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The Future Glory
Romans 8:18 Suffering is inevitable, but the reward of faith is infinite
“Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.”
Romans 8:18 NLT
One of the basic human questions that has been asked in prayer, song, poem, and in dying declarations is “Why do humans suffer?” For those of you readers who, like me, have been at the bedside as a loved one slowly dies in agony, the question can almost be enough to make one question one’s faith.
Paul, in his epistle to the Romans, examines this question in his usual concise manner. In the verse just prior to this, he explains that as God’s children, “…if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.”
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Wait - what? I’m supposed to suffer? I didn’t sign up for this!
That’s probably the thought that has gone through the mind of many a believer when they really started pondering Romans 8:17! For those who suffer from long-term conditions like ALS, Parkinson’s, or some forms of cancer, the idea that their suffering is almost a prerequisite for sharing God’s glory seems cruel. Yet over the course of a human lifetime, even suffering for a hundred years is nothing compared to an infinity of basking in God’s glory!
If we look at 100 years compared to the 13.8 billion years since the scientifically-measured beginning of our universe, that’s about 7 trillionth of that time. Compared to infinity? That’s literally no time at all.
Sure, that’s shallow comfort to those who are in the midst of severe suffering and pain, but we do have the promise of the glory…
Paul wasn’t indifferent to human suffering, as he suffered more than most of us will in our lifetimes. But he knew that the future glory far outweighs our sufferings in this life. Paul had noted in 1 Corinthians 15:19 that without the hope of Heaven, the life of a Christian is somewhat foolish. Compared to the glory we’ll receive for eternity, it’s the wisest choice one can make.
Other translations of the Bible use the term “revealed in us” rather than “to us”, indicating that the coming glory is both revealed to and currently in us. Bible commentator Leon Morris noted that “The glory will be revealed, not created. The implication is that it is already existent, but not apparent.”1
Image © 2022, Steven Sande.
What’s this glory of God that we’re all waiting for?
I feel that I’m getting a hint of His glory revealed to me when I revel in the beauty and diversity of His creation, but I know that’s just an infinitesimal part of what is waiting for me.
Pastor John Piper offered his explanation in this sermon from 2006:
“the glory of God is the manifest beauty of his holiness. It is the going-public of his holiness. It is the way he puts his holiness on display for people to apprehend. So, the glory of God is the holiness of God made manifest.”2
Or this beautiful answer from Theology of Work:
God’s glory is God’s weightiness in wonderful qualities such as might, beauty, goodness, justice, and honor. When it comes to these characteristics and so many others, God has them in superabundance.
Thus, when we think of God’s glory, we remember that God has all good things in greater quantity and quality than we can ever imagine. Notice, too, that God’s glory is solid and substantial. It isn’t mere reputation. It isn’t dependent on anyone or anything else. God’s glory reflects his essential nature.
Moreover, God is the source of all good things. He actually shares his glory with us. When we receive his plentiful gifts with gratitude, when we use them to enhance his honor, when we acknowledge him as the source of all goodness, then we are glorifying him.3
My non-theological, dumbed-down layman’s definition? God’s glory is the answer to all of the questions we have had during our human lifetimes, explained to us in terms that not only make His qualities understandable, but worthy of our praise now and forever.
Heaven On Wheels Daily Prayer:
Thank you, Heavenly Father, for giving us a glimpse of your glory and wisdom in Scripture. I pray that You reward my studies of Your Word with the understanding of the truth embodied in it and the glory that it reveals. With this knowledge and my hope in You, I can understand this lifetime’s suffering from Your eternal perspective. I pray this in the name of Your Son and my Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN.
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Morris, Leon "The Epistle to the Romans" (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1988)