Our Hope of Glory
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, April 18, 2010
Copyright © 2010, P. G. Mathew
In this world, all of us experience all kinds of troubles-financial problems, physical sickness, work difficulties, or marriage and family troubles. In Romans 8:18 Paul reminds us about the hope of glory that Christians have in the midst of their problems: "For I reason that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us" (author's translation). The glory that will be revealed in us is incomparable. That is, our present sufferings cannot be in any way compared with the great and grand future God has planned for us from all eternity.
For God's children, sufferings mark the way to glory. Sufferings prove that we are children of God. As Paul stated in the previous verse, we are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ, if indeed we suffer with him in order that we may be glorified together.
The Sufferings of Unbelievers
Ours is a fallen world of misery. All people suffer here because of sin. But the children of God wait eagerly to enter into the glory promised them by Christ, who died and rose again. Only the children of God possess this hope of glory. If a person refuses to bow down to King Jesus and treats Christ as a gnat, he has no hope. He is without hope because he is without the true and living God.
This life of suffering is the best life that unbelievers will ever experience. They may believe in the evolutionary hypothesis and inevitable progress, but the truth is that they are hopeless pessimists. So they go to parties to eat, drink, and be merry, for they are about to die. They cannot face death as believers can. Paul says, "Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep or to grieve like the rest of men who have no hope" (1 Thess. 4:13). The rich man of Luke 16 dressed in purple and lived in luxury every day. But Jesus said at death the rich man went to hell, where he was in torment and agony.
Unbelievers also suffer here. They unknowingly are waiting for the greater sufferings of hell prepared for them. They bow to everyone else, but it is not stylish to bow down to Jesus Christ. Unbelievers are objects of wrath prepared for destruction, while believers are objects of mercy prepared in advance for glory. If you have not believed in the only Savior, Jesus Christ, I counsel and command you to do so today. God commands all people everywhere to repent. He does not beg us: we beg him to show us mercy. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and join us in the way of the cross, which is also the way to glory.
Romans 8:18 therefore teaches us about disproportionate sufferings and incomparable glory.
Our Disproportionate Sufferings
Our present sufferings cannot be compared to the future glory. Only Christianity deals with the reality of the present sufferings and future glory to be revealed in us. Christianity alone deals with creation, fall, and redemption. Only Christians can interpret history correctly, for we have the mind of Christ. We have God's truth and renewed minds. All man says is not truth; what God says is all truth and nothing but truth. But people do not want to read the Bible.
Paul begins, "For I reason." The Greek word is logizomai. That means I exercise my Christian mind and I think! I am a thinking person, and I keep on thinking. Paul is saying, "I have applied my mind to study the gospel and by reasoning I have arrived at this firm conviction and conclusion."
Remember how Paul later describes the Roman Christians: "I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge, and competent to instruct one another" (Rom. 15:14). These believers were thinking Christians. May God help us also to think and reason, so that we may enjoy the comfort of the Scriptures.
This word is also used by the Hebrews author: "Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead" (Heb. 11:19). He reasoned in light of what God had spoken to him, and his reasoning helped him conclude that God must raise Isaac from the dead. This is sound thinking. The complaining Israelites in the desert were a burden to Moses. They moaned that they had no grain, no grapes, no figs, no pomegranates, and no water (Num. 20:5). But thinking Christians realize that they have God with them, who is able to provide the water.
Are you a thinking Christian? The hope of glory belongs to thinking Christians; therefore, study the word of God. This verse speaks of the sufferings of the present age. There are two ages: this present evil age, and the glorious coming age. Jesus taught that the latter belongs to the children of the resurrection: "The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God's children, since they are children of the resurrection" (Luke 20:34-36, italics added).
In this present evil age, all people experience sufferings. This will continue until the end of time. For believers, this suffering will only last until our deaths. Our sufferings include suffering for Christ, but we also experience all sorts of other sufferings in this fallen world. For example, the pain of childbirth is a direct result of sin entering into the world. Additionally, we can eat only by the sweat of our brow. Because of the intrusion of sin into the world, we now are subject to sickness, weakness, poverty, disappointments, betrayal, war, plagues, famine, and death.
