The message of today is that the believer in the Lord Jesus will one day be glorified. This is our fourth Sunday looking at one verse in the New Testament, but the verse that we are looking at has four mighty words. The verse is Romans Chapter 8 and Verse 30 and the four words are:
- Justified and
I want you to give your mind to this this morning, because we are talking about a huge subject, something which is going to last for a very long time. If the Bible is telling the truth, there is going to come a time when you and I are enjoying and experiencing what it means to be glorified by it. And these four words, they really must impact us.
I am saying, if you have been predestined, you have been changed. If you have been called by God and your life turned around so you follow Jesus, you are not the same person. If you have been justified, you have been washed of sin and robed in the righteousness of Christ, as we would sing, and you now stand before God clean, fit. And if you are going to be glorified, that is an absolutely huge and magnificent future for you.
I will give you a feeble illustration. This is the best that I could come up with. I want you to imagine a waitress working in one of the restaurants in Sydney. She is sweeping the floors. She gets a phone call. She suddenly realises that one of the customers over the last weeks or months has been watching her and now he has called her and she answers the phone and he explains who he is. He is a film producer. He is the most famous film producer in the world and he is asking her to come for an audition. He is going to use the wardrobe department to get her ready for a part in a film and he wants her to be in Vienna in two weeks’ time for a huge budget film. Now you can’t not be impacted by that. As you are on the phone or as you are thinking about what has just happened, you would have to say to yourself, ‘How long was that guy watching me? Why did he pick me? And what was that phone call like! And, am I really in his cast? And am I going to Vienna in two weeks’ time?’ Everything is affected or impacted.
Now, multiply that by a billion times and you come to the gospel. Is it possible that the God of the universe would have picked you, noticed you, arrested you from before the foundation of the world, and then called you, turned your heart – either transformed you or made you realise the faith. And now of course, He brings you to the point of believing so you put your faith in Jesus, and He justifies you and you find yourself washed and cleaned before God and then He makes this promise that you will be glorified. And you have to scratch your head at this point and say, ‘That has totally impacted my life.’
Non-Christians never really grasp what has happened to a Christian. That’s why non-Christians report, hen people get converted, and they say, So and so has found God. So and so has found religion’… as though they have just made a little decision. But of course the Bible tells us that God has found us. Christians also fall into the trap, every now and again, of missing the significance of what has happened to them. You may find yourself thinking, ‘Gee, did I just choose this Christianity? Did I make a mistake? Is it just my upbringing? Am I deluded?’ And then you go back to the Bible, and you find a verse like Romans 8 Verse 30, that tells you that God, before the foundation of the world, predestined you and then called you and then justified you and will glorify you.
So, that is what we are going to look at this morning and I want to ask a couple of questions. C S Lewis says in his book Mere Christianity, Hope means a continual looking forward to the eternal world. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world. Read history and you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were those who thought most of the next.’ And then, his famous sentence, ‘Aim at Heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you will get neither.’
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Romans Chapter 8 Verse 30 – predestined, called, justified, glorified. What will it mean in the future to be glorified? And what does it mean today, that we will be glorified? First of all, what will it mean? This is a very difficult thing for me to do this morning, because if you think that I think that I can describe heaven to you, you must think again and I must think again. I once gave a series of talks at Katoomba at the summer school in the evening on the subject of hope. And I got to the fifth and the last, which was to be hope realised. And I attempted for half an hour to speak on the subject of heaven and it was absolutely pitiful. My words could not capture really anything to excite those who were present. It was a real anticlimax, sadly, to the series. And so today, I am not attempting to describe the future to you. I just want to provoke you to think about the future. I have not been to the future but I am just going to take up some of the strands of what the Bible says.
For the Christian to be glorified, it means that God will have achieved His goals. I don’t know if you remember those desk games that used to be around quite a lot ten or twenty years ago. It was a series of silver balls, like ball bearings, hanging from strings, and you would pull one back and it would hit the second, the third and the fourth. If there are four steel balls hanging in Romans 8 Verse 30 …that God predestines, it then strikes the next and the call takes place; it then strikes the next and the justification takes place; it strikes the next and the glorification takes place. God, you see, effortlessly, finishes the sequences. He achieves what He started. What He began, what He has continued, what He preserves, He will complete. He will achieve His goal. And the goal, as we know, from Chapter 8 Verse 29 is that believers would be like His Son, the Lord Jesus. And so God will complete what was started.
