NOTE: February 2023. The following teaching was originally written and published by Ms. Carmen Benson in 1968 in a little pamphlet published by Logos International, Plainfield, New Jersey. The pamphlet is out of print and Logos International is no longer in business. To my thinking, Ms Benson’s teaching is so important that I wanted to reproduce it to be placed on our ministry web site so it is not lost forever. I have edited Ms Benson’s teaching for brevity and readability, but in essence it is just as she wrote it many years ago with only a few minor changes by me, including updating the Biblical references; some are from the New Living Translation (NLT), some are modern paraphrases of my own. If I could locate Ms Benson (assuming she is still alive after all these years) or her descendants, I would certainly obtain her permission and give her full credit for this teaching. As it stands now, I can merely tell you that the teaching is hers. I hope you find her teaching as fascinating and instructive as I do.
The Glory of God In The Wilderness
In the Old Testament there are 13 different Hebrew words, and 10 Greek words in the New Testament, used in the original manuscripts that are all translated by the one English word, “glory.” But the English word “glory” has many shades of meaning. This is how the dictionary defines the word: “radiant beauty, shining with brilliant luster, resplendence, celestial honor or splendor, an emanation of light proceeding from the Divine Presence or from the person of a sanctified or holy being; also the state of being in majesty or enthroned, or of appearing in such a glory.”
The biblical expression “the glory of God,” denotes the manifestation or revealing of God’s being, nature, character, and presence to humankind, usually with physical phenomena. This basic definition is very important to remember. The physical phenomena vary in form and degree, but the glory of God is—to put it as simply as possible—a palpable, touchable, “feelable” manifestation of God’s person or his power…or the weighty presence of God’s splendor and majesty.
[NOTE: As you study this teaching, that’s the definition of glory you need to keep in mind at all times: a revealing or manifestation of God’s person or his power, often both his person and his power combined…in a palpable, touchable, “feelable” manner.]
The first mention of the glory of God occurs in the Old Testament book of Exodus. One month after the tribes of Israel had departed from Egypt, in response to their complaint for food, God promised to rain bread from heaven upon them. Moses and Aaron told the tribespeople: “In the morning, you shall see the glory [glorious presence and power] of God.” (Exodus 16: 7) It seems fitting that the glory of God would accompany the announcement of the first supernatural gift sent by God from heaven—physical bread to feed the body.
In the same manner approximately 1,300 years later, the glory of God accompanied the announcement of another supernatural gift sent by God from heaven—the Living Bread (Jesus) to feed the spirit and soul and give eternal LIFE. Jesus said: “The true bread of God is He Who comes down from heaven and gives LIFE to the world . . . I am the Bread of LIFE. No one who comes to me will ever be hungry again.” (John 6: 33 and 35) Many centuries before Jesus, that morning in the wilderness all the people saw the glory of God, for we read that Moses said to Aaron, “Tell all the community of Israel to come into God’s presence, and hear his reply to their complaints. As Aaron spoke to the people they looked out toward the desert. Within the guiding cloud they could see the awesome glory of God.” (Exodus 16: 9, 10)
This was not the first time the cloud had appeared. To digress for a moment, a cloud had been the sign of the eternal covenant God made with all living beings on earth since Noah’s time. God didn’t place the rainbow in an empty sky. He said, “I have placed my rainbow in the clouds. It is a sign of my permanent promise to you. When I send clouds over all the earth, the rainbow will be seen in the clouds, and I will remember my covenant with you and with everything that lives on earth.” (Exodus 9: 13 and 14)
Clouds and the glory of God are very closely related, for when God appears to humans, He appears in clouds that veil his “form.” On the Mount of Transfiguration the three disciples saw Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah, but before they heard God Himself speak, the Bible states: “A bright cloud came over them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my beloved Son, and I am fully pleased with Him. Listen to Him.'” (Matthew 17: 5) In this case, the cloud was the visible evidence of God’s presence, his voice the audible evidence.
Also, after his resurrection from death Jesus ascended in a cloud. “It wasn’t long after [He spoke with his followers] that He was taken up into the sky while they were watching, and He disappeared into a cloud.” (Acts 1: 9) And, He will return in a cloud. “Then everyone will see the Son of Man arrive on the clouds with power and great glory.” (Luke 21: 27). Note He will arrive on clouds and great glory.
Then, in Revelation 10: 1, Jesus is portrayed as a “mighty angel” coming down from heaven. He is “surrounded by a cloud . . .” When the “two witnesses” were resurrected in Revelation 11: 12, a loud voice summoned them to come up to heaven. “And they rose to heaven in a cloud as their enemies watched.” The words they heard were the same words spoken to John earlier in Revelation 4 when a door was opened for him to see into heaven and a voice like a trumpet said to him “Come up here!” Who knows but what these same words might be used once again when Jesus returns and descends from heaven with a shout from the archangel. Be that as it may, it will be clouds in which people are caught up to meet Him in the air when Jesus returns. (1 Thessalonians 4: 17)
Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 10: 1 and 2: “Long ago God guided our ancestors in the wilderness by sending a cloud that moved along ahead of them.” From the very beginning of their lengthy sojourn in the Sinai wilderness the visible presence of God went ahead of them by day in a pillar of a cloud and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light. (Exodus 13: 21) The cloud was a guide to them, and a shield from the scorching sun. It had also been their protection when it stood between the camp of the Egyptian army and the camp of Israel. It was a cloud of darkness to the Egyptians, but light to the Israelites.
However, the glory of God appearing in the cloud is not mentioned until the occasion of the promise of supernatural manna from heaven. And when the glory of God appeared, all the Israelites saw it. About two weeks after this, Moses made his first climb up Mount Sinai. Many people are under the mistaken impression that he ascended the mountain twice, but he actually made eight ascents and descents.
Following the second descent, after the Israelites had set themselves apart (sanctified themselves) for three days, the law was to be given. It was exactly 50 days from the day the Israelites left Egypt, which would correspond to the Day of Pentecost later celebrated by the Israelites clear up until the days of Jesus and the early church . . . and beyond. For this momentous event, God had made the stupendous promise that He would personally descend to the top of Mount Sinai, and would speak audibly in the presence of the entire Israelite community numbering several million people. He had told Moses: “I am going to come to you in a thick cloud so the people themselves can hear me as I speak to you.” (Exodus 19: 9)
Then came a scene of such dramatic grandeur that our imaginations are incapable of taking it all in. It will be excelled only on the day Jesus returns to this earth and plants his feet on the Mount of Olives near Jerusalem. Picture, as best you can, what it was like when the Israelites came to the foot of the mountain to meet God. There were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mountain. And God descended upon it in fire. Then a great earthquake shook the entire mountain. The trumpet sounded long, and grew louder. And then God’s audible voice was heard by all the people! It was so awesome that after He had delivered the Ten Commandments, the Israelites begged not to hear God’s voice any more, feeling they might die.
Strangely enough, the glory of God is not mentioned in this scenario. We do not read of it again until the sixth ascent of Moses up the mountain. At this time he was to receive the actual tables of stone on which God Himself had written. The law had been spoken before by God and written down by Moses, but this time God wrote the commandments.
“Then Moses went up the mountain, and the cloud covered it. And the glory [glorious presence and power] of God rested upon Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days. On the seventh day God called to Moses from the cloud. The Israelites at the foot of the mountain saw an awesome sight. The awesome glory of God on the mountaintop looked like a devouring fire.” (Exodus 24: 15 – 17)
This was the second recorded appearance of the glory of God. Incidentally, in some versions of Deuteronomy 33 : 22 we learn that 10,000 “holy ones” (angels? God’s people who had previously died?) came down to Mount Sinai with God when He gave the law to Moses.
The Tabernacle In the Desert
Moses climbed to the top of the mountain and was gone 40 days and 40 nights. During this time, he was given—in addition to the tablets of stone enscribed by God—all the commands about making the Tabernacle. For God had said: “I want the people of Israel to build me a sacred residence where I can live among them.” (Exodus 25: 8). Previously, He had only been guiding them. Now He wants to live among them: “I will meet the people of Israel in that sacred Tabernacle, and it will be made holy by my glorious, powerful Presence.” (Exodus 29: 43)
In this special dwelling to be erected for Him, God’s presence would be manifest daily to the Israelites. Here He would commune with them through Moses and the priests for generations to come. Every part of the Tabernacle was to typify the character and nature of God, the sinfulness of humans, the coming redemption of the Messiah, the means of pardon from sin by God’s grace, and the full reconciliation of all humankind to God.
