The Gift of GlorificationPastor Lutzer | March 20, 2016
Suffering cannot measure up to the glory to come.
Selected highlights from this sermon
The world is groaning. The curse of the fall has affected the fabric of this Earth, and even our bodies wear out. We long for restoration and glorification.
Those who are in Christ are promised glory after suffering. Our bodies will be raised and transformed. In our perfect and powerful body, we will be like our Savior for all eternity. As we suffer now, God is preparing us for glory. Are you eager for His coming?
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You know, there are plenty of examples of people who were wealthy and who either didn’t know it, or they knew it and they refused to enjoy what they had. We really need to look no further than Bertie Adams. She died on Easter Sunday back in 1976 in Palm Springs. Bertie died of malnutrition. That’s what her death certificate said. But when they investigated they discovered that she had a lockbox in which she had certificates worth about $200,000, and then another lockbox that was worth about $600,000. Here’s a woman who died of malnutrition but she did not enter into the wealth that she had either because of ignorance or because of other issues. Imagine that!
You know, there are many people who are wealthy who may make some very poor friends, but they do become very good ancestors if they include you in their will. And she apparently included some relatives in her will, and you can imagine their surprise when they discovered how much they had.
The purpose of this series of messages, The Inheritance of the Redeemed, has been for us to at least get some kind of a window, some kind of an understanding of all that we have in Jesus when we believe on Him. “He who spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” This is the last in a series of eight messages on this topic. We could have preached a lot more, but hopefully as a result of this we begin to understand much better the wonder of our salvation, and the graciousness of our God.
Well, today as we end this series I’m going to be speaking on the topic of glorification. It’s really the end result of all that God has done for us, and that is that we someday are going to be glorified. But before we get to glorification we’re going to speak about suffering, and we’ll see glorification within that context.
If you have your Bibles, would you turn to Romans 8? And this is the passage that I want you to look at, a remarkable passage. And we are going to begin with suffering and end with glorification. The summary of this message is really Romans 8:18 where we read these words: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that shall be revealed in us.” So first of all, I’ll speak about suffering, and then we’ll speak about the glory that is to be revealed in us. That’s where we are going. And once again, I want you to open your mind, open your heart, open your Bible, kick back and enjoy as we go on this tour of the blessings that we have in Jesus Christ, our Lord.
But first of all, suffering! You’ll notice that in verse 19 Paul says: “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.” And then it goes on to say in verse 22: “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in pangs of childbirth until now.”
I want you to hang on for a moment, and I’m going to explain what is happening in those verses.
What the Apostle Paul is saying is, “Just like when Adam sinned the whole creation was cursed.” It was not possible that an imperfect, sinful Adam live in the beauty of God’s original perfect creation, so when man sinned, the earth was cursed. And we know it’s cursed because we have storms, we have earthquakes, we have tsunamis, we have tornadoes, we have drought! This earth is cursed. And what Paul is going to say is that the creation therefore is groaning at this present time, and it is looking forward very eagerly to the time when the sons of God are going to be revealed and manifested, because creation is waiting for us to be redeemed. And when we enter into our eternal redemption it is then that creation is going to be recreated, and it will be made perfect back into its original state. That’s why the Apostle Paul says that creation groans, and looking forward eagerly to the redemption of the sons of God. That’s in verse 19.
And not only does creation groan. It says in verse 22: “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pangs of childbirth now, and not only the creation, but we ourselves who have the first fruits of the Spirit. We groan inwardly as we await eagerly for the adoption of sons, the redemption of our bodies.” That’s what we’re going to be talking about in a few moments – the redemption of our bodies. And so we groan.
There are all kinds of circumstances of suffering that speak to us very clearly and they mitigate against faith because they remind us of the fact that we are fallen. And this world is oftentimes very difficult, and life is hard. Cancer, for example, is something that is willing to take on faith. Cancer, actually, as we respond to it and its possibilities, is a test of our faith. But so are all kinds of other things – bad marriages, the death of a child, poverty and abuse. All of these things tend to challenge our faith, but the Bible says that this is to be expected because the suffering of this present world is huge. And so creation groans for redemption. We groan for our own redemption so that we might receive the redemption of our bodies, and then creation will follow us and be perfected. So much about the doctrine of suffering!
Now second, I want you to notice how the Apostle Paul shows us the extent to which God went in order to redeem us. How did God redeem us, and what did God do? It says in verse 26: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we don’t know how to pray as we ought. But the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Creation groans, we groan, even the Spirit groans deep within us when we want to pray and don’t know how to. And then it says, “And he who searches the hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit.” Verse 28: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good to those who are the called according to His purpose.” I wish I could camp on that verse for a moment, but we have to continue to hurry on through this passage.
