Glory—What Is It? How Does It Affect Humans?
WHEN you hear the words “glory,” “glorious,” or related terms, what thoughts come to mind? This matter should interest Bible students, for forms of the word “glory” occur more than 450 times in the Holy Bible. What does glory mean?
The Bible refers to glory in several different ways. In the Hebrew Scriptures the original language word most often translated glory is ka·bhodhʹ. Its basic meaning is “weight, burden.” Thus, someone’s glory may refer to material possessions, since these make the individual seem weighty or impressive.
Frequently the Bible mentions glory in connection with God. As to its meaning in these cases the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament states: “If in relation to man ka·bhodhʹ denotes that which makes him impressive and demands recognition, whether in terms of material possessions or striking [dignity or importance], in relation to God it implies that which makes God impressive to man.”
In this sense the vast array of heavenly bodies in our universe is “declaring the glory of God.” (Ps. 19:1) Fearsome manifestations that included “a devouring fire” were evidence of “Jehovah’s glory” on Mount Sinai at the time of giving the Mosaic law. (Ex. 24:16-18) The Scriptures state, too, that “Christ was raised up from the dead through the glory [doʹxa, Greek equivalent of ka·bhodhʹ] of the Father.” (Rom. 6:4) In all these cases glory means an impressive evidence of God’s almighty power.
Another meaning of glory appears at Luke 2:9: “And suddenly Jehovah’s angel stood by them, and Jehovah’s glory gleamed around them, and they became very fearful.” In this case glory means “brightness,” “splendor.” In the same vein the Bible speaks of the glory of the sun, the moon and the stars.—1 Cor. 15:40, 41.
GLORY AND JESUS CHRIST
The Word of God mentions glory many times in connection with Jesus Christ. Regarding Jesus’ first miracle, the Bible states that “he made his glory manifest.” (John 2:11) The glory in this case was an evidence of miraculous power identifying Jesus as the promised Messiah.
Jesus used the term in another sense when he prayed to God: “So now you, Father, glorify me alongside yourself with the glory that I had alongside you before the world was.” (John 17:5) Here Jesus refers to the exalted state that he enjoyed in heaven before coming to earth. In answer to that prayer, God “glorified his Servant, Jesus,” by resurrecting him and bringing him back into heaven. (Acts 3:13-15) But Jesus was to experience even greater glorification.
Luke’s account of Jesus’ transfiguration reads: “As he was praying the appearance of his face became different and his apparel became glitteringly white. Also, look! two men were conversing with him, who were Moses and Elijah. These appeared with glory and began talking about his departure that he was destined to fulfill at Jerusalem. Now Peter and those with him were weighed down with sleep; but when they got fully awake they saw his glory.” (Luke 9:29-32) The apostle Peter explains that this vision had to do with a notable glory, or regal “magnificence,” that Jesus was to receive at his invisible “presence” in Kingdom power.—2 Pet. 1:16.
And there is yet another way in which Jesus Christ will give evidence of glory. The Bible foretells for the generation that is alive during Jesus’ presence a “great tribulation” that will feature a tremendous display of “the glory of his strength, at the time he comes to be glorified in connection with his holy ones.”—Matt. 24:21, 22; 2 Thess. 1:9, 10.
GLORY THAT AFFECTS MANKIND
The Scriptures make reference to glory as regards its relationship to humankind. Note, for example, what the apostle Paul writes at Romans 3:23: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” How did that situation come about?
The Word of God relates that the first human pair, Adam and Eve, disobeyed God’s command not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and bad. (Gen. 2:15-17; 3:1-6) By doing so they failed to reflect in due measure the perfect attributes of God in whose image man was created. (Gen. 1:26, 27) Since all of Adam’s offspring inherit sin and its consequence, death, every member of the human family falls short of properly reflecting God’s glory.—Rom. 5:12; 6:23.
In order to restore the human race to perfection, God has purposed to bless certain ones of mankind with heavenly glory. (Rom. 8:18, 19) According to the Bible, the Creator will bring into heaven 144,000 individuals who had lived as humans on earth. (Rev. 14:1-5) Along with Christ Jesus these will form a heavenly Kingdom body to rule over the earth.—Rev. 5:9, 10.
YOUR CONDUCT AND GOD’S GLORY
How should Christians conduct themselves while they await future blessings either in heaven or on earth? In this respect the inspired Bible writer counsels: “Therefore, whether you are eating or drinking or doing anything else, do all things for God’s glory.” (1 Cor. 10:31) In this instance glory is made manifest through the honor or praise that persons give to God. Showing that a Christian’s conduct is truly significant in this respect, Jesus said: “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your fine works and give glory to your Father who is in the heavens.”—Matt. 5:16.
But there is a kind of glory that true worshipers of God wish to avoid. How so? Consider what the apostle John wrote concerning Jesus: “Many even of the rulers actually put faith in him, but because of the Pharisees they would not confess him, in order not to be expelled from the synagogue; for they loved the glory of men more than even the glory of God.” (John 12:42, 43) Christians, especially overseers and those “reaching out” for such an office, should beware of seeking the plaudits of men. (1 Tim. 3:1) Instead, they must follow the perfect example of Jesus, who said: “I do not accept glory from men.”—John 5:41; 1 Thess. 2:5, 6.
“FROM GLORY TO GLORY”
The Scriptures urge worshipers of God to make continual progress in reflecting God’s glory. Regarding this, the apostle Paul drew upon Moses’ experience when he descended from Mount Sinai after receiving for the second time two stone tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments. On that occasion the face of Moses shone with rays of glory so brilliant that it was necessary for Moses to veil his face when speaking to the Israelites. (Ex. 34:29-35) Paul reasons: “If the code which administers death and which was engraved in letters in stones came about in a glory, so that the sons of Israel could not gaze intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, a glory that was to be done away with, why should not the administering of the spirit be much more with glory? For if the code administering condemnation was glorious, much more does the administering of righteousness abound with glory.”—2 Cor. 3:7-9.
In contrast to the literal glory that attended the giving of the Mosaic law code, the 144,000 who are in a “new covenant” foretold by Jeremiah must shine with a spiritual glory that reflects the qualities of God’s personality in an unprecedented way. (Jer. 31:31-34) Since the new covenant provides both “forgiveness of sins” and a “royal priesthood” for the blessing of all mankind, it far exceeds the Law covenant in benefits. (Acts 5:31; 1 Pet. 2:9; Ex. 19:5, 6) Also, those in the new covenant worship God “with spirit.” (John 4:23, 24) That is, their worship is spirited, motivated from within rather than by written legislation. (2 Cor. 3:3) Indeed, a superior glory, or manifestation of God’s perfect personality, is here in evidence.
Contrasting the action of Moses, who veiled his face, with the activities of Christians in the “new covenant,” Paul writes: “And all of us, while we with unveiled faces reflect like mirrors the glory of Jehovah, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, exactly as done by Jehovah the Spirit.”—2 Cor. 3:18.
Christians must ever make progress in reflecting God’s glory. An important way to do this is by speaking boldly about God’s purpose to bless all mankind through the heavenly royal priesthood. Also, they heed the Biblical advice: “Clothe yourselves with the new personality, which through accurate knowledge is being made new according to the image of the One who created it.” (Col. 3:10) As worshipers of God couple zealous preaching of God’s purposes with progressive conforming of their lives to Bible principles, they thereby progress “from glory to glory,” and they increase their glorifying of God.
Do you look forward to the time when God will restore mankind to human perfection where they do not “fall short of the glory of God”? (Rom. 3:23) If so, do everything you can now to reflect God’s glory by fine conduct that conforms to Bible principles.