The Old Testament reality of God’s glory is carried forward into the New Testament. God communicates this attribute with us, in manifesting his presence, even visibly sometimes.
This attribute is considered a “summary” perfection or attribute because it complements and is even comprehensive of all the other attributes. It is the capstone.
It is communicable or “shareable” or “transferrable” to us because we are made in God’s image and he has graced us with the capacity to shine with it and reflect it.
Let’s go deeper now with this biblical topic.
What do theologians say?
The Old Testament was written in Hebrew, and in that language the main word, used about 200 times, is chabod (pronounced kha-bode), which means “honor” or “glory” that is connected with “dignity, wealth, or high position.” But more commonly it is more theological: his “manifest presence.” Its root is connected to “weight.”
Another Hebrew word is used about 50 times—tip’eret, which means “splendor” and “honor.” Hāḏār (or heḏārāh), used only five times, means the same thing.
The New Testament is written in Greek, and in that language the word is doxa (166 times), which has the same meaning as the Hebrew words.
Further, in the New Covenant Scriptures (New Testament) it can mean “human honor” (John 7:18, 12:43). It can mean “worldly splendor,” when Satan showed Jesus the kingdoms of the world (Matt. 4:8). Rom. 1:23 reminds us that humans can exchange the glory of God for idols (see Ps. 106:20). And it can mean “brilliance,” when the light shone on and blinded Saul / Paul (Acts 22:11). And when Stephen looked up, heaven opened, and he saw the glory of the Lord (Acts 7:55).
One mention should be made of the Hebrew verb šakan (pronounced shakan). It means to live or to dwell, and in one-third of the times it is used of God as the subject: God lives or dwells (1 Kings 6:13; Ex. 29:45-46; Num. 5:3; 35:34; Eze. 43:7; Zech. 2:10-11; 8:3, 8). In Zech. 2:11, many people will join themselves to the LORD in ‘that day’ and will become his people. Then the LORD will dwell among them. From this verb a post-biblical word has emerged: shekinah, which describes God’s presence on his people. So it is associated with the visible presence of the Lord among humans (Mounce, p. 200).
Now let’s boil things down.
Renewal theologian J. Rodman Williams defines glory as follows: “radiant splendor and awesome majesty of God Himself” (vol. 1, p. 79).
This attribute or perfection of God means that he is radiant and awesome in splendor and light, honor and dignity, and fame and renown, which prompts him to shine it on his creation and people.
Let’s look at what the Bible teaches about glory.
What do the Scriptures say?
I use the NIV here. If you would like to see the following verses in many translations and in their contexts, please go to biblegateway.com.
Let’s begin in the Old Testament.
God has crowned humans with dignity and honor:
You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. (Ps. 8:5)
That verse indicates we as humans share in God’s glory, which he grants us in dignity and honor.
But sometimes humankind exchanges his God-given glory for false gods.
They exchanged their glorious God for an image of a bull, which eats grass. (Ps. 106:20; cf. Rom. 1:23, 25)
God bestows glory on us humans, but we fail to recognize it but trample on it instead.
Next, wealth is exhibited honor on a human level.
Jacob heard that Laban’s sons were saying, “Jacob has taken everything our father owned and has gained all this wealth [chabod] from what belonged to our father.” (Gen. 31:1; see also Hab. 2:9).
Those two above verses indicate God is willing to share his attribute of glory and honor on a social level.
In another verse, glory and splendor and holiness are linked.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor [heḏārāh] of his holiness. (Ps. 29:2)
We can praise God or tell of his greatness by ascribing glory to him.
Let’s continue. The most common theological meaning is God’s manifest or visible presence:
In Ex. 16:7, the manifest glory of God goes with Israel in the desert, referring to the glory cloud:
[A]nd in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord. (Ex. 16:7)
On Mt. Sinai, when the covenant was revealed, fire and glory are equated. The glory of the Lord is a consuming fire:
To the Israelites the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. (Ex. 24:17)
Moses witnessed God’s manifest glory in part:
When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. (Ex. 33:22).