All of the suffering that we’ve spoken about God uses it for our good and for His glory. He makes it fit together for our good, especially if we respond to it correctly. And then Paul goes on to say that this is the way in which God redeemed us, and this is, in many respects, a lovely summary of the various messages that we preached on the inheritance of the redeemed. I mean, we spoke about predestination. We spoke about the gift of righteousness, the Holy Spirit, the need and the supplying of an advocate. All of these things are ours in Jesus. And here Paul summarizes the Gospel of Redemption.
Notice beginning in verse 29: “For those whom he foreknew….” Now before I get to verses 29 and 30, I want to remind you that there are here five verbs that I hope you take the time to underline in your Bible. It is God, really, who is the worker. It is God who is the subject of these verbs, and we are the ones who are the object. Salvation is entirely of God, and Paul lays out now five verbs that are like a golden chain, like a link that links everything together. It begins in eternity past and it completes itself in eternity future. And then what we’ll see is it ends in glory.
Look at the text. First of all, notice that he says, “For those whom he foreknew.” This is verse 29. As I’ve explained in previous messages, when you have the word foreknow, it does not mean simply to know ahead of time. God knows all things ahead of time. What it means is that God foreknew, God fore-loved us, just like the nation Israel. It says, “You only have I foreknown of all the nations of the earth.” Well, God foreknows all things. It means that “I loved you in advance.”
So remember this: You can put your name in this here. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you are loved in advance. You were foreknown, and then those whom He foreknew, the Bible says, He predestinated. When I began this series of messages the very first message that I preached was on predestination, how that we are actually a part of God’s program all the way from eternity past to eternity future. And He laid us out. He went ahead of us, and like a surveyor, He’s the one who surveyed the land and the territory and determined what we would become. “For those whom he foreknew he predestinated to be confirmed to the image of his Son, that he (that is, Jesus) might be the firstborn among many brethren.” And now notice we’ve covered two of the verbs. He foreknew, He predestinated them. And those whom He predestinated He also called.
You know, in the Bible there are a number of different calls. There’s the general call. “Many are called, few are chosen,” Jesus said. But there’s also the specific call to salvation, and that’s what Paul is thinking about here. There is that specific call. For example, in 1 Corinthians 1 it says that “Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God to those who are called.” And so, if you’re a believer today, you heard the call of God. And if you’re not a believer, I hope and pray that you hear the call of God. It is the specific call to salvation. If the first two words – whom He foreknew and predestinated – had to do with eternity past of God’s plan, the calling now is an experience that we have in this life when we are called to salvation.
Well, notice, “Those whom He called He justified.” Once again in this series, you remember, I spoke about the righteousness of God and the doctrine of justification. And now notice, “Those whom He justified He glorified.” So as we think about it we are already glorified as far as God is concerned. Every one of these verbs is in the past tense. He foreknew us, He predestined us, He called us, and He also glorified us. There’s no break in this chain. The number that He begins with, those whom He foreknows and He predestinates, is the same number with which He ends up glorifying them.
And now we come to the doctrine of glorification. And for this we really do need a lot of wisdom, and we need the help of the Holy Spirit, because there’s no way for us to really get our minds around what glorification is unless we read the text of Scripture and we pray for grace to be able to accept it, to believe it, and in some way, understand it.
Before I give you some characteristics of glorification, let me read another passage of Scripture for you. This is what the Bible says in the book of Philippians: “But our citizenship is in heaven. From it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ (Now notice carefully.), who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” Don’t hurry over the text. Our body is going to be like unto His glorious body.
And then in 1 John 3 we have this remarkable passage: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us that we should be called children of God, and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” Now again let us be careful. “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him because we shall see him as he is.” Imagine that! Like unto His glorious body!
So what I’d like to do now very quickly is to simply give you five characteristics of the body that shall someday be ours – the glorious body which is in our future. First of all, I want to emphasize that it will be your body. “Oh,” you say, “well, you know, that’s very obvious.” Well, to some people it isn’t. There are those who believe, for example, that there’s going to be a resurrection, and this resurrection is really of the soul, for example. No, it’s your body!
And, of course, as I explain in every single Easter service, and will continue to do so if I preach at Easter time, is the fact that there is continuity between the body that you have today and the body that you’re going to have in the future. The Apostle Paul likens it unto a seed that is put in the ground, and that seed begins to grow, and when that seed grows… When you have a tulip, for example, and you planted the bulb, there is something in that tulip that was in the bulb that you planted. There is continuity, but also, it’s very different. There’d be no way that you could simply look at a bulb and know in advance how it was going to turn out unless, by experience, it has been observed over a period of time, because it is very different. In the very same way, it will be your body and it will be you. The principle of identity!
