Glory is a multi-faceted word for Christians. It describes God’s obvious presence, it indicates worth and value, which results in praise, and it is also a synonym for heaven. Christians can reflect Christ’s glory, just as Jesus reflected the glory of his Father in heaven.
In the Old Testament, many different Hebrew words are translated into English as glory. The most common Hebrew word is khabod, which means weightiness or worth and is used in the phrase “the glory of the Lord.”
In the New Testament, the Greek word doxa means opinion (always good in New Testament context), praise, honor, glory. Typical usage includes honor, renown, glory, and the especially divine quality, the unspoken manifestation of God's splendor.
God’s Glory Indicates His Presence
Glory is a characteristic of God seen in both the Old and New Testament descriptions of God and his presence.
In Exodus 33:22, the glory of the Lord indicated his presence as to Moses, “and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by.”
The visible presence of God’s glory was seen in a cloud during the Exodus, and in Solomon’s Temple after the Ark of the Covenant was put in it.
The glory of the LORD dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day, he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud (Exodus 16:10).
The glory of the Lord appeared to all the people during the time of the Tabernacle.
Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle (Exodus 40:34).
The Book of John connects God’s presence in giving the Law and the indwelling of the presence of God in the Tabernacle to Jesus dwelling with humanity by calling Jesus “the Word.”
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).
After the temple was built, the presence and glory of the Lord were seen in a cloud.
And when the priests came out of the Holy Place, a cloud filled the house of the LORD, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD (1 Kings 8:11-12).
God’s glory is seen on Mt. Sinai when Moses received the Ten Commandments. Fire and a cloud indicated the glory of God. God’s glory had a brightness that was overwhelming to those who saw it. Today’s English Version (TEV) uses the phrase “dazzling light” to communicate this aspect of God’s glory
The dazzling light of the Lord’s presence came down on the mountain. To the Israelites the light looked like a fire burning on top of the mountain. The cloud covered the mountain for six days, and on the seventh day the Lord called to Moses from the cloud (Exodus 24:16-17, TEV).
The story of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem highlights the glory of the Messiah’s birth.
And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear (Luke 2:9).
The shining glory of the Lord connects the birth of Christ to the giving of the Law to Moses. Both momentous occasions were accompanied by such a bright light that it struck fear in the hearts of the people who saw it.
They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them (Acts 2:3).
God’s Glory Leads to Praise and Worship
Luke included another reference to glory in his record of Christ’s birth when the angels broke out in praise at the Savior’s birth. They proclaimed, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14).
The angels’ proclamation of glory in this passage relates to having a favorable opinion. It indicates God’s worth and value, which results in praise. God’s worth and value is understood in the Hebrew meaning of khabhod, which means weightiness and value.
Just as gold’s value is measured by weight, God’s glory is an indicator of his value. Throughout the Old and New Testament, evidence of God’s glory is seen in miracles. A natural response to seeing miracles was to praise God and give him glory.
In the Old Testament, the miracle of manna was a sign of the glory of the Lord (Exodus 16). After leaving Egypt, the Israelites grumbled against God and Moses. God told Moses to tell the people that in the morning, he would “rain down bread from heaven.”
Moses explained, “and in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your grumbling against the LORD. For what are we, that you grumble against us?” (Exodus 16:7).
The first miracle John records is Jesus turning water into wine. This miracle is a manifestation of his glory. “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him” (John 2:11).
As Christians, we are miraculously transformed by our relationship with Christ just as the water was turned into wine. In John 17, Jesus asked God to give the glory that was given to him to all believers.
When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him” (John 17:1-2).
“The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one” (John 17:22).
“Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” Jesus then commanded the dead man to come out of the grave and he did, still wrapped in his grave cloths (John 11:43-44).
In Romans 6:4, Paul explains that “Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father.”
Our hope in the power of the resurrection leads to our praise and worship of our Lord and Savior.
Praise and glory are the natural response to Christ’s sacrifice that freed us from our sins.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen (Revelation 1:6).
God’s glory, majesty, and his power should lead us to praise him as the angels in heaven continually praise God, “saying, ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen’” (Revelation 1:7).
Christians Use Glory as a Synonym for Heaven
Many of Jesus' followers hoped that Jesus would reign as an earthly king. James and John asked Jesus if they could sit with him as rulers “in glory” because they believed he would overthrow the Roman government.
And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory” (Mark 10:37).
Later, Jesus clarified that his reign would be in heaven surrounded by angels.
“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His glorious throne” (Matthew 25:31).
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Penny Noyes, M.Ed. is the author of Embracing Change - Learning to Trust God from the Women of the Bible and two books about Hezekiah. You can follow Penny on her blog and on Instagram @pennynoyes.