explained or demonstrated the meaning of the Father. If one saw Christ, they saw the Father (John 14:7-9). Contrast with the idea of eisegesis whereby one reads meaning into an event or situation, typically from his own opinion, preference or analysis. Eisegesis carries the connotation of bias and does not consider the original intention of the author. However, exegesis considers the intention of the author. It draws out the mind of the source and conveys authorial intent. In this case, because Jesus Christ is God, He alone can perfectly convey the mind of God the Father, and the intentions of the Holy Spirit. How much more must we consider that the doctrine of glorification is best explained by the One who is God the Son. This is important to understand because Scripture tells us that we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). God has written eternity on the heart of every human being (Ecclesiastes 3:11). The creation also groans for the consummative glory of the Lord’s coming (Romans 8:22). The Revelation of Jesus Christ in the Holy Scripture revealed the last things to take place, as Jesus Christ serves as the culmination of history.

The doctrine of glorification also supposes the eradication of sin, destruction of the earth, judgment and eternal punishment of the wicked, as well as the glorious second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Glorification is a reminder that the Christian is not ‘home’ as a citizen in this fading, wicked, and evil world system (Hebrews 13:14). Instead the believer is home inasmuch as He is reconciled to God and reigning with Him in His kingdom to come. It is God’s pleasure to give the kingdom to His Christ and His joint-heirs (Luke 12:32).

Why is glorification necessary? It is not necessary in the sense that God needs anything from His creation. He is self-sustaining, self-existent, and glorious apart from men (Isaiah 42:8, 48:11). Since He is Spirit and eternal, the ‘I Am’ (Exodus 3:14; John 8:58), the necessity of glorification does not mean creatures are a primary, secondary or tertiary cause of His glory. God is glorified in Christ. His glory transcends man, is all-consuming, and is seen in the face of Jesus Christ because Christ is the exact representation of His nature (Hebrews 1:1-4). The Lord offered a glimpse of His eternal glory to a few, choice disciples at the Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36).

Glorification is necessary for the elect because every person born is alienated from God and culpable for sin against God, because of Adam’s sin. Every sin committed, by thought or deed, demands full punishment. Eternal punishment is necessary because the One offended is eternal, and equally as judge, He must preside over the sentence rendered against unbelieving sinners for all eternity. Therefore, man cannot enter the presence of God and gain His pleasure by personal merit or religious appearance. If anyone were to enter the presence of God based upon anything apart from the way of salvation through Christ alone, then they would be immediately judged for entering the kings court as a damned rebel. Sin is an offense or transgression against the infinitely Holy God and demands punishment. God in His mercy offered propitiation through Jesus Christ to the elect of God. Consequently, while His wrath demands justice, punishment and appeasement, He is also merciful. His mercy demands forgiveness, blessedness and eternal reconciliation with sinners. Justice and mercy is only met together in Jesus Christ. Glorification is the reality of eternal blessedness and fellowship.

A warning against heresies and false teaching is in order. Glorification does not mean that one must escape because matter (creation) is inherently evil and man is good. In fact, man is not inherently good, but wicked (Romans 3:3-10), while the creation was initially good- very good (Genesis 1:31), although cursed as a consequence for sin (Genesis 3:18). God is not reconciling good people to Himself, out of an evil material planet. He is reconciling wicked people, whom He transforms by the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ. God grants to those whom He draws to the Son, His righteousness and has imputed their sin to the account of His Son. The sinner is thereby imputed the righteousness of Jesus Christ, by infinite unmerited grace, as a free gift of God. This exchange is the reason by which God can be both merciful and just without compromising His holiness.

There are also those who suggest that the full glory of God will not be enjoyed by the biblical Christians in heaven. This is subtle false teaching, because the Scriptures teach that we will be like Him and we will know Him as we are known (1 Corinthians 13:12; 1 John 3:2). While we are being conformed to His image, on this earth, we still bear in us vestiges of sin that will be eradicated in glory. As a result, we will enjoy Him without bearing our sin nature. We will be perfect in our worship, knowledge, and fellowship. Teaching that suggests otherwise is to be completely rejected and such teachers should be rebuked as short-sighted peddlers of temporal and fading glory.

There are also those who speak of glorification as it only relates to the temporal realm. In other words, glorification is seen as humanistic triumph and tranquility in the present world. In this world we will have trouble, and yet we possess a faith that overcomes the world, because Jesus Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33). Specifically, there are those among the neo-orthodox and unintended purveyors of this dangerous teaching that suggest God’s glory is captive to man’s experience with Christ. They proclaim the glories of God as if they may be mystically and intuitively conjured. This is sometimes taught by men and women of every denomination who suggest this view is often more practical for day-to-day living. However, this is unscriptural because glorification, as we have mentioned, begins with God, not men. Man’s reconciliation is an effect. The primary cause and motivation for glorification is that God the Father is presenting to His Son a redeemed, royal priesthood that will worship Him forever. Although redeemed sinners will experience this, their experience is not the chief objective. Although glorification will be unspeakably wondrous for believers, it is the glory which He has always had that will be on display. Therefore, this glory trascends our appropiation of it in the temporal sense. This must be said as such that God is glorified in vessels of wrath and vessels of mercy.

