The glory of Christ
When we speak of the glory of the Son of God, we mean the opinion and estimate we have (or should have) of him, as the unique Theanthropos, in whom majesty and humility dwell in perfect harmony. What honour results when we attempt to answer Pilate's question, "What think ye of Christ?"
According to the opinion we entertain of Christ we shall indeed be judged, for God wills "that all should honour the Son even as they honour the Father" (John 5).
Christ, in his nature and acts, is the self-manifestation of God. In beholding Christ by faith, we see God. "He who has seen me has seen the Father." It behoves us therefore to meditate upon Him, "in whom dwelleth all the fulness of deity in bodily form." We will restrict our meditation on three aspects: the glory of Christ during his ministry, in His resurrection, and at the Father's right hand.
The glory of Christ during his ministry
It could be said that John wrote his gospel to record the coming of the glorious One, so that we might believe and thus live eternally. Though Christ came in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, though he was found in outward fashion as a man, a suffering Servant wholly subjected to the Law of God, John claims that during his sojourn "we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). In saying this John does not mean to limit himself to such special events during Christ's ministry where the effulgence of his glory broke forth in splendour and majesty, for instance, on the mount where Christ was transfigured before the inner circle of his disciples. Luke records, "When they were awake, they say his glory, and the two men that stood with him" (9:32).
Rather John's perspective is wider and comprehends the first Advent of the Son of God taken as a whole. It is the culmination of all prophetic utterance; every promise became meaningful and found its reality because of the Son of God becoming the son of man, because of Emmanuel, God with us.
John actually frames the writing of his gospel around the tabernacle, the grand type of the OT which God commanded to be set up, "that I may dwell among you." We read, after being finished in the days of Moses, that he "was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the GLORY of the Lord filled the tabernacle" (Exodus 40:35). How much more, then, was John overwhelmed when he was confronted with the reality rather than the shadow of things? He continues by recording select miracles and discourses that reveal the uniqueness of Christ. Specifically after the first recorded miracle (always designated "signs" in John), we read: "This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory, and his disciples believed on him" (John 2:11). So we should consider his miracles as revealing various aspects of the person or work of Christ, and their purpose was to encourage faith in his followers.
Again the attentive reader will hear the theme reiterated; for example, "When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby" (John 11:4). Christ, seeking not to glorify himself, here explains that his revealed glory redounds always to the glory of the Father.
The glory of Christ in his resurrection
And yet, however much his excellency shines forth during his ministry, it is his resurrection that vindicates him and shows him for what he really and essentially is, the Son of God (Romans 1:4). John is careful to keep this balance, for Christ's life among us would be meaningless if, once dead, he was held in the bonds of death. So, scattered throughout the gospel, we find references of a yet greater and more significant glory, i.e., of Christ's resurrection, his victory over sin, the grave, Satan, and hell, a mission only He was qualified and competent to fulfil. Christ's prime objective in his death was to earn the promise of the Father: the life-giving Spirit. His own were to receive the Spirit, but notice: "The Holy Ghost was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified" (John 7:39). The bestowal of the Spirit was tied up with his resurrection. That is why Christ, on first meeting his disciples after being raised, was to tell them, "Receive the Holy Ghost: whatsoever sins ye remit they are remitted...". Approaching his exodus, Jesus himself showed his awareness that his glorification would be in his resurrection. "The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. Verily verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone..." (John 12:23-24).
At his betrayal by Judas, he speaks out thus: "Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him" (John 13:31-32).
Peter concurs in his reflections about Christ: "Who by him do believe in God," he writes, "that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God" (1 Peter 1:21). Indeed! When we believe in Christ we are believing God, for it was the Father who vindicated Him. Salvation is Christ's work, yet it could legitimately be designated as God's work. Christ sought not his own glory; it was God who brought him to light. What a breadth-taking scene it is when we hear the Son praying his high-priestly prayer. "Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that they Son also may glorify thee...And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was" (John 17:1,5).
This was answered at his exaltation, and his exaltation began at the resurrection.
The glory of Christ at the Father's right hand
Christ was received back into heaven, having terminated his unique work on the earth. He came to be the "antilutron," the ransom for his elect. And in doing this, he was exalted as a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance and forgiveness of sins.
But his salvation, now executed, has to be applied; the elect need to hear about the Saviour and come to him by faith. How is this to be done? Christ himself intimates the method: by the sending of the Other Paraclete, the Holy Spirit. "He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you" (John 16:14). The gospel is preached by the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven (1 Peter 1). For though Christ is in heaven, he continues his work to gather his elect into one flock, that they may see his glory, glory which he had before the world was made (John 17).
Even now, believers are exhorted to lift up their hearts, their affections and minds, to heaven, where Christ is, seated at God's right hand. During his Session as the heavenly Prophet, Priest and King over His church, he acts as Mediator that the Father's purposes may be fulfilled through him.
Christ rules with a rule of power (over the whole of creation) and with a rule of grace (over his redeemed ones). This he does in glory, for we should keep in mind that he "is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him" (1 Peter 3:22). What ineffable glory shines forth from him who not only was raised from the dead, but God also "set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come; and hat put all things under his feet, and give him to be the head over all things to the church" (Ephesians 1:20-22).
When John, in exile on Patmos, saw Christ in glory, he fell at his feet as though dead. Indeed, Christ, the radiance of the Most High, overwhelms us.
Yet believers are not to cringe before him. Christ approached John and comforted him: "Fear not; I am the first and the last..." (Revelation 1:17). In him are comprehended all blessings that God has prepared for them that love him.
Unbelievers and mockers are to take heed: for though they see not Christ yet his glory will be revealed at the last day. He who was condemned under a human governor will himself be the Judge of all mankind. Are you ready to meet him when he comes in flaming fire, with the glory of the Father and of the holy angels?