Justification, Sanctification, Glorification
by Jack M. Lane
I’m going to give you a mental classification system today. This will be like a three-drawer filing cabinet to keep certain thoughts and ideas in order. If I had a three-drawer filing cabinet, I’d make three labels for the three drawers: Justification, Sanctification, and Glorification.
These words are fairly well known in the Protestant community. Years ago, because I wanted to stay away from anything that sounded Protestant, I actually set myself up for years of confusion. I had no handy way of organizing all the really great information I was learning, so everything became sort of a jumble in my mind.
Everything was a salvation issue. Every little misstep could cost me my salvation. I meant well, but I wasn’t organizing all the scriptures in the best way to help me, or to help me help others.
Back when I was new to all this, I’d hear people say things like, “Well, that isn’t a salvation issue, you know.” And I’d have no idea what they meant. Of course it’s a salvation issue, I thought. Everything is! God hates sin! This was the eagerness and enthusiasm of someone who had a little knowledge, and was therefore dangerous.
Nowadays I think I have a better grasp of the concepts involved. I don’t talk in terms of things being (or not being) a salvation issue. But I do appreciate being able to have a more organized way of looking at things, and being able to pigeonhole various scriptures and understandings so the whole picture comes together in a better way.
So I wanted to pass this little organizational framework along to you. Am I going to teach you Protestant doctrine? No. I’m going to give you a lot of scriptures, which many of us have probably known for decades. But I’m going to package them in such a way that you can have a better idea how all these scriptures, and many more besides that you’ll think of later, can go into these three categories and quickly and easily make more sense.
When you speak to people about the faith you have, this can help you speak more intelligently, and not ramble on, jumping from one concept to another, so that you and the other person both leave confused.
Here it is in its simplest form. Justification is when we are forgiven. Sanctification is a Latinized word that generally means being holy. And glorification is the resurrection. It’s a progression through time. First you’re forgiven, then you become holy, then you rise from the grave in the resurrection.
By the way, I haven’t studied into what other churches teach when they use these three words. I’m still coming from the background we have, knowing what we know, and using these three words to categorize the three concepts. I won’t be presenting doctrines from Luther, or Swingli, or Calvin, or any of those guys. I’m just borrowing their terminology (which, by the way, is also biblical terminology).
Let’s begin with justification. We’ll start at Romans 4:25, and go right on into Romans chapter 5. In Romans 4:25, Paul is writing about Jesus.
Romans 4:25 (NIV throughout):
4:25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;
4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.
5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.
7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.
8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!
10 For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
11 Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned—
13 for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law.
14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.
15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man [Adam], how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!
16 Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man's sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation [talking about the sin in the Garden of Eden and the fall of man], but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification.
17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
18 Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.
19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man [Adam] the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man [Jesus] the many will be made righteous.
This passage tells us a lot about justification. It’s a free gift. It became available to us because our Messiah shed his blood and died for us. He qualified to be that atoning sacrifice for our sins because he led a sinless life. (Lord knows none of us has been able to do that!) His death was the agency by which we can enter into God’s grace and be reconciled to God. We’re no longer apart from God, separated from God. Now we’re reconciled to God.
Another aspect of this gift is that we have received righteousness. That fits into the section on sanctification. Another aspect of this gift is that we have the hope of the glory of God. That will come up in the section on glorification.
But you see how justification comes first. When we repent, when we’re baptized, when hands are laid on us to receive the Holy Spirit, we are justified. Our sins are washed away in the blood of the Lamb. We stand before God, and each other, justified. We have been made right. To use computer terms, we are “right justified.” And we can start singing halleluiahs to the King of kings.
But wait a minute. How did we get to this place? The way we understand it, there was a time when most of us were blithely strolling through life, minding our own business, and God decided it was time to open our minds, give us a little nudge, convict us in our consciences that we’re not really living a good life, we’re not really God-centered, and we’ve done some things that really drag us down because of the guilt. Then, out of nowhere, we hear a guy on the radio, or the TV, or we come across some literature, or a friend starts talking to us about it, and the next thing we know, we’re interested.
We usually refer to that as “being called.” Often God is simply throwing a switch in our minds so we’ll understand and respond. Sometimes we’re just so burdened with guilt, shackled by a heavy load, that we’re ready for a way of escaping our old life.