Moses was shown a pattern of the Tabernacle and given detailed instructions regarding its furniture, the curtains, the altars, the court, the clothing and ordinances for the priesthood with all their consecration rites, the offerings, the anointing oil, and the holy incense. The two men to be in charge of the workers were named.
The Ark of the Covenant
But the most important part of all concerned the construction of an ark, a rectangular box about 4 feet long, 2 ½ feet wide and 2 ½ feet high. It was to be made of sturdy, long-lasting acacia wood and overlaid with pure gold. In it would be placed the two tablets of stone containing the commandments. These sacred tablets would serve as a constant reminder of the covenant between God and Israel. The ark, as it was later to be constructed, would also hold a pot of manna symbolizing the bread from heaven, and Aaron’s rod that budded, a witness to Israel of God’s choice of the priesthood.
The lid, or covering, of the ark was to be made of pure gold and would be called the “mercy seat” typifying God’s throne of mercy and grace. The mercy seat, being on top of the ark which held the Ten Commandments, would beautifully signify that mercy and grace overshadow law. At either end of the mercy seat were to be two cherubim with their faces looking toward each other, their outspread wings covering the mercy seat. The cherubim, patterned after heavenly spirit-beings, would represent the ministry of angels to God’s people and their cooperation with God in the plan of redemption of all humanity. They were to be made of solid gold.
The ark was to be placed in the holiest place in the very center of the Tabernacle. And there, promised God “I will meet with the people of Israel and talk to you from above the atonement cover between the gold cherubim that hover over the Ark of the Covenant.” (Exodus 25: 22)
For hundreds of years the whole ark, wherever it was, was Israel’s tangible symbol of the presence of God. The glory of God was the cloud of light that shone between the two cherubim in the holiest place, and was the non-material evidence of God’s presence. Both the ark and the glory were visible, but one was made by humans, the other by God alone.
There is a very interesting Hebrew word which is another name for the glory of God. It is the word “shekinah,” and it literally means “the dwelling.” It is defined as a cloud of glory which accompanied the Tabernacle as a symbol of the Divine Presence. When Almighty God condescended to dwell among the Israelites, He specified that it would be in the Tabernacle and the visible radiance within this sanctuary symbolizing his abiding presence is called the shekinah glory.
Rebellion and Punishment
While Moses was atop the mountain receiving all these wonderful instructions and promises, Aaron was left in charge of the camp during his absence. Before Moses returned, the people of Israel, in a bitter and seditious spirit, demanded to have a god made for them. Aaron was so weak-willed he went along with this terrible act of rebellion and idolatry, and he made a golden calf for the people to worship.
God told Moses what they had done, and God said his wrath against them was great. He determined to destroy them and make of Moses a great nation. Moses interceded for the people while still on the mountain, but when he came down and saw for himself their disgraceful behavior, he also became exceedingly angry.
He broke the tablets, had the golden calf melted down to fine powder, and made the Israelites drink it. He ordered that all who continued to rebel and refused to return to God be killed, and 3,000 of them were killed that day. In addition to this, God sent a plague on the people, which took the lives of many more. God is serious about sin, idolatry, and rebellion.
Afterward, God commanded Moses to resume the journey to the land of Canaan, but this time He promised only to send an “ordinary” angel to lead them instead of going with them Himself, as He had been doing. His reason was that they were so stubborn and rebellious that He might destroy them as they journeyed. He did not wish to tolerate their backslidings any longer. Israel repented, prayed, and mourned.
Moses interceded for God to change his decision. Their temporary tent of meeting and worship was moved outside the main encampment. God had been with them, but now it was uncertain whether He would continue, so the Tabernacle was removed from their midst. It was at the door to the Tabernacle that God came down in a cloudy pillar to meet Moses. “Inside the Tent of Meeting ,God would speak to Moses directly, as a man speaks to his friend.” (Exodus 33: 11)
Moses pleaded with God to show him the way He intended to help him lead Israel into Canaan. Moses asked God to take Israel back, and let his presence go with them again. God responded to Moses’ pleading, “And God replied, ‘I will personally go with you, Moses.'” But Moses wanted proof that both he and Israel had found grace in God’s sight. He asked for this proof in the most surprising words. “Then Moses had one more request. ‘Please let me see your glory [glorious presence and power].'”
Now, in view of the fact that the glory of God had already been shown on two occasions—besides other spectacular evidences of God’s power, including signs and miracles, as well as God having just given assurance that his presence would continue with them—this indeed seems an astonishing request. For what, then, was Moses asking? It must have been for something which he had not yet seen.
They had all witnessed the glory of God in the cloud when manna from heaven was promised, and also on Mount Sinai when the law was given. Moses had seen God in some degree of manifestation, for he talked with Him “face to face.” Aaron, his two eldest sons, and 70 of the elders of Israel had all gone up on the mountain, where the Bible says they saw the God of Israel and ate and drank when God’s covenant with Moses was celebrated with a banquet. (Exodus 24: 10 and 11)
The Face of God
Moses’ request, therefore, must have been to see the infinite glory in which God dwells, and this could not be granted to a finite being. Moses must have desired to see God’s face in all his glory—not apart from his glory—as he had already seen it. To help understand this, let us remember the Transfiguration scene in the New Testament. Every day the disciples of Jesus had seen Him apart from his glory, but when they saw Him in a glorified state, there was a vast difference. The Bible says: “The appearance of [Jesus’] face changed and shone like the sun, and his clothing became dazzling white.” (Luke 9: 29 and Matthew 17: 2) God’s answer to Moses was a very interesting one. This is what God replied:
“I will make all my goodness pass in front of you, and I will call out my name, ‘The Lord,’ to you. I will show grace [lovingkindness] to anyone I choose. But you may not look directly at my face, for no one may see me [face-to-face] and live. Stand here on this rock beside Me. As my glory [glorious presence and power] passes by, I will put you in a fissure of the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed. Then I will remove my hand, and you will see the afterglow of my Presence from behind. But my face will not be seen.” (Exodus 33: 19 – 23)
This meant God’s face as expressing his infinite glory and the light in which He dwells, “God lives in light so brilliant that no human can approach Him. No one has ever seen Him, nor ever will.” (1 Timothy 6: 16) No human has ever seen God in all his glory. Some people, like Moses, have seen God “from behind”—or the after-affects (after glow”) of his glory after He had passed by.
In the Gospel of John we read: “no one has ever seen God. But his only Son, Who is Himself God, is near to the Father’s heart; the Son has told us about God.” (John 1: 18) This means that no one has ever comprehended or experienced God at any time in all his glory, except God the Son, Jesus.
When God told Moses that He would make all his goodness pass before him, He was giving Moses a revelation of his character and nature. The Hebrew word for “goodness” is defined as “superlative good, beauty, gladness, the best of a person.” This refers to the infinite beauty or glory of God which passed before Moses while God hid him in the fissure of the rock.
“I will proclaim the Name of the Lord” indicated that God would announce to Moses who He was as He passed by, so that Moses would know it was the One True and Living God and not merely an angel whom he saw. God said “I will show grace [lovingkindness] to anyone I choose.” Here God made it clear that no act of grace or mercy was merited by humans, but that his own will was the basis of all his blessings.
God’s blessings do not come to us from God for any other reason except that God is essentially good, gracious, and merciful, and does everything for all humanity from his own free choice, it being his own good pleasure to show his kindness to all humanity. The very next day after Moses saw God’s “limited” glory from the fissure of the rock, he once again ascended Mount Sinai for the eighth and final time. The covenant was renewed, and two more tablets of laws were again written by God Himself. At the end of this second period of 40 days and 40 nights spent with the Lord, in which he neither ate food nor drank water, Moses descended to the people below.
Moses’ Face Shines With God’s Glory
The Bible says that when Moses came down from the mountain this final time, he wasn’t aware that his face glowed because He had spoken with God directly. (Exodus 34: 29) When Aaron and all the Israelites saw this glory of God reflected in Moses’ face, they were afraid to come near him. His face could not be looked upon by the Israelites because of its brightness, and he had to put a veil over his face to talk with them. He had been in the direct manifest presence of God for so long that his face shone with rays of bright light shooting forth.