Sin is so horrible. The one sin of one man Adam caused sin and death to come on all his descendants. Even now you may be reflecting on your sins and saying, "I should have listened. I should not have done it." But you did.
We must pay for our sins. Sin never pays. Our sin will find us out. Why are you poor? Because you sinned by not studying and working hard. Sin brought suffering into this world and Christians are not exempt from it. Some argue that Christians are exempt from sufferings. If you have not already, you will soon find out that this is not true.
Our Incomparable Glory
Paul concludes that the sufferings of this present age cannot be compared to the glory that is about to be displayed in us. There is no comparison. Soon God is going to put his suffering saints on display. Soon they will share in the glory of God's Son. We were in Adam, and we shared in his sin and death. Now we are in Christ, and we share in his life and in his glory.
Not all professing Christians will be glorified. Only God's elect true believers shall share in the coming glory. "The Lord knows those who are his" (2 Tim. 2:19). There will be a final separation of sheep from the goats, and false professors will be told by Jesus, "Depart from me; I never knew you." We are destined to glory in the coming age, while the unbelievers are destined to everlasting shame.
In Adam, all sinned and came short of the glory of God. In Christ, we share in his glory. Soon we shall be glorified together with him. In the meantime, we suffer. But these sufferings are nothing when weighed in a balance. Our sufferings are revealed to be very light and our future glory very heavy. The scale pan of suffering will go straight up and that of glory will come straight down.
Paul was realistic about suffering. Read what he says about it:
Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. 27I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? (2 Cor. 11:23-29).
To the Romans he wrote:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." 37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:35-39).
Yes, we suffer, but it is nothing compared with the great glory that is coming to us.
Paul also wrote: "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (2 Cor. 4:16-18).
Think about these things. When we use our reasoning, we see our sufferings as light, temporary, and productive of glory. Glory is most heavy, solid, eternal, and unimaginable. So Paul says, "Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us" (Rom. 5:3-5). This glory is guaranteed by the presence of the Holy Spirit in us: "And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to our mortal bodies through his Spirit who lives in you" (Rom. 8:11).
This is not mere positive thinking. The Spirit of God dwells in us and points us toward our home in heaven and glory. "And hope does not disappoint us." In this world, hope disappoints us. We elect a president or governor who says he will take care of you, but he disappoints you. Our spouses or children make promises, but we cannot count on them fulfilling them. All the promises of this world can disappoint us. But this hope will not disappoint because it is guaranteed by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Where there is Holy Spirit, there is hope, love, peace, power, confidence, faith, and joy. So Paul writes, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 15:13). The Holy Spirit releases into us this great hope of the glory of God.
Soon Christians, who are despised by the world, will be honored by God as he puts us on display in glory in our glorious resurrection bodies. (PGM) We are waiting for our manifestation and revelation as the glorious ones. So Paul writes, "When Christ who is your life appears, then you will also appear with him in glory" (Col. 3:4). Jesus said, "Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father" (Matt. 13:43). We can look at ourselves and say, "I have glory waiting for me."
Our sufferings are meaningful, therefore, because they produce glory. Paul says, "All things work together for good" (Rom. 8:28). "All things," especially sufferings, not prosperity.
Paul saw this glory in Christ: "About noon, O king, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions" (Acts 26:13). The glory of Christ is waiting for us. In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul speaks of being caught up to paradise and hearing inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell.
We will be manifested in glory when Christ comes again. Paul writes, "Our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body" (Phil. 3:20-21). Elsewhere he declares, "God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels" (2 Thess. 1:6-7; see also 1 Cor. 15:23). The ultimate end of our salvation in Christ is not suffering but glory. We shall be made perfect and glorious in body, soul, and spirit. In fact, in Christ we shall be made more glorious than Adam ever was before the fall.
Friends, if you are not suffering now, you will. Your Bible understanding and reasoning in the Scriptures should alert you that is coming. Therefore, do not be surprised when it comes. Expect suffering, because it is productive of glory. Yet when it comes, do not doubt God's love for you, but know that he loves his people through sufferings. Do not be shaken and doubt God's power. Do not become bitter and hold a grudge against God. Understand that God is preparing you for glory by removing all impurities from you by these fiery tribulations. As Peter writes, "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7These have come so that your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed" (1 Pet. 1:6-7).
