We end our reflections on Affective Theology by embracing the hope of glory offered through God’s love. Glory, a word that intrigues and invites Bible readers, has a dimension still out of reach. It represents the far horizon of the end times. Paul, for instance, spoke of the “hope of glory” in both Romans and Colossians. Each text looked ahead to Jesus in his eternal status while anchoring that future in a believer’s present faith.
As context, “hope” and “glory” are linked truths in the face of evil. Hope keeps us going as we face tragedy, feeling the discouragements of a broken world. When evil rocks us, or when death takes away someone dear to us, we instinctively cry out, “God, where are you?!” If God is truly “in charge” why does life feel out of control? This instinct of despair often erupts by way of deep financial needs, crimes against us or those we love, by the impact of diseases, death, or wars. If God is good, why doesn’t he stop evil and pain?
The answer is that human sin in Eden birthed suffering, and that sin continues. As we speak of human affections and love, evil always strikes back with counterpoints of anger, hatred, and loss. So, Paul’s writings help us face evil with the certainty of coming relief. He wrote to Jewish believers in Rome, including Aquila and Priscilla, soon after they returned to Rome from the exile imposed by Emperor Claudius (Acts 18:2). And not long before Nero’s persecutions in A.D. 64. Christians were scapegoated for the fires in Rome and some were slaughtered.
So, listen to Paul’s call to faith at that dark time. “Through him [Jesus] we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:2-5).
This remarkable linkage between “sufferings” and the “hope of the glory of God” only makes sense by including the final, causal link: “because God’s love has been poured into our hearts” by the Spirit. God is not overcome by evil. Instead, he overcomes evil with good. This spiritual security stands against the tsunami waves of evil stirred by God’s archenemy. God meets every pain with the comfort of his love. This is our hope. Yet Paul understood how challenging it is to “rejoice in hope” when we feel deep pain! So, the added promise of hope that anticipates “the glory of God” is crucial. But what does hope-of-glory mean?
Paul certainly knew what Jesus told his disciples in the Upper Room before the crucifixion. Love and glory were linked in Jesus’ prayer of John 17. What Satan meant as his ultimate evil act—the crucifixion—God made into his ultimate good. Jesus became a man to swallow death for his bride. He, alone—the sinless and divine sacrifice—defeated death and rose again. So, the vision Jesus embraced in his prayer looked beyond the cross to the future outcome of eternal life. And eternal life with God is called glory—where the crescendo of the mutual love between God and his people finally unfolds without any shadows of evil.
Follow Jesus here. “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (John 17:4-5). Glory was both an activity—“I glorified you”—and a setting. His “presence” with the Father before creation was “the glory” they shared. He also said, “And now, Father”—treating the cross as the cusp of coming glory. Later, in verse 24, he repeated this outcome but added the Father’s defining motive in sharing this gift: “I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.”
So, love explains the gift of glory—a lover delights in the one he or she loves, and that delight shows up in a shower of honor and devotion. Glory is the fruit of love—a giving that is wholly uncontained by self-concerns. In God’s triune communion glory is a mutual exchange of exaltation, as in John 17:1, “glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you.”
We should take a moment to reflect more broadly on the uses of “glory” in the Bible. Where we find the concept swinging between “where”—the eternal communion Jesus spoke of in John 17:24—and the “what” that includes a fiery physical radiance of God filling the Tabernacle and the Temple. And in a later extension, as flames of fire came upon the disciples at Pentecost in Jerusalem. This was God’s explicit way of saying, “I’m here!”
A similar display of fiery brightness also described the LORD in appearing to Moses at Sinai; or as Jesus showed himself to three of the disciples in his transfiguration. God’s glory gave Moses a case of fluorescent face as he met with God face to face. And Paul promises believers a case of fluorescent soul as the Spirit transfigures lives (2 Corinthians 3:18).
All of this suggests what Paul certainly had in mind as he promised the “hope” of glory. That everyone who knows and loves Jesus will come to share his joy, united to him by the Spirit’s bonding life in eternal communion with the Father. It’s the fellowship we were made for.
This promise of eternal satisfaction also has immediate impact. Paul made this hope a motive force for the present life. “To them [his saints] God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).
The Spirit brings Christ’s presence to life in terms the apostle celebrates as “riches.” And life in Christ is more than imputed justification—as when Abraham “believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness.” It includes the union we have with him by the Spirit. “But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him” (1 Corinthians 6:17).
We end this brief series on Affective Theology with our participation in Christ’s life as the “hope of glory.” We have three heart-based certainties. The first is that God is love. He then invites us into his love by sending the Spirit who now motivates us with God’s love. And the third is that the expanse of God’s love is eternal.
Paul summarized this in his Affective invitation of Ephesians 3:19-21—For us all “to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”