When we see Adam and when we see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob some day in the heavenlies (and I assume that we indeed are, because we’re going to be along with them, the Bible says), Abraham will be Abraham, Isaac will be Isaac, Jacob will be Jacob, and you will be who you are by name, the very same person with all your memories, with all your aptitudes, with all of your desires that have been refined and purified and made totally holy. You and I are going to be the very same people over there that we are here.
Will we know each other? Of course! You know, the Bible talks about the Mount of Transfiguration. Moses and Elijah show up, and there are some apostles that are there – Peter, James and John – and they know one another. We will intuitively know each other. I don’t believe that in heaven we’ll need nametags. And thank God the time will come when we will finally be able to remember one another’s names (laughter). That is really something I’m looking forward to. I’m saying, “Oh God, bring the future, and bring it quickly.” It’s wonderful! In the presence of one another, knowing each other from earth! Of course you’re going to know your mother. You’re going to know your father. You’re going to know your uncle. You’re even going to know the one who wasn’t as kind to you in his will as he should have been. He’ll be there, too, if he’s a believer on Christ. And together it’ll be your body.
Second, notice it’s going to be a perfect body, because it’s like unto Jesus. It is now a glorified body. You will never need a knee replacement. Some of you say, “Praise God, from whom all blessings flow.” I had one man who had both knees replaced, and he said, “Never, never again! The next time,” he said, “I get some new knees, it’s at the time of glorification.” Absolutely!
So there’ll be no need for health care (That will be very, very wonderful.) and no disease, no limitations in terms of physical limitations. You know, don’t scientists say that we get a new set of cells every seven years? But have you ever noticed that every time those cells come around and we get that new set they’re not quite as pretty as the previous set? (laughter) Have you ever noticed that? Have you ever noticed how much wearier we can become (I’m not talking about myself. I’m talking about you.) as we get older? And our minds are sometimes not as quick as they used to be. And let me explain why once and for all. The reason that for some of us when the word that we want to speak is not there isn’t because there’s anything wrong with our minds. Our minds are so full of wisdom it takes a little longer to find and retrieve the information that we need. (applause) That’s really what it is. That’s what a doctor told me (laughter) and I’m sticking with it.
It’s going to be a perfect body! And the reason it has to be perfect, by the way (I hope this is already clear.), is it’s going to be a perfect environment. Just like our fallen body has to be on a cursed earth, so our glorified body is going to be in a glorified environment, namely heaven, so it’s going to be a perfect body.
It’ll be a glorious body. I read the text. It says in the book of Philippians (I just read it.) that He will transform our body like unto His glorious body. I don’t know whether or not we’ll be able to transform ourselves like Jesus did on the Mount of Transfiguration, but the simple fact is that we will have a glorious body. Everybody have a glorious body? No! Those who have been redeemed by Christ!
May I quote the words of C. S. Lewis? “Every human being,” he says, “is in the process of becoming a noble being, noble beyond imagination or else, alas, a vile being beyond redemption.” He says, “Remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. There are no ordinary people. It is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit. Immortal horrors or everlasting splendors!”
Remember everybody gets an eternal body, the redeemed and the unredeemed, but their environment is exceedingly different, and difficult, and those who are not redeemed, their body is eternal but it is not a glorious body. So it’s going to be a glorious body!
Let me say also it’s a powerful body. When Jesus wanted to move from Galilee to Jerusalem, all that He had to do apparently was to think the thought, “I want to be in Jerusalem.” This is after His resurrection, because we’re going to have a body like that, and He was able to be there instantly. Now this doesn’t mean that we’re going to be in a number of different places. Only God is omnipresent, that is to say, He is everywhere. But if we want to move from one place in the universe to another place in the universe, we can simply think the thought and we will be wherever we want to be effortlessly.
There’s no need, you know, to have to do exercises. One time when I went to Lake Michigan I saw all of these people early in the morning running. One of the things I noticed about them was not one of them was smiling. (laughter) I mean, not one was smiling, and I’m not surprised. In heaven – powerful body! No sleep! No need for it.
And by the way, the streets in the New Jerusalem could be straight. They could also be vertical. They might be horizontal and vertical. We would be able to travel effortlessly no matter which direction they went – up, down, sideways – because we’re not limited by these spatial kinds of concepts. So imagine!
It’s going to be an eternal body. Eternal! That’s what the Bible says. Imagine that! You know, we think to ourselves eternity, and we say the word but we don’t think of what it is. Sometimes I’ve illustrated it this way. Imagine a bird coming from another planet, taking two grains of sand. Every one million years this bird shows up. It takes two grains of sand away. How long would it take before the whole earth would be moved? Unthinkable! Eternity is a very long time. And yet the Bible says that we shall reign with Him forever and ever into the ages of the ages for all of eternity. That is the eventual goal and the position of God’s redeemed. Do you like His redemption that He provided for us as sinners? (applause)
Now, what we need to do is to bring this down to reality. Don’t ever minimize, based on Romans 8, the value of suffering. Suffering is valuable because we groan for glory. Suffering is a reminder of the fact that we want eternity to come. And the more suffering, the more we desire it. That’s why all over the world where there is persecution, there is lots of talk about heaven. In places like America where there is no persecution, where everybody seems to be doing well, we don’t talk about heaven much because we don’t look forward to it much.