There’s an old expression, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” That’s why we can tune into a radio or television program that’s been on for years, that might have been recorded years ago, but when we’re ready, there it is! It’s the same with the Bible. That’s been around a lot longer than any of us have been! And that’s how it is that Jesus, the Lamb who was slain, did what he did many centuries ago, but that gift is there, today, throughout time, waiting for us to come pick it up. That part of the process is our decision. God doesn’t force salvation on anyone. But if you want it, it’s there.
The justification itself – that’s a free gift. You don’t have to do anything to be justified but come and get it. If I set a gift for you on the table, you’d have to come over here and get it, but the gift is free. If you’re too lazy to get up and come get it, that’s your business. If you’re motivated to get out of your chair and come pick up this thing I have for you, it’s yours.
If God offers you this priceless gift, justification, you have to do certain things in order to come get it, such as believe that it’s there, repent of your sins, earnestly desire a better way and a better future, and determine to change the course of your life. But the gift is still free. Just come and get it. It is without price, because the price has already been paid.
Now we move into the next phase of this salvation process, sanctification.
Those of us who came out of Roman Catholic-type churches might recognize the Latin word sanctus, which is the root word of the English word “sanctification.” Sanctus, in Latin, merely means “holy,” in English. But what does “holy” mean? Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary defines it as “[m]oral and ethical wholeness or perfection; freedom from moral evil.”
The scriptures refer to this as "sanctification" and "godliness." It really means to be set apart for divine service. If something is holy, it has been set apart to serve God, or God’s people, or God’s purpose in some way. If you are holy, if you are sanctified, you have been set apart to serve God, or God’s people, or God’s purpose in some way. I know people who talk about God’s “set-apart spirit” or His “set-apart Sabbath day,” instead of His Holy Spirit and His holy Sabbath day. It’s awkward in our language to speak like that, until you get used to it, but it really drives home the point.
If we are sanctified, we are holy. What does that mean? We’ve been set apart. Why? For some divine purpose, to serve God in some way. We’re not just in it for ourselves. We belong to God, we’re slaves of God (see Romans chapter 6), and we need to do what God says.
This goes beyond “Thou shalt not steal.” This goes beyond forcing ourselves not to do certain things because it’s against the rules. We’re talking about a changed life. We’re talking about not wanting to do those bad things. We’re talking about having a desire to live the way God wants His people to live.
Let’s turn to Hebrews chapter 9. You’ve probably seen the epistles use the blood of Christ as a starting point many times. Here’s another one of those places. It sounds like it picks up right where that passage in Romans 5 left off.
14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!
15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance — now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.
Sounds like lives get changed in this religion. But did you catch that in verse 15? Christ is the mediator of a new covenant so that we may serve the living God! Looks like cleansed hearts and serving God are part of the New Covenant!
Jumping ahead to Hebrews 10:1-10:
1 The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming — not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.
2 If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins.
3 But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins,
4 because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
5 Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: "Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me;
6 with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased.
7 Then I said, 'Here I am — it is written about me in the scroll — I have come to do your will, O God.'"
8 First he said, "Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them" (although the law required them to be made).
9 Then he said, "Here I am, I have come to do your will." He sets aside the first to establish the second.
10 And by that will [by God’s will], we have been made holy [we have been sanctified, set apart] through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
This passage in Hebrews is quoting from Psalm 40. Let’s turn there and read more of the context.
1 I waited patiently for the Lord [That’s part of being sanctified!]; he turned to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.
3 He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.
4 Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods.
5 Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.
6 Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have pierced;
Let’s stop there for a moment. That’s not what it said in the book of Hebrews. Here it says, “my ears you have pierced,” but when it’s quoted in the New Testament, it says “a body you prepared for me.” So, what’s going on here? Is this a conspiracy of evil to destroy the scriptures? No, this is one of those places where we read one thing in our Old Testaments, then when it’s quoted in the New Testament it reads differently.
The usual reason given for that is that we have a direct translation from the Hebrew in our Old Testament scriptures, while the folks writing the New Testament, long ago, were reading the Septuagint, which was an earlier version of the Hebrew scriptures translated into Greek, and that’s what they were looking at when they were writing the New Testament.
And then, of course, all that is translated into English so we can read it.
