Our term for today is glorification.
Our appreciation of God’s grace will be increased if we understand glorification in relationship to the other aspects of our salvation. The salvation Christ won for us is applied to us in stages, rather than all at once. The first stage is effectual calling, when God, through the preaching of the gospel, inwardly and successfully summons the elect to faith. Effectual calling is given together with regeneration, the act of the Holy Spirit whereby He changes our sinful hearts into hearts that love and cherish Christ. Regeneration thus enables and causes the elect to respond to the Father’s call, and they do so in faith and repentance. God then, at the moment the elect believe, justifies them. Justification is a legal act of God in which He forgives our sins, gives to us the righteousness of Christ, and declares us righteous in His sight.
It is important to understand that in justification we are declared righteous, but not made righteous. He declares us righteous on the basis of what Christ did, not on the basis of any good thing that is in us. The aspect of our salvation in which we are continually made more and more righteous is called sanctification. Whereas justification is an instantaneous act of God in which we are declared righteous (rather than made righteous), sanctification is a process–a process in which we are actually made righteous.
At death God completes our sanctification, and so removes all of our sins from our hearts and makes us perfectly holy. But even though our sanctification is complete at death, our salvation is not yet complete because we are still without our glorified resurrection bodies. These are given in the final stage of the application of our salvation, which is glorification. Then our salvation will be fully applied to us, and we will live forever in the new heavens and new earth as glorified saints, enjoying all of the benefits of salvation that Christ won for us.
Our bodies will one day be raised! Christianity does not teach the immortality of the soul only–the belief that our bodies are like prisons, and thus death is a great blessing to liberate us from these prisons so that we can continue living forever as disembodied spirits. Rather, Christianity teaches the resurrection of the body. As the apostle’s creed says, “We believe in the resurrection of the body.” Our bodies are not prisons, but are part of who we are. Of course our souls will live forever. But they will live forever in our bodies, not apart from them.
This resurrection of our body will occur when Christ returns. We know this from the way Paul explains to us the marvelous event of glorification in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord.”
What a great promise we have. What a great eternity is before those who are Christ.