In contrasting the old covenant with the new (II Cor. 3:6ff), the apostle Paul described their relative glories. The comparison left the old covenant wanting by that measure. Paul wrote:
For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious (II Corinthians 3:9-11).
Paul described the old covenant as a ministration of condemnation, while the new he described as a ministration of righteousness. While the old covenant was glorious in its own right, the new far exceeded the old in glory.
The word “glory” most used in the Old Testament comes from a root word meaning “heavy” or “weight.” By extension, it means that which has substance and hence is used of that which is substantial, including abundance, wealth, greatness, power, brightness and majesty. Both the Old and New Testament words for glory have a variety of uses.
Glory cannot be separated from God’s nature (I Chron. 29:10-13). All nature itself, that is, the material creation, declares the glory of God (Ps. 19:1). The whole earth is full of His glory (Is. 6:). His glory is set high above the heavens (Ps. 8:1; 113:4). He is the God of glory (Ps. 29:3). God’s glory, as is every attribute of His nature, is eternal (I Pet. 5:10). Contrast this to man whose glory fades away as does the grass (I Pet. 1:24). The Lord is jealous of that glory and will not share it with dumb idols (Is. 42:8). Yet, it is just this glory in which His people are allowed to participate (John 17:22), and which prophets and angels have desired to more fully understand (I Pet. 1:10-12).
God’s glory manifests itself in moral nature, as well. Moses once requested to see the glory of God (Ex. 33:18). In granting his request, the Lord allowed Moses to see only His hinder parts for no man can look into the face of glory and live (Ex. 33:20). As Moses was safe in the cleft of the rock (Ex. 33:22), the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, passing before him and declaring “The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation” (Ex. 34:6,7). As Moses saw the glory of God, the Lord spoke of His great moral attributes.
Furthermore, after Moses had ascended into the mount to receive the tablets of Law, the skin of his face shone, reflecting the glory of God in whose presence he was, so that Aaron and all Israel were afraid to come to him (Ex. 34:30). Because of this, Moses put a vail upon his face so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the glory of his countenance (Ex. 34:35; II Cor. 3:7). The apostle Paul observed that this was not only to placate the fears of the Israelites (Ex. 34:30) but also to cover the fading glory of the old covenant, as his face ceased to shine at some point after not being in God’s presence (Ex. 34:29; II Cor. 3:13). And sadly, he observed, that vail was still over their eyes, or rather their hearts, blinding their minds to the truth of the Lord (II Cor. 3:16).
But Christians have no such vail over their eyes or hearts and look into the face of the Son of God and reflect His glory or rather are changed into same image with ever increasing glory (I Cor. 3:13). In this life we are transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:1,2; Eph. 4:22-24; Col. 3:10) and we share in His glory (I Pet. 1:8). We shall also share in His glory after this life is over (John 17:24; I John 3:2; Col. 3:3-4; Rom. 8:17; Phil3:20,21).
It is the glorious gospel of Christ that shines in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (II Cor. 4:4-6). No matter what we suffer in this life, it cannot even begin to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed in us (Rom. 8:18). The afflictions we suffer in this life are light compared to the “far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (II Cor. 4:17). In heaven, the glory of God and of the Lamb will give us light (Rev. 21:23). Glorious indeed!
Eric L. Padgett