Editor's Note: Dorothy Bullòn wrote this essay for the Renovating Holiness Project and translated several other essays. Because we limited our formal contributors to people Gen-Xers and Millennials, we couldn't include Dorothy's essay in the book. However, she addresses (and debunks) a curious concern for Latin American Christians - the strange claims of experiences of God's glory.
Buy “The Glory of God”, goes the advert. It’s a book where the Guatemalan neo-Pentecostal pastor with a large flock in Miami puts forward his views about how God´s glory is manifested. He believes it can be brought down on a congregation if they lift their hands up in praise; the signs of this manifestation could be angel´s feathers descending from heaven. (Hey I thought they were spirits; what do they want wings for?) Other pastors claim to display Gods glory by changing water into wine, or raising the dead. (So these pastors are on an equal par with the one who brought joy to the wedding at Cana and brought Lazarus back to life?)
In the face of these quirky ideas which mislead thousands of people, we have to ask ourselves: what does the Bible say about the glory of God?
The word for "glory" in the Old Testament is kabod.
In the New Testament kabod was translated into Greek as doxa. Kabod means weight, value, honor, honorable reputation. It is used several times in other contexts like "gray hair the splendor (Kabod) of the old" (Prov. 20:29, NIV).
A good definition would be the luminous manifestation of power, greatness and holiness of God. The essence of the glory of God is His holiness. Holiness and glory are inseparable as this verse says: “Who among the gods is like you, LORD? Who is like you-- majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” (Ex. 15:11). In Luke the shepherds had a powerful experience: “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified” (Luke 2:9).
God’s glory is expressed in nature: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1), and “Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens” (Psalm 8:1). God´s glory is everywhere: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” (Isaiah 6:3b), and “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth” (Psalm 57:11).
There are spectacular symbols of the glory of God in the book of Exodus and when Solomon dedicated the temple. In Sinai, God’s glory was symbolized in the fire: “the glory of the LORD settled on Mount Sinai…To the Israelites the glory of the LORD looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain” (Ex.24:16-17); and in the cloud. “Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle” (Ex. 40:35b). When Solomon finished dedicating the temple, fire fell from heaven and consumed and the Holocaust and the glory of the Lord filled Temple.
The prophet Ezekiel had a strange vision of the glory of God arriving in Babylon, where the Jews were exiled. It is a majestic vision that includes high wind, cloud, fire, living beings. “This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell facedown” (Ez.1:28). After, in chapter 10, the prophet is taken to the temple in Jerusalem where he saw that there was much idolatry and saw the glory of God (the same vision he had in chap. 1) leave the temple (ikabod the glory of the Lord had departed).
The glory of God in the Old Testament had to be presented in symbolic forms for the people of Israel to understand His holiness. Because it was in the form of cloud and fire in those historical moments does not mean that He is with us today in the same ways. God contextualizes. He reveals himself in each historical moment in a way that can be understood.
Jesus is the only true manifestation of the glory of God.
John says: “We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth (Jn. 1:14). The writer to the Hebrews affirms: “The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Heb. 1:3).
Jesus manifested God´s glory in the marriage in Cana: “What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory” (John 2:11); and at other times, after healing the blind and the raising of Lazarus. The three disciples saw the glory of God reflected in Jesus at the Transfiguration (Mt. 17:1-8, Mark 9: 2-8, and Lc.9. 28-36).
Jesus manifested the glory of God in his death. In John, the time of death is the hour of his glory (John 7:39, 12. 23-28). When Judas was gone, Jesus said, "Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him” (John 13:31). “But we do see Jesus…crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone” (Heb. 2:9). God glorified him in the resurrection and ascension. Peter said: “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this” (Acts 3:13). Jesus will return and “At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory” (Mark 13:26).
So the only profound and real manifestation of the Glory of God is to be found in the incarnation of His son, Jesus, who healed the sick, had compassion on the poor, liberated the oppressed, spoke to publicans and sinners, elevated the status of women, loved children, touched lepers, and lived an unblemished life. We see God´s glory revealed in his humility, service, miracles, his teachings, in his confrontations with the religious leaders, in his death (the hour of his glory), in his resurrection and ascension.
Given the link between glory and holiness, the best manifestation of the glory of God today is the believer from the moment he or she is born again; but the "glory" of God is more clearly manifested in the lives of those who "radiate" selfless love and deep compassion, in those who feed the hungry and care for the sick and dying, those who exhibit the values of the crucified one in their lives, those whose power is made perfect in weakness, those who have learned to die with Christ and live to serve others.
Glory is the manifestation of holiness, and holiness is the manifestation of love - faithful, compassionate, selfless love.
Paul says: “and we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Cor.3:18). Jesus said: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). We are counseled by Paul: So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1Cor 10:31).
So it is about living our lives following in Jesus’ footsteps. Our lives can be powerful messages about the God who loves, forgives, and transforms us day by day to become like Jesus. The glory of God has nothing to do with angel´s feathers, or having the power to change water into wine or raise the dead. It is not just about power but more importantly about holiness. Living for God’s glory is the greatest achievement we can accomplish in our lives.
Dorothy Bullòn was born to UK missionaries in Peru. She studied nursing, midwifery, and theology in London before returning to Peru as a missionary. Later she married a Humberto, a Nazarene pastor in Lima. In Jan 1991, they came to the Seminary of the Americas (SENDAS) in Costa Rica as Nazarene missionaries. Although they are retired, she and Humberto live in Costa Rica and continue to be active members of the faculty.