I once met a man named Oz who told me how he came to believe in God. One dark night, as he drove on a remote road in the countryside, he was surrounded by a bright and blinding light, which he knew was the glory of the Lord. His many years of unbelief and hard drinking came to an end that evening. Oz does not share this experience with everyone, but he did with me, and I could tell it was very real to him.
The gospel writer Luke records the occurrence of a similar bright phenomenon to herald the birth of Jesus Christ. An angel of the Lord made this announcement to shepherds guarding their flocks at night in the Judean hills around Bethlehem.
8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Luke 2:8-9 NKJV
The appearance of this angel accompanied by the bright glory of the Lord caused these hardy shepherds to tremble. Shepherds were not timid types – they were used to fighting off wild beasts or whatever else came against them and their flocks. But this glorious sight by the visiting angel really gave them a jolt.
The prophet Isaiah tells us that the glory of the Lord will one day serve as our main source of light in both the day and the nighttime. This will happen when Messiah Jesus returns from heaven to install His eternal kingdom on earth in the New Jerusalem. His glorified presence will provide all the light we need.
19 “The sun shall no longer be your light by day,
Nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you;
But the Lord will be to you an everlasting light,
And your God your glory. Isaiah 60:19 NKJV
The apostle John adds more insight into these wonders in the final book of the Bible, the Revelation of Jesus Christ.
2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
23 The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. Revelation 21:2-4, 23 NKJV
These scriptures and experiences testify that the glory of the Lord’s presence is a very awesome thing to experience.
There are other references in the Bible to those who experienced God’s glory. When Jesus was transfigured on a mountain before Peter, James, and John, we are told that His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. Jesus did not reveal this image of His glory to all of His disciples, but only to a select few.
When the apostle Paul (then known as Saul) had his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, we are told that he was suddenly surrounded by a bright light from heaven, and that he was blinded and driven to the ground. He had been on his way from Jerusalem to persecute the Christians there, but Jesus appeared from heaven to stop him, and then called him into service to become the great evangelist to the Gentiles. The people who had accompanied Paul on this journey heard a voice but did not see the heavenly vision of Christ.
Paul was in a part of the world where the sun can be quite blinding, yet the brightness of God’s glory simply overwhelmed the sunlight. That may be the effect that the prophet Isaiah is referring to.
After this encounter, Paul was led in his blindness into Damascus, where he spent the next three days without sight, food, or water. Under God’s direction, he was then prayed for by a man named Ananias and healed. Ananias was sent by the Lord to restore Paul’s sight and to fill his believing heart with the Holy Spirit.
There are other examples in the Bible where the glory of the Lord was experienced by people. Moses saw it in the burning bush, on Mount Sinai and in the tent of meeting. The Lord’s glory accompanied the Israelites in the desert after their freedom from Egypt with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, leading and protecting them. The Lord’s glory also showed up during each holy dedication of His temple, demonstrating His approval of this building where He chose to meet with people prior to the coming of Christ.
Jesus referred to Himself as the Light of the World, so it comes as no surprise that we will live by that Light in God’s timing when His eternal plans are fulfilled, and we believers get to live in Christ’s physical presence forever.
Lord, most of us here on earth have not yet seen the brightness of Your glory. We believers follow You knowing that one day, we will bask in Your loving presence and light. We look forward to the time when all death, sorrow, crying and pain will end. Help us today to support and comfort those around us who are going through difficult trials. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.