N.B. This article is an expansion of P.T. 32
God is the Father of glory, (Eph.1:17) in other words He is the Author of it. Jesus is the Lord of glory (Jas.2:1) just as He is the Lord of the Sabbath. What is this glory? In the last Telegraph we gave an outline answer to this question – glory is none other than the intrinsic character of God, all that is truly of Him in power, wisdom, beauty, and love. But “no man has seen God at any time” (Jn.1:18) and therefore the glory of God remains hidden.
In the beginning God created seven Cherubim whose purposes still remain somewhat obscure, but one of their functions was to cover the glory. Lucifer (originally one of the seven), was the “anointed Cherub who covers” (Ezek.28:14) and this was a divine appointment – “I have set you so”. Clearly the “one who covers” possessed the unique advantage, or privilege, of seeing the fullness of that which he hid from all others, whether in heaven or upon earth. In time this privilege became the trigger for his downfall.
Why does God hide Himself? Why does He “spread a cloud for a covering”? (Ps.105:39) Why does He “make darkness His secret place”? (Ps.18:11) and have “clouds and darkness round about Him”? (Ps.97:2) Why did he “dwell in the thick darkness between the Cherubim”? (Ps.80:1) so that He remained hidden from His people Israel?
To answer this question we must first understand more of the nature of glory. The Bible leads us to understand that glory is first and foremost an inner character, the character of God Himself. But we also learn that it shines forth as a splendid light from the Lord’s person, so bright that no one can look upon it. This light is self-productive light. “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” (1 Jn.1:5) Often this light is confused with the glory, whereas on fact it is but the outward and visible sign of the inward spiritual character.
We are now in the position to answer the question, ‘why does God hide Himself?’ A careful study of the subject from the Scriptures shows that God HAS sought to manifest the glory of His character, but at the same time to hide the effulgence. He has greatly desired that man should appreciate His true inner glory, but at the same time not to SEE the Author of glory. The creative abilities of God are truly manifest, as the Psalmist said, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows forth His handiwork.” (Ps.19:1) The “invisible things of Cod are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made,” (Rom.1:20) Even His “eternal power and Godhead” are revealed in Creation. No one has any excuse for failing to heed the “gospel of creation”, and thereby failing to give glory to God.
This “hiding”, this “covering” of the effulgence of His glory, is itself a part of the character of God, even part of the “glory”. It is the Divine Humility, by which God seeks to implant the same characteristic in those He has created. He does not want His creatures chasing after the “light” but at the same time missing the cause of the light.
In a very particular way, the Lord Jesus came into this world to declare the character of God. (Jn.1:18) He was indeed“equal with God” (Phil.2:6) but “made Himself of no reputation.” He was indeed the “Lord of glory” but preferred to appear “as a man, even a servant” of His Father. He was truly the Author of Life, but He became “obedient unto death”. In all these respects He manifested the true glory of God. As John said, “we beheld His glory, as the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (Jn.1:14) The character of God blazed forth in undiminished splendour, even though the effulgence was withheld.
“Full of grace and truth”. Are not these the true marks of glory? Let us remind ourselves further of what our Master had to say about glory. When under severe verbal attack by the Scribes and Pharisees, He said, “I do not seek my own glory”(Jn.8:50) But as the true Son of God, it was His right! “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me.” (Jn.8:54) And on another occasion He said, “I do not receive glory from men.” (Jn.5:41). And again, “Hewho speaks of himself, seeks his own glory.” (Jn.7:18)
Here then is a simple directive for us all. No wonder Paul exhorted us to “have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” (Phil.2:6) The Divine Humility should become a GOAL to which we should energetically strive. All humanly-based assessment of glory shall be worthless to us. We shall dwell richly on Jesus’ words – “Solomon in all his glory (his OWN glory) was not arrayed like one of these” little flowers of the field. (Matt.6:29) Why? Because although Solomon had the great gift of wisdom, “his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God”. (1 Kings 11:4) He allowed his brightness to beguile him. He became obedient to the whims and fancies of his foreign wives, and their predilections for idolatry. Each time we see the wild flowers in a summer field, we should bend down and remember that they speak of God’s glory, true beauty in a lowly place.