Have you seen Michelangelo’s world-famous sculpture of Moses, or untouched photos of it, and noticed two horns on top of his head? Have you wondered why they are there? They are the result of a mis-translation of this particular Bible reference. The Hebrew word which is here translated “shone” is “qaran.” It means “to push, to shoot out horns, to send out rays.” The 405 A.D. Latin version of the Bible read “Moses knew not that his face was horned.” Consequently, Michelangelo put two horns on the head of his statue of Moses. Some of the paintings of the renaissance period also represented Moses with horns. Other painters, however, depicted this radiation as luminous circles of light, or halos, around the heads of “saints” they painted who were supposed to have had special contact with God.
Now that we have been introduced to the glory of God, and have examined his initial appearances in the wilderness, we are ready to move on to the next part of this study. We will continue to keep in mind the simplest definition of the glory of God: “A touchable, palpable, “feelable” manifestation of the person and power of God.”
We first saw this when manna from heaven was promised and received. We learned the close relationship between clouds and the glory of God. We were there at the foot of Mount Sinai on that great and awesome day when God came down to meet the people and to speak audibly to them. We heard the instructions given Moses for the construction of the Tabernacle, and were absorbed with the marvelous symbolism of the Ark of the Covenant. We viewed the golden calf episode and its punishment.
When Moses said to God, “Show me your glory,” we hid in the fissure of the rock with him and watched that glory pass by. We saw the great prophet come down from the mountain with the second copy of the Commandments written by the finger of God on tablets of stone. We found out why the Israelites could not look on Moses’ face; and as a sidelight, we even learned why Michelangelo’s statue shows horns on Moses’ head.
Now we are going to see what happened when the Tabernacle was completed, for the exciting drama of the glory of God has just begun!
God’s Glory In The Tabernacle
The third time the glory of God was manifest or revealed in the wilderness was at the completion of the Tabernacle, the tent of Meeting, about one year after the Israelites had left Egypt. Everything had been carried out as God had commanded. Materials in abundance had been given by the people, and the workers had made the curtains, the veil, the ark, the mercy seat, the table of showbread, the candlestick, the altar of incense. The holy oil was prepared, the brazen altar made, the laver for cleansing, the court and the gate, the priestly garments and crown. All of these things were anointed, the priests were consecrated, and the Tabernacle was erected. The furniture was placed in the holy place and in the holy of holies, and the work was finished.
On the day after seven days of consecration, all the people drew near to worship God. The sacrificial offerings were laid on the altars, and the priestly rituals completed. Moses and Aaron came out of the Tabernacle, blessed the community, and the glory [glorious presence and power] of God appeared to all the people. (Leviticus 9: 23) Then fire came down from God and consumed the burnt offering, further signifying God’s presence and acceptance of their sacrifices. When the people saw this, they shouted and fell to the ground face down.
Then we read: “The cloud covered the Tabernacle, and the glory [glorious presence] of God filled it.” (Exodus 40: 34) Notice the word “filled.” Before this the glory of God had “appeared.” But for this great occasion of celebration and cleansing—the setting apart and consecration of the Tabernacle where God had promised to dwell—the cloud of his shekinah glory, God’s visible Presence, filled the Tabernacle. “Moses was no longer able to enter the Tabernacle because the cloud had settled down over it, and the Tabernacle was filled with the awesome glory of God.” (Exodus 40: 35)
Moses could not enter the Tabernacle at that time because of such overwhelming glory. A similar glory was to fill the finished Temple built by King Solomon in Jerusalem about 300 years later, but many blessings and curses upon Israel were to be experienced by the nation of Israel between those two events. “Now whenever the cloud lifted from the Tabernacle and moved, the people of Israel would set out on their journey, following the cloud. But if the cloud stayed, they would stay until it moved again. The cloud of God rested on the Tabernacle during the day, and at night there was fire in the cloud so all the people of Israel could see it. This continued throughout all their journeys.” (Exodus 40: 36 – 38)
Another Rebellion and Punishment
After the glory cloud of the Lord filled the Tabernacle, we read of its appearing four more times in the wilderness. All of these were in connection with rebellion on the part of Israel. In such instances, the appearance of the glory of God was a sign He was about to deal with his people for breaking his law. The first of these rebellions came at Kadesh, a couple of months after they had left Sinai. Twelve spies had been sent into Canaan at the suggestion of the people. Moses had told them to go in and possess the land God had given them.
If the nation had obeyed Moses and not demanded that spies be sent to see if the land was as God had described it, they would have arrived in Canaan 40 years earlier and escaped many hardships and plagues. They would have enjoyed better food and clothing, as well as freedom from defeats and disgrace suffered at the hands of their enemies. But the people had their own way. Moses inquired of God, Who gave him permission to send the spies. Often when God gives people what they ask for, people live to regret it.
When the people learned from the returning spies how rich was the land, but how huge were the men of that country, they complained against Moses, Aaron, Joshua, and Caleb. They wanted to return to Egypt. Instead, their leaders urged them to step out in faith, believing the promises of God; and the people reacted by threatening to kill the leaders. “But the whole community began to talk about stoning Joshua and Caleb.”
But then something happened. God intervened. “Then the glory [glorious presence] of God appeared to all the Israelites from above the Tabernacle.” (Numbers 14: 10) This stopped the people from killing their leaders and starting back to Egypt. God determined for the second time to destroy the people because of their unbelief and make a great nation from Moses, but Moses once more interceded for them. God pardoned them, but with the pardon He spoke some significant words: “But as surely as I am the Living God, and as surely as the earth is filled with my glory . . . . “ (Numbers 14: 21)
God’s Far-Reaching Promise
That is one of the most powerful statements in the entire Bible, and far-reaching in its promise. Although this statement will not find its fulfillment until Jesus returns and establishes his worldwide Kingdom, the remainder of God’s words in that reference were fulfilled in a very short time. God went on to say: “Not one of these people will ever enter that land. They have seen my glory [glorious presence] and the miraculous signs I performed both in Egypt and in the wilderness, but again and again they tested Me by refusing to listen. They will never even see the land I swore to give to their ancestors.” (Numbers 14: 22 – 23)
And that came to pass exactly as God predicted it would. All the men, from 20 years old and upward who complained against God, were to die there in the wilderness. The spies who had brought the evil report perished immediately by a plague from God. At Kadesh the Israelites had been on the very border of the Promised Land, but they were to turn back in fear and aimlessly wander from place to place until all that generation would be dead. Of those over 20, only Joshua and Caleb were destined to enter Canaan.
So we see that God does not vacillate in his purposes. He determined to destroy the people for their idolatry, unbelief, and rebellion—and He did. He spared them sudden destruction on several occasions because of Moses’ intercession, but He nevertheless gradually destroyed them over a period of 40 years.
The fifth appearance of the glory of God occurred at the rebellion against Moses and Aaron led by Korah the Levite, with Dathan and Abiram cooperating. Two hundred and fifty of Israel’s chief leaders rebelled with them. They demanded more authority in the community, and contended that Moses and Aaron had too much.
Korah actually wanted Aaron’s office of high priest for himself, and the priesthood for his kinsmen, but he hid his plans under the pretext that all the people were holy and should be equal. Moses said to the entire community who sought to exalt themselves and demote him and Aaron: “Tomorrow morning God will show us who belongs to Him and who is holy.” (Numbers 16: 5)
The test was initiated. Each of the men was to come before the Lord the next morning, bringing his censer with fire and incense in it. This was an act reserved for the priesthood only, but since Korah and his co-conspirators thought they were holy enough to perform the office of priest, they would let God decide the matter. Korah had the backing of the community, and he was confident that God would go along with the will of the community.
“The next morning Korah had stirred up the entire community against Moses and Aaron, and they all assembled at the Tabernacle entrance. Then the glory [glorious presence] of God appeared to the entire community . . . . “ (Numbers 16: 19) For what purpose did God appear? To show them that God made the choices, not the community.
God then told Moses and Aaron to separate themselves from the community in order that He might consume them in a moment. This was the third time He determined to destroy Israel, and Moses again interceded. God used the occasion to teach the people a great lesson—that popularity and the will of the majority mean nothing to Him, and that his laws must be obeyed, and his will be done, even if thousands perish.