It becomes a bit more complicated when we also realize that the Hebrew scriptures which were translated into Greek were not exactly the same set of Hebrew scriptures that we have translated into English. Therefore, there are some minor variations. Not enough to create any real doctrinal problems, but enough to make us raise an eyebrow once in awhile, at times like this.
Apparently the Jewish translators of the Septuagint thought that the Greek readers might not catch the significance of the reference to the pierced ears. So they made a minor variation in how they translated the Hebrew into the Greek at that point.
But this piercing of the ears in verse 6 is interesting. That’s a reference to slavery. Save your place here, and let’s turn over for a moment to Exodus 21.
1 "These are the laws you are to set before them:
2 "If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything.
3 If he comes alone, he is to go free alone; but if he has a wife when he comes, she is to go with him.
4 If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the woman and her children shall belong to her master, and only the man shall go free.
5 "But if the servant declares, 'I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,'
6 then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.
That’s what the psalmist is referring to in Psalm 40. Sacrifices and offerings have their place, but what God really wants is us, to be his slaves for all of our lives! That’s part of being sanctified.
Hang onto this passage in Exodus 21, because we’re going to go back to it in a minute. But let’s continue in Psalm 40.
6 Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have pierced; burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require.
7 Then I said, "Here I am, I have come — it is written about me in the scroll.
Who is this? The book of Hebrews says it’s Christ when he came. What does this mean, that it’s written about him in the scroll? There are many references to the coming Messiah throughout the Hebrew scriptures, but let me quote this passage from Deuteronomy 18:15-19, where Moses said:
15 The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him.
16 For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, "Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die."
17 The Lord said to me: "What they say is good.
18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him.
19 If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account.
By the way, Jesus said that he was not speaking his own words, but those the Father had given him to say (John 12:44-50; 14:9-11, 23-24; 17:6-8).
Okay, back to Psalm 40 again. Psalm 40:8 says: “I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”
I can’t help but see a relationship there. How could you desire to do God’s will unless you know the rules of the game? And having God’s law in your heart means that it’s a major part of your life, your thinking, your own desires.
Now comes a difficult scripture for those of us who are sanctified:
9 I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, as you know, O Lord.
10 I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and salvation. I do not conceal your love and your truth from the great assembly.
How do we measure up in this area? Do we seal our lips? Do we hide God’s righteousness in our hearts? Do we conceal His love and His truth from people? Was this psalm just what David was talking about? Was it just for the choirs of Levites who sang it in ancient Israel? Was it referenced in the book of Hebrews as if it was just Jesus talking? Or, don’t we have a part in this calling?
God didn’t care so much about the sacrifices and offerings. He wants us. He wants us to be the sacrifices and offerings.
In Romans 12:1-2, Paul writes:
1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy [sanctified] and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship.
2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.
It said in the psalm, “Here I am. I desire to do Your will.” If God transforms your life and renews your mind, you can know what that will is!
Remember what it says back in Hebrews 9: Christ is the mediator of a new covenant so that we may serve the living God! Does that mean to serve Him with legal papers? Does that mean serving Him the ball in a game of tennis? Or does it mean that we love our Master, and we have asked Him to pierce our ear, so we may remain as His slaves for the rest of our lives?
Let’s go back to Exodus 21 for just a moment and look at that passage again.
5 "But if the servant declares, 'I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,'
6 then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.
The master must take him before the judges. That word “judges” is translated from the Hebrew elohim. Some translations say that the master must bring the slave before God as part of the process of making this Hebrew slave into a perpetual slave. Isn’t that about what we did? We were the masters of our own destinies – or so we thought – until we brought ourselves before elohim and asked to become His permanent slave.
Now we can know what God’s perfect will is. And here we are, desiring to do His will. What is His will for us? Well, how did we ever find out about this wonderful way of life? Somebody had to tell us. Maybe God wants other people to know, too. Maybe He doesn’t whisper in people’s ears directly, but rather sends his servants and slaves out to share the good news. Maybe that’s the Great Commission. Maybe we’re supposed to proclaim righteousness. Maybe we’re supposed to unseal our lips and start speaking of God’s faithfulness, and His salvation, and His love, and His truth, and not just hide it in our hearts.
