By Ken Yates
The noun glory occurs sixteen times in the Book of Romans. The verb glorify is used an additional five times in Romans. Many of these twenty-one uses refer to the glory of God (1:23; 3:7, 23; 4:20; 6:4, etc.) and to glorifying God (1:21; 15:6, 9). I would like to narrow down the topic a little and look at how the words are used in Romans 8. The verb and noun each are used twice. In Romans 8 it does not refer to the glory of God but to the glory that believers can and will obtain.
Many would probably think that when the NT discusses the glory that awaits believers, it simply refers to going to heaven. But I think when we look at Romans 8, that is only part of the picture.
The first time the verb occurs in Romans 8 is v 17. The verb occurs with the preposition with attached to it. Paul says that the believer who suffers with Christ will be glorified with Christ. Here, we see that this is talking about rewards and not simply being in the kingdom. This refers to reigning with Christ. The faithful believer will share in the glory of Christ’s reign over the world to come.
In the very next verse (v 18), Paul uses the noun. The sufferings the believer experiences by following Christ are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in him. It seems to me that this would not just refer to receiving a new body. It emphasizes the glorious rewards that await faithful Christians, just like in the previous verse. Whatever a believer suffers for Christ pales in comparison to the reward he will receive.
Released from Bondage
The next occurrence of the word glory seems to break this pattern (v 21). Paul speaks of the glory the children of God will experience in the kingdom when they are released from bondage to the power of sin. This certainly involves the reception of a body that cannot sin. But even here there is more implied. When believers walk by the Spirit and suffer with Christ, they experience the fruit of the Spirit. They long for the day when they no longer have to fight the desires of the flesh (v 23). When the Lord returns, all believers will be set free from this struggle. The glory on that day will be the experience of every citizen of the kingdom. But faithful believers already have a glimpse of that glory now when the Spirit produces righteousness in their lives.
The last time the word is used in Romans 8 is once again a verb. In Rom 8:30, it speaks of those who will be glorified. While many understand this to refer to the fact that all believers will be glorified at the time of the Rapture, which is true, it seems there might be a better way to see it in light of how the word glory is used in this section of Romans.
God has called all believers to reign with Christ. Those who suffer with Him will be declared righteous at the Judgment Seat of Christ, not just because of their faith (which is true of all believers), but also because of how they lived. They will then be glorified at the Judgment Seat by reigning with the King (v 17).
It is true that all who have believed in Jesus Christ for eternal life will be in the kingdom. They will receive a glorified body that will never sin or be subject to death (1 Cor 15:43). But when Paul uses glory in Romans 8, he expands on the theme. Believers who suffer with Christ get a glimpse of the glory they will have in the kingdom when they receive that body. The Spirit produces righteousness in them which looks forward to the day when they will no longer sin. Such believers will also share in the glory of reigning with Christ.
Ken Yates speaks for GES Missions all around the world. He is also the pastor of Little River Baptist Church in Jenkinsville, SC. His latest book is Hebrews: Partners with Christ.