Word Study #74 — Glory

“Glory” is NOT a railroad terminal! It is not even a place. Centuries of songs (perpetuating the “Christian” mythology that equates it with similarly fanciful ideas of “heaven”) to the contrary, doxa refers to reputation, splendor, magnificence, brightness, or exaltation – but never to geography. The only “verse” that could even be twisted to support such a notion is I Tim.3:16, where the traditional translations refer to Jesus having been “received up into glory”, is a glaring example of the incorrect translation of the preposition en (in), which describes a state or condition, and requires a dative object, as if it were eis (into), which does imply destination or purpose, and requires an accusative object. There is not even a variant reading to that effect in any of the manuscript evidence. “Glory”, in that case, describes the triumphant circumstances of Jesus’ ascension, not its destination.

Although “glory” was ascribed to potentates of various kinds – “the kingdoms of this world” (Mt.4:8, Lk.4:6, Rv.21, 24, 26), kings themselves (Mt.6:29, Lk.12:27, Ac.12:23), and even to some people’s delight in ungodly behavior (Phil.3:19, I Thes.2:6, I Pet.1:24), as well as to assorted gods and heroes of antiquity, the vast majority of New Testament references are to the praise, honor, and worship due to God.
In the LXX, doxa had been used for the bright light that indicated God’s presence, either in the pillar of fire in the desert or in the “holy” precincts of the tabernacle or temple. This idea is also seen in Paul’s description of Moses communicating with God (II Cor.3:7-10), which serves as a prelude to his explanation that even greater “glory” is available, in the Lord Jesus (4:6), to all of his people (3:18)!

Throughout the gospel accounts, the terms “the glory of God”, “the glory of the Father”, “the glory of the Son”, appear in various combinations. This is because, as Jesus pointed out very explicitly in Jn.12:28, 13:31-32, 14:13, and evidenced repeatedly in his prayer (Jn.17), “they” are actually one and the same. There is no such thing as acknowledging the “glory” of one without the other (Jn.5:23, 8:50-54).
Paul was granted a similar vision and understanding when he wrote (II Cor.4:6) of “the illumination which comes from the recognition of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ”!
And in the final consummation, the description of the city where the Lord’s people continually enjoy his presence (Rv.21:23), “God’s glory illuminates it, and the Lamb is its lamp!” A lamp is required in order to make light accessible and useful!

Throughout his earthly ministry, people saw, or acknowledged, or marveled at the glory of God as they observed Jesus’ multitude of healings (Mt.9:8, 15:31; Mk.12:12, Lk.5:25-26, 13:13, 17:15, 17:18, 18:43), his teaching (Lk.4:15), and his other miracles (Jn.2:11, 11:4,40).
Jesus himself usually spoke of “glory” in connection with his return (Mt.16:27-28, 24:30, 25;31; Mk.8:38, 10:27, 13:26; Lk.9:26, 21:27, 24:26), although John records a greater emphasis on the recognition of his true identity (1:14, 7:18, 8:50, and the prayer in Jn.17) than do the synoptic writers. Jesus scolded those (Jn.5:41-44) who sought “glory” from one another, rather than from God. Traditional versions use “honor” here, but the word is doxa.

It is also important to note the manner in which Jesus advocates that his followers contribute to “the glory of God”. It is NOT by making a flamboyant announcement before a public performance of some sort, or a preface to a big brag thinly disguised as a “testimony”, that “this is all for the glory of God!” Jesus rather directed his people to live in such a way that “people may see your good deeds [works (W.S.#39), behavior], and glorify your Father” (Mt.5:16), noting that the Father would be “glorified” by their “bearing much fruit (W.S.#64) and becoming – not recruiting – his disciples (W.S.#51)!” He then set the ultimate example in his own prayer (Jn.17:4), “I have glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do!”

The surpassing glory of the Lord Jesus himself, whom both Paul (I Cor.2:8) and James (Jas.2:1) call “the Lord of Glory”, runs through the epistles like a refrain. It is contrasted with human failings (Rom.3:7) – he has none! – and is the vehicle for praise to God (Rom.16:27). Jesus is himself the “image” (W.S. #15) of God’s glory (I Cor.1:7), and the goal of the transformation he accomplishes in his people (II Cor.3:18). Incredibly, his people are described as a part of “the riches of the glory of his inheritance” (Eph.1:18), and the venue of his own glory, for all the world to see, is his church (Eph.3:21)! The confession (W.S. #68) of his lordship (Phil.2:11) produces glory to the Father, and it is “according to his riches (W.S.#72) in glory by Christ Jesus “(Phil.4:19) that God intends to supply all we need in order to serve him. It is “to his eternal glory” (I Pet.5:10) that we are called, and his presence among us (Col.1:27) constitutes our “hope [expectation] of glory”!

Although the primary use of “glory” in the epistles is simply an expression of praise and honor to God, or a declaration of his greatness, goodness, and graciousness, it is also considered (Rom.6:4) the operative force in Jesus’ resurrection, the motive (Rom.15:7) for Christian hospitality, and the result of the faithfulness of the brethren who had sent famine relief to Judea (II Cor.8:19). Indeed, it is intended to be the goal (I Cor.10:31) of everything we do! The admonition to “glorify God in your body” (I Cor.6:20) is interesting in this regard: the noun “body” is singular, but the possessive is plural. This opens the possibility that the reference could be either one’s physical body, or the collective Body of Christ. In either case, it is an awesome privilege and responsibility to be actually expected to contribute to the limitless glory of God! It is the very purpose for our existence (Eph.1:12)!

Jesus had prayed (Jn.17:24) that his disciples might “behold his glory”, and there are at least five instances where people are reported to have been privileged to “see the glory of God” : Stephen (Ac.7:55) just before his death; Peter (II Pet.1:17) and his companions, when Jesus was transfigured on the mountain; John, (1:14) in the introduction to his gospel, of his acquaintance with Jesus; and in Jesus’ gently rebuke to Martha at her brother’s tomb (Jn.11:40).

Several places in the epistles, that amazing prospect is expanded even to the point of sharing that glory! And it’s not just “pie in the sky bye and bye”. In Rom.8:30 and I Cor.2:7, we learn that God planned and provided for all this “before the beginning!” Most of the references are present tense: Rom.2:7,10 – this gracious provision is to be constantly “sought” by faithful living, a concept that is repeated in II Thes.2:14, II Pet.1:3, I Pet.5:10. By focusing our attention on the Lord Jesus, we are continually being transformed (II Cor.3:18) into his likeness and glory, and even the hassles to which we are still subjected become tools toward that goal (II Cor.4:17). God is presently calling his own into his “kingdom and glory” (I Thes. 2:12), and that calling becomes a present source of hope for its future fulfillment (Rom.5:2, Col.3:4, I Pet.4:13-14), as does the gracious presence of Jesus among us (Col.1:27, Eph.1:18). Paul considers his own trials to contribute as well (II Tim.2:10).

For the faithful, as always, its all about Jesus! The writer to the Hebrews (2:10) refers to him as “the one because of whom and through whom everything exists, leading many sons into glory” – that is, his own personal possession, as he is “crowned with glory and honor” (2:9). The only appropriate response is to join with the elder, John, (Rev.1:6), in his acclaim:

“He has made us a kingdom, priests to God his father! Glory and power to him forever!”


2 Responses to Word Study #74 — Glory

  1. terry welborn says:

    Thanks much for this wonderful and exhaustive explanation of “glory”. I look forward to reading many more of your word studies.

  2. ruthpmartin says:

    Thank you for your kind words. It’s a huge subject, and I hope you and others will add to it!

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