Judgment fell quickly upon the three ringleaders—Korah, Dathan, and Abiram—and also upon their wives, children, and servants who agreed with them in the rebellion. Suddenly the ground underneath them split in two, and they were swallowed up—belongings and all. They went down alive into the grave and the earth closed over them. The 250 leaders perished immediately afterward when fire came from God and consumed them. (Numbers 16: 35)
You would think the people would have learned their lesson after this startling punishment, but the very next day they rebelled again because the 250 had been killed. They accused Moses and Aaron of unnecessarily causing their death. “As the people gathered to protest to Moses and Aaron, they turned toward the Tabernacle, and saw that the cloud had covered it, and the glory [glorious presence] of God appeared.” (Numbers 16: 42) This marked the sixth appearance of the cloud of God’s glory.
God found it necessary to come on the scene again to teach the Israelites that it was He, not Moses, who punished them—and for the very thing they were still doing! For the fourth time God determined to destroy the people. Moses fell on his face and implored God to spare them, but a terrible plague had already struck. Aaron put incense on the fire, and made an atonement for their sin. “Aaron stood between the living and the dead until the plague was stopped.” (Numbers 16: 48) But not before 14,700 of the people perished under God’s judgment.
One More Rebellion . . . and Disobedience
Thirty-eight years later, after much wandering, the Israelites came back to Kadesh and they rebelled again—this time for water. They complained to Moses and said they wished they had died with their fellow Israelites in the same spot years before. “Why did you make us leave Egypt and come to this evil place to die?” they cried out.
“Moses and Aaron turned away from the people and went to the entrance of the Tabernacle, where they fell face down on the ground. Then the glory [glorious presence] of God appeared to them.” (Numbers 20: 6). Seven times now the cloud of God’s glory had appeared to them. The Lord then told Moses to speak to the rock and it would bring forth water. Instead of carefully obeying God, Moses and Aaron blasphemously cast themselves in God’s role, saying to the people, “Listen, you rebels! Must we bring you water from this rock?” (Numbers 20: 10) then Moses struck the rock, not once but twice.
Water came gushing out as it had the first time years before when Moses had been instructed to strike the rock. But this brought a dire penalty to Moses for his own sin of disobedience and disrespect to God, and to Aaron for not blocking Moses’ rash and impatient act. Both of them were not permitted to enter the Promised Land because of this incident. You see, the rock was the spiritual rock of Israel, identified with the coming Messiah. As Paul so plainly stated in 1 Corinthians 10: 4: “And all of them [the ancient Israelites] drank the same miraculous water. For they all drank from the miraculous rock that traveled with them, and that rock was Jesus.”
Time to Die
Very soon after this incident with Moses and Aaron, God told Moses to bring Aaron and his son Eleazar up to the top of Mount Hor. Here Aaron was stripped of his high priestly garments, and they were placed upon his son. Aaron died there, and was buried on the top of the mountain. A few months later at the Lord’s bidding, Moses and Joshua presented themselves to God in the Tabernacle. It was Moses’ 120th birthday, and God had told him it was to be the day of his death. After today, he could no longer lead Israel or take them over the Jordan River into Canaan. He had come to the end of his life’s journey.
God’s judgment upon sin is certain; yet He is not without compassion and loving kindness. Once many years before He had told Moses: “I will extend my grace [lovingkindness] to whomever I choose.” And so, on this special day, in a final act of grace and love to his beloved servant Moses, God appeared one more time in the cloud of glory. The Bible does not record that the glory shone forth from it, but it was the last time that the cloud appeared in the wilderness. “And God appeared to [Moses and Joshua] in a pillar of cloud at the entrance to the Tabernacle.” (Deuteronomy 31: 15)
The pillar of the cloud was never again seen by the Israelites. God gave instructions to Joshua, the new leader. He followed this by a prediction of Israel’s future idolatry, and their breaking of the covenant, which would result in their suffering many evils and troubles in their future.
When Moses came out of the Tabernacle, he delivered his farewell address to all the community, blessing each of the 12 tribes, and charging them to obey God and keep his commandments. Then at God’s direction, Moses went up to the top of Mount Nebo. From here God showed him all the Promised Land which He had sworn to give Abraham and his descendants. And God said: “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I told them I would give it to their descendants. I have now allowed you to see it, but you will not enter the land. So Moses, the servant of God, died there in the land of Moab, just as God had said. He was buried in a valley near Beth-Peor in Moab, but to this day no one knows the exact place.” (Deuteronomy 34: 4 – 6)
To summarize this second section of our study, it concludes with the death of Moses and the final appearance of the cloud of glory in the wilderness. In this section we attended the dedication of the Tabernacle, and were thrilled to see God completely fill the Tabernacle with his glory. After that we witnessed four less happy occasions when the glory appeared in order to bring judgment because of rebellion. The first time was when the spies brought back such a fearful report about Canaan that the Israelites wanted to kill their leaders for urging them to go in and possess the land. We saw ten of those spies killed in a plague.
The second appearance of the glory of God was at Korah’s rebellion when he and his co-conspirators tried to seize the priesthood. Here the ringleaders and their families were swallowed up by an earthquake, and the 250 accomplices consumed by fire from heaven. Another rebellion the very next day brought the third appearance of the cloud of glory as a sign that judgment was about to fall, and this time 14,700 Israelites died in a plague.
The fourth time the glory of God appeared was because of the peoples’ complaint for water. Their constant complaining so provoked Moses that he himself disobeyed and dishonored God, and as a result he and Aaron were not permitted to enter the Promised Land. And so, there were seven appearances of the cloud of the glory of God in the wilderness. Two times it came to bless—first with manna from heaven and again on Mount Sinai with the giving of the law. On the third occasion it came to set apart and dedicate the Tabernacle. This time the glory of God not only appeared, but filled the place, and then remained to dwell among the Israelites. The last four appearances brought judgment and punishment. The final appearance of God in a cloud, without the glory, was solely for the benefit of Moses and Joshua.
In this section we learned the significance of the Rock out of which gushed living water, for it signified Jesus the coming Messiah. We were touched by God’s tender dealing with his servant Moses at the close of his earthly journey.
Now let’s find out what happens with the glory of God in the Temple, for in the third section of our study we are going to see some extraordinary sights. We will also be given a glimpse of things to come; let’s see what they are!
The Glory of God in The Temple
Under the leadership of Joshua, the Israelites were now ready to enter the Promised Land of Canaan. Their ancestors had crossed the Red Sea when Moses led them out of bondage in Egypt, and now the new generation was to cross another body of water, the River Jordan, in an equally miraculous manner. The Ark of the Covenant led the procession, and the children of Israel followed. When they saw the ark, wrapped for travel and being carried by the priests and Levites—with only the poles that were attached to it touching their shoulders—this was the sign for them to enter Canaan.
The cloud of glory had been the visible manifestation of God’s guidance in the wilderness, and the glory of God had shone for from it. But from this time on, the Ark of the Covenant was to be the symbol of God’s presence. No longer would all the people see the glory of God as they had previously. It could be witnessed now only by the high priest when he entered the holy of holies once a year, where the glory of God was manifest above the mercy seat, between the outstretched wings of the cherubim.
For more than 600 years the “dwelling place” on earth for God’s presence was this sacred and holy ark. It was kept in a tent or Tabernacle and moved about from place to place. When the land of Canaan was conquered, the Tabernacle was set up in Shiloh, and it remained there during the long period of the Judges of Israel.
King David . . . and Solomon’s Temple
In King David’s reign the ark was brought to Jerusalem. It was on this journey that a man was slain by God for merely touching the ark. God has always required that his instructions be carefully followed, and in this case it took the death of a good man in order to bring Israel to obedience in the matter of carrying the ark upon their shoulders. They were transporting it in a cart, which was a direct violation of God’s commands; and to touch the ark was absolutely forbidden on penalty of death.
David prepared a place for the Ark of God in Jerusalem, but it was only another tent of meeting. He desired to build a better dwelling place for the ark, a beautiful and permanent house. God gave him the plans for a temple and permitted him to gather materials for it over a period of many years, but David was forbidden to build it because he was a man of war and had shed much blood. His son Solomon was chosen by God to build the first great Temple.
