Glory – definition

Sanctuary definition - a place for God?
Correctly understanding these terms leads to a better
understanding of the character of God and the Gospel.

“Glory” has two primary meanings. One is the physical aspect – brightness, beauty, shining etc and is common to both models. The other, more related to character and also common to both, has a different emphasis between models as described below.

 Traditional Legal Model – the emphasis is often on God’s majesty, holiness, honor, fame and power. It could be thought of as “look at how great I am.”

Biblical Healing Model – God’s glory is mainly the attributes of His character that are more other-centered: His love, goodness, forgiveness, respect for the freedom of others; even His humbleness.

From a Modern Dictionary 

       Glory (noun)

  • very great praise, honor, or distinction bestowed by common consent; renown: to win glory on the field of battle.
  • something that is a source of honor, fame, or admiration; a distinguished ornament or an object of pride:
  • adoring praise or worshipful thanksgiving: Give glory to God.
  • resplendent beauty or magnificence: the glory of autumn.


 Webster’s 1828 Dictionary

Glo’ry, noun

1. Brightness; luster; splendor.
The moon, serene in glory mounts the sky.
For he received from God the Father honor and glory when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory  2 Peter 1:17.
In this passage of Peter, the latter word glory refers to the visible splendor or bright cloud that overshadowed Christ at his transfiguration. The former word glory though the same in the original, is to be understood in a figurative sense.
5. Honor; praise; fame; renown; celebrity. The hero pants for glory in the field. It was the glory of Howard to relieve the wretched.

The modern dictionary cited here puts less emphasis on the visible than the Webster’s 1828 dictionary.


Glory (from the Latin gloria, “fame, renown”) is used to describe the manifestation of God’s presence as perceived by humans according to the Abrahamic religions.”

God Defines His Glory

Here is perhaps the best definition of glory, coming from God Himself. Moses, a friend of God (Exo 33:11) asked to see God’s glory:

“And he said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory.” (Exo 33:18)

In response to Moses’ request, God said:

“And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.” (Exo 33:19)

God’s goodness would, of course, be the good aspects of His character (there are no bad ones). And He said He would proclaim His name which is commonly associated with character. From the verse above we could make this equivalence:


The Septuagint uses “glory” for goodness in Exodus 33:19. That glory equates to goodness and character is confirmed by this verse:

“And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by:” (Exo 33:22)

God said He would make His goodness pass by (Exo 33:19) and He said His glory would pass by (Exo 33:22). As God’s goodness/glory passed by He said:

“And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, 7 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.” (Exo 34:6-7)

Merciful, gracious etc are character traits. God’s character includes that He is merciful, gracious etc. So we could say that (among other things) to be merciful (forgiving sins) is consistent with God’s character. Indeed, the definition for forgiveness shows that He forgives all sins.

Giving Glory to God

There are a number of verses that talk of giving glory to God or glorifying Him. Jesus healed ten lepers and sent them to show themselves to the priests.

“And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.” (Luke 17:15-18)

How did the leper give glory to God?

Does “give glory to Him” mean to give God some extra physical brilliance or does it mean to credit Him with and acknowledge goodness and mercy, His good character?

There is another way in which God’s people can give Him glory:

“For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Cor 6:20)

How can we glorify God in that way? Those who trust God and take His good health advice will experience better health thereby showing the goodness of God in providing that counsel, for example the list of clean and unclean foods in Leviticus 11.

 Some Bible Uses of Glory

“Declare his glory among the heathen, his wonders among all people.” (Psa 96:3)

What is the connection between the two parts of that verse?

The parallel structure indicates that to “declare His glory” is to make His deeds known. So part of His glory is deeds including how He treats people.

“But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” (2 Cor 4:3-4)

“The glorious gospel” is the wonderful good news of the salvation that God has provided through His Son.

“Who [His Son] being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;” (Heb 1:3)

Here is the verse above from a paraphrased version:

“Jesus Christ is the radiant glory of God’s methods and principles lived out in human flesh. He is the exact manifestation of God’s character–the complete revelation of his being — sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he provided the Remedy necessary to heal mankind from the infection of sin and selfishness, he took his seat at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven,” (Heb 1:3, The Remedy New Testament)

The manifestation of God’s glory in Jesus’ life was not primarily outward:

“For he [“the arm of the LORD” = the Messiah] shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.” (Isa 53:2)

Form or comeliness refers to physical attributes. The Savior did not attract attention because of outward good looks but because of His inward beauty of character. That was also seen in His actions as He demonstrated such traits as grace and truth:

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” (Rom 3:23)

Does “short of the glory” mean we not shining brightly enough? Or does that mean something else?

Glory as Light

There are definitely verses that speak of glory as shining light:

“The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the LORD shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory.” (Isa 60:19)

“And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.” (Rev 21:23)

“And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses’ hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him.  And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him.” (Exo 34:29-30)

 When God Comes Near

As we become more aware of God’s presence and the glory of His character there is a reaction in man.

“Therefore I was left alone, and saw this great vision, and there remained no strength in me: for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength.” (Dan 10:8)

“Comeliness” is from the Hebrew word “howd” (Strong’s H1935)
AV-glory 9, honour 6, majesty 4, beauty 1, comeliness 1, glorious 1, goodly 1, honourable 1; 24
1) splendour, majesty, vigour

“Corruption” is from “mashchiyth” (H4889)
AV-destroy 4, corruption 2, destruction 2, set a trap 1, destroying 1, utterly 1; 11
1) ruin, destruction

Daniel realized his own glory was as nothing in comparison to God’s. Note that Daniel has no sins recorded against him.

The prophet Isaiah had a similar experience:

“In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” (Isa 6:1-5)

Also, Gideon felt similarly from an appearance of “an angel of the LORD”:

“And when Gideon perceived that he was an angel of the LORD, Gideon said, Alas, O Lord GOD! for because I have seen an angel of the LORD face to face. And the LORD said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die.” (Jud 6:22-23)

This is surprising:

“And when I (John) saw him [the Son of man in vision], I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:” (Rev 1:17)

Surprising because this is written by John the Revelator, the disciple whom Jesus loved, describing his reaction when seeing his friend Jesus. It shows, because of the vast difference between man’s glory and God’s glory, the great effect on man’s senses.

Conscience“And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.” (Mark 13:26)

“Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.” (Rev 1:7)

Why are they wailing? Is it because the lights are too bright or because they are afraid He is going to kill them? There is that but could it also be because they are conscience-stricken? What effect will an awareness of the glory of God have on sinners who have rejected God? It will be much worse than for the individuals mentioned above who had not rejected God. Even in them, there was an awareness of their character defects in comparison – Daniel’s comeliness becoming corruption and Isaiah’s awareness of his uncleanness.

Lake of Fire coverAn awareness of their sinfulness in the presence of total selflessness is what destroys the unrepentant in the “lake of fire” experience. This is described in my e-book The Lake of Fire and the Second Death.

Return to the Character of God and the Gospel Glossary Index

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