Let’s comment on the above verse. This glory is clearly God’s manifest presence (33:14, paneh [singular] / panim [plural], in Hebrew or “face”). Man cannot witness his glory in full manifestation, represented by Moses seeing only the “back” of God.
Next, the glory cloud of the Lord filled the temple at its dedication, so that the priests could not perform their service:
And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled his temple (1 Kings 8:11).
In the parallel passage, the priests could not even enter the temple (2 Chron. 7:1-3).
The glory of the Lord was manifested during the sacrificial system:
God’s glory is revealed when he is above all of his creation as sovereign Lord, which in this verse means his fame and renown:
Even the heavens themselves reveals God’s glory:
The heavens declare the glory of God (Ps. 19:1).
Next, glory reveals God to be the sovereign ruler over his people, manifested in his power, splendor and holiness:
Jerusalem staggers, Judah is falling; their words and deeds are against the Lord, defying his glorious presence (Is. 3:8).
The glory of the Lord fills the temple and the whole earth, and Isaiah could not bear it in his humanity:
And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Is. 6:3).
In the last days, the glory will be manifest to bring salvation to Israel; the glory of the Lord is seen as the light of God:
Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. 2 See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. 3 Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. (Is. 60:1-3)
And in the last days the glory brings about the conversion of the nations (Zech. 2:5-9). In that linked passage God is called the Glorious One.
To conclude, God shares his glory with this people, and sometimes it overwhelms them when heaven breaks through and spills out on a sacred place that God designates—the temple or Jerusalem, or humankind.
Let’s shift over to the New Testament.
Here glory shines as a light, as angels announce Jesus’s birth to the shepherds:
An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. (Luke 2:9)
The next verse is more abstract—no literal light, unless it was hidden behind his humanity. It surely means honor and dignity, as well. Jesus bore the “glory of the One and Only” Son:
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)
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being … (Heb. 1:3)
Jesus is the ultimate manifestation of God’s glory.
Next, God is the Father of glory:
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father [Father of glory], may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. (Eph. 1:17)
That above verse means his splendor and honor and dignity. He is the source of glory.
Jesus is the Lord of glory:
None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (1 Cor 2:8)
My brothers and sister, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ [Lord Jesus Christ of glory] … (James 2:1).
The Spirit is glorious:
… [F]or the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. (1 Pet. 4:14)
That verse and the preceding two show that the three persons of Trinity share glory in common.
God’s splendor is revealed in heaven and in our new, glorified bodies:
There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. (1 Cor. 15:40)
In the above verse, once again heavenly glory “leaks out” and changes us humans.
Next, Jesus’s transfiguration revealed God’s glory. The word doxa is not mentioned here, but the presence of Moses signifies a greater glory or light in Jesus:
After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. (Matt. 17:1-3)
In that passage, the light of his glory indicates that heaven broke through to the earth.
In another passage, God is so glorious that doxologies are written for him:
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?”
36 For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen. (Rom. 11:33-36)
In Paul’s greeting s to the Galatians, glory means honor and dignity, fame and renown:
3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Gal. 1:5)
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. (2 Pet. 3:18)
A doxology in heaven:
12 In a loud voice they were saying:
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!”
13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!”
14 The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped. (Rev. 5:12-13)
God’s glory is manifested in his light, particularly in the New Jerusalem:
It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. (Rev. 21:11)
From the same chapter in the book of the Revelation, connecting light and glory together:
I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. (Rev. 21:23)
The New Testament carries over the theme of glory from the Old. But now it is clearly applied to the Lord Jesus and the Spirit—reinforcing the reality of the Triunity of God. We humans reflect God’s glory.
Verses about God’s light: Ps. 4:6; 27:1; 36:9; 76:4; 78:14 Is. 42:16; 60:1, 3; Eze. 1:27; John 9:5; Jas. 1:17; Rev. 21:23
Does God share his glory with his people?
