Glorification: The Overlooked Doctrine?

By: Dr. Clark Armstrong

One idea stands prominent to describe Christ’s Transfiguration; in Greek, it is the doxa or glory of God (glorify, glorious, glorification). The most overlooked, underemphasized, least preached, and most taken-for-granted doctrine in the ordo salutis is by far the doctrine of glorification.[1] Yet the ordo salutis makes it the final and culminating work of grace provided by the atonement of Christ. Ordo salutis (in Latin: the order of salvation) refers to a series of gradual steps within the Christian doctrine of salvation whereby people are transformed as they respond to God’s grace at work in their lives (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Diagram of the Ordo Salutis

Maybe the reason we address glorification so infrequently stems from our failure to fully comprehend the depths of the meaning of Christ’s miracle of transfiguration. However, the transfiguration anticipates the time when His power will transform us fully to be like Him (Philippians 3:12). In fact, 1 Corinthians 13:12 says, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” On the day of the transfiguration, the disciples had a foretaste of that glory when they saw His face shine as bright as the sun, and His clothes were as white as the pure, unadulterated, radiating perfect, amazing, un-refracted light.

Thoughts Related to the Glorification of the Saints

  1. The Catholic teaching about purgatory represents a belief in the need for a purgation (a burning away, purification, or cleansing) of varying degrees for most persons. It is seen as the perfecting work of God in their lives to prepare them for entrance into heaven and the glorious presence of God.
  2. The Protestant doctrine of glorification sees a more instantaneous work of grace based on the provisions through Christ’s death, which is received at death or at the person’s presentation for entrance into heaven.
  3. Regardless of the questions about how or when glorification occurs, Philippians 1:6 states, “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” The emphasis is on completion, whether received in a moment of grace or through a gracious process of purging.
  4. Wesleyan-Arminians must stand in awe at this miracle and admit with the Calvinists the need for a doctrine of imputed righteousness (in addition to that of imparted righteousness) until the moment of glorification. It is a both/and rather than an either/or proposition, so this truth should help all of us within these two great theological traditions to live more harmoniously.
  5. There are over 50 biblical verses commonly cited as evidence for this Christian doctrine of glorification. Glorification is the third definite, and final, work of grace (besides salvation and sanctification) in the ordo salutis. It answers when and how these promises will happen: promises about God being faithful to complete the work begun in us and about His power transforming us to be fully like Him (Romans 8:29-30).

The Church of the Nazarene’s denominational Mission Statement is: “Making Christlike Disciples in the Nations.” For every sinner who has come to know the joy of God’s saving grace and later enjoyed the fellowship of walking with Jesus, for every disciple who has found the Christian’s secret of a happy life through God’s sanctifying grace, for every Spirit-filled Christian who has been growing in Christlikeness for a lifetime, the promise is certain. We shall behold Him and when we do, we shall be made like Him (1 John 3:2-4). The final work of God’s grace—Glorification—will happen in that one glorious moment. Praise the Lord forever!

[1] Stephen L. Manley, Journey into Wholeness (Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press, 1983), 43.

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