His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him Who called us to His own glory and excellence… 2 Peter 1:3
God’s hope for us
The Gospel of the Kingdom is the Good News of God for salvation. Our King, Jesus Christ, is administering a new economy in and among the nations of the world, with a new agenda for building His Church and advancing His rule on earth, as it is in heaven.
We have observed that the coming of the Kingdom of God holds out a new hope for those who enter into it – the hope of glory (Rom. 5.1, 2). Because this aspect of the Gospel of the Kingdom is so important, we need to explore it more fully. God has, astonishingly, called us both to His Kingdom and His glory (1 Thess. 2.12). While perhaps every person who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ will affirm that this is so, it is likely most have never considered the meaning and implications of this profound fact. We who have entered the Kingdom of God are also privileged to engage and to live for His glory!
I want to unpack this idea rather more clearly. Every Christian clings to hope, but unless that hope is the same as the hope God holds out for us in the Gospel, then we are missing a significant element of the life of faith and the promise of the Gospel. And unless we are daily motivated by that hope – the hope of glory – our faith will never rise to the levels of excellence and power that God intends for us in the Kingdom.
Thus it is crucial that we understand this aspect of the Gospel of the Kingdom, and that we begin to know and experience the hope of glory as a more consistent part of our walk with the Lord. For once we have begun to engage the glory of God, we will never settle for anything less than this as the object of our faith and our reason for living.
The nature of hope
This is a very important facet of the Gospel, so let’s not take anything for granted. Let’s begin by exploring the nature of hope. What is hope, and how does it function in people’s lives?
I suspect we all can agree that hope is an affection, an inclination of the heart toward future expectations. Those expectations are compelling, either because they promise happiness, excitement, fulfillment, or some other anticipated boon. Such hopes guide our daily decisions and choices as we jockey and navigate to stay in what we hope will be the fast lane for realizing our hope. Everyone lives by hope. In our day people hope for a variety of things: a good marriage partner, a successful life, material comfort, safety and security, and so forth.
Yet these hopes, though real and, as far as they go, legitimate, cannot satisfy the deep longings of the human soul for lasting fulfillment, peace, and joy. For every temporal hope is subject to changing circumstances and aspirations; moreover, no created thing can satisfy the deep longing in the human soul for a secure and blessed relationship with the living God. As Augustine observed, God has made us for Himself, and our hearts will continue to be restless until they find their full rest in Him.
Because of this Paul observes, in Ephesians 2.12, that those who are apart from Christ are “without hope” in this life. Only Christ can give human beings full and abundant life and, thus, only Christ can fulfill the deep longing in our souls which people try vainly to fill with all manner of created things and experiences.
Christians, however, do have hope, real and lasting hope. Saving faith involves the “assurance” that these things we hope for will not fail us, and it issues in a life that evidences that hoped-for boon in all aspects (Heb. 11.1). All sincere believers “hope” in Christ and in His promises of forgiveness and eternal life. Indeed, as we have seen, in our day, this is perhaps the most that the majority of believers hope for from their faith.
Paul teaches, however, that all who are justified by grace through faith stand in the hope of the glory of God (Rom. 5.1, 2). What does this mean? How does embracing the Gospel of the Kingdom affect the nature and object of what we as believers hope for in this life?
The glory of God
We need to make sure we understand the glory of God. In one sense, the glory of God is nothing more than the presence of God. We can say that, wherever God is, His glory is. The glory of God is His presence, wherever He may be at any time. The Scriptures tell us that the glory of God is revealed in the things God has made – creation (Ps. 19.1-4), aspects of culture (Ps. 68.18), and within the human conscience, where the works of God’s Law bear witness to Him (Rom. 2.14-16).
So that, in a very real sense, we are never completely out of touch with the glory of God. Why, then, do so few of us experience the glory of God in these things? That is, why does the sense of God’s presence not “weigh” on us with more transforming power as a result of His presence in and around us everywhere?
The answer lies in a further consideration of the glory of God. At a second level, God, Who is everywhere present in His glory, manifests His presence and makes His glory known to men in certain ways and by certain means. So that the glory of God comes to expression and is clearly seen as God is pleased to make it known to men.
We can think of several instances in the Old and New Testaments where the glory of God suddenly became evident in the midst of His people: Moses coming down from the mountain, the glory of God filling the Tabernacle and the Temple, God’s revelation to Isaiah, the apostles’ experience on the Mount of Transfiguration, and so forth.