The Apostle Paul said that the suffering of this present world is not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. And in 2 Corinthians 2, he uses a different illustration. In chapter 3 he talks about the fact that it’s like a scale. He says that the suffering of this present world works for us an eternal weight of glory.
Some of us are old enough to remember seriously when they had scales that balanced. That is to say, you know, you went into a store, and they had a one-pound weight, and on the other side, you know, you’d put a pound of peanuts or whatever it was, and when they balanced you knew that you had a pound.
The Apostle Paul is saying that all the suffering of the world can be placed on one side of the scale – the divorces, the sickness, the rejection that teenagers sometimes find in high school or elsewhere. All of that can be put over here on this side. The death of a child! Put all of the suffering over here and then the glory that shall be revealed in us is over here, and the scale goes plunk. It’s like putting a hair on one side and an elephant on the other. “There is no comparison,” the Apostle Paul says.
And the reason that God brings so many trials into our life and so much suffering is so that we might look forward to Glory. We groan and we groan for Glory, so don’t minimize the value of suffering. God intends to use it in our life. It’s part of what we read about earlier, that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.
Second, don’t ever minimize the grace of God, the fact that He took us from the life of sin and on our way to a Christless eternity, redeemed us, cleaned us up and gave us the blessed Holy Spirit as a proof of our redemption. It is like receiving a ring, and then He says, “The marriage is coming.” I never yet met a man who says, “Actually all that I want,” or a woman who would say, “All that I want from him is his ring; that’s all. I don’t want this to go any further in this relationship.” No, you know, the purpose of the ring is to prepare for the wedding, and as a sign that the wedding is going to happen. And the purpose of the Holy Spirit, according to Romans 8 is it’s a sign. It is a witness to the fact that we are going to belong to Jesus forever. And so what does He do? He exalts us.
I know I’ve quoted this verse before, but it has to be quoted again, where Jesus said, “He who overcomes, to him I shall grant to sit with me on my throne, even as I overcame and sat with my Father on his throne.” And the reason that we can sit with Him on His throne is because we have a body like unto His. Never minimize the grace of God.
And then never minimize the fact that we should look eagerly toward the return of Jesus. That’s what the Apostle Paul says in the passage that we read from the book of Philippians where he says, “We await.” And the Greek text indicates we eagerly await for the coming of Jesus Christ from heaven so that He will transform our earthly body like unto His glorious body. We eagerly await.
Let me ask you something. What do you eagerly await for? You say, “Well, I eagerly await for graduation.” There’s no doubt that we have some people listening to this who would answer that way. Somebody else says, “I eagerly await for marriage.” Let me ask you something. How would your life change, and mine, if we really eagerly awaited the coming of Jesus Christ from heaven, being with Him forever, never having any sin ever come between us and Him again? Do you look forward to that? That is really proof of regeneration because when we are saved, when we become Christians, God, by His Holy Spirit, implants within us a desire to love Christ. We love Christ but we continue to love Him, and we love Him even more.
Gustav Dohr was a painter in Germany, and he painted a picture of Jesus. And somebody said, “You must love Jesus to paint Him like that.” And he said, “I do love Him, but if I loved Him more, I could paint Him better.”
The desire of every single Christian is to love Him more and to paint Him better. And someday He’s going to return and our bodies are going to be transformed like unto His glorious body. And that will be true forever.
But, of course, unless you’ve received Christ as Savior this inheritance is not yours. That’s why I titled this series The Inheritance of the Redeemed. The redeemed are those who have responded to Jesus Christ in faith, knowing that they cannot save themselves, but come to receive His mercy, His forgiveness and His righteousness as a free gift given to all those who believe – who acknowledge their need.
“To as many as received him, to those he gives the power to become the children of God, even to those who have believed on his name.”
I’ve said it many times, and I’ll say it one more time. Life is short. Eternity is long. It’s so important that we prepare for that day. And if you are a believer, this is as bad as it’s ever going to get. It’s going to get a lot better. I can assure you of that. Praise God. (applause)
Let’s pray together, and then we’re going to express our love for Jesus in the song.
Father, we thank You today for Jesus. Thank You for His unselfish redemption. Thank You that He remembered us in so many different ways. Thank You that He fore-loved us, predestinated us and chose us. And already in His category He has glorified us, because You call those things that aren’t as if they are, and for that we thank You. Help us to worship Jesus well as we express our love to Him. We ask this in His name, Amen.