Reproducing the Image of the Resurrected Christ

The Reformed tradition defines justification as the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and the acquittal of sin’s guilt. The Spirit imputes Christ’s active and passive obedience to his people by faith alone. And therefore, by justification, God’s people share in Christ’s righteousness, one facet of the glory of the resurrected Christ. Adoption and sanctification also contribute to moving believers from one degree of glory to another. In adoption, believers are received into the family of God and become heirs according to promise. Through sanctification, the power of sin is broken, and they are set apart as holy to the Lord. Throughout the rest of their earthly lives, the Spirit applies the death and resurrection of Christ to them, making them die increasingly to sin and raising them to newness of life. These distinct salvific benefits contribute in particular ways to reproducing the image of the resurrected Christ in each individual believer.

 


The Premiere Event of Glorification

Bodily resurrection also marks the revealing of the sons of glory and consummates adoption through the redemption of the body (Rom 8:23). Furthermore, sanctification is completed when believers are finally redeemed. They are no longer subject to the struggles of the flesh and are finally and completely confirmed in righteousness. Each of these benefits brings increasing glory to God as his elect progressively take on the form of the man of heaven. They are being conformed to his image, reflecting his glory increasingly as the Spirit applies Christ’s death and resurrection to them. To isolate and quarantine this progress of glory within the bodily resurrection truncates the eschatological glory-dimension of each salvific benefit. Still, bodily resurrection is the premiere event of glorification; it is its capstone.

 


The Glory of the Beatific Vision

The glory of the beatific vision is bestowed according to an image paradigm, and an image presupposes a relationship between that image and the original. This relationship between God and the recipients of saving grace should be understood covenantally, that is, as a bilateral and reciprocal bond of fellowship between God and his people. Rather than conceiving of this communion as an ontological gift of self, it should be seen as an eschatological perfection of human nature. It is eschatological, not essentially ethical.

 


Doubly Derivative Glory

God’s plan for the elect, then, is to move them from a position of protological and anticipatory glory to a position of eschatological and consummative glory by which they imitate and reflect climatically the divine glory. In this model, the glory that believers exhibit in their resurrection is doubly derivative. It originates with the Godhead, is mediated through Christ’s human nature, and then reflects off glorified images of Christ.

 


Typological Glory of Israel

This basic pattern of bearing God’s glory-image was recapitulated at a typological level for the nation of Israel. Like the protological son before them, the nation of Israel bore God’s glory as typological son (Exod 4:22; 28:2, 40; 40:34; Ps 3:3; Zech 2:5). As a type, the nation exhibited a form of the glory that anticipated the eschatological glory yet to be recovered and consummated.... Just as Adam lost the protological glory when he fell in the garden, so also this typological glory did not remain. The nation of Israel, after repeatedly breaking covenant, “fell” from glory and was exiled into Babylon. In climactic conclusion to God’s typological presence with the national image bearer, the glory of the Lord left the temple (Ezek 10:18; cf. 1 Sam 4:21).

 


God's Program of Transformation

The new creation is yet to come (2 Pet 3:13; Rev 21:1; Isa 65:17ff), but it has also already come. God’s program of transformation is not entirely future. Those whom the Spirit has called, regenerated, and united to Christ experience the new man in the present time (Heb 12:22). They have been made alive together with him and seated in the heavenly places in Christ (Eph 2:6). They rise to walk in newness of life (Rom 6:4). Having died to sin, they have been and are being renewed (2 Cor 4:16; Eph 4:23; Col 3:10). In a very real sense, believers already share in the glory of Christ and the hope of the glory to come, namely that which is inextricably linked with Christ’s return and the transformation, which ensues as a necessary entailment of that event. Still, the new man awaits a consummation. Believers do not yet outwardly manifest the glory they one day will manifest when they see their Savior face to face. For at that time they will be changed, in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye (1 Cor 15:51–52).