Solomon realized the Temple must be magnificent to be worthy of God’s dwelling place, although even the Temple would still be only a symbol of his presence, and a place to offer sacrifices and worship God. For, as Solomon said of God: “but will God really live on earth? Why, even the highest heavens cannot contain You. How much less the Temple I have built.” (1 Kings 8: 27)
When the tremendous Temple was finished, at a cost of what today would be approximately 200 billion dollars (USD), more than 300 years after the Tabernacle in the wilderness had been completed, the Bible again speaks of the glory of God. The priests had taken the ark into the Temple, into the most holy place. They finished arranging the furniture and left, never to enter the place again, except for the high priest on the annual Day of Atonement. “As the priests came out of the inner sanctuary, a cloud filled the Temple of God. The priests could not continue their work because the glory [glorious presence] of God filled the Temple.” (1 Kings 8: 10 and 11)
When King Solomon finished his prayer of dedication for the Temple, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices. They were no small amount, for Solomon’s personal offerings exceeded 10 million dollars (USD) in animals alone. “When Solomon had finished praying, fire flashed down from heaven and burned up the burnt offerings and sacrifices, and the glorious presence of God filled the Temple.” (1 Chronicles 7: 1) “When all the people of Israel saw the fire coming down and the glory [glorious presence] of God filling the Temple, they fell face down on the ground and worshiped and praised God, saying, ‘He is so good! His faithfulness endures for all the ages of time and in eternity!'” (2 Chronicles 7: 3)
Isaiah’s Vision of God
About 200 years after the time of Solomon, the prophet Isaiah was given a vision of the glory of God. Evidently the setting was Solomon’s Temple, and the room was the holy of holies. Isaiah saw God sitting on a throne, high and lifted up. His long flowing robe filled the Temple. Above the throne stood the Seraphim, spirit-beings in charge of divine worship in heaven and guardians of God’s throne. Human in form, they each had six wings. With one pair, they covered their faces, with another they concealed their feet, and with the third pair of wings they flew.
“In a great chorus, they [the Seraphim] sang, ‘Holy, holy, holy is God Almighty! The whole earth is filled with his glory [glorious presence]!’ The glorious singing shook the temple to its foundations, and the entire sanctuary was filled with smoke.” (Isaiah 6: 3 and 4)
For more than 350 years the glory of God remained in Solomon’s Temple, but it left there at the time Babylon destroyed the Temple and carried the Israelites into captivity to Babylon in 586 B.C. In the fascinating book of Ezekiel we learn how it left, and why, where it went, and—very important—when it will return.
Ezekiel’s Visions of God
Ezekiel, a prophet and priest, was carried to Babylon at the first captivity in 597 B.C., 11 years before the destruction of Jerusalem, including the Temple. Ezekiel was given 7 visions of the glory of God. The first one came to him in a little settlement on the Chebar River, about 50 miles from the great metropolis of Babylon.
In this vision Ezekiel saw the heavens opened, and he saw a whirlwind, a great cloud, and fire. Out of the midst of this vision came four living beings. Beneath them were wheels that moved when they moved, and stopped when they stopped. Upon the heads of these angel-like beings, called Cherubim, was what looked like a sky, the color of transparent crystal. Above the sky, or firmament, was the likeness of the throne of God. It was made of clear, beautiful blue sapphires. And upon the throne was the likeness of God Himself.
Ezekiel describes God as resembling a human, but the upper part of his body looked like gleaming bronze, and the lower part like fire, and there was a great brightness surrounding him. “All around Him was a glowing halo, like a rainbow shining through the clouds. This was the way the glory [glorious presence] of God appeared to me [wrote Ezekiel]. When I saw it, I fell face down in the dust, and I heard someone’s voice speaking to me.” (Ezekiel 1: 28)
God commissioned Ezekiel to go to apostate and rebellious Israel and speak to them—whether they would listen or not—to warn them, to explain why calamities had befallen them, and what more were still to come. He was also privileged to tell them of great and marvelous things that were to be in their future. Then Ezekiel was given a brief second vision in which he heard behind him “…a loud rumbling sound saying ‘May the glory [glorious presence] of God be praised in this place.'” (Ezekiel 3: 12) He heard the sound of the wings of the living beings, the Cherubim, and the noise of the flaming wheels as they transported the chariot-throne of God back to heaven. The Spirit of God then lifted Ezekiel up and returned him to the settlement by the Chebar River.
Ezekiel’s third vision: “Then God took hold of me, and he said to me, ‘Go out into the valley, and I will talk to you there.’ So I got up and went, and there I saw the glory [glorious presence] of God, just as I had seen it in my first vision by the Chebar River. And I fell face down in the dust.” Ezekiel 3: 22 and 23) There Ezekiel was given signs and prophecies pertaining to the horrible siege of Jerusalem which was soon to take place, and the reason for God’s judgment upon Israel for their sins. The city of Jerusalem was to be utterly destroyed, and the entire land made desolate, and only a remnant of the people would escape. God said because the people had defiled his Temple He would make it waste.
Later Ezekiel was sitting in his house, and the elders of the Jewish community were with him, when the hand of God fell on him again and he was given the fourth vision. In it he saw the same likeness of God as he had seen in the first vision. God put forth his hand and brought him to Jerusalem in vision. “He put out what seemed to be his hand and took me by the hair. Then the Spirit lifted me up into the sky and transported me in a vision of God to Jerusalem. I was taken to the inner courtyard of the north gate of the Temple, where there is a large idol that has made God very angry. Suddenly, the glory [glorious presence] of the God of Israel was there, just as I had seen it before in the valley.” (Ezekiel 8: 3 and 4)
Ezekiel saw four kinds of idolatry which were practiced in the courts of the Temple, even the worshiping of the sun by people who turned their backs on the holy of holies and the ark and faced the east like fire-worshipers. The image was of a pagan god set up in the door of the inner gate of the Temple. This was the gate to the holy place. The glory of God was not in the holy of holies as usual. It had left there and was resting over the threshold above the pagan image. God was preparing to abandon the magnificent Temple that had been built as “a dwelling place for Him to abide in for all the ages of time and in eternity.”
The abominations of Israel were great, and judgment was pronounced. It was to “begin at my sanctuary” (Ezekiel 9: 6) as God put it. Centuries later the apostle Peter referred to this section of the Old Testament when he declared: “For the time has come for judgment, and it must begin first [at the house of God] among God’s own children. And if even we Jesus believers must be judged, what terrible fate awaits those who have never believed the Good News about Jesus?” (1 Peter 4: 17)
In Ezekiel’s fifth vision he saw the glory of God gradually dissipated away from the inner sanctuary by the sin of idolatry. First it departed from over the Cherubim on which it had rested in the holy of holies, and moved to the door of the Temple. “Then the glory [glorious presence] of God rose up from above the Cherubim and went over to the door of the Temple. The Temple was filled with this cloud of glory, and the Temple courtyard glowed brightly with the glory [glorious presence] of God.” (Ezekiel 10: 4)
The sound of the wings of the Cherubim coming down from heaven was heard, and the glory of God left the threshold and stood over those living creatures. Then as the Cherubim rose from the earth, the glory of God remained above their pinions and mounted with them. slowly and majestically the shekinah glory ascended through the east gate, forsaking the Temple and Jerusalem. It was last seen above the Mount of Olives.
Then came invasion by the mighty king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar. Jerusalem was besieged and captured. The golden vessels of the Temple were carried away as booty before the Temple itself was destroyed. The entire city was laid waste, and its inhabitants taken in the final captivity.
What Happened to the Ark of the Covenant?
What happened to the most sacred possession of the Hebrew people, the Ark of the Covenant? No one knows for certain. There are only two biblical references that mention the ark after the time of Solomon. The first is Jeremiah 3: 16 where Jeremiah wrote: “‘And when your land is once more filled with people’ says the Lord, ‘you will no longer wish for the ‘good old days’ when you possessed the Ark of the Lord’s covenant. Those days will not be missed or even thought about, and there will be no need to rebuild the ark.” This is actually a prophecy of a time after Jesus’ return to earth when God’s people will no longer need a symbol of God’s presence among them, for the Lord Himself will personally be dwelling in the newly built temple in Jerusalem at that time.
The second reference is in the book of Revelation (11: 19) where John saw the Temple of God opened in heaven and in the Temple he saw the Ark of the Covenant. This, however, does not refer to the Ark made in Moses’ time, but to a “heavenly” Ark after which the earthly copy was patterned. Although there is no other information about the Ark given in the “authorized” versions of the Bible, there are some very enlightening references in one of the apocryphal books not included in the authorized versions. In the apocryphal 2nd Book of Maccabees we read that at the time of the Babylonian captivity the ark was rescued from the Temple by Jeremiah and hidden in a cave. Being forewarned by God, Jeremiah took the ark to Mount Nebo, the place from which Moses had viewed the Promised Land on the day of his death.