John tells us in his letter, ‘What we will be we cannot say, but we know we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is.’
The second thing about being glorified is that our salvation will be perfected. For a long time, believers have been free of the penalty of sin because Jesus died and took the penalty away. And for a long time, believers have been free from the controlling power of sin, so that it has not totally dominated us. But there will come a day where we will be free from the very presence of sin and there are a lot of believers who can’t wait for that, when all the traces of sin will be gone from the human heart and all the traces of sin will be gone from the environment in which we live. I remember interviewing Clifford Warne when he turned 70 (one of the saintly members of our church) some years ago. And I said to him in the interview, ‘What are you looking forward to, now that you are 70?’ And he said, immediately thinking of heaven, ‘I am looking forward to not having a sinful nature.’ It seemed a surprising thing to say at the time, but I think I understand, more and more, what he meant: what a great thing to be rid of the sin that dogs us and plagues us. And it will be a great miracle, won’t it, to find that we have been perfected in holiness by God. Not that we suddenly have the status of the Lord Jesus, but we have the character of the Lord Jesus and so the family that we have been brought into, we suddenly have fitness, real fitness for the family.
Some have wondered why the apostle doesn’t talk about sanctification in this verse. You see, it says: predestined, called, justified… and then you would expect it to say sanctified (made like the Lord Jesus) and then glorified. But F F Bruce in his commentary very helpfully says that sanctification is really this perfection begun. And glorification is really the perfection completed. So they are really saying the same things. One is the start and one is the finish, and therefore, there is probably no need, except to say that God will finish the process of making us like the Lord Jesus.
Glorification also means, thirdly, that we will be resurrected. There will be a new body to go with the new Christian life that we have. We will be safely brought through death. We will be safely brought through judgement. Just as Noah and his family sailed safely through the flood, in the Ark, the believer will sail through the Judgement, in the Lord Jesus. And we will find ourselves with a new body, in a new creation. If you want to read about the new body, read 1 Corinthians 15. We won’t be a kind of a vapour or a spook or a soul floating around and we won’t have a cloud for a home. We will be a physical person in a physical world, just as Jesus demonstrated in His own resurrection. And more to do. The impression you get from the New Testament is that there is a literal worship to be done in the new creation, which doesn’t just mean singing, it means living for Christ. And the parables that talk about the return of the Master, handing over the rewards (for those who have been faithful with a few things) to do more things, gives the impression that there will be great stimulus in the new creation. We mustn’t fall for the cartoons that we are given of Heaven. They are terrible, more like hell, really, those cartoons.
And the glorification which is to come also means there will be more grace to be enjoyed. We have received grace to believe. We receive grace every day, and there will be more grace when we see the Lord Jesus. It will unfold, incredible dimensions of grace still to be revealed. This is very special, because we gave God no glory by nature. Romans Chapter 1 – we would not give Him glory. And now we discover, through the Lord Jesus, that He is going to give us glory. And then of course in Romans 3,we fell short of the glory of God. But because of the Lord Jesus, we will not fall short of the glory of God. We will arrive at the glory of God. And we realise that we will do this because the Lord gave up His glory in coming into the world and then gave up His real fellowship with the Father, in order that we might have fellowship with the Father. So everything about the future is built on what Jesus did in the past. He has made it a certainty.
And one writer says, ‘We will always be grateful. We will look back and we will see more and more that we have become what we are, by no act of our own, but that grace came to us, took hold of us, drove us, led us, so that without losing our decisions, we experience salvation. We did not do it.’
Peter says in his first letter Chapter 1,that we are to set our hope fully on the grace that is to be revealed when the Lord Jesus comes. Think about that. Up ahead, the unfolding of immeasurable grace to come.
The last thing to say about this future, glorification, is that it is future. Some of you will think this is a very obvious point, but if you look at Romans 8:30, you will see that the word glorified is in the past (in erast). It is a verb which has to do with the past. And the writer says we have been predestined, we have been called, we have been justified, we have been glorified. And so we have to scratch our head and say, ‘How can the Apostle Paul possibly say that we have been glorified?’ There are only two possibilities. One is that we have arrived and this is it and we are now perfect. And I have met you and I know that’s not true and you have met me and you know that’s not true! And the other possibility is that the Apostle Paul is speaking from the perspective of God’s effective purposes and he is speaking in the language of certainty. And that is what he is doing. He is speaking with the language of guarantee.
