ELIZABETH TURNAGE | CONTRIBUTOR
When I tell people I’ve written a book about preparing for glory, about living and dying in the hope of heaven, I get mixed reactions. Some people wonder why we would need to “prepare” for glory. Others wonder, frankly, if I’m being morbid. Good questions. I’ll just say that I don’t think I’m morbid. If anything, I’m realistic, given that, besides Enoch and Elijah, every person who has ever lived has also died. I’m also optimistic, someone who believes that despite the harsh reality of death, something far far better awaits those who trust in Jesus. Finally, I’m practical, because I’ve seen that a kind, thoughtful, and clear preparation for incapacity and death is one of the most profound gifts we can leave our grieving loved ones. To decide if we really need to prepare for glory, let’s begin by considering what we mean by glory in this context.
Glory is a wide and weighty word. It is used throughout Scripture to refer to the glory of the triune God. But throughout Christian history, it has been used as a shorthand for “eternal glory.” I propose this summary of eternal glory:
Eternal glory is a place and an age and a state of glory
where glory is given
to the glorious Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
by glorified saints
and where the glory of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
is enjoyed by glorified saints for all eternity.
The apostle Peter sheds more light on eternal glory: “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10). According to Peter, eternal glory is that to which we have been called, by “the God of all grace,” “in Christ.” Eternal glory is the future glory “to be revealed in us” after “the sufferings of this present time” (Rom. 8:18). Eternal glory is that for which we and all of creation “groan inwardly” as we “wait eagerly” (Rom. 8:23). Eternal glory is the glory for which the sufferings of this world prepare us. Eternal glory is so weighty that it will one day prove our sufferings to have been as light as a feather (2 Cor. 4:17–18).
In one sense, of course, we have already inherited this eternal glory if we are in Christ: “Those whom he justified he also glorified” (Rom. 8:30). And yet, our glory’s full fruition awaits the day of Christ’s return: “When Christ who is your life appears, then you will also appear with him in glory” (Col. 3:4).
Eternal glory is where we are headed. It is heaven. It is the new heavens and the new earth. It is looking fully on the face of Christ. It is hearing the welcome of our Father and enjoying the embrace of his Son. It is truly believing and clearly seeing God’s love for us. It is living fully into our creational calling to bear God’s image and to rule as servants in Christ’s kingdom. And it is doing so forever.
As Charles Spurgeon proclaimed, “But you and I, when we once enter glory, shall receive what we can neither lose nor leave. Eternity! Eternity! This is the sweetness of all our future bliss. Rejoice, ye saintly ones! Take your harps down from the willows, any of you who are mourning, and if you never sang before, sing this morning— ‘God has called us unto his eternal glory,’ and this is to be our portion world without end.”
It is with such eternal, everlasting, wondrous joy and glory in mind that we can face the “light and momentary afflictions” of death and dying, aging and illness, grief and loss. We can learn about death’s beginning and death’s end. We can explore our future state in heaven and our forever state in the new heavens and the new earth. And yes, we can face the agonizing reality of judgment and hell. In short, we can prepare for glory spiritually.
We can also prepare for glory practically. We can begin to let go of our “stuff,” and we can make plans for the end of our lives in order to lessen our loved ones’ burden of grief and guilt. We can forgive and ask forgiveness, we can say “thank you” and “I love you,” and we can share our stories of redemption. We can learn how to lament, and we can step into the journey of grief. While these tasks may intimidate us, we can approach them confidently with the hope of eternal glory.
Friend, this life is a millisecond in a marathon. But we are headed toward eternal glory, when every day, day in and day out, we will know the joy for which we were designed: the joy of loving and serving God, the joy of loving and serving one another. When we know the true hope of eternal glory, we will have the courage to face death and dying. We will live intentionally so that we might die intentionally, all to the glory of God.
Editor’s Note: Parts of this article are reprinted from Preparing for Glory: Biblical Answers to 40 Questions on Living and Dying in Hope of Heaven with permission from P & R Publishing.
 Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “Glory!” (speech, May 20, 1883), The Spurgeon Center, https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/glory/#flipbook/ .
Photo by Florin Beudean on Unsplash