Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.
Communion in Glory
And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me John 17:22-23aNKJ
Question 82 of the Larger Catechism, asks, "What is the communion in glory which the members of the invisible church have with Christ?" It gives the answer, "The communion in glory which the members of the invisible church have with Christ, is in this life, immediately after death, and at last perfected at the resurrection and day of judgment." Last week we saw that true believers in Jesus Christ can lack assurance of salvation, can lose their assurance after having obtained it, or they can have it weakened or shaken throughout their lives. Notwithstanding this possibility of loss, we saw Scripture's clear exhortation to us to press on to "full assurance" of salvation (Heb. 6:11; 10:22). This week we need to go back and look at question 65, in order to consider that communion in glory, which all converted people have with Jesus Christ.
As we chronologically go through the Larger Catechism, we must remember that the doctrine is logically arranged, so that later questions are often raised in order to address and explain certain phrases brought up in the answers to earlier ones. Accordingly, Question 65 asked "What special benefits do the members of the invisible church enjoy by Christ?" Its answer was that "The members of the invisible church by Christ enjoy union and communion with him in grace and glory." The next three questions then dealt with the doctrine of union with Christ. Question 69 began consideration of the communion in grace that believers have with Christ, and under that general heading the doctrines of justification, adoption, sanctification, perseverance, and assurance were discussed. Now we go back to take up and examine the final part of Question 65's answer: that of the invisible church's communion in glory with her Lord and Savior.
First, know that the phrase "communion in glory," as it is here used by the Catechism, does not inherently have any reference to heaven or to the afterlife. "Glory" simply does not mean "heaven." Old colloquial expressions and gospel spirituals of the 19th century sometimes used the word "glory" this way. As in, "When I get to glory," or "how a savior came from glory," and he has "built me a mansion in glory," etc. In these examples the word "glory" is used as a synonym for heaven, which is understandable as we know that heaven is the place where God's glory is most purely manifested. Yet, strictly speaking "glory" is not the place where God dwells; it is one of His attributes. "Glory" refers to the weightiness of God, and it is typically used with reference to light (Eze. 10:4; Heb. 1:3). Thus, when God appears, it is often in such brightness of light that man must shield his eyes from the intense brilliance (Rev. 1:6). Consequently, when we speak of God's glory we are talking about the splendor, honor, and majestic greatness that make God worthy of all of our admiration, praise, and worship. We glorify God when we exalt Him and praise and magnify His name above every other name.
However, as amazing as it may seem, glory is also one of those attributes that God has willed for man to have and express as the image of God. We see many places in Scripture where man is said to have a certain degree of glory. The Bible says that woman is the glory of man (1 Cor. 11:7); the glory of young men is their strength (Pro. 20:29); the glory of woman is her long hair (1 Cor. 11:15); and that it is the glory of man to overlook an offense (Pro. 19:11). In 1 Kings 3 we read how God glorified Solomon in wisdom, riches, and honor so that there was no king like him. Yet, Jesus said that even the lilies of the field were more glorious than Solomon (Luke 12:27); and Peter tells us the glory of man is like the grass that withers and fades away (1 Pet. 1:24). If all that we had of glory was in this temporary and fleeting life, it would be a bittersweet taste indeed. How wonderful is it, therefore, that in salvation the believer does not just have communion in grace with his Savior, but we also have communion with Him in glory. In the Scripture at the head of this article, Jesus clearly declares that He has given those who believe in Him "glory." This glory becomes your true possession at conversion, but even more so at death, and then culminating on the last day when you receive your new body. Lord willing, we will look at these things in greater depth in the weeks to come. Until then, praise God for His continued communion with you both in grace, and in glory!