Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Romans 5:2b “. . .and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
Introduction: For the new convert, peace with God, and access to the beautiful world of grace, are just the beginning. There is much more. Our text reveals a third immediate result of Justification by faith, “we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” We can understand this concept better by looking at. . . .
I. THE FUTURE
The word “hope” of course implies something anticipated or desired in the future. Salvation always gives us a look forward. Not only are our past and present covered by the Lord, but also our future. For the believer, the best is always yet to come.
Though we are in the midst of a laborious pilgrimage here on earth, we can yet by hope reach forward into Heaven and enjoy it by anticipation. We have the right to enjoy our future inheritance now.
The ancient proverb is true: “If it were not for hope, the heart would break.” But fortunately, believers have the greatest hope known to man: the glory of God. In this context, glory of God refers to the aura that indicates God’s immediate presence. Glory bespeaks something splendid, dazzling, overwhelming.
Hence, Paul’s meaning in our text is that we can rejoice in the hope of someday approaching the glory of God. We shall see His glory, and partake of it. We shall not only behold it, but also share in it. “We know that when he shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is” (1 JN 3:2).
Paul was looking forward to seeing, and becoming like, God. To see and enjoy God–this is the essence of life, the climax of all existence. This is the ultimate objective of our faith, the final goal of our lives.
The goal of Paul’s life was to be perfectly at one with God. His life had meaning only as long as it journeyed toward that goal. He knew it was a venture that could not be fully completed in this lifetime, but he also knew it would end in a glorious climax.
II. THE PRESENT
Do you share Paul’s hope? How well-developed is it in your heart? Let me challenge you to make a threefold examination of yourself:
A. THE TEST OF CONFIDENCE
How confident about the future are you? Are you absolutely sure all is well? You should be. “Hope” in the New Testament does not refer to wishful thinking. It is rather ongoing faith, faith extended. Christian hope is a sure hope. There is no doubt regarding its certain fulfillment. We have guarantees in God’s promises, Jesus’ resurrection, and the Holy Spirit’s presence in us. We shall see Him then, because we possess Him now. We should be able to sing with confidence the words of Fanny Crosby:
I shall see Him, face to face,
And tell the story: Saved by grace.
B. THE TEST OF CLEANLINESS
Are you becoming more and more like Christ in this life? The Christian warrior whose heart is filled with hope finds it to be no weak weapon. Hope adds power to our daily struggle against evil. “Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he (Jesus) is pure”
(I John 3:3). If you have true hope, it will be purifying you. It is a hope that desires God so badly tomorrow that it transforms us more and more into His image today.
You cannot honestly claim you want to be like Him someday if you are not wanting to be like Him today. Hope is an ever active influence for holiness. You cannot have hope, and harbor known sin at the same time.
If you know for sure you will someday meet God, and it is your desire to be like Him, you will do your best to keep your heart clean in the present.
C. THE TEST OF CONTEMPLATION
When you think of Heaven, what does your mind think of first? What you find yourself longing for when thinking of Heaven tells you much about the priorities of your life now. Genuine hope contemplates the glory of God more than anything else.
Which do you look forward to the most: seeing the Heaven of God, or the God of Heaven? The Christian’s supreme joy regarding Heaven should not be the material pleasures, personal delights, or family reunions it provides. Rather, its greatest blessedness is God Himself.
No night, no tears, no sorrows, no toil–but best of all, no separation from God. Full of peace, full of rest, full of joy, full of love–but best of all, full of God. Heaven means living with God. Do not let the things of Heaven make you lose sight of the Person of Heaven.
III. THE PAST
We cannot describe the glory of God. It is beyond our comprehension. However, in the past, God has given men dimmed and obscured glimpses of it. We have experienced just enough to whet our appetites.
Baron Von Canitz, a German nobleman of the 17th century, was distinguished for his intense devotion to Christ. On the last morning of his life he asked to be taken to the window of his sick chanber. As day dawned, he for the last time beheld the rising sun. After a while he broke forth in praise, “Oh, if the appearance of this earthly and created thing is so beautiful and so quickening, how much more shall I be enraptured at the sight of the unspeakable glory of the Creator Himself!”
“Unspeakable” is definitely the right word. We cannot imagine it, much less describe it. Our best effort at it can only be to relate what has happened to those who have glimpsed it. By telling their experiences, we might get a small hint of what it is like to see the glory of God:
Enoch walked with God. The man became so enthralled with his Divine Companion that he forgot to come home one day. Enoch just walked on into glory (GN 5:24).
Jacob wrestled with God one night, and had to limp the rest of his life. Jacob did not complain, however. As he contemplated the experience, he was just surprised he lived to tell about it (GN 32:30).
While in the cleft of the rock, Moses was allowed to see the afterglow of God (EX 33:23). As a result, the prophet’s face shone. He was forced to wear a veil (EX 34:30-35).
Isaiah saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, with the skirt of His robe filling the temple. Isaiah could only respond by saying, “Woe is me! for I am undone.” He thought he was a dead man (IS 6:1-5).
Nebuchadnezzar threw three men into the fiery furnace. But when he looked into the inferno, the flames were not the only thing aglow in there. He saw a fourth man that looked like the Son of God (DN 3:25).
On the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter saw the face of Jesus shine as the sun and watched His clothes become white as the light. The Apostle saw glory streaming from Jesus. Peter was so enamored by it all that he wanted to make the site a shrine and stay there. He wanted never to leave there (MT 17:1-4).
Stephen was about to be stoned to death. His enemies were foaming at the mouth and raging against him. They were literally letting loose Hell upon him, but he died with calm assurance and victory. How could he do that? Where was the source of his victory? He was given a preview of Heaven. Stephen, “full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into Heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God” (AC 7:55).
On Patmos, Jesus appeared to John with a voice as a trumpet, eyes as a flame of fire, and a countenance shining as the sun. The old apostle fell at Jesus’ feet as dead (RV 1:10-17).
Paul, our author, also knew the full extent of what he was writing about. On the road to Damascus he also caught a glimpse of God. He was surrounded by a great light from Heaven, brighter than the sun (AC 22:7; 26:13). It was so staggering he could not see for three days (AC 9:9).
But in that last second of sight, Paul caught the glimpse of a face (AC 9:17, 27). He saw the Lord, and witnessed a glory he could never forget. All he could do was utter, “Who art thou, Lord?” And back came the reply, “I am Jesus.”
Paul only caught a second’s glimpse of it, but he was blinded 3 days by it. It was a moment that stalked his memory. He ever looked forward to the time when Jesus would be “full displayed.” He longed for new eyes that could look on Jesus forever and not be hurt.
Paul later had another encounter with glory. This second experience was so amazing that he did not write about it until fourteen years after it happened (2 C 12:1-4). He was transported into third heaven, the place where God dwells. While there he heard things which could not be repeated because of their glory and wonder.
On Damascus road, Paul saw. In third heaven, he heard. Paul had tasted it, and longed for–yea, even craved–the day when all hindrance would be removed, and he could enjoy it for ever and ever.
This blessed hope can be yours right now. For those who desire it, a portion of God’s glory can be enjoyed right now. You can experience Him in this life. It is not all of Heaven, but it can be like Heaven. Jesus wants to come live in your heart.
If you cannot “see” Him in your heart, then you are looking too much at other things. We all need to set our affections on things above, and rest our thoughts more and more upon Him.
Put the newspaper away sooner; turn off the television more often; turn from the world and all its gaudiness. Enjoy Heaven before you get there. Learn to meditate upon Jesus.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.” (Helen Lemmel)