“And when Jeremiah came to Mount Nebo, he located a hollow cave, and he carried in the ark and the Altar of Incense and closed up the entrance to the cave. Then some of those with Jeremiah marked the cave, but later couldn’t find it. When Jeremiah found out they had lost the cave, he blamed them saying the place would remain unknown until God once again gathers his people [upon Jesus’ return]. And then God will reveal the hidden items and the majesty of the cloud shall appear, and there shall be a cloud as happened at the time of Moses, and the time of Solomon . . . . “ (2 Maccabees 2: 5 – 8)
If this is true, the Ark of the Covenant is still hidden somewhere in a cave on Mount Nebo, and it will remain there until the regathering of Israel in their own land when Jesus returns. Could it be possible that God will indeed show these things—the ark and other sacred articles hidden in a cave on Mount Nebo—just as Jesus returns? In any event, Israel will again see the cloud which was last seen in that very wilderness. More than that, they shall see the Son of Man returning with great power on the clouds of heaven. And they shall look upon Him whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn with bitter repentance for the rejection of their Messiah when He came the first time.
When Jesus returns to earth the second time, He will first appear in the east over Edom (now Jordan). The Israelites will see Him as He continues his descent to Jerusalem to touch down on the Mount of Olives. They will cry out “Blessed is He who is coming!” (Matthew 23: 39) There will be a great outpouring of the Spirit of God upon them and they will pray for deliverance by Him against whom they rebelled.
The Final Earthly Temple
The final two visions of Ezekiel have to do with the Temple which is to be built in Jerusalem before (or at the time) Jesus returns. When Jesus again sets his feet on this planet, it will be on the exact spot from where He left and ascended to heaven after his resurrection. The glory of God will return to Jerusalem and the new Temple through the eastern gate from where it departed. In the sixth vision of Ezekiel we see this return.
Here is how Ezekiel describes the event: “suddenly the glory [glorious presence] of the God of Israel appeared from the east. The sound of his coming was like the roar of rushing water, and the whole landscape shone with his glory [glorious presence]. This vision was just like the others I had seen, first by the Chebar River and then when he came to destroy Jerusalem. And I fell down before him with my face in the dust. And the glory of God came into the Temple through the east gate. Then God’s Spirit took me up and brought me into the inner courtyard, and the glory of God filled the Temple.” (Ezekiel 43: 2 – 5)
This will be the Temple to which Jesus will come. He said to Ezekiel: “Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place where I will rest my feet. I will remain here for all the ages of time and in eternity, living among the people of Israel.” (Ezekiel 43: 7)
In the seventh and last vision of the glory of God seen by Ezekiel, he was informed about the dedication of the altar in the coming Temple and he is brought back to the east gate. He found it shut, not to be opened any more to the general public, except on Saturdays and times of the new moon, because through that gate God entered the new Temple upon Jesus’ return.
Then after his visit to the east gate, Ezekiel is brought to the north gate. “Then the man brought me through the north gateway to the front of the Temple. I looked and saw that the glory of God filled the Temple of the Lord, and I fell to the ground with my face in the dust.” (Ezekiel 44: 4) This was the sixth time Ezekiel fell on his face in God’s presence, prostrating himself before the glory of God.
God had filled the Tabernacle of Moses with his glory upon its completion in order to set it apart, and He had done the same thing at the dedication of Solomon’s Temple. Both of those times the glory had been manifest in the cloud, and in fire, and in an invisible Presence between the Cherubim in the most holy place. But in the Temple upon Jesus’ return, from which Jesus will reign as King over the entire earth, the glory will be manifest in the person of Jesus Himself. He will set apart the Temple with his visible, bodily Presence. No mention is made of the ark and other pieces of furniture being in the future Temple, as were in the Tabernacle and Temples of old. The personal presence of Jesus will make such symbols unnecessary.
What an extensive panorama we have witnessed in this third section of our study! We followed the Ark of the Covenant as it led us across the River Jordan and into the Promised Land. We saw the Tabernacle first set up at Shiloh, and then hundreds of years later we watched the ark being transported to Jerusalem. On the way we learned why a man was killed for touching it. We understood King David’s desire to build a better dwelling place for God, and we were amazed at the splendor of the finished Temple Solomon built. Then for the second time we observed God’s glory fill the sanctuary.
Through the eyes of the prophet Isaiah, we were given a glimpse into the holy of holies, and we saw God enthroned therein.
The prophet Ezekiel revealed even more to us through his seven visions of the glory of God. We viewed the heavenly throne carried by living Cherubim, and were enthralled by the description of God Himself. We were shown the idolatry committed in the very house of God, and we watched as the glory of God left the Temple and abandoned it completely. We gazed upward toward the Mount of Olives where the glory was last seen its departure from Jerusalem. When Judgment fell upon Jerusalem and it was utterly destroyed, we knew the reason why. We pondered over the account in 2 Maccabees about the Ark of the Covenant being hidden by the prophet Jeremiah. And then we were given a preview of that great triumphal day of Jesus’ return to earth. We saw the return of the glory of God through the eastern gate of that future Temple, which will be set apart by his visible, personal, bodily Presence.
With this rich background from the Old Testament, we are much better prepared to understand and appreciate the Bible references about the glory of the Lord in the New Testament. And that is just what we are going to explore right now!
The New Testament Glory In the Church
Six hundred years were to pass from the time of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, when the glory of God left the Temple and the city, before we read of its re-appearance on earth. This time it heralded the coming of the actual, bodily presence of God among humanity. Who does not know this familiar biblical reference from the gospel of Luke?
“That night some shepherds were in the fields out side the village, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of God’s glory [glorious presence] surrounded them. They were terribly frightened, but the angel reassured them.” (Luke 2: 8 and 9)
This was of course the angelic announcement of the birth of Jesus, the Savior of all humankind. The glory of God was one of the signs confirming the fact that there had been born in the town of Bethlehem a literal, visible manifestation of the Person and Power of Deity. John, in his gospel, attested to the deity and the glory of Jesus when he wrote: “So the Word became human and lived here on earth among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father.” (John 1: 14)
Transfiguration on Mount Hermon
John made the statement that the very first miracle Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee “was Jesus’ first display of his glory.” (John 2: 11) By it He displayed his greatness and his power openly. But a much greater manifestation of his glory was seen by John and the other two disciples of Jesus’ who were privileged to see the glorified Jesus on the Mount of transfiguration (likely Mount Hermon which rises to 9,000 feet above sea level).
The apostle Peter recalled this scene when he wrote: “For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the power of Jesus and his coming again. We have seen his majestic splendor with our own eyes. And He received honor and glory from God the Father when God’s glorious, majestic voice called down from heaven [from the excellent glory], ‘This is my beloved Son; I am fully pleased with Him.'” (2 Peter 1: 16 and 17) In the Bible. heaven is often called “glory.” Here, it is called “the excellent glory, because the voice of God almighty came from the highest heaven.
Jesus Himself spoke of the majesty and splendor of His return to earth when He said: “And then at last, the sign of the coming of the Son of man will appear in the heavens, and there will be deep mourning among all the nations of the earth. And they will see the Son of man arrive on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” (Matthew 24: 30) He went on to proclaim: “But when the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit upon his glorious throne. All the nations [of earth] will be gathered in his presence . . . . “ (Matthew 25: 31)
In his magnificent high-priest prayer recorded in John, Jesus prayed: “And now, Father, bring me into the glory we shared before the world [was created].” (John 17: 5) He was asking God the Father for the restoration of the majesty and honor He had in God’s presence before the earth was created.
Visions About Jesus
When Jesus prayed for his immediate followers, and for all future believers in Him, He prayed these marvelous words: “Father, I want those whom you’ve given me to be with me, so they can see my glory. You gave me the glory because you loved me even before the earth was created.” (John 17: 24) How wonderful it will be when Jesus returns and we see Him in all his glory! Some have had glimpses of the glorified Jesus. Just before the first martyr, Stephen, was stoned to death, he saw the glory of God. The Bible says: “but, Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily upward into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand.” (Acts 7: 55 and 56)
The apostle Paul, too, saw the glory of God. On the road to Damascus to persecute Jesus’ followers, he was blinded by God for three days—to use his own words—“by the glory of the light” from heaven that shone around him. John, on the island of Patmos, saw in vision the same dazzingly intense bright light of the glorified Jesus: “And his [Jesus’] face was as bright as the sun in all its brilliance.” (Revelation 1: 16) Upon seeing Jesus, John fell at his feet as dead, so overpowering was the sight.
