THIS IS PART SIX IN A SERIES: Six Facets of Scandalous Grace.
Read part 1 - Predestination
Read part 2 - Regeneration
Read part 3 - Justification
Read part 4 - Adoption
Read part 5 - Sanctification
THE DOOR INTO ETERNITY
With today’s facet of grace, we pass through a door into eternity. For some, this door looms closer than we ever expected. For others, the door into eternity seems like an impossibly far-off destination.
The reality is each of us will face that door. In that moment, those who know Jesus as Savior will experience the sixth facet of scandalous grace, what we call in theology, glorification. It is this facet of which Paul speaks in Romans 8:18 when he writes,
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
The apostle elaborates in verses 29–30,
“For those whom (God) foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
You may have noticed that in this passage a number of facets of grace appear together, such as predestination, calling (regeneration), justification, and glorification. Interestingly, Paul writes of these in the past tense — even glorification. He is so certain of the fulfillment of God’s eternal plan of redemption, that when someone receives the first pearl on the string of grace, he may have assurance that he will receive them all, from predestination to glorification.
As we explore the facet of glorification, we will use the analogy of acts in a play to help us see how history is moving toward that final door through which we all will pass. When we look at Scripture, we see four acts that not only frame the biblical storyline but also help us understand the narrative of our individual lives.
THE FOUR ACTS
Act 1 — Creation: Humans Are Created with Moral Freedom
In the opening act, the first humans are created in a state of moral innocence with a free will to choose whether to follow the wisdom of God or to reject it. A fun Latin phrase that captures this state of human freedom is posse peccare et posse non-peccare which means “possible to sin and possible not to sin.” This was the state of mankind at creation. They had the freedom to obey the commands of God or to rebel. Sadly, we know what happened.
Act 2 — Rebellion: Humans Become Enslaved to Sin
In their moral rebellion, the first humans fell from a state of innocence into a condition of moral corruption. Not only did humanity from that point forward lose free will, we became enslaved to what Scripture calls the sin nature (or the flesh). Here is what this means. While our wills remain free to choose what we want, with the flesh in control of the will, humans no longer have the moral ability (or even the desire) to choose righteousness. In this condition, the Latin phrase changes to non-posse non-peccare, which means “not possible not to sin.”
Act 3 — Redemption: The Elect Are Rescued
The human story is bleak until the third act, where God implements a plan to rescue treasonous sinners through the redemptive, substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus. With his crucifixion, the penalty of sin is removed from those who repent of their unrighteousness and receive the gift-righteousness of Christ through faith. The Latin phrase for the redeemed human condition changes to posse non-peccare, “possible not to sin.”
In this act, the penalty of sin is removed but the presence of sin remains. However, in the fourth and final act, not only the penalty of sin is removed but also the very presence of sin is abolished forever. We call this final act Consummation, where the redeemed are glorified.
Act 4 — Consummation: The Redeemed Are Glorified
In the fourth act, human history comes to a close with the return of Jesus, where the redeemed are resurrected into a state of glorious moral perfection and unending joy while those who refuse to repent and receive mercy suffer the painful penalty of judgment for their acts of rebellion. For those in the glorified state, the Latin changes once again. This time tonon posse peccare, “not possible to sin.”
We see this act inaugurated in Revelation 21:2-5.
2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
No more sickness. No more violence. No more suffering of any kind. No more death. No more mental disorders. No more natural disasters. No more political divisions. No more racism. No more war. No more abuse. No more besetting sins. No more addiction. No more guilt. No more shame. No more stress, anxiety, depression.
No more tears.
Only joy and peace. Forever.
That day is coming. It may be fifty years down the road. It could be tomorrow. But there will be a day when the doors of eternity open and you must step through. As you approach that door, I want you to have confidence that you will see Jesus, standing to greet you with a wide smile and open arms.
HOW CAN WE GAIN THE HOPE OF GLORY?
First, we gain the hope of glory by contemplating the cradle of Jesus.
Why was he born? Paul puts it bluntly in 1 Timothy 1:15, saying,“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”
Other texts agree.
1 John 4:10, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
Matthew 1:21, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
Galatians 4:4-5, “4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.”
Jesus was not born primarily to be a teacher of righteousness but to be a substitutionary sacrifice for the unrighteous.
Second, we gain the hope of glory by savoring the cross of Jesus.
Paul writes in Colossians 1:21-22,
“21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.”
I want you to savor this grace—to celebrate it and sing with confidence Horatio Spafford’s hymn, It is Well with My Soul, where he writes the believer’s mantra,
“My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought— My sin, not in part, but the whole, Is nailed to His Cross, and I bear it no more; Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!”
Third and finally, we gain the hope of glory by celebrating the crown of Jesus.
The Christ who lived and died rose from the grave and ascended to reign as King over heaven and earth forever. His promise to make all things new is a certainty we can take to the bank and cash in for the hope of glory—a hope that is able to give you peace through storms, strength during trials, and a supernatural joy in suffering.
Eventually, our earthly journeys will come to an end and the door into eternity will open. Those who rest upon Jesus as their hope of glory shall not only be with him, but wonder of wonders shall be like him—not only predestined, justified, and adopted, but perfectly sanctified, non posse peccare—all to the praise of God’s glorious, scandalous grace.