A Commentary by John Stott
2 Thessalonians 1:11-12. Conclusion: the glory of Jesus Christ.
The most striking feature of this chapter is its recurring references to the glory of Christ. Paul unfolds his theme in four stages, which all relate directly or indirectly to the Parousia.
a). The Lord Jesus will be revealed in his glory (1:7).
It is true that the word ‘glory’ does not occur in this verse. Yet it is quite evident that his coming will be glorious. For when the veil which now hides him from our sight is removed, what will be ‘revealed’ to us, but his glory? He is coming ‘from heaven’ (by divine not human decision), ‘in blazing fire’ (the consuming fire of his judgment) and ‘with his powerful angels’ (as a spectacular retinue). These are traditional apocalyptic symbols, but the reality will transcend the imagery. The Parousia will be no petty, local sideshow (‘Look, here he is! Look, there he is!’); it will be an event of awe-inspiring, cosmic splendour (like lightning, flashing across the whole sky, Jesus said). Then at last Isaiah’s prophecy will be completely fulfilled: ‘And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it’ (Is.40:5).
b). The Lord Jesus will be glorified in his people (1:10).
The RSV translates *in his people* as ‘in his saints’, but this does not of course refer to a small minority of particularly saintly Christians. Rather, it refers to all his redeemed people, who have fled to him for refuge, without exception.
As we saw in the exposition of verse 10, the revelation of the glory of Jesus Christ will not be objective only (so that we see it), but also *in his people* (so that we share it). We ourselves will be glorified. This will entail a complete transformation into Christ’s image. Our bodies will become at the Resurrection ‘like his glorious body’ (Phil.3:21). Our characters will become Christ-like. ‘What we will be has not yet been made known.’ But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him.’(1 Jn.3:2). Finally delivered from all sin and selfishness, we shall instead be filled to capacity with love for God and others. In consequence, we shall discover our true human identity. We, who all our lives have been pathetic apologies for human beings, will at last be fully human and fully free because fully Christ-like.
And by thus transforming us into his own image, Christ himself will be seen, admired and adored in us. Moreover, the two glorifications – his and ours – will take place simultaneously (Cf.Rom.8:17). He will be glorified in us, and we will be glorified in him. For ‘the glory of God does not exclude but includes the glory of Man’, as G.C.Berkouwer has written. ‘This human glory, so prominent in the pages of Scripture, is not in competition with God’s glory…Rather, the glory of God is revealed in the glory of man, in the “glory that is to be revealed in us” (Rom.8:18).’ This does not mean, of course, that our human creatureliness will ever be abolished. Yet it does indicate that the final, eschatological glory of human beings will be more than a *restoration*; it will *transcend* their original created state.
Notice, however, that the apostle’s emphasis is not so much on the glorification of the saved as on the glorification of the Saviour in the saved. For it is he who is coming to be glorified in his saints and to be marvelled at in believers (10). This revelation of glory (of the glory of Christ displayed to us and in us) is very different from many popular notions of heaven. Some of these are grossly selfish and materialistic. For example, Sydney Smith, the nineteenth-century Anglican wit and divine, Canon of St Paul’s Cathedral, once said (doubtless with his tongue in his cheek) that his idea of heaven was ‘eating *pates de foie gras* to the sound of trumpets’. Or take, more seriously, the famous Moody and Sankey hymn ‘Oh that will be glory for me’. The words are formally correct, yet the impression they convey is false. For the ‘glory’ they promise sounds extremely selfish, as if we will be revelling only in the good things *we* will receive and the good times *we* will enjoy, whereas the very essence of heaven is the eradication of our selfishness, our transformation into Christ’s image, and our preoccupation with his glory.
I wish we could stop with this double revelation of Jesus Christ to and in his people. It is with considerable reluctance that we now turn back to verses 8 and 9.
Tomorrow: 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9. c). Those who reject Christ will be excluded from his glory.
|The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of 2 Thessalonians. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.|