And again, Jesus said, “Except you become as little children you shall in no wise enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”(Matt.18:2-5) The simplicity, the uncomplicated acceptance of mother and father by the little child, speak volumes to us about the ideal glory, the glory which God desires for us. Note that Jesus never asked his disciples to become “childish”. For when we become men we should put away childish things (1 Cor.13) Rather did he focus on the attitude of a child in relation to its parents, that of unquestioning trust. Those of us who have had the joy of parenthood will readily understand our Lord’s words. Lowliness and humility are keys to the doorway of heaven.
Now, there is a glory that man seeks after, and often seeks it assiduously. He likes to be seen, to be admired, to be acclaimed, to have his name on the lips of thousands, to be thought of as a great man, as a clever man, a rich man, or an ambitious man. Such striving exists not only in the world, but sadly it is rife in God’s church as well, where it should have no place. Many Christians seek the acclaim of their brethren, “loving the glory of men rather than the glory of God.”(Jn.12:43) Jesus warned His followers, “Woe to you when all men shall speak well of you”.(Luke 6:26) Jude spoke of those who “have men’s persons in admiration because of advantage.” (v.16) And Peter tells us that “the glory of man is like the grass of the field which soon withers away.” (1 Pet.1:24) Hence our Lord’s directive that we should “lay uptreasure in heaven” where it cannot wither away. Why is man’s glory like this? Paul tells us that we have “all sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Rom.3:23) In coming short of God’s glory, many of us struggle and strive to find a glory of our own. But it is of no avail. We deceive ourselves, and close our eyes to the truth.
But the “Lord of glory” desires to see His own character imprinted within mankind. He wants to “bring many sons to glory”. (Heb.2:10) But there is another, an antagonistic rival, the “god of this age”, who “blinds the minds of unbelievers that they should not see the illumination of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Cor.4:4)
Truly there is “the good news of the glory of Christ”. It may not be an expression on the lips of many, but it is the very word of the apostle Paul in this verse. Whereas the Church may be very evangelistic in its endeavours, there seems to be too little emphasis on the reality of this fact – that God seeks to implant the image of His Son within us, not just ask us to accept His salvation. New birth is just the beginning. One must not stop at the “little wicket gate” (as Bunyan graphically portrayed it) but step forth valiantly on the road to the Holy City. And all those who have read about the ”pilgrim’s progress” will know that this road is compassed about with all manner of trouble, evil, deception, and warfare. Why is this battle raging? Can we now understand the true reason for it?
The Bible declares unequivocally the reason for this conflict. It all started when the “anointed Cherub who covers” took a wrong direction. Instead of emulating the example of his Lord and Master, he fell in love with the effulgence, and wanted some for himself. He loved the bright lights and basked in them, and because he was appointed to cover the glory of God he allowed the worship of other heavenly beings to be absorbed into his own being, instead of presenting them to God. He truly worshipped the brilliance instead of the character that produced it. He drew the attention of other beings to his own brilliance. In his heart he said, “I will be like the Most High.” (Isa.14:14) But what he sought was a distorted view. He didn’t really want to be like the Most High, in the covering of his own glory. Rather did he want to EXPOSE his brightness, and encourage worship of himself. This was the beginning of his downfall. Though he was “perfect in his ways from the day he was created”, yet he “corrupted his wisdom by reason of his brightness”. (Ezek.28:15-17) And like Solomon after him, he sinned and was cast out of the Mount of God as profane. He sought the brilliance, the adulation, the worship, but not the SHY GLORY of God. And so he led Adam and Eve astray, promising them the same BRAZEN GLORY he sought for himself, and in this very act he condemned himself and brought forth the curse of God.
