Many theologians refer to Romans 8:30 as The Golden Chain. Due to the verbs involved, this one verse proves to be a veritable powder keg of theological truth: “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” For many of us, this verse shined like a supernova as we saw its truth for the first time – our salvation by faith in Christ is total, comprehensive, and sure. Indeed, God Almighty will complete the work he begins in his children (cf. Phil. 1:6). This one verse has offered immeasurable comfort, joy, and consolation to many a weak and weary saint in ages past and ought to do the same for believers today.
It would be naïve, however, to glibly assert the truth of this verse without acknowledging that it has also been the seedbed of many heated debates. Many men and women have been rankled by Paul’s assertion that God foreknew the elect in eternity past, called and justified them in the present, and will ultimately bring them home to glory. I myself have engaged this text, studied it to the best of my abilities, prayerfully considered it, sought wise counsel, and finally bowed in worship as I was overwhelmed by God’s sovereign grace poured out on a wretched lawbreaker like me. The aim of this essay is not to debate the clear declaration of God’s foreknowing and predestining of his people. My aim is to focus on the end of that foreknowing, calling, and justifying: glorification.
Author and theologian Wayne Grudem defines glorification this way: “The final step in the application of redemption. It will happen when Christ returns and raises from the dead the bodies of all believers for all time who have died, and reunites them with their souls, and changes the bodies of all believers who remain alive, thereby giving all believers at the same time perfect resurrection bodies like his own” (Systematic Theology, p. 1243). Predestination is not the end of our salvation. Even the gorgeous reality of justification (being declared not guilty and spared God’s holy wrath) is not the end of our salvation. As wonderful as these truths are, they are means to a glorious, eschatological end: we will be free from sin and its effects and enabled to see, savor, and glorify God forever without hindrance.
The Book of Revelation paints a picture of this reality: “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. . . . But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. . . . No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever” (Rev. 21:22-23, 27; 22:3-5). In glorified bodies, with glorified minds and glorified eyes, the children of God will see him and worship him without the hindrance of illness, indwelling sin, or dullness of mind.
How often have you gone to a worship service only to find yourself inundated with thoughts of yesterday’s frustrations, worries, or fears? How many times have you felt hypocritical while singing hymns to this Great God while actively suppressing thoughts of lust? How many times has the savor of the Lord’s Supper been on your lips as your heart aches in conviction over unresolved conflict with another believer? Not only are we to declare all-out war on these impulses now (cf. Rom. 8:13), but we are also to use them to propel us in our longing for our final destination (cf. Rom. 8:18-25). Sin is our greatest malady. God is our greatest prize. The cross of Christ has resolved the issue. In our current unglorified and sinful state, it would be foolish to try to ascertain what our reactions ought to be in regards to glorification. Many Christians muse about the joy of seeing lost loved ones who died in the faith. Others ponder the intricacies of heaven (i.e. the continuance of eating, working, sleeping, etc.). As wonderful as these things may be, our glorification will bring about the prize of Christ’s suffering: the eternal and unfettered pleasure of worshiping God. The contrast between those who endure in faith to the end and those who are condemned under God’s eternal wrath is breathtaking. However, with glorified senses, the saints will only praise God for his justice and righteousness on that day – there will be no mourning or questioning of his goodness.
The Golden Chain of Romans 8:30 is made of gospel gold. May we never, however, become so entranced by the first or second link that we fail to lift our gaze to behold and ponder its end. I long for the day when my enjoyment of God in the fellowship of the redeemed from every nation is unhindered. To this end, I close with a vision of this reality to whet your appetite for what the Lord has in store for all those who, by faith in Christ, are fighting the fight of faith: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!'” (Rev. 7:9-10).