In all these cases, responses to the manifestation of God’s glory on the part of those in Scripture who saw it are fairly uniform: fear, wonder, praise, and even delight, all together and at once. When God makes His glory known to His people, they respond with worship, renewed conviction, and a determination to stay close to God and to obey His voice.
This is the hope of glory in which we who believe in Jesus now stand, to which God has called us, and which He expects us to seek. Every believer is invited to enter into the glory of God, as we have seen. Indeed, Jesus, Who intercedes for us, prays for us that we might we might know His glory, share in His glory together, and, by that glory, make known the reality of Christ and His saving work to the unbelieving world (Jn. 17. 20-26).
If we thus truly hope to engage God in His glory and to know His glory – if this is what we hope for in the life of faith – we will seek out the most reliable means for doing so and make them increasingly part of our daily lives.
Engaging God’s glory
We may expect to engage the glory of God from three primary sources. First is the world of creation. Creation is everywhere declaring the glory of God. God has “concealed” His glory in the things He has made, and He calls upon us who are His royal priesthood in the Kingdom of God to seek and to discover that glory, so that we might make Him known to the world (Prov. 25.2; Hab. 2.14). Some active and consistent engagement with creation and culture can be a powerful means of meeting God in His glory and learning to know Him there.
Second, the Bible is the primary focal point for encountering the glory of God. Paul talks about this in 2 Corinthians 3.7-18. In this passage he is making a comparison of the glory we might expect to encounter in God’s Word to the glory that shown on Moses’ face. He says the glory we may expect to know in the Kingdom of God far outstrips Moses’ experience of glory. This is the believer’s hope.
“Since we have such a hope,” Paul says (v. 12), “we are very bold.” Bold, that is, to seek God in His glory in His Word, where, through Jesus Christ, we have access to the presence of God as He speaks to each one of us in His Word (cf. v. 15). This Word and the glory it reveals to us provide the light we need in order to meet God in His glory in the things He has made (Ps. 36.9) and to live for Him in glory, manifesting increasingly the life of Christ in and through our lives (v. 18).
Thus, the bolder and more consistent we are in seeking the glory of God – engagement with His living presence – through His Word, the more effective we will be in discovering His glory in the things He has made and in showing that glory to the people we encounter each day.
Finally, we may also expect to encounter the glory of God “in the face of Jesus Christ,” as Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4.6. The face of Jesus Christ can mean the Lord speaking in His Word or His Spirit engaging us in one way or another (cf. Ezek. 39.29; Ps. 119.135). But we may also gaze upon the glory of God in the face of Jesus by contemplating the many passages of Scripture which describe Jesus, or, at least, which provide descriptions of Him in glory as the Lord intends for us to think of Him (cf. Ps. 45; Eph. 1.15-23; Rev. 1).
Here is a call not just for reading and study, but for prayerful solitude and meditation, focusing on the exalted beauty and excellence of our majestic King and Savior.
The heart of the Gospel
We are at the very heart of the Gospel of the Kingdom when we say that what God holds out to us is the privilege of knowing Him in His glory and the high calling of making His glory known to the watching world. This affects every area of our lives – all our relationships, roles, and responsibilities – so that we no longer live merely for ourselves, but unto and for Jesus Christ our King, and for the realization of His Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit in and through our everyday lives (Rom. 14.17, 18).
Because we have entered the Kingdom of God we have the privilege of engaging the glory of God and making that glory known to the watching world through everything we say and do. When this is the commanding hope of our lives, it leads to earnest seeking of the Lord, sincere repentance, and a disciplined life of love- and thanksgiving-motivated obedience which brings the light of truth and reality of grace into every part and parcel of our experience.
Surely this is a hope – a hope that includes forgiveness and eternal life, but so much more – that every sincere follower of King Jesus will want to embrace, know, and live each day.
It is absolutely crucial to living and proclaiming the Gospel that the hope of glory be a vibrant and growing aspect of our own walk with the Lord. We will only rise in our experience of the Gospel to the level of our highest expectations. Only hope in the glory of God can enable us to know the “exceeding abundantly beyond all that you could ever ask or think” power of the Gospel of the Kingdom as a living reality every day of our lives (Eph. 3.20).
For reflection or discussion:
- What is the glory of God? What does it mean to “hope” in the glory of God?
- How can preaching enhance the hope of glory? What is the preacher’s responsibility in leading his hearers into the hope of glory?
- When do you “enter” or “engage” the glory of God? What is the effect of this on you?