As the years went by, Lucifer developed an insatiable appetite for worship. He began to demand that all creatures attended to him, saw his glory (!), and praised him for his ways. After several millennia his craving for worship had reached such a pitch that he offered the Lord Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory” in exchange for His worship, to have the Son of Man bow His knee to him. But although Jesus came to obtain all those kingdoms, He had no place for their ‘glory’. In Rev.11 we read that “the kingdoms of the world became the kingdom of the Lord and of His Christ.” And what of the glory? It will be just as Jesus asked us to pray, “for Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever.”No wonder the Lord rebuked the Devil. Lucifer may be His rival, but he is not His equal. The Bible has no place for ‘dualism’. It was the Devil himself who was the author of the Ying-Yang symbol of dualism, so frequently seen in the East. Ultimately, like every other creature in the heavens, upon earth, and under the earth, he will bow the knee to the Lord Jesus. (Phil.2)
Here then is the answer to that question as to why the conflict exists. The Devil is a power-monger, a megalomaniac, and his character has been depicted by certain men throughout history, and at the moment of writing, the Middle East holds yet another such character, one who imagines that he is the literal descendant of Nebuchadnezzar, and that he holds the claim to his throne, his power and dominion, his glory and honour. But should such a man read the book of Daniel, he would have to face the fact that his ‘forebear’ was reduced to the condition of a mere animal for seven years until he accepted that the Most High ruled amongst the sons of men.
But let us now turn our minds away from such evils, and consider the many great and precious promises that have been given to those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Most of these promises relate to the forming of a godly character within us, our remaking in the image of Christ, so that “when He shall appear, we shall appear with Him IN GLORY.” (Col.3:4) We have been likened to “vessels of mercy before-prepared FOR GLORY” (Rom.9:23), “rejoicing IN THE HOPE OF THE GLORY OF GOD” (Rom.5:2) knowing that we have “Christ in us, THE HOPE OF GLORY.” (Col.1:27) and that our bodies will be “fashioned like unto the BODY OF HIS GLORY” (Phil.3:21) and that “when the Chief Shepherd appears we shall receive a CROWN OF GLORY that will not fade away.” (1 Peter 5:4) How amazingly wonderful it is to read such words, gathered together from the writings of the N.T. What great grace our dear Lord has to speak of us in such a way, whodeserve nothing. But there must be a word of caution expressed, alongside the wonders. No one can expect these promises be enacted who has not allowed the “glory” to grow within them. Unless the divine-character has been worked into us, how can we be partakers of the promised blessings? They are not automatic as a result of just believing in Christ. They come about by the work of the Father on His children. By what method does God take man, fallen from the glory, and raise him to spiritual perfection? Thankfully the Bible is not silent on this important issue.
In the life, death, and resurrection of our Master we have been shown the way. It was through suffering that “the Captain of our salvation was made perfect.” (Heb.2:10) and it is only “through much tribulation that we shall enter the Kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:27) We are enjoined daily to “take up our cross and follow” our Lord (Luke 9:23) And for why? Because when we first come to Christ we are in possession of an old Adam-nature that has to be brought to the cross and steadily put to death, a painful process whereby the human clay may be replaced by heavenly gold. But “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to be revealed in us” (Rom.8:18), so that this “light affliction works in us an eternal weight of glory.” (2 Cor.3:18)
If we allow God to perform this needed surgery in us, all will be well. But if we refuse Him, maintaining our own Adamic nature, even though we have been redeemed, then the Master will have to say, “I know you not.” What a moment of shame that would be, what a terrible embarrassment. And this is a message for us all, not just “the others”. Our flesh is most persuasive, and the human heart so deceitful. How many of God’s children, fully occupied with some supposedly important ministry, have deceived themselves into thinking that they will be rewarded for their ministry, even though their lives have been virtually untouched by the living coals in the hands of the Master’s Seraphim. Ministry, after all, is but a stewardshiplaid upon us, requiring faithfulness. But the Master’s work of “bringing many sons to glory” is an inner working, of much greater importance.