In the present, says the Apostle, we have lowly bodies, fading and weakening… but then, we will have glorified bodies. In the present, we experience suffering (Romans 8) but in the future, it will be glory without sufferings. Now the creation is in bondage; then it will be free. Now we do not see Christ; but then we will see Him face-to-face. It’s impossible, isn’t it, to read Romans Chapter 8 and not realise two things. One, all the glory is in the future, and yet there is a sense in which God’s plan is so clear, so sure, so certain, so guaranteed, that the Apostle Paul can say, ‘He has glorified us’. It’s that certain. That’s the way he speaks.
So, they are some thoughts on the future. And now some things to think about in the present. What does it means for us, as we head out of this building and as we head into Monday and then Tuesday. What does it mean that we will one day be glorified? First, of a few quick points. We are to be secure, knowing the future is based on the promises of God and the work of the Lord Jesus. We are to be secure, but we are also to be careful. That’s the first thing. Secure and careful. The language is so strong, it is as if God is making Himself a walking stick. He sees a branch on a tree, He picks it, He cleans it, He varnishes it, it’s done. He sees a person whom He wants to have in His glory, He picks them, He calls them, He justifies them, He does it. It is an effective work. We are a very secure people because of His purposes and His plans. But at the same time, we have to be very careful. We have to be people who walk, knowing that there are many warnings in the New Testament. The Bible is full of promises to comfort, but it is also full of warnings to guard us. In the New Testament, we are told that no-one will pluck you from Christ’s hand and He who began the good work in you will complete it and nothing shall separate us from the love of Christ. And then it also says, that many will say “Lord, Lord” and He will say, “I don’t know you.” And some of the seed, you remember, fell on the rocky ground and produced no fruit and seemed to be dead. And then there are the warnings in the Hebrews letters and in other places which remind us that we must be very careful.
How do we fit this together, because the question of assurance is a very big question? And the genius of God is that He speaks to real people in the real world, real disciples in the real world. And He, at the same time, comforts us and He warns us. We need the two. If you are fearful, go to the promises. If you are in a flippant mood, go to the warnings. The brilliance of God, you see, is that He will not reduce the Christian discipleship to one bumper-sticker, because He knows that we are people who need to be given promises and warnings at the same time, and we can’t go forward without the two.
Our sinfulness brings doubts which need promises, and our sinfulness brings stupidity which need warnings. So don’t try to live the Christian life just with the promises, like some of those sentimental calendars that we are given. We need warnings as well. And don’t try and live the Christian life just with fearful warnings. We need the very encouraging promises, and God combines them beautifully in the Scriptures.
If you want a little ditty which I read during the week in one of the books which has to do with whether eternal life can be lost or not, I thought this was very clever. The writer says, ‘If we have eternal life, we never lose eternal life. If we lose eternal life, we never had eternal life.’ And that I think is a very nice way of steering through the question of being secure, but careful.
The other thing about the present, knowing that we will one day be glorified, is that we are to be genuinely excited. There is an anticipation about the future which some of our hymns capture for us. I don’t know if you think this every now and again when you are singing a hymn, but it occurs to me that the hymn writer is saying things which are more mature and more thoughtful and more passionate and more believing than I am capable of, and so I find myself singing things which are kind of beyond me. They stretch me. They are expressing things that I am perhaps not up to. And I think that is good for us, because we need to be stretched, to take seriously what others have perhaps taken more seriously than we have… the excitement of the future to come. But we also have to stay humble. And so the Scriptures tell us enough about the future, so that we can almost scratch our head and wonder if it is too good to be true… and then we go back to the faithfulness of God and we remember that it is true, and too good to miss. We will one day be in the presence of Christ. We will see Christ face-to-face. It is not certain that you will die. Christ may come. It is not certain that you will pay your taxes this year. But what is absolutely certain is that you will be face-to-face with the Lord Jesus. And for the believer, that will be the most wonderful moment in eternity, to suddenly find yourself face-to-face with your Saviour and your King, the Person who loves you more than anyone else and gives you a welcome which is going to be breath-taking.
And don’t forget, that if you are thinking about Heaven, Christ is central. It’s a very helpful question to ask whether Heaven for you can be Heaven, and Jesus is not there. If your ideas of Heaven have to do with people and perfect, but not Jesus, go back to the New Testament. He is central to Heaven. He is the light, the lamp of Heaven. He is the reason that all the enemies and dangers are removed and He is the reason that all the blessings and the good things are present. He is the key to Heaven. And many writers have tried to capture the excitement of what it will be to be face-to-face with the Lord Jesus.
One of the old creeds, which came in 1561 from Belgium says, ‘The faithful shall be crowned with glory and honour. The Son of God will confess their names before God. All tears shall be wiped away and their cause, which is now condemned, will be known to be the cause of the Son of God. And for a gracious reward, the Lord will cause them to possess such a glory as never entered the heart of man to conceive.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking – this is on the humble side – that the world to come is going to be more of a vapour than the present world. It’s a great mistake to think that we are going to move from a solid world to a mystical world. The Bible is very clear that God is a God of a physical body in the resurrection and a physical Heaven and earth. And in many ways, we are going to move from a very fragile world to a very enduring and permanent world. And this new creation is going to be a renewed creation, just as you, a renewed person because Christ has entered your life, the creation is going to be renewed and purified and removed of all its impurities and all its traces of sin and made into a magnificent creation and all your plans to go 1,000 places before you die, and see 1,000 movies before you die, and visit 1,000 paintings before you die and read 1,000 books before you die… forget it! Don’t try it before you die. Do it all after you die. There is plenty of time to come. And don’t import your weedy ideas of Heaven into Heaven, because if you think that endless praise means that you are going to be singing forever in a pew, well nothing could be worse! What could be worse than singing the same chorus for eternity! But of course, when the Bible talks about endless praise, it’s praise without boredom. It’s joy without tedium. And therefore, we must be very careful we don’t arrogantly import into our views of Heaven something which has more to do with our own distortions.
The last thing is that glorification, which we are to live in the light of today, is to make us grateful and generous. What a thing it is, to be part of God’s plans, at the expense of the Lord Jesus. What a thing it is! It’s just incredible. God has given His Word on this, and the Lord Jesus has shed His blood on this, and our part is to gratefully take what Christ has done and what God has promised. There is a marching forward, you see, and we are to be truly grateful people.
Somebody sent me a little sentence or two which I found very helpful which says, ‘The seed of God’s purpose has in it the stem of His call, the foliage of His justification and the fruit of His glory.’ And in terms of time, we are up to the foliage. There is just the fruit to appear.
Don’t keep this to yourself. We are to be grateful, but we are also to be generous. The world, as you know, is in freefall. Everybody is falling towards the Judgement Day. And in Australia, it is possible to enjoy the fall quite a bit, because it looks as though it is completely happy and harmless for many people. But there is going to be an end to the fall, when people will come face-to-face with the Lord Jesus and their only hope of coming face-to-face with the Lord Jesus safely is if they faced Him and embraced Him before they meet Him. And that is what people must do and we must help them. And what people really need is the Lord Jesus. They may need some money, they may need some supplies. All of those things are important. But the most important they need is the Lord Jesus.
So let me close today with some famous words of C S Lewis from his essay The weight of glory: ‘It’s hardly possible to think too often or too deeply about our neighbours. The load or weight or burden of my neighbour’s glory should be laid on my back. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to 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. All day long, we are, in some degree, helping people to one or other of these destinations. So there are no ordinary people. You have never met a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations-these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit-immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.’
We must remember, as we think about the work which God is doing, that predestining, calling, justifying, glorifying – which He has graciously, wonderfully given to believers – is a gift which He gladly gives to those yet to hear the call, enjoy the justification and then the glorification. May God help us to be part of that process.
Let’s pray. Let’s bow our heads. Our Heavenly Father, we thank You today for what You have recorded for us in Your Word: extraordinary, wonderful, humbling and exciting truths. And we pray that You would cause these truths to be written on our mind and heart, and then to be lived out in the way that we carry on. We thank You so much, our Father, for this remarkable predestining, calling, justifying, and glorifying. And as you have kept us in the world to be Your representatives, we pray that You would use us to extend the call and then one day, in Your glory, so see many. We pray Father that you would fill us with gratitude and also help us in service. We ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.