The glory of God is a theme that runs throughout the Bible. In the beginning, God created man to rule creation and reflect God’s glory to creation. In glory, man would share life and communion with God. That glory however was shattered when man sinned. In the next few paragraphs, we will look at how that glory was shattered and what God has and is doing to restore that Glory.
The creation of glory reflected - creation
“Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Ge 1:26-27 NivUS) “Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” (Isa 43:7 NivUS) At creation, man was the very image of God. Does this mean that God looks like a man? Not necessarily, what it means is that man shares qualities with God. God is a triune being, so is man. God is creative, so is man. God has emotions - man does also. God is an intelligent being, so is man. God has a free will to choose what he will do, so does man. Man reflects the God that created him. However, man is not omniscient, omnipotent, eternal, omnipresent, or self-existent like God. That is why one of the best illustrations for man being in the image of God is that of a mirror. What we see in a mirror is not the individual, but a reflection of that individual. So also man, what we see in man in the creation was not God, but a reflection of God. This was God’s original intent. Man was to be a reflection of God. A creature so much like himself that he could be close friends with man and man could enjoy God’s company.
Being in the image of God, we would also reflect God’s Glory. Just as we would share life in God, we would share God’s glory throughout creation as God’s highest creation. We would be God’s primary representative in creation. As God’s highest creation, reflecting his glory, and carrying God’s authority, man was in charge of all creation. “God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground — everything that has the breath of life in it — I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.” (Ge 1:28-30 NivUS).
The destruction of glory reflected - fall
However, something happened. Sin entered into man. After eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, in disobedience of God, God banished man from the garden. ““And the LORD God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” Therefore, the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.”” (Ge 3:22-24 NivUS). The image was now shattered as a mirror is shattered. A reflection is left, “but is now horribly distorted. With the image now distorted almost beyond recognition man now falls short of the glory of God, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”, (Ro 3:23 NivUS). Man is now hopelessly lost in sin. Everything in man is corrupted. Nothing remains that is good. “They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity.” (Ro 1:29 NivUS) Man can do nothing to restore the image and the glory. Even the best of his attempts to remake the image is worthless. “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” (Isa 64:6 NivUS) Man’s only hope is God, the very one who made man.
The restoration of glory reflected – redemption
Not be thwarted God’s does not surrender his original purpose to reflect his glory. What God intended to happen will happen. God was not surprised. God had determined that restoration of man to the image and glory before creation itself. “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will — to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (Eph 1:4-7 NivUS).
At the proper time in human history, God himself in all his glory entered creation to redeem man. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1 NivUS). “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14). Jesus himself said, “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father;” (John 14:9 NivUS). Entering into the world and showing his glory was not enough. The reality of sin remains. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Ro 6:23 NivUS). Being God Jesus was the only one who could fix the sin problem. So “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!” (Ro 5:8-9 NivUS). Forgiveness became certain with the resurrection “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” (Ro 4:25 NivUS)
Now that the penalty of sin was taken care of man could be restored to his original glory. God made man with a free will however. God will not violate that will. So man must choose the redemption that is in Christ. Those who choose to place their faith in Christ have the hope of glory in them. “To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col 1:27 NivUS).
The development of glory reflected – sanctification
With sin forgiven and Christ having become the hope of restored glory, a process has begun. Until man is released from his mortal body man will have to deal with the sin nature that still inhabits the fallen and corrupt body. Thus begins the process of sanctification. “But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2Th 2:13-14 NivUS)
Sanctification is both event and process. The passage above in Second Thessalonians speaks of the event of setting apart for Christ. First Thessalonians speaks of the process, “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable,” (1Th 4:3-4 NivUS). As disciples, we need to participate in the process of sanctification. We need to discipline ourselves to godliness and holiness. In discipline the sin nature is brought under control and as the Spirit lives through us the mirror is gradually put back together. In this process we begin to increasingly reflect God and his glory.
The consummation of glory Shared– heaven
The process does have an end. Since sin brings death, everyone will stand before God some day. For those who are in Christ this means they freedom from the sinful body and restored to the original creation glory that God has always intended. Paul put it this way in first Corinthians “For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."” (1Co 15:53-54 NivUS) Paul also said in Ephesians 1:18 “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.” When we stand in heaven redeemed by the blood of Christ we will once again reflect the marvelous glory of Christ. Peter put it this way “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” (1Pe 5:4 NIVUS) Ultimately, joining everything to Christ for as John wrote in Revelation 4:11 "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being." The whole of creation finds restoration as Christ concludes time, banishes sin, and restores everything.
In the beginning, God created man to share in and reflect the Glory of God. Sin however entered into the world and the reflected glory was shattered in fallen man. God however in anticipation had already planned for Christ to enter the world and bring the express image of God to sacrifice himself for all humanity. In his sacrifice, man through faith can be reconciled to God and the reflection restored. That restoration begins with the conversion of an individual and continues until that individual stands before God fully restored to what God always intended. The restoration of all of creation happens when at the consummation of time, with sin banished; the redeemed of all ages live in restoration with their creator.