Rev. Key is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Hull, Iowa.
“And whom he justified, them he also glorified” (Rom. 8:30b). The final step in the order of salvation is glorification, the crowning work of God in the salvation of His people. Thus we read of our glorification in the Canons of Dordt, I, 7: “This elect number…God has decreed to give to Christ to be saved by Him, and effectually to call and draw them to His communion by His Word and Spirit; to bestow upon them true faith, justification, and sanctification; and having powerfully preserved them in the fellowship of His Son, finally to glorify them for the demonstration of His mercy, and for the praise of the riches of His glorious grace.”
The reference to glorification in Romans 8:30, however, must be understood to include both sanctification and preservation. In glorification, God brings to completion the work of salvation that He began in the regeneration of His people.
The true glory of God’s people is their holiness. As those who have been given to see Christ with the eyes of faith, “we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (II Cor. 3:18). And so we are delivered from glory to glory, the final perfection of that work being our entry into that state of perfection, heavenly glory.
While a discussion of our final glorification, therefore, really belongs to the doctrine of the last things, the fact that we enjoy the beginning of our glorification even now makes it necessary to say a few things about this truth as we conclude our consideration of the doctrine of salvation.
It is a profound truth of the gospel that we are quickened together with Christ. God has “raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6).
The truth of our glorification emphasizes our union with our exalted and glorified Savior. One of the most beautiful expressions in the Bible, and one of the most significant, is the little expression “in Christ.”
What blessedness when we begin to fathom the glory of our union with Christ! God has quickened us together with Christ, and has raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. It is in that union that we enjoy the beginning of eternal glory even now.
Because Christ is the Head of the body, His church, one cannot be a member of that glorious body without being together with Christ, one with Him. That union is a spiritual union. It doesn’t come by our own doing. We do not attach ourselves to the Head. God establishes that union. He does so by quickening us together with Christ. That happens instantaneously, in the moment of regeneration. But that wonder work of God’s grace by the operation of the Holy Spirit affects my whole being. It affects my heart; it affects my mind; it affects my will. That is why the apostle says in II Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
Ours is the resurrection life! Ours is the life of attachment to the glorified Lord Christ! God has given us an amazing position, an exalted position, in Christ Jesus. That is our glorification.
When we consider what the Bible teaches about our glorified state, we must recognize the truth that this is an accomplished fact.
Just as Christ has risen from the dead, so God has raised us up together with Him.
This emphasizes the truth that we are no longer dead in sin. We are no longer in that state.
But what does that mean in actual practice?
Well, for one thing, the fact that God has raised us up together with Christ means that we are no longer under God’s condemnation. The last part of Romans 4 and the first part of Romans 5 sheds light upon this very truth. Paul closes Romans 4 by pointing to Christ, “Who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification.” Because Christ had accomplished His work, and because on God’s part Christ’s death fully satisfied His justice, He was raised again. And so the apostle goes on in the very next verse, the first verse of chapter 5, to draw out the logical conclusion: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We are raised from the dead as those justified, and therefore there is no condemnation any longer. That is the glory of our life in Christ.
It means, secondly, that we are dead to the law. To use the biblical expression, we are not under the law, but under grace. We seek the law, longing to live in the way of God’s commandments. But we do so in love. Being in Christ, and having been raised together with Him, we have been established in a new relationship, a relationship of love to God. We now find our freedom in the life of obedience.
Thirdly, because we are risen with Christ, and glorified with Him, we are also dead to sin. The apostle, pointing to the truth that we have been buried with Christ by baptism into death, and have been raised with Him unto newness of life, says in Romans 6:11, “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” That doesn’t mean that we no longer sin. In the folly of our old man, we might still yield to temptation and follow the desires of our sinful flesh. But the truth of being raised together with Christ means that we are no longer slaves to sin. We have died with Christ; we have risen with Him. We are no longer held by the prison walls of sin and death.
That is a remarkable and wonderful thing! That explains why we cannot be content in ways of sin. That explains why we must fight against all sin, and struggle against anything that would hinder our fellowship with our Savior. That is the Spirit of the risen, glorified Lord working in us! We have an entirely new attitude toward God! We have a new mind! We have been changed from death unto life! “For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20).
God has made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
Christ has been exalted at God’s right hand in heavenly glory. He has been exalted as our Head. But that being the case, God has also exalted us with Him, not only so that we partake of His heavenly glory and mighty dominion, but so that we have fellowship with God in a way that was never open to us before.
That our conversation is in heaven means that we live now in the realm that is near to God. We have opportunity for fellowship with Him in a most blessed way. We can talk with Him, and hear Him speak to us by His Word. We can know His will. We delight in His blessings. We lay hold of His promises, knowing His unchangeable faithfulness.
Such is the fruit of that wonder work of God’s grace, whereby He has glorified us in Christ.
Partly, it is true, this fact is an object of our faith. Our blessed experience of this wonder is such a small beginning. Our glorification is an accomplished fact, in principle. That is, its beginning is ours as the small seedling and not the fully developed tree.
But it is a fact nonetheless, and a matter of our own experience.
From the darkness of death in the midst of which we have our present existence, we rise victoriously by faith. We look upon our crucified and risen Lord; we know that God has exalted Him at His own right hand in heavenly glory. And we believe that God has quickened us together with Him, and raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Him. For He dwells in us by His Spirit. We believe.
But we await the full and complete realization of this glory. Because we are risen with Christ and our life is hid with Christ in God, we hear the call to seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. And we look forward to the day when we shall also appear with Him in glory (Col. 3:1-4).
We who have been raised together with Him are also those who shall be raised together with Him. Then our yet unseen sitting with Him in heavenly places shall be openly and fully manifest! Death shall be completely swallowed up in life!
So we can say with the apostle Paul in Philippians 1:21: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” To look at death as gain is possible only because we are risen with Christ now, and are partakers of that glory that shall be revealed only through death.
While we await consideration of that final glory until we consider the doctrine of the last things, we remember that Scripture defines that glory in terms of living before the face of God in Jesus Christ. Living in the fellowship of His love, unhindered any longer by our sinful flesh and the corruption of this present sin-cursed world—that will be the blessedness of our finalglorification.
And living in the hope of that, we purify ourselves (I John 3:3).
You do, don’t you?