Here are Scriptures to explain how we share in God’s glory, by his graciously bestowing it on us.
Jesus in his humanity and humans are crowned with glory and honor:
What is mankind that you are mindful of them, a son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the angels, you crowned them with glory and honor and put everything under his feet. In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them. But we do see Jesus who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone (Heb. 2:6-9)
To comment on that passage, above, Heb. 2:6-8 quotes Ps. 8:4-6 (see above). The most interesting reality of those verses is that Jesus became a man, so he too was crowned with the same glory and honor, even to the point of the death we suffer (v. 9).
Next, the glory of God is revealed in the church.
To him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Eph. 3:21)
This verse lines up with John 17:22, next, which says Jesus gives his church his glory, so we can be unified:
“I have given them the glory that you gave me that they may be one as we are one” (John 17:22).
To comment, that verse does not say “some of his glory,” but simply the same glory Jesus has. This is a prayer that is based on his future glory that he receives at his ascension and enters heaven. But in our time, the Church Age, Jesus receives our glory back because of God’s and Jesus’s unity. “Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them, even as you have loved me” (v. 23). God’s love for Jesus = God’s love for us.
In another verse, God’s Spirit fills his temple, the church:
In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Eph. 2:21-22; cf. 1 Cor. 3:16-17)
To comment on those two above verses, they do not mention the word doxa as such, but they parallel God’s glory filling the Old Testament temple (see 1 Kings 8:10-11).
Next, we are changed from glory to glory (ever-increasing glory):
And we all, who with unveiled face contemplate the Lord of glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:18)
Contemplating Jesus in the glory of heaven can change us.
Let’s continue. the glory of God opens up financial blessings. In the context of money Paul writes:
“And my God shall meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).
My comment on that verse: Jesus is in heaven and has all the glory. Through him God wishes to meet our needs—all of them—through the riches that are in glory in Christ—not yet in you or me, but in Christ—right now. We have access to this limitless supply.
Our present suffering cannot equal God’s eternal glory:
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (1 Cor. 4:17).
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. (Rom. 8:17)
Next, when we suffer insults, the Spirit of glory rests on us:
If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. (1 Pet. 4:14)
To comment on the above verse, which is so rich, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share the attribute of glory.
Finally, at Christ’s second coming, we will be with him in glory.
When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Col. 3:4)
Christ second coming will be glorious.
[W]hile we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. (Titus 2:13)
How can I know God more deeply?
With all those Scriptures in our minds, transforming them, let’s answer the question directly. How do I come to know God more deeply?
God shares the attribute of glory with us in the sense of our reflecting it. He grants humankind dignity and honor.
Sometimes in both the Old and New Testaments it is associated with God’s monetary provision and wealth. The reason is that humankind comes alive fully when his needs are met and even enjoys a surplus of money by which he can help others. Earthly glory is when human live together in prosperity and joy. This is a deficient and pale reflection of God’s heaven glory. But humans must be careful because Satan showed Jesus all the splendor of the worldly kingdoms, and he refused it.
Most often, however, God’s glory means his manifest presence and light. God’s glory filled the temple and was present during the sacrificial system. Through Israel’s trek in desert the glory of God manifested in the cloud, and even was so intense that it was a consuming fire. Sometimes people reacted to an abundance of his manifested glory by not being able even to function.
In Rev. 21 God’s glory served as the light. This light was reflected when it broke through at the Mount of Transfiguration when Jesus, Moses, and Elijah met together and they appeared transfigured to Peter, James, and John.
Just before the second coming, God will save his people and bring in many nations, and his second coming itself will be glorious.
Bottom line: God’s glory is a communicable or “shareable” attribute that signifies dignity and honor and splendor and light and presence, all manifest in himself and in his people and in any place where God designates.
Written by James Malcolm
ARTICLES IN THE SERIES “DO I REALLY KNOW GOD?”
Do I Really Know God? He Is Glorious