The words of Romans 8:29–30 have often been described as the “golden chain” of salvation. In these two verses Paul gives an overview of God’s work in redeeming his church from beginning to end. The main point is that what God begins he will complete. What Christian has read these words and not been thrilled by them? “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”
Having been through formal theological training, having cut my pastoral teeth upon the Westminster Shorter Catechism, and having spent many years studying the Bible, I always believed that I had a good understanding of the terms in these verses such as “foreknew”, “predestined”, “called”, and “justified”. There was one exception—“glorified”.
Please do not misunderstand. Whenever I came across this concept in the Scriptures I had a general idea of what was under consideration. I knew that it was “the final stage of the process of salvation . . . the point at which the doctrine of salvation and the doctrine of the last things overlap.” In other words, glorification is “the final phase of the application of redemption.” I knew that the doctrine of glorification involved the transformation of the believer and the final and ultimate stage of sanctification, and that the by-product would be the cessation of our struggle with sin and the resulting pain in this world.
Yet some issues always bothered me when I read of glorification. To begin, why does the Bible speak of God glorifying us, or of that ultimate state being one of glory (Rom. 2:7; 8:18)? Why is this process not spoken of as being “ultimately sanctified” or simply “made perfect”? What is behind the use of the word “glory”?
Related to this issue, if the reader of the Bible could come to understand what was behind the use of this term, would there be some understanding of God’s plan of redemption and what He is doing in the lives of saints, which many Christians have been missing?
And there are the more obvious questions: What is involved in glorification? When does it take place? What will our glorified bodies be like? Does this future reality have bearing upon the life of the saint in the present? If so, what is it? What impact does it have on the church?
Armed with all these questions, I turned to systematic theology works, theological dictionaries and other tomes, and kept my eyes open as I worked my way through scholarly journals and Christian periodicals. To my surprise, I found out that very little writing has been done in recent years on the doctrine of glorification, even though I was beginning to suspect that it had tremendous ramifications for a person’s faith and hope. I was not alone in this assessment. Millard Erickson commented over two decades ago, “The topic is one which receives little treatment in standard theology textbooks, and even less attention in sermons, yet it is rich in practical significance, for it gives believers encouragement and strengthens their hope.” I am convinced that little has changed since Erickson penned those words.
A decade ago I began to collect information and take note of statements in the Bible which would relate to this topic. I decided that someday I would study glorification thoroughly for the purpose of my own growth and for that of teaching my own congregation. The results of what I have found have had such a profound impact that I decided that I needed to share them with a wider audience.
My prayer for you as you read this work is that your faith in our great Lord and his work in your life will be strengthened, that you will come to see with greater clarity the hope of your calling, that you will be moved to worship our Savior, and finally that your life will become a billboard for the glory of our sovereign God!
Soli Deo Gloria!