The glory of God

The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. (Heb 1:3a)

The Bible says that Jesus Christ (God's Son) is the radiance of his glory. In the Old Testament his glory was associated with his presence. We read that the glory of God filled the temple (2Ch 7:1), which meant that his presence filled the temple. But the Hebrew word used doesn't mean presence, it means splendour. So what is God's glory, or splendour?

In Exo 33:18 Moses asked God to show him his glory. The Hebrew word translated 'show' means to reveal to the eye or to the mind. Moses was saying: 'Lord, let me see your glory and let me understand it.' So God said:

'I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.' (Exo 33:19)

What did God mean by that? He meant that his glory is comprised of all of his goodness (Hebrew excellence), which is everything he is: his love, his faithfulness etc… and also his mercy and compassion, which are essential for our salvation (Rom 9:10–8).

All of God's moral and spiritual qualities make him glorious and worthy to be praised.

God is light

The Greek word translated 'glory' in the New Testament also means splendour, but it has the added meaning of light or brilliance, and we can see why that is so. The Bible says that God is light; in him there is no darkness at all (1Jo 1:5).

…God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no-one has seen or can see. To him be honour and might for ever. Amen. (1Ti 6:15b–6)

All that God is—his moral and spiritual excellence—is manifested as light.

When Jesus was transfigured on the mountain the appearance of his face changed. Matthew tells us that his face shone like the sun—it emitted a brilliant light (Mat 17:2)—and Luke tells us that Peter and his companions saw his glory (Luk 9:32). The light that shone from our Lord's face was the glory of God.

The radiance of God's glory

Our opening text tells us that Jesus is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being. Radiance is the state that results from the emission of light, heat or energy. Jesus radiated God's glory: he radiated his light (his moral and spiritual excellence) on earth.

Jesus said: 'Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father (Joh 14:9).' Not that Jesus was the Father, but that he was the exact representation of the Father. John wrote:

No-one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only [Son], who is at the Father's side, has made him known (Joh 1:18).

Jesus, being the exact representation of the Father in a human body, has made him known to the world.

The light of the world

Jesus said, 'While I am in the world, I am the light of the world (Joh 9:5).' While Jesus was in the world he manifested God's moral and spiritual qualities in the world.

But he told his disciples that they also were the light of the world (Mat 5:14). While they were in the world they, too, were to manifest God's moral and spiritual qualities. And he added: '…let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven (Mat 5:16).'

The prime meaning of the Greek word translated 'praise' in that verse is glorify. Jesus was saying: '…let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.'

When we radiate God's light in the world (his moral and spiritual qualities) by allowing him to live his life in us, and through us, by his Spirit, he manifests his glory through us, and is glorified through us.


And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2Co 3:18)

The Holy Spirit is transforming us into the likeness of Jesus with ever-increasing glory. The Greek word translated 'transformed' (metamorphoo) is the same word used in Matthew and Mark's Gospels to describe how Jesus was transfigured (metamorphoo) on the mountain (Mat 17:2; Mar 9:2).

That means that what God did to his Son on the mountain, he also wants to do to us, by his Spirit, so we can radiate his glory on the earth. Are you shining for Jesus?

Unveiled faces

You will note that it says: '…who with unveiled faces…'. That was a reference to Moses:

We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. (2Co 3:13)

When Moses came down from Mount Sinai his face was radiant—it was emitting light (Exo 34:29). Some of God's glory had been imparted to him while he was with him, so he put a veil over his face until he went back into his presence (Exo 34:33–5). Why did he do that? He did it to prevent the people from seeing the glory fading away.

How had he got God's glory? He'd got it by being in his presence and by speaking to him. How do we get God's glory? In the same way that Moses did: by being in his presence and by speaking to him (spending time in prayer with him)—and particularly by praying in tongues, which is perfect communication with God, spirit to Spirit (1Co 14:2).

But unlike Moses, we're not to put a veil over our face when we speak to people. 'You don't light a lamp and put it under a bowl,' said Jesus (Mat 5:15). 'Let your light shine before men…'

Jesus wants people to see God's glory in us, and when it starts to fade we need to get back into his presence and get some more of his glory. We cannot shine for the Lord unless we've spent time with him.

2Co 3:18 says: 'And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory.' It's God's will that every Christian reflects his glory. We're like mirrors he uses to shine his light on the earth. We reflect his nature and character as we walk around—or we should do!

Importance of the Word

The final part of our opening text says that Jesus sustains all things by his powerful Word. The word 'sustain' means to support, uphold or strengthen. The Word of God is very important: God spoke and the universe came into being (Gen 1). It's also important to us because it strengthens us.

I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one. (1Jo 2:14b)

The young men John was writing to were strong because the Word of God lived in them. The Word of God gives us spiritual strength; it's a weapon and shield against the enemy. Jesus defeated Satan with the Word of God. He said: 'Away from me, Satan! For it is written… (Mat 4:10).' God stands behind every believer who uses his Word.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (Jam 4:7)

That is a promise from God. If we submit ourselves to God, we can resist the devil with the Word of God and he will flee from us.

Michael Graham
May 2007
Revised December 2020

Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version (Anglicised edition). Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica (formerly International Bible Society). Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved.

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