I was recently asked this great question:
The word “glory” keeps coming up in my reading of Scripture. I read about the “weight of glory” in 2 Corinthians 4:17: “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” And, “For I consider [from the standpoint of faith] that the sufferings of the present life are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is about to be revealed to us and in us!” (Romans 8:18 AMP). It’s not a stretch to understand the “Glory of God.” The point I’m trying to grasp is about believers participating in glory. It seems that several verses point that out, but I haven’t heard glory used outside of talking about God/Jesus. Even my verse of the day today speaks of us having a form of glory: “Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory” (Romans 5:2, NLT).
The idea of us having the “glory” someday is hard to wrap my mind around. Can you help clarify?
The three tenses/stages of salvation are redemption in our past, sanctification in our present, and glorification in our future. Some Christians struggle with the idea of believers participating in glory because they think glory belongs to God alone. But future glory also belongs to those on whom God chooses to endow it—His children and especially His most faithful children in this life. He is the one who glorifies His people. Daniel 12:3 says, “Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever."
It brings to mind what C.S. Lewis wrote in his essay “The Weight of Glory”:
And this brings me to the other sense of glory—glory as brightness, splendour, luminosity.
We are to shine as the sun, we are to be given the Morning Star.
…There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.
Here is what Got Questions says:
…Paul makes a marvelous statement in 2 Corinthians 4:17: “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (ESV). This “weight of glory” speaks of the relative insignificance of our present, earthly suffering in contrast with the magnitude of resurrection life and eternal salvation. Our corruptible bodies will experience the same resurrection power that raised Jesus Christ to life: “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 your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you” (Romans 8:11).
The Contemporary English Version expresses 2 Corinthians 4:17 as follows: “These little troubles are getting us ready for an eternal glory that will make all our troubles seem like nothing.” Our present sufferings are so light and fleeting, they weigh less than a feather and pass in the blink of an eye when compared to the hefty wonders that await us in our future glorified state.
Paul was confident, and we can be, too, that all believers will receive their eternal reward—the weight of glory—in the new heavens and new earth. We can take courage, knowing the difficulties we experience now are minor when compared to all that God has in store for us in heaven.
In 2 Corinthians 4:18, Paul urges believers to keep their eyes focused on the eternal prize of heaven: “So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever” (NLT).
At present, we only have a veiled glimpse of the weight of glory. We don’t fully know everything we will experience in heaven. (1 Corinthians 2:9; 13:12). But we do know it will be glorious and filled with the unparalleled riches of God’s grace: “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6–7).
One day, we won’t just enter into God’s presence and enter into His happiness; we will enter into His glory. In order to share Christ’s glory forever on the New Earth, we must share His sufferings temporarily on the fallen Earth.
When the New Testament discusses suffering, it repeatedly puts Heaven before the eyes of believers. Sadly, many churches fail to follow this example. When we say nothing about God’s eternal purposes in trials, or put our hope in a health and wealth gospel, or hope only in medical advances, we rob God’s people of an eternal perspective.
“Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Romans 8:17). Paul says we will become Christ’s heirs and share in His glory if we share in His sufferings. No suffering, no glory.
F. F. Bruce writes, “It is not merely that the glory is a compensation for the suffering; it actually grows out of the suffering. There is an organic relation between the two for the believer as surely as there was for his Lord.”
As Romans 8:18 emphasizes, our present sufferings are not worth comparing to the future glory that God and we and others will see in us. Paul offers a one-word answer to the question, “Why suffering?” He replies, “Glory.” Glory is a state of high honor, involving a brilliant, radiant beauty. Our glory is secondary, not primary. We are not its source, God is. He is the sun who shines upon us, bestowing an eternal glory rooted in Himself, purchased for us by His suffering on the cross. God will be glorified by imparting His honor to us and sharing it with us.
Here was my answer when I was asked more about Romans 8:18.
God’s promise of glory doesn’t minimize our suffering, of course; Paul affirms we will experience great sufferings (see Romans 8). Only an immeasurably greater glory can eclipse our present suffering—and that is exactly what will happen. Romans 8:18 says God will not create that glory, but will reveal it. It’s already there—just not yet manifested.
The treasures we’ll enjoy won’t lie only outside us, but, Paul says, “in us.” God uses suffering to achieve the glorious transformation of our characters to prepare us for service and joy in the next life.
God will not simply wait for our deaths, then snap his fingers to make us what he wants us to be. He begins that process here and now, using our suffering to help us grow in Christlikeness. Phillips renders Romans 8:19, “The whole creation is on tiptoe to see the wonderful sight of the sons of God coming into their own.” As a master artist’s magnum opus awaits unveiling at an exhibit, so our Christlikeness, forged in suffering, awaits revealing at the Master’s perfect time.For more related to the subject of suffering, see Randy’s book If God Is Good, as well as the devotional 90 Days of God’s Goodness and book The Goodness of God. For more on eternity, see Randy's book Heaven.
Photo by Ilja Tulit on Unsplash
Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries.