God has told us amazing things about our future, because he wants us to be amazed.
He has told us hopeful things, because he wants us to feel hope — really feel hope. Hope without a heartfelt gladness about what is coming, is not hope. This is why God tells us such gladness-producing things. He wants us to enjoy now, with profound assurance, the joyful feeling of hope. “Rejoice in hope!” (Romans 12:12).
My experience is that I can read God’s words about my future, and pass over them so quickly, that they have no emotional effect. Such reading does not awaken or intensify hope. It does not make us unbending, glad-hearted, green trees in the midst of drought.
Surely this is why the green-tree Christian, whose leaves do not wither, and who bears fruit when others are dying, is the Christian who “meditates on the law of the Lord day and night” (Psalm 1:2). He lingers over God’s hope-giving promises until he feels hope.
Pick the Peach of God’s Promise
When we find a promise, like a juicy peach, hanging on the branch of Scripture, we don’t say, “That’s a peach,” and move on through the orchard. We stop. We reach up and pick the peach. We bite down. We taste. And if we find our taste buds are dead, we plead for God to give us life. “Give me life, O Lord, according to your word!” (Psalm 119:107).
Come with me to the orchard of hope. I want you to join me in tasting the peach that I picked a few days ago. In my reading, I came to 1 Corinthians 2:7, where Paul says,
We impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.
I stopped. I picked this peach of hope, and it has been refreshing me for several days. I knew it was there. But this time, it was luscious with hope. It was ripe for picking. And I was ripe. And oh how good it has tasted. How it has fed my soul, sweetened my sleep, and strengthened me for some hard things that are coming. Come, have a taste with me.
Before the Ages
“Before the ages” — that is before time, and therefore before creation, when there was only God in existence — God was exercising his “wisdom.” This is infinite wisdom. And in his eternal, infinite wisdom, he was planning that one day we would experience “our glory” to the full. “God decreed a wisdom before the ages for our glory.”
For Those Who Love Him
For whom was he planning this glory? He was planning it “for those who love him.” Verse 9: “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, God prepared for those who love him.” God decreed, before the creation of the world, that we who love him would be glorious.
From the Depths of God
This decree was not secondary in the wisdom of God. Paul says it came from “the depths of God.” Verse 10: “These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.” The hope-giving juices of this peach reach back before the ages, back into the wisdom of God, back into the decrees of God, and back into “the depths of God.”
Decreed for Our Glory
What will this include? What should we feel hope for when we ponder at night that we might die before we wake up in the morning?
Paul says we should feel hope for “our glory.” In what sense is this glory ours? Not ours separate from God’s. Not ours separate from Christ’s. That is not our hope — to be glorious with a glory not God’s and not Christ’s. Rather, “we rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2). And the glory of his Christ! “To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 2:14).
The World Is Yours
“Obtain” it how? First as a world, a kingdom, a habitation. “God calls you into his own kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:12). “All things are yours, whether . . . the world or life or death or the present or the future — all are yours” (1 Corinthians 3:21–22). We will obtain “our glory” the way a prisoner, who has lived in a cold, dark dungeon for decades, walks into a paradise of light and color and warmth and living freshness. As far as he can see, in every direction, there is beauty. He smells it. Hears it. Tastes it. It envelops him, and he feels it in every pore of his skin. Glory will be our habitation. The glorious new world will be “our glory.”
The light and the beauty of every beautiful thing — and everything will be beautiful — will be the light and beauty of God. “The glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb” (Revelation 21:23). Every redeemed prisoner released from the dungeon of this age will cry out, “In your light do we see light” (Psalm 36:9). “Our glory” will be the glory of God above and in everything.
The Riches of God’s Glory
And it will be more valuable — more precious — to our souls than all created reality together. Paul describes “the riches of [God’s] glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory” (Romans 9:23). Riches. Whenever riches seem to be coming our way on earth, we feel a sense of excitement and hope. Riches open so many possibilities of freedom and life.
But even if you had all the riches in this world, they could not compare to “the riches of the glory of God” which were decreed for us in eternity. We were “prepared” — created — for these. And if earthly wealth awakens excitement and hope for freedom and life, how vastly more should this promise of “riches” make us the gladdest and freest of all people. This is “our glory.”
We Shall Be Like Him
But this glory will be “our glory” not only in what we behold, but also in what we become. “We know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). God decreed a wisdom before the ages for our glory. It will be “ours” because we ourselves will shine with what we see.
John saw the risen Jesus, and “his face was like the sun shining in full strength” — and John fell down as if dead (Revelation 1:16–17). But this is the very glory with which we will shine: “The righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matthew 13:43).
The glory of Christ will be “our glory” because it is our new world, and because it is our new identity.
Like His Glorious Body
Picture the most emaciated, dying saint you have ever seen in a nursing home. These days of dying are not glorious. Many groan to put off their “earthly tent” and be “swallowed up by life” (2 Corinthians 5:4). But against this inglorious end stands the mighty word of God: This withered and wrinkled and worn out body “is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power” (1 Corinthians 15:43). Every saint, no matter how wasted away or mutilated, will rise in glory. God decreed this — “our glory.”
The glory of our resurrection bodies will be the glory of Christ. “He will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:21). Those who hold fast to Christ through all their sufferings will “be glorified with him” (Romans 8:17). This is what God decreed for us before the ages. “He predestined [us] to be conformed to the image of his Son. . . . And those whom he predestined . . . he also glorified” (Romans 8:29–30). This was the wisdom decreed “for our glory.”
The Glory of the Universe
So “our glory” will be the glory of our new world, and the glory of our new nature. But to make sure we feel the wonder even more intensely, Paul tells us that it is not we that are adapted to the new world, but the new world that is adapted to us. The glory we become determines the glory of the universe. “The creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:18–21). We do not obtain the freedom of its glory. It obtains the freedom of “our glory.”
Heavy and Eternal
If your suffering seems long, if the disappointments and frustrations are many and last a lifetime, if the burdens seem too heavy and the pain too long, God says, No, they are not too heavy; they are not too long. “This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
Do you want to know what heavy is? The weight of glory is heavy. Do you want to know what long is? Eternal glory is long. This is “our glory.”
Each One Praised by God
That is not all. Not only is “our glory” the glory of our new nature shining like the sun in full strength, and calling into being a new world of glory, but there will also be an intensely personal dimension to “our glory.”
The galactic brightness of that new world and the blinding brilliance of each face will not hinder the personal touch of Jesus. It is not to masses, but to individual persons, that he says, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21). Not servants. Servant.
To each devoted servant, one at a time, Jesus says, “I will give a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it” (Revelation 2:17). It doesn’t get more personal than that. “Our glory” will include the personal glory of each. “Each one will receive his praise from God” (1 Corinthians 4:5; see also Romans 2:29).
Rejoice in Hope
This has been a luscious and nourishing and strengthening peach: “God decreed a wisdom before the ages for our glory.” I have been savoring it for days. Thanks for tasting it with me.
May God make you glad in the glory he has decreed for your future.