One of the great themes of the Old Testament is the glory of God, and this glory is seen in the New Testament to also belong to Jesus Christ. The Greek word for “glory” is doxa (from which we get “doxology”) and is used to translate the Hebrew word kabod, used to denote the glory of YHWH. The word “glory” embraces the ideas of shining brightness, splendour, radiance, magnificence and honour.
When God was represented in the Old Testament as dwelling with his people, his glory “dwelt” on the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant in the tabernacle and temple. In fact, the theme of God’s glory is heavily connected with his dwelling amongst his people — the shekina or dwelling glory (from the word to tabernacle or dwell in a tent). Similarly, God’s glory is often portrayed as being enthroned in the heavens or in the midst of his people, attended by magnificent living creatures. (See Ex 40:35; 1 Sam 4:21-22; 1 Kings 8:10-13; 2 Chron 5:13-14, 7:1-3; Ezek 1:27-28; Ezek 8:4, 10:4, 10:18-22, 11:22-23, 43:1-7; Zech 2:4-5; Rev 21:1-3, 22-23).
It is fitting that God’s glory “dwells” on the mercy seat, because mercy is intrinsic to his glory. Hebrews 4:16 speaks of God’s “throne of grace.” When in Exodus 33:18-23 Moses asks to see God’s glory, God replies,
“I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.”
God subsequently hides Moses in a cleft of the rock, and reveals his glory as “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” (Ex 34:6-7)
The Old Testament points forward to a universal manifestation of God’s glory. (For example, Psalms 8, 24 and 96; Isaiah 24, 40, 59:16-21 and 66 which all have their fulfilment in Christ). Habakkuk 2:14 promises, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.”
Although the glory of God is manifested in the earth and heavens now, it will become manifested completely and universally at the return of Christ. The sacrificial, redeeming work of Christ is the means by which this merciful God-glory is manifested throughout the earth. Psalm 8 promises that humanity will be glorified, and Hebrews 2:6-10 explains that Christ’s mercy-seat work accomplishes this, “bringing many sons to glory.”
But there’s even more to it than that. Christ not only glorifies God by his work, but Christ embodies, displays and shares God’s glory. The Father and Christ mutually glorify each other. Glorifying one glorifies the other. This seems absolutely astounding when we consider a fundamental feature of who God is, his absolute uniqueness:
“I am the LORD; that is my name; My glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.” (Isa 42:8)
“For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.” (Isa 48:11)
These passages sit within the lengthy section in the latter part of Isaiah which totally denounces idolatry and proclaims the absolute uniqueness and worthiness of God to be worshipped exclusively. He alone is God, and he alone is to be glorified and worshipped and he WILL NOT share this prerogative with any other being. All other beings are creatures, he alone is Creator, he will not share his glory. So when we come to the New Testament, we learn some incredible things about Jesus, not the least of which is that God is not only pleased to share his glory with his Son, but he insists that it happen. What does this tell us about the nature of Jesus Christ? Here is how the apostle John (whose objective in his Gospel is to proclaim who Jesus really is: John 20:30-31) introduces Jesus:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1-3, 14)
This glory of the Word made flesh is the glory of the only Son (ESV) or One and Only (NIV). This is a more accurate rendering than “only begotten” (KJV). The phrase is doxan hos (glory as/that) monogenous para patros (one-of-a-kind from father). Monogenes is used to translate “only” in the sense of an only or dearest son, as in Hebrews 11:17 where it is applied to Isaac. The root word is genea, meaning a race, kind or generation. Mono-genes then means the only one of its kind within a specific relationship, one of a kind, unique. It does not mean begettal or birth. Later in verse 18, John uses this expression again: “the only God,” (ESV) or “God the One and Only,” (NIV) who is at the Father’s side, has made him known. “The one-being one-of-a-kind God” is all in the nominative case, and together forms the subject of the clause. The one who is the one-of-a-kind, God, is the one who came from the Father, full of grace and truth, whose glory John saw.
In case we missed it, John again refers to Jesus’ having the glory of God in John 12:39-41. This passage, as well as Matthew 13:14-15 and Mark 4:12 quote the prophet Isaiah 6:1-3 and his awesome vision of the glory of the LORD.
“In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!’”
Isaiah was distressed because he, a man of unclean lips, had seen the King, the Lord Almighty. His sin was atoned for symbolically and the vision continues in v8-10:
“And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me.’ And he said, ‘Go, and say to this people: “‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.’”
The Apostle John quotes this passage in the context of the unbelief of the Jews in the face of Jesus’ miraculous signs. Matthew 13:14-15 and Mark 4:12 also cite Isaiah 6:9-10 as being specifically fulfilled in the parabolic teaching of Jesus and the Jewish response of unbelief.
“Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, ‘He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.’ Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.” (John 12:39-41)
John is explicitly stating that the vision of the Lord which Isaiah saw, was of the Lord Jesus; Jesus, seated on the throne, the King, the Lord Almighty, attended by seraphs, his glory filling the earth.
The theme is reiterated in Revelation 4:11. The context is a throne in heaven, surrounded by living creatures, which proclaim day and night, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come… Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” The theme repeats again in 5:12 where thousands of angels encircle the throne and sing, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing… To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honour and glory and might for ever and ever!” This is the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, at the right hand of the Father, upon his throne.
This is what Jesus prayed for in John 17:5, “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” John 5:23 insists that all should honour the Son, just as they honour the Father. Whoever does not honour the Son does not honour the Father who sent him. The Father and Son glorify each other; the glorification of one glorifies the other. It is a shared glory. Take particular note, in each of the following verses, who is to receive glory, and from whom: Luke 9:26; John 8:54, 11:4, 12:28, 13:31-32, 14:13, 17:1; 2 Cor 4:4-6; Php 2:11; 2 Tim 4:18; Heb 13:21; 1 Pet 4:11; 2 Peter 3:18; Rev 5:13.
The above include just a selection of verses which ascribe glory to God the Father, or to Jesus, or both, or in some cases it is unclear which of the two is being glorified. This sharing of glory is all the more remarkable in the light of God’s adamant declarations in Isaiah 42:8, 48:11 and elsewhere of the exclusivity of his glory.
But isn’t this exactly what we would expect? Indeed, because the Son is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb 1:3) and his glory is that of the one-and-only (John 1:14). “In him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead, bodily” (Col 2:9) because he is the Word made flesh, Immanuel, God with us. To him be blessing and honour and glory, forever.