When we remember that the glory of God as it was merely reflected in the face of Moses, after the giving of the law, was so bright that the Israelites could not look upon such splendor—Moses having to put a veil over his face—we can grasp a little of what the full brightness of the glorified face of Jesus must be. 2 Corinthians 4: 6 contains these beautiful words: “this light is the brightness of the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus.” The reflected glory in the face of Moses was a fading light, and gradually its glow disappeared entirely. But the glory of God in the face of Jesus is unfading, and eternal. He is the “outshining” of the fullness of God’s divine glory, truly the Light of the world! As the writer of Hebrews puts it: “the Son reflects God’s own glory, and everything about Him represents God exactly.”
No wonder song writers penned such lines as these: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face; and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace . . . ” And these lines: “When by his grace, I shall look on his face—that will be glory, be glory for me!”
Paul tells us that Jesus believers should be mirrors that reflect the glory of God. For if the Spirit of Jesus is in us, the radiance of his presence should be apparent in our faces, words, and deeds, in our motivations, desires, and interests. Can the glory of God be in ordinary human beings? If so, how does it get there? We learned that God’s glory first came to dwell in the holy of holies in the Tabernacle in the wilderness. Then it abode in the most holy place of Solomon’s Temple. Later, the glory shone forth in visible, bodily form in Jesus during his earthly ministry. But after his resurrection and return to heaven, the glory of God was revealed in another manner.
“On the Day of Pentecost, seven weeks after Jesus’ resurrection, the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm in the skies above them . . . “ (Acts 2: 1 and 2)
God’s Glory in You!
And just as the Tabernacle of Moses had been filled with the glory of God, and Solomon’s Temple as well, so now Holy Spirit filled all the house where the 120 believers had gathered. Then there appeared visible, forked tongues like fire resting upon each of them. And they were all filled with Holy Spirit just as the Tabernacle and the Temple were filled with the glory of God.
From this time on, the glory of the Lord has been made known through the person and work of Holy Spirit. He is the manifestation of the power and the presence of God in the earth today—ever since that event at Pentecost 2000 years ago.
Thus a Jesus believer’s own body—our earthly Tabernacle and temporary dwelling place—becomes a temple of the living God through the indwelling of Holy Spirit. As He works within us today, we should become more and more like Jesus and reflect Him more and more brightly. “The veil [of not believing in Jesus] has to be removed. Then, as the Spirit of God works within us, we become more and more like Him [Jesus] and reflect his glory even more.” (2 Corinthians 3: 14 and 18)
Are you aware that the Gospel (the Good News) about Jesus itself reflects the glory of God? It is open and unveiled, except to those who willfully close their eyes to it. “If the Good News we preach is veiled from anyone, it is a sign that they are perishing. Satan, the god of this evil world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe [in Jesus], so they are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News that is shining upon them. They don’t understand the message we preach about the glory of Jesus, who is the exact likeness of God.” (2 Corinthians 4: 3 and 4)
Paul portrays the light of the Good News about Jesus shining in Jesus believers to the bursting forth of the sun when God first commanded light to shine out of darkness during creation. That’s why we who have been delivered from the power of darkness and, and transferred into the Kingdom of his dear Son, join with the Psalmist in exclaiming: “Yes, they will sing about the Lord’s ways, for the glory of God is very great.” And, “May the glory of God last for all the ages of time and in eternity.” (Psalm 138: 5 and 104: 31)
But do you know the most amazing thing of all about the glory of God? It is this: we are called to share it with others! We who have been born again in Jesus will share his glory. Not just see it from afar off, or behold it nearby for just a brief time, but we will be partakers of it for all the ages of time and in eternity.
God’s Purpose for You!
In Isaiah 43: 7 God plainly states that this is his purpose for all humanity: “All who claim me as their God will come, for I have made them for my glory.” In Romans 9: 22 and 23 we learn that “God has every right to exercise his judgment and his power, but he also has the right to be very patient with those who are the objects of his judgment and are fit only for destruction. He also has the right to pour out the riches of his glory upon those he prepared to be the objects of his mercy—even upon us, whom he selected, both from the Jews and from the Gentiles.”
To share the glory of God is the object of those who are Jesus believers. God has called us into his Kingdom and into his glory. That is the “high calling” Paul wrote about when he said: “I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.” (Philippians 3: 14) Even though all humans have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory here (Romans 3: 23), we rejoice in our hope of experiencing and enjoying the glory of God in the hereafter, through Jesus. The Bible emphatically teaches that it is only through Jesus (Romans 5: 2) “because of our faith, He has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.”
And it is only through Jesus that we shall someday stand, blameless and without blemish, in the very presence of God. It is Jesus alone—as Jude 24 informs us—“Who will bring us into God’s glorious presence innocent of sin and with great joy.”
Now we can better understand why Paul informed the Gentiles of his time: “for it pleased God to tell his people that the riches and glory of Jesus are for you Gentiles, too. For this is the secret: Jesus lives in you, and this is your assurance that you will share in his glory.” (Colossians 1: 27) The mystery, hidden for centuries and generations before Paul’s time, was that the Gentiles should be participants with the Jews in the Good News about Jesus, be in the same kingdom, and be partakers of Jesus.
We who live today likewise rest our hope of glory on Jesus living in us, too. But He must really dwell within our hearts—not just in our heads as a mental assent to a body of beliefs. If we have had a genuine experience of having been born again, as we continue to live our lives led by God’s Spirit, then we can be assured that: “When Jesus who is our real LIFE is revealed to the entire world, we will share in his glory.” (Colossians 3: 4)
One day we shall be made like Jesus. We will have a changed, glorified body and a glorified mind as well, for He will restore all things and make them as new. “Yes, dear friends, we are already God’s children, and we can’t even imagine what we will be like when Jesus returns. But we do know that when He comes we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He really is.” (1 John 3: 2) All resurrected bodies will be like Jesus’ in the sense of their immortal “substance,” but there will be different degrees of glory for each individual. Every person will retain his or her outward resemblance in features and characteristics, but our new bodies will be changed from natural bodies to spiritual bodies, from corruption to incorruption, and from weakness and humiliations to glory and power.
The Price of our Glory
I can hardly wait for my glorified body. How about you? However, we must never forget that glory is not without its price. And that price is a costly one. What is the price of our glory? Its price is this: suffering and sacrifice. Glory is always preceded by those. Jesus the Savior paid the cost of our glory. He purchased our redemption from sin by his sacrificial death on the cross. Paul reminds us: “God bought you with a high price. Therefore, glorify God [in your body, soul, and spirit].” (1 Corinthians 6: 20)
Jesus came the first time to suffer and sacrifice Himself to pay our sin penalty. His second coming will be in glory. In three of the Gospels just before He spoke of his coming in glory, Jesus told his followers: “The Son of man would suffer many terrible things and be killed.”
(Mark 8: 31)
Peter wrote that Holy Spirit testified centuries earlier through the prophets of the Old Testament about Jesus’ sufferings, and the glory that should follow. He made this statement: “I am a witness to the sufferings of Jesus. And I too will share his glory and honor when He returns.” (1 Peter 5: 1)
Very few people escape suffering in this life—either physical, mental, or spiritual—and we cannot even choose the manner in which we shall suffer. But when we are experiencing suffering, we can find comfort in the words of Paul: “Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the Glory God will give us later.” (Romans 8: 18) Yes, the glory of God is going to be revealed in us, and to us, and for us, and conferred on us.
Here is another reference telling us much the same thing: “for our present troubles are quite small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us and immeasurably great glory that will last for all the ages of time and in eternity.” (2 Corinthians 4: 17) In another reference Paul stated that he suffered like a criminal and wrote: “I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Jesus to those whom God has chosen.” (2 Timothy 2: 10)
Paul admonishes all Jesus believers: “Be very glad—because these trials will make you partners with Jesus in his suffering, and afterwards you will have the wonderful joy of sharing his glory when it is displayed to all people.” (1 Peter 4: 13) If we suffer because we are Jesus believers, we should rejoice because we suffer with Him and for Him, knowing that the greater the suffering for Jesus in this life, the greater will be our glory in the life to come.
