“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18
Two years ago Maria Chapman died. You might remember the story of how this little girl, the daughter of singer Steven Curtis and Mary Beth Chapman, was killed accidentally in her driveway by a car driven by an older sibling. The pain of that kind of loss is beyond measure. All talk of heaven, joy, God’s purpose and providence, etc. risks sounding terribly empty, even offensive. Can darkness can become so deep that even light cannot penetrate?
All death is offensive because it never was a part of God’s plan. It is the result of The Breaking, the sin that broke God’s original intent and severed the closeness of the relationship Adam and Eve first enjoyed with God. While thankfully most of us will not experience the intense suffering of the death of a child, we all experience degrees of this darkness whenever someone we love dies.
In this week’s text Paul pointed to the future, to a time when the brightness of God’s glory will vanquish all thoughts of the present darkness. The specific promise is in the key phrase, “the glory that is to be revealed in us.”
Glory is a slippery word, but we can approach its meaning by substituting the word “personality.” When God reveals His glory, or when Jesus prayed that the Father would be glorified through Him, we are to understand that we will see more of God’s true nature at a particular time or in an event.
Now let’s look at another part of this week’s text. Most every translation has the final prepositional phrase translated as “to us” as in “God’s glory will be revealed to us.” I think the better translation, the one that reflects the full texture of the scripture, is that God’s glory will be revealed in us (completely likely in the Greek grammar and syntax, for the preposition means to, in, into, etc.). This translation emphasizes the personal and relational nature of God’s plan. Let me explain.
What attracts you to someone you love, or what you love about someone, is a reflection of God’s glory or His image that He has placed in every person. You love a child for the joy, laughter, or sweetness they bring. You are loving that reflection of God’s glory. When you love a spouse for their acceptance of you, or their faithfulness, etc. you are loving the reflection of God’s glory. A friend’s steadiness and easy companionship is a reflection of God’s glory.
In heaven God’s image or God’s glory in that loved one will be completely revealed. What you loved about him or her will be multiplied and clarified. The problem with God’s glory simply being revealed to us in heaven is that it makes us sound like tourists where we get to see God’s glory. Not exactly. You are God’s glory and will be so fully in heaven. So is the person you have lost. That’s why Paul wrote that His glory will be revealed in you. That is the personal nature of God’s glory.
A few months ago, my Aunt Ruby died at 100. I recalled the two-fold comfort I have at the funeral of every relative or friend: “she is whole, and I will see her again.” Everything I loved about Aunt Ruby is now completely burnished and brilliant. In fact, even the way I loved her here pales next to my ability to love her in heaven, for there God’s glory will be revealed fully in her and in me. We will be recreated and new. That is the practical aspect of God’s glory.
Like the Chapmans, you may have lost someone you love dearly, or perhaps you are about to. Romans 8:18, and other passages, will never take away the present suffering. That’s not what Paul meant. Certainly what he did mean, however, is that we can only imagine how wonderful heaven and the ones we love will be.
At some point in my life, in my favorite Bible, I wrote the words “I choose to believe” in the margin next to Romans 8:18. That choice is the key. You must choose to believe that God will provide a future dawn brighter than the present night. In fact, there is no comparison.
Dr. Terry Ellis