In the Book of Revelation two cities are compared, Babylon and Jerusalem. Of the former it is recorded “of how much she has glorified herself”, (Rev.18:7) but of the holy Jerusalem, that she “has the glory of God.” (Rev.21:11) Here we have the culmination of God’s work in His little f lock, His special treasure, even the sons whom He has brought to glory. They possess God’s glory, but the counterfeit church has glorified herself. The O.T. carries the same lesson in Ps.45:13. “The king’s daughter is all glorious within.” Is not this the crux of the matter? Her glory was WITHIN, where it should be, not like the scarlet woman who declared, “I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow.” She “lived luxuriously” and “waxed rich” but imagined that she was wholly acceptable to Christ. When she parades her works, her exorcisms, her healings, her miracles and mighty works, she expects a reward, but Jesus says, “I know you not.” He looked at her, and saw nothing in her that was a reflection of His own character. There was no ‘glory’ to be seen inwardly, only a self-appointed ashen glow for which the Master had no interest. How sad a situation this is. Furthermore, it is painful to read that Jesus said, “Many will come to me in that day and say -_” all these things. They thought they were “rich and had need of nothing” but the Lord saw them quite differently, and exhorted them to repent. But few would open the door to Him and let Him in to their lives.(THAT is where the Master wants to be. INSIDE our lives, working His miraculous changes, purging out the clay, and replacing it with gold.)To such the Master will have to say, “I knocked on your door, but you never invited me in.” (Rev.3:20)
Finally, we must say a word about the Lord’s return. The majority of the churches are looking for a magnificent “event” that will suddenly transform this world, remove all the believers, and make way for the Millennial kingdom. Views tend to be varied about the actual progression of items within this “event”, but the overall pattern is surprisingly unified. But we must ask ourselves the question, is the second coming of Christ to be a great fireworks display in the sky, with the Lord Jesus visibly enthroned, causing the whole world to tremble at His awesome presence?
A lot more study of the Scriptures is needed to obtain a more coherent and acceptable framework of understanding. The evangelical “event” is the result of too simplistic a reading of just a few references, without the balancing influence of many other statements. It is the study of the word “glory” that is perhaps one of the greatest helps to reaching a satisfactory conclusion to such a study.
One of the most important references is found in 2 Thess. 1:10. “When He comes to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired by all those who believe, in that day.” Instead of the Lord visibly displaying His glory to the unbelieving world, He brings forth His resurrected saints and sends them into the world to teach, to warn, to show forth the glory of God by their refined and golden characters. THEY will see the Lord continually, but the world will see the little flock of God in resurrection. It is a misconception to assume that the saints will “live in heaven” as though it is some other region in the sky, set apart for believers to enjoy themselves. Heaven is not a place. It is a dimension of existence. To be “in heaven” is to possess higher dimensions, to live ‘on a higher plane’ , but to have the ability to walk this earth, even as the Lord did after His resurrection. Sometimes He was recognised, sometimes not. Sometimes He behaved in an ordinary “human like” way, by eating a meal for example, but at other times He showed that something was very different about Him, as when He walked through a solid door, or just disappeared from their midst. And so it will be for the resurrected saints. And the world will have to come to terms with a whole new set of information, where “no man will say to his brother, know the Lord, for they will all know me from the least to the greatest.” The knowledge of the EXISTENCE of God will, from that time forward, be an undisputed fact. But what people will DO with this knowledge is quite another thing altogether. That is why the Millennial Kingdom is to be set up, so that God may speak to the rest of creation, once His little flock is complete. The saints will have much work on their hands in this Kingdom. It will not be a time for lazing about in heavenly sunshine.
Jesus came to this earth to express the glory of His Father. He did so by virtue of a stainless character. During His three and a half years of ministry, He was immune from all attack. No one could touch Him, no matter how they tried. They took Him to the top of a hill and tried to throw Him off the edge to kill Him, but He just walked through the midst of them to safety, leaving them wondering what forces were at work that prevented them apprehending Him. And so it was on other occasions. His sinless character, combined with His total obedience to His Father, made Him immune to the physical hostilities of this world. Only when He gave Himself as a sacrifice did men find that they could “master” Him. And this will also be true of the resurrected saints. No one will be able to touch them. Fists, swords, karate chops, bullets, all will be of no avail against the manifest sons of God. They will be an impregnable fortress. But they will not come to be admired or worshipped. Instead they will always point to their Master, and live in obedience to His voice. The Body of Christ will be of the same character as the HEAD. And in the Body, the Lord will continue the work that He came to do when He was a man. Jesus gave Himself as a sacrifice at the END of His days of ministry. The Body of Christ is required to go the way of the cross BEFORE the days of real ministry start. Any ministry that a man is required to perform in his earthly days is but part of a programme of personal training. The ministry should produce the circumstances for the Lord to purge the clay and implant the gold. Our task is of very great importance, in resurrection, in days to come.