And then Peter concluded his letter with this beautiful benediction: “In his kindness God called us to his eternal glory by means of Jesus. After you have suffered a little while, He will restore, support, and strengthen you, and He will place you on a firm foundation. God has all power and glory over everything for all the ages of time and in eternity.” (1 Peter 5: 10 and 11)
In scope this portion of our study exceeds all the previous portions put together. Actually the New Testament glory is just that—the culmination of all the foregoing parts, and more besides. For the glory in the wilderness, the Tabernacle glory, the glory in the Temple, are perfectly and completely fulfilled in one Person—Jesus. He is the living embodiment and personification of the glory of God. In this section we saw the glory that shone round about the shepherds when angels announced the Savior’s birth.
We heard from two disciples who were eyewitnesses of Jesus’ glory during his earthly ministry, and particularly of his transfiguration on Mount Hermon.
We listened to Jesus’ own words when He spoke of the glory He had before the creation, and of the full revelation of his glory when He returns to this earth in great power and majesty as King of kings and Lord of lords.
We visualized the glory that Stephen saw just before his death when he looked up into heaven; and the glory that blinded the apostle Paul on the road to Damascus in his personal encounter with the risen Lord Jesus, and the appearance of the glorified Jesus to John on the island of Patmos.
From Paul’s writings we learned many things about the glory of the Lord. It is sublimely manifest in the face of Jesus, but the Good News itself also reveals the glory of God. And we whose body-temples have been filled with the Holy Spirit—as the Tabernacle and Solomon’s Temple of old were filled with the shekinah glory of God’s abiding presence—should be reflecting that splendor.
In this section we caught a brief glimpse of God’s master purposes for our lives. From the very beginning He created humankind for his glory, and through Jesus we are called to share that glory for all the ages of time and in eternity. But first we must be changed, re-created, and restored through the inner working of Holy Spirit. We let our imaginations dwell for a moment on what our resurrected bodies will be like when we are changed in an atomic second when the last trumpet sounds. We were deeply impressed with the price of glory, and the One who paid that price for us. We realized anew that we must be sharers of Jesus’ sufferings if we will partake of his glory to come.
And speaking of what is to come, our final section deals with the Future Glory. This is without doubt the most exciting part of our study, for everyone wants to know more about what the future holds for us and the planet we live on. What will happen at the first resurrection (there are two resurrections), and the marriage supper of the Lamb . . . the return of Jesus . . . the 1,000 year millennial reign after his return and the final judgment? What will the new heaven and the new earth be like and what will we see and experience in the New Jerusalem. Let’s find out!
The Future Glory
NOTE from Bill Boylan: I have greatly shortened and summarized Ms Benson’s 5th section because it was sometimes repetitive, complex, somewhat speculative, and a bit difficult to read and follow the sequence of events she described. I tried to consistently be true to her main points, while shortening and summarizing what she wrote, “separating the wheat from the chaff,” so to speak.
Oh, what a day when his glory shall be revealed! At the completion of the first resurrection upon Jesus’ return, all Jesus believers will have met Jesus in the air and returned with Him to earth for Him to begin his millennial reign over the earth. They will have received their rewards for serving Jesus in this life. There will be a great wedding feast, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb and his Bride, the Church.
When her King of Glory returns, Israel will be commanded to “Arise, Jerusalem! Let your light shine for all the nations of earth to see! For the glory of God is shining upon you . . . All nations will come to your light. Mighty kings will come to see your radiance.” (Isaiah 60: 1 – 3)
During Jesus’ millennial reign over the earth, Romans 11: 26 and 27 declare that all Israelites will be saved. Ezekiel 39: 28 and 29 proclaim: “Then my people will know that I am their God—responsible for sending them away to exile and responsible for bringing them home. I will leave none of my people behind. And I will never again turn my back on them, for I will pour out my Spirit upon them.” (Ezekiel 39: 28 and 29)
During that time all nations of the earth will know that all of Israel’s past sufferings were because of their sins against God, and He dealt with them accordingly. They will also know that it was God Who brought them back to their own land, who defeated their enemies, and then cleansed and redeemed his chosen people for all the ages of time and in eternity. Israel will be divinely vindicated in the eyes of all humanity.
Israel will finally, for the first time, inherit all the land originally promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The glory of God over Jerusalem will outshine the light of the sun and moon, for God Himself will be their eternal light. “For I, Myself, will be a wall of fire around Jerusalem, says the Lord. And I will be the glory inside the city.” (Zechariah 2: 5)
God will be like a protecting, defending wall of fire around Jerusalem, and Jesus ruling personally and visibly on earth will be the glory in the midst of the city. His holy habitation on earth is to be the rebuilt earthly Jerusalem and its temple. His heavenly habitation will still be the New Jerusalem, the capitol city of God over the entire universe, wherein dwell all God’s people.
All nations shall come in yearly pilgrimages to worship God in Jerusalem when King Jesus reigns from the millennial and eternal temple—the temple that Ezekiel saw in vision so long ago. Greater in glory than Solomon’s Temple, it will be the capitol of God among humans on earth. “In that day I will make my temple glorious. I will gather all nations and humanity together and they will see my glory.” (Isaiah 60: 7 and 66: 18) “And the glory of God will be revealed, and all humanity will see it.” (Isaiah 40 5)
Upon Jesus’ return, God Himself will turn all kingdoms and nations of this world over to King Jesus, and He will rule with a rod of iron until all rebellion is put down. At the end of the millennium, Satan (who had been rendered powerless for 1,000 years) will be set free and he will provoke one final rebellion against God before being cast into the lake of fire prepared for him and his minions.
Shockingly, even after basking in 1000 years of perfect peace, there will still be those who have not really submitted to the reign of Jesus, who in their hearts have longed for an opportunity to get rid of Jesus’ strict laws and rigid suppression. They will join Satan and his minions to do battle against God in that final rebellion of humankind.
But this time fire comes down from heaven and puts down the final rebellion. The second resurrection then takes place and all the rebellious dead of all time are judged and sentenced at God’s throne of judgment. Then will come the renovation of the universe and the earth by cleansing fire, the things that no longer belong being removed and burned up. God long ago declared through the prophet Isaiah that He would freshly restore the earth and the universe. He said these will be so wonderful that the present ones will be forgotten in the glory and blessing that will then be enjoyed eternally on the earth and throughout the universe. (Isaiah 65: 17, 66: 22, and 2 Peter 3: 13)
At the end of the millennium, the New Jerusalem will descend from heaven; it will be Jesus’ capitol city where He will reign over the entire earth and universe and dwell permanently among humankind for the remainder of the ages of time and in eternity. There will be universal peace and prosperity for all humankind. The beloved John the disciple saw this scenario in a vision: “Then I saw a new [freshly restored] universe and a new [freshly restored] earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a beautiful bride prepared for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne saying ‘Look, the home of God is now [permanently] among his people!’ He will live with them, and they will be his people. God Himself will live among them. He will remove all of their sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow, or crying or pain. For the old [systems of earth] are gone forever.” (Revelation 22: 1 – 4)
This new Jerusalem will be the eternal capitol of the universe among earthly and resurrected humanity, and the place where the tri-une God will be seen. Visibly and bodily Jesus will carry on God’s program of dwelling among people and ruling the universe. God’s ultimate purpose for the earth and all humanity will finally come to realization: “for the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God, as the waters fill the seas.” (Habakkuk 2: 14)
And in that final triumphant time when every purpose of God shall be realized and every one of his promises fulfilled, all humanity will dwell for all eternity in that beautiful city, free from all sin and unrighteousness. This city will be so clothed in the glory of God that it will have no need of the sun, neither of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God will fully illuminate it, and the Lamb of God will be its Light. Then at last all humanity will know fully the infinite, matchless, transcendent, celestial beauty and splendor of the GLORY OF GOD!
End of Ms Benson’s teaching.
NOTE: Many years ago when I first became a believer in Jesus, the group I was with at the time often sang a little lively, spirited chorus that went like this:
“Coming down, down, down
Coming down, down, down
The glory of the Lord is coming down
Oh, there’s glory all around
Where the people of God are found
The glory of the Lord is coming down!”
Even though I fully enjoyed singing that chorus, at the time I had no clue what the words meant. Now I do . . . thanks to Ms Benson’s article that you have just read!
Revised and Updated February 2023