Unbelievers will also be displayed, but in great shame. Those who believed in a godless, closed-system philosophy will suddenly see the Lord of the universe, whom they shut out from their thinking: "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.' . . . Then they will go away into eternal punishment" (Matt. 25:41, 46a). Eternal shame and eternal fire.
Unbelievers, therefore, have a hellish prospect, but believers have a heavenly one. We enjoy the hope of glory. Abraham looked forward "to the city with foundations, whose builder and maker is God" (Heb. 11:10, author's paraphrase). Moses also shared this hope, as do all God's people living in this present age. Jesus himself had this hope, as the Hebrews writer declares: "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb. 12:2).
This hope of glory enables us to endure our present sufferings, as Jesus did. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says:
Hope is the measure of true Christianity, which is through and through other-worldly. Pseudo-Christianity always looks chiefly at this world. Popular Christianity is entirely this-worldly and is not interested in the other world. But true Christianity has its eye mainly on the world which is to come. It is not primarily concerned even with deliverance from hell, and punishment, and all the things that trouble and worry us. That really belongs to the past. True Christianity 'sets its affection on things which are above, not on things which are on the earth'. It is that which says, 'We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Cor. 4:17 and 18).1
We are people of hope, not of depression, fear, anxiety, misery, and complaining. We must reason from the Scriptures: sufferings are real, but glory is also real, and our sufferings will soon end. They are temporary, but glory is eternal. It means eternal fellowship with God and God's people in a new heaven and a new earth.
The sufferings we experience in this world-the pain and persecution, the slander and deprivation, the sickness and loneliness-all have purpose. They help us to pray. They cause us to not be worldly and trust in this fallen world. They prepare us to yearn for our true home where Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us. He is coming again to take us to be with him and clothe us with his glory, in which we share because we are his bride. He is coming again so that we may be with him to see his glory. So he prayed, "Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am and to see my glory, the glory you have given me, because you loved me before the creation of the world" (John 17:24).
Jesus is coming again to give us a crown of righteousness: Paul writes, "Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day-and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing" (2 Tim. 4:8). He is coming again to give us a crown of glory: "And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away" (1 Pet. 5:4). He is coming again to give us a crown of life: "Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life" (Rev. 2:10). Friends, Jesus wore a crown of thorns. He became a curse that we may wear a crown of glory.
Jesus is coming again to give us a kingdom and authority and rule and power and dignity: "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world'" (Matt. 25:34; see also Luke 12:32) So do not worry about sufferings. Look by faith to the coming glory.
This glory comes to us from without. In Adam we sinned and lost all glory. But Jesus Christ, the obedient servant, dealt with all our sins on the cross to give us his glory. To this end God foreknew and predestinated us in eternity. To this end he called us effectually and justified us in time that we all may be glorified when Jesus comes again. He is coming again for the revelation of the sons of God. This glory is coming toward us and it will never miss us. This glory shall be in us. The Holy Spirit is already in us, pointing us daily toward this heavenly prospect through the Scriptures, sacraments, worship, and fellowship.
So Paul says, "[The Father's] intent was that now, through the church [in all her glory], the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms" (Eph. 3:10). The wisdom of God will be revealed in us. "Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!" (Rom. 11:33). God's eternal intention is to bring us to glory.
Therefore, while we suffer and groan, may our minds dwell on our heavenly prospect of glory. Then we can say with Paul: "I reason that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." There is no comparison.
We are God's new creation. "If anyone is in Christ Jesus, he is a new creation" (2 Cor. 5:17). As new people of God clothed in glory, we shall live in a new heaven and a new earth with God, as John writes:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away". . . . No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. (Rev. 21:1-4; 22:3-5)
For believers burdened with sufferings, this word will cheer you up. Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). If you are not a believer, I command you by the authority of Christ to repent and join us in walking in the way of the cross, that we all may arrive in glory.
1 D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Final Perseverance of the Saints, Romans 8:17-39 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976), 104.
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Copyright © 2010, P. G. Mathew
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