Although glorification reminds us that we ultimately triumph in Christ (Revelation 19:15), we inherit His blessed glory after we have suffered the reproaches for being a disciple of Christ in this world (Matthew 10:22; 1 Peter 2:21). There are those, like their Corinthian predecessors, who bypass genuine triumph in favor of  triumphalism. There are those among the heretics in Word-Faith, so-called moderate Charismaticism, continuationism, and more overt forms of New-Age practice that suggest we are presently living in the reality of consummated glorification. This is false teaching and satanic to its core. Although, for believers, the reality is that we are going to be glorified because of our salvation in Christ, this promise has not been manifested. No amount of escapism, positive thinking, positive speaking, compromise, or ecumenism will reduce the reality that this world, unbelieving sinners, and the satanic hosts are all perishing and awaiting destruction. Triumphalism suggests that we are living now as we will live in the age to come. Paul rebuked this thinking in Corinth (1 Corinthians 4:8) and Thessalonica (1 Thess. 4). In Thessalonica, believers had become lazy and passive in hope for eternal glory. In Corinth, false teachers pronounced that believers already possess the glory that they awaited, while Paul, the believers with him and fellow apostles suffered for Christ (1 Cor. 4:8). False teachers went as far as suggesting that Christ had already come and thus Christians could live in the glorified state (2 Thessalonians 2:3). Some today, who teach the false prosperity gospel, and those who may teach reformed teaching but aid and abet Charismatic false teachings, find their lineage among the same false teachers of the previous age in regards to an overealized doctrine of glorification ‘now’.

Glorification equally points us to the eschatological reality that Jesus Christ is coming again to establish His blessed kingdom, trample upon the wicked, destroy the heavens and the earth, and establish a new heaven and earth whereby He will rule and reign over the nations. The one who says eschatology is not important, does a disservice to the doctrine of glorification, because it is a doctrine concerned with the last things and also the eternal state. What is more, the last things deal with eternity. Humankind will spend their existence in eternity, far more than the temporal realm. There are those who teach that they may compromise and reduce their ministries to fraternizing with errorists, as well as professing Christians who live as such while sinning against the blessed One. There are those who, of religious or non-religious persuasion, persecute biblical Christians implicitly and explicitly while running their ministries and lives like glorified autonomous kingdoms. To them this blessed doctrine does not belong because they have received their earthly reward in full from men. The standard of God’s saving work is perfecting holiness. It is not sinfulness, wickedness, partiality, compromise, or reductionism.

There are lastly those who are among the legalists and antimonians who defame the glorious doctrine of glorification. The legalist lowers the bar of God’s holiness so as to attain glorification by futile actions. The antinomian suggests that remaining in sin so that grace may abound is the way of sanctification and ultimately leads to eternal bliss in heaven, where perfection awaits (Romans 6:1-2; Romans 7). The proper understanding is that God justifies the sinner, whereby He declares the sinner not guilty based upon the life, death and resurrection of Christ. He declares the sinner cleansed and righteous, based on imputed righteousness, whereby the meritorous sinless life is charged to the account of the believing sinner, and the believing sinner’s transgressions are charged to the account of Christ, while Christ remains a perfect, sinless, substitute for transgressors. The wrath of God is satisfied in this regard, for those who repent of their sins and place their faith in Jesus’ Christ alone. Trusting that He alone is Lord and Savior, and renouncing their sin. The one who remains in sin, has no part in the glorious kingdom to come. Among them are idolaters, fornicators, adulterers, homosexuals, the covetous, drunkards, revilers, swindlers. These do not include merely acts, but thoughts. One must be born again and regenerated so as to be glorified. Although glorification is an act of God, by the sheer power and wisdom of His counsel, believers are commanded to war with sin in their flesh so as to kill sin and inherit perfection. Perfection cannot be attained in this life, yet it is pursued because the believer is indwelled by the perfect Spirit of God to aid in the war against sin, and conformity to Jesus Christ. This blessed doctrine is the only hope that Christians possess. It is the culmination of all Christian duty and the true desire of everyone who names the name of Christ. However, glorification is only a reality for those who flee wickedness and confess Jesus Christ as Lord, God, and Savior to the glory of God the Father.

-Doron Gladden

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