God has many attributes. He is omnipotent, omnipresent, eternal, incorruptible, immortal—and glorious. What does the Bible reveal about God’s glory?
The prophet Ezekiel gives us an impressive description of God’s glory:
“And above the firmament over their heads was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like a sapphire stone; on the likeness of the throne was a likeness with the appearance of a man high above it. Also from the appearance of His waist and upward I saw, as it were, the color of amber with the appearance of fire all around within it; and from the appearance of His waist and downward I saw, as it were, the appearance of fire with brightness all around.
“Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all around it. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD” (Ezekiel 1:26-28).
But this awesome vision was only an appearance of God’s glory and not His actual glory, for no one can actually see God face-to-face in His full glory and live.
What does glory mean? What is the glory of God?
The word glory, in relation to God, has two aspects. First, the Hebrew word transliterated as kabowd or kaw-bode’ (primarily translated as “glory” in the Old Testament) can refer to praise and honor and at times even abundance and riches (Genesis 45:13; Ezekiel 20:6). Secondly, it can also refer to the brilliant splendor of God’s appearance.
The Greek word doxa, which is primarily translated as “glory” in the New Testament, also has these two aspects.
Doxa is translated as “honor” in John 5:41 and 44. The King James Version translates it as “praise” in John 9:24 and 12:43. It can refer to the glory or praise that is due to God (John 17:4; Revelation 4:9).
For more on this important aspect of God’s glory―the praise due God―please read our article “Praise God.” Doxa is also used to refer to the material abundance of the kings of the earth in Revelation 21:24.
But doxa can also refer to the brilliant splendor of God’s appearance. The writer of Hebrews records that Jesus is “the brightness of His glory” (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus, who is now at the right hand of God, possesses the glory that He had with the Most High when He was the Word (John 1:1-2, 14; 17:5).
In Revelation 15:8 we read of an effect of God’s glory: “The temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power, and no one was able to enter the temple till the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed.”
We also read in Revelation 21:23, “The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.”
Therefore, an important attribute of God’s very being is that He is glorious—shining with brilliant splendor.
The heavens declare the glory of God
Everything God created reveals His wisdom, brilliance and power. As David wrote:
“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalm 19:1).
The apostle Paul explained what the creation clearly reveals, yet how humanity perversely refuses to glorify God. He wrote to the congregation in Rome:
“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
“Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things” (Romans 1:20-23).
Instead of marveling at the ingenuity and limitless glory of the Creator, man has “worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (verse 25).
Atheists, materialists and idolaters are all without excuse. Someday many of them will reflect, as David did:
“When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?” (Psalm 8:3-4).
More descriptions of God’s glory
“Now the glory of the LORD rested 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. The sight of the glory of the LORD was like a consuming fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel.”
The people of Israel saw God’s glory as a devouring fire on the top of the mountain. But this was not God’s full glory.
Moses and the glory of God
Later in the account Moses asked to see God’s glory (Exodus 33:18). God replied in verses 20-22: “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live. … Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock. So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen.”
The transfiguration of Jesus
The apostles Peter, James and John were given the opportunity to have a vision of Jesus in His glorified state when He was transfigured before them on a high mountain. Matthew 17:2 tells us: “His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.” This is similar to the description given in Revelation 1:16 of the glorified Jesus, whose “countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.”
In addition to teaching us about an attribute of God’s being and helping us praise and reverence Him, knowing about God’s glory actually helps us understand our own future!There are many other scriptures that refer to the brightness of God’s glory. But what does this mean to us? In addition to teaching us about an attribute of God’s being and helping us praise and reverence Him, knowing about God’s glory actually helps us understand our own future!
We are to inherit the glory of Jesus Christ
God created humankind to give us the opportunity to become the very sons and daughters of God (2 Corinthians 6:17-18). If we are to become members of God’s own family, one of the attributes we will receive is the very glory of God.
Paul records that we are to “walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:12). What does it mean to be called into God’s glory?
Paul further writes in 2 Thessalonians 2:14, “He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jesus Christ now has the very glory of God. He is the “brightness of His glory” (Hebrews 1:3). We are to obtain the same glory (2 Thessalonians 2:14) as sons or daughters of God.
What does it mean to be glorified by God?
God’s plan is to bring “many sons to glory” (Hebrews 2:10).
The process includes God’s calling us to repentance and baptism, by which we can be justified by having our sins forgiven through Christ’s sacrifice. As we live a life committed to becoming like Jesus Christ, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we are preparing for the next stage.
Paul highlighted how sure this future glorification is by using the past tense: “Whom He justified, these He also glorified” (Romans 8:30).
Paul emphasizes God’s plan to glorify us as His children in Romans 8:16-18: “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may also be glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (King James Version, emphasis added throughout).
The apostle John further explains in 1 John 3:1-2, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”
If we are counted worthy to enter into the family of God, we will become the very children of God—glorified children of God who will be just like God’s firstborn Son Jesus Christ—having the same glory He has now.