We read earlier, in Romans 5, that we’ve been reconciled to God. What about everyone else? I know we can’t just go out and call everyone to love God and live righteously, as much as we’d like to be able to do that. But what I have found as a teacher is that I can teach, but it’s often up to the student to learn what I teach. Just because only a few students are ready to learn, should I stop teaching? No, I keep on teaching, and those who respond, who really want to learn, I work with them as much as they want me to, so they can learn.
The apostles and disciples found that out, too. They went from place to place, preaching and teaching, but they weren’t always welcomed with open arms. But they kept preaching and teaching. And they raised up congregations out of those who heard their message, those who really wanted to learn.
If we are reconciled to God, we should feel an urge to help others become reconciled to God. It’s definitely a good place to be, and we’d like to share that information with others.
But what if we don’t feel as if we could get up and speak to people, or fearlessly evangelize? That’s okay. Not everyone is called to evangelize. Let’s go back to Romans 12 again and read about various things we might be called on to do as living sacrifices.
3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.
4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,
5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.
7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach;
8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.
11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
13 Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.
18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord.
20 On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
So we see that there are a number of things that we, as individuals, are called on to do as members of the body of Christ. But more than that, even better than doing something, we need to be something. And that’s what this passage is about.
We often hear the phrase “human being,” as opposed to a “human doing.” I just read in the book, Chicken Soup for the Soul, a reference to a person as a “human becoming.” This was an elderly man who got up and started living, and doing, and being, and becoming.
We tend to be timid when it comes to sticking our necks out and sharing what we know. It definitely gets us out of our comfort zones! But when the opportunity comes your way, you don’t want to miss the opportunity.
1 Peter 3:13-18:
13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?
14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened."
15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.
We are sanctified. Here is says we are to sanctify Christ in our hearts. We are to make him holy, set apart, in our hearts.
15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
17 It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
18 For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.
We might be afraid to suffer. But Christ died, after a lot of suffering. And he didn’t deserve it! That’s what he did as the slave of his Master in heaven.
Sometimes when I get a little fearful about sticking my neck out, all I have to do is think of Jesus getting whipped, beaten, mocked, tortured, and killed, slowly and agonizingly. And he did that for us. He did that because he loves us so much. So, in that context, why would I be afraid to tell my employer I need a day off here and there for a religious observance? Why would I be afraid to tell someone that their behavior is harming themselves and their family and their community? Why would I be hesitant to share what I know about the love of God, the mercy and grace of God, and the opportunity to live with Him forever? When somebody opens the door a little, that’s the time for me to stick my foot in the door and tell them what I need to tell them.
To be sanctified is to live the set-apart life.
Peter wrote, in 2 Peter 3:18: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.”
If we are justified, that’s like the implanting of God’s seed in us. That’s like the beginning of an embryo, a fetus, on its way to being born. But if we don’t go on to sanctify ourselves throughout our lives, we are in danger of aborting the process of being born as children of God in the resurrection.
If a fetus doesn’t grow, it doesn’t come out as a healthy baby. If we don’t grow, if we don’t set ourselves apart from the world and strive to do God’s will, how will we be born when the time comes?
We are in the period of sanctification now, if we have repented, and have been baptized, and have received the set-apart Spirit of God. We have a lot of responsibility in this area. We have a lifetime of days to sanctify ourselves. Most people don’t just go directly from justification to glorification. I suppose it’s possible. I’m not going to judge how valid a deathbed repentance is. Most of us, in the usual course of life, have some period of years between our justification and our glorification. What we do with those years might very well determine what goes on in the next step, at the resurrection.
The third and final phase of this three-part method of categorizing things is glorification. This will be quick. I spent a lot more time on sanctification, because we spend a lot more time in that part of our lives. Glorification is rather quick and easy. It’s the resurrection.
1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4 tell the story. I don’t know that I need to read you those passages today. Instead, here are some scriptures referring to the hope we have in that resurrection.
Acts 23:6: “Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, ‘My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee. I stand on trial because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead.’”
14 However, I admit that I worship the God of our fathers as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that agrees with the Law and that is written in the Prophets,
15 and I have the same hope in God as these men, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.
16 So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.
17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.
18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe.
1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness—
2 a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time,
1 John 3:1-3:
1 How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
3 Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.
