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043  From Glory to Glory

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God... And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.    Rom 8:18-19, 23-25

Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.   I John 3:2-3

The passage from Romans, above, written by the Apostle Paul, talks about the hope that every Christian experiences with regard to what is to come. At some point in the future, we are to be revealed as Sons of God, whatever that means. The Apostle John, writing about the same thing, observes that we don't really know what "Sons of God" means in practice. He adds, offering as much as he could fathom, "We will be like Him," meaning Jesus. "Like Him," I take to mean "We will be both spiritual and physical beings like He is, and glorious like He is."

"Glory" is not anything specific. When the word "glory" appears in the Bible, it generally means something about which the owner can boast. Just for a quick example, Prov 17:6 says "The glory of sons is their fathers." Small boys boast about their Dads; they think them to be omnipotent, omniscient, and perfect. So in the context of glory being revealed in believers, it probably means something like "If we saw it now, we'd think it was incredibly beautiful and powerful." But it doesn't say exactly what "it" is.

The interesting thing about this is that most of us regard our being revealed as Sons of God as the end of a process. We're slogging along in a difficult world but looking forward to a time when, as the Apostles say, we'll be revealed in glory. Most of us regard it as a rest from the difficulty of our world, like an unending vacation. I imagine that that notion comes from various passages where it says that God will heal all that ails us in the new heaven and earth that He is creating. There will be no wickedness, no crime, no murderers, and no fools. He will wipe away all our tears (Rev 7:17, Rev 21:4), meaning, I suppose, that He'll heal everything that has wounded us, particularly those inner places where we feel pain.

Those things will certainly happen. But I don't see any indication that life won't continue in some fashion or that we'll not be working in heaven. I expect that there will be plenty to do, just like now.

Whenever I've mentioned to other Christians the work we'll be doing in the next life, the most common response I get is "We'll be worshiping God forever" stated as a rebuke to me. The people who say that seem to think that that actually names a specific set of activities. I suspect that they're thinking that we'll be members of an enormous choir that sings forever.

Personally, I doubt that. Right here in our current lives, the Apostle says that when we commit our whole selves to the service of God (which should describe everything we do, from mowing the lawn to feeding the hungry) we are engaging in "our reasonable service of worship" (Rom 12:1). I can't see how "We'll be worshiping God forever" precludes any sort of activity; we're worshiping God right now and still doing everything that we do. So I imagine that we'll have work to do there, just like we do here. Only, it won't be laborious.

The point is that when we get revealed as Sons (and Daughters) of God, it's not the end of things, it's the beginning. God is eternal. In Christ, so are we. And while life is likely to be dramatically different there than here, it will be life. We'll still be conscious; we'll still be active; we'll still be growing and doing things, we just don't know what. God will continue revealing Himself to us more and more as we go on, even after we've been glorified (see Eph 2:7 if you doubt this). I certainly hope so; I'm quite sure that I won't get to the end of what can be known of God by the time I die.

That has an interesting implication for what we do right now. We Christians live in the tension between what is already and what is not yet. Because, in our experience so far, what is already has not removed from us the difficulty and pain of life, we put a lot of stock in what's going to change later on, after we die.

I think that's a mistake. God has made Himself available to us already. The limit to what we can experience of Him does not seem to reside in His will; He's willing to give each of us as much of Himself as we can handle. The limit to what we can receive always seems to be on our end. It wasn't God who dove into the bushes to hide when man sinned in Eden; it was us. God isn't the one who has to return to us; we're the ones who have to return to Him. And the more we return, the more of Him we get.

It's like we're drinking from an enormous keg, and we've got our hand on the tap regulating how much we drink. It's not God's hand on the tap; it's ours. We control how much we get.

It follows from this that we can begin to obtain this glory, whatever it is, right where we are. It is not something for which we have to wait; it is something into which we can grow. It is something that we can ask for in prayer. It is something that He has already said we should expect:

"But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit." II Corin 3:18

Paul says where it comes from: "the Lord, the Spirit." He says that we are "being transformed." The activity that produces this transformation is "beholding...the glory." As we see God clearly, the Spirit transforms us and we obtain ever-increasing glory.

So we need to be refocusing our view of life to see God in everything. The more we do this, the more we can expect His Spirit to transform us and produce His glory in us. We don't really even know what that is; but it holds out hope to us that we can rise above the pain and labor of our world and begin to enjoy God as though we were sitting with Him in heavenly places. Because, after all, we are--sitting with Him in heavenly places (Eph 2:6). The more we focus on Him, the better we're able to experience it, and the less consequential our pains become.

Last week I said that we would discover someday that we've been in heaven all along. We can start discovering it right now. The more we focus on God, the more we'll experience heaven right here.

I think I may have to talk some more about Christian devotions, for which reason I'll also have to learn more. How we increase our gaze toward God can be a puzzling question. But I can leave you with the general gist: the more we focus on Him, the more it will seem to us that we're living in His presence--because, in fact, we are.

 

Phil Weingart

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