You probably have a picture in your mind similar to the picture I carry around in my mind. One day we will wake up in the grave, and hear a mighty trumpet blast, and the voice of an archangel, and we’ll float up into the air, and we’ll be able to see a great big bunch of spirit beings in the air, many of them coming down from heaven, many of them just floating around, kicking their legs and paddling their arms, trying to figure out how to fly. And we’ll all have the same thought: “We made it! It’s here! It’s real! It’s happening!”
And then we’ll start looking around to see who else made it. And we’ll look for that special someone, and we’ll squeal with delight (or whatever the spirit equivalent of that is) when we see him or her, or them. And the arms and legs will go frantically in all directions again as we try to get over to one another for a big hug. What a time that’s going to be!
And that’s the story of justification, which happened in the past but can be applied in the present; sanctification, which means we are set apart to serve the living God throughout our lives and endure to the end; and glorification, when we burst through the bonds of death to live forever in happiness and peace, as dearly loved children of our loving Father, and precious little siblings to our big Brother, who will have to babysit us for awhile until we get our wings.
An analogy to help see the picture
Let me give you a little analogy, another picture to help you sort and remember scenes from the three categories.
Suppose you need to go from Los Angeles to New York City. But you don’t have a car. And you can’t afford an airplane ticket, or a train ticket, or a bus ticket. But you need to get there. Now what? Here comes someone who hands you his car keys and says, “Here you go. Get going.” What a wonderful thing that is, for someone to just turn over his car to you and let you go to New York City.
Are you in New York City yet? No, you’re still on the West Coast. But now you have the means to get to New York City! That corresponds to justification. Now you have what it takes to go to New York City. But you’re not there yet.
What do you have to do? You have to get in the car and drive it across the continent. That takes a long time. And you have to endure the rigors of sitting in a car for days on end. Believe me – that’s rough. We did that as far as Denver. I can’t imagine doing that all the way across the country.
As you get closer to the East Coast, you might take advantage of meal stops and overnights at the motel to look at the Auto Club book and learn more about New York City. You’re growing in knowledge of New York City as you get closer. By the time you get there, you’ll already have learned a lot about the place. This corresponds to sanctification, the period of time when you’re in the car, on the road, making progress toward your destination.
Then you arrive in New York City. Journey’s over. That corresponds to glorification. I’ve never been to New York City, so I can’t really tell you much about the place. I’ve read some things about it, but I don’t really know it very well. I’m sort of seeing through a glass, darkly. But then, when I get there, it’s face to face.
So for us, glorification is yet future. We’ve grown in knowledge about our destination, and we have grown in grace as we go down the road toward our destination. And we look forward to getting out the car and being able to walk around in our destination.
Oh, by the way, there’s something else I need to mention, that’s part of the glorification step.
Revelation 22:12: “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.”
So, even though our works, our good deeds and so forth, don’t save us, they do have some impact on our reward when we are glorified.
Listen to what is promised to the seven churches in Asia:
Revelation 2:7: “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.”
Revelation 2:11: “He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.”
Revelation 2:17: “To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.”
26 To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations—
27 'He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery'—just as I have received authority from my Father.
28 I will also give him the morning star.
Revelation 3:5: “He who overcomes will … be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.”
Revelation 3:12: “Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name.”
Revelation 3:21: “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.”
Jesus is sitting on his Father’s throne, right now, judging and ruling alongside his Father. When he comes to rule this earth, those he will glorify will have the right to sit with him on his own throne, judging and ruling the earth alongside the King of kings.
With a future like that, with a picture of that happy time we can hold up and look at any time, in our mind’s eye, that should make whatever we have to go through in this life pale in comparison.
10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.
11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
12 Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation — but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it.
13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live,
14 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father."
16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.
17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
Then Paul says, “You know what?”
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.
That’s glorification. That’s our hope!
20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope
21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.
23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?
25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
Let’s keep hoping, and waiting patiently, but let’s also keep on our journey toward New York City, or wherever the road may lead.
What are the steps in this process? What goes into each drawer of this three-drawer filing cabinet?
In drawer #1, “Justification,” you can put repentance and faith; those are a part of justification. In drawer #2, “Sanctification,” you can put the things that help you grow in grace and knowledge, and that help you endure to the end. And in drawer #3, “Glorification,” that’s where you expect to wake up in a new body, in a new age, in a new life, in a new family.
So stay on the road, and let’s get to the destination!
Related article: Living the Sanctified Life