We recently observed that God has two solutions for the problem of mans sin – eternal destruction and substitution. We also saw that everyone will have one of these two solutions applied to them. However, some think that the one of the two solutions is not beneficial to God and often discard it and argue for its non-existence. To argue this way from scripture is hard work because scripture talks of eternal punishment frequently and to dismiss it requires either discarding huge portions of scripture or relying on extra-biblical material which ultimately undermines the rest of the position.
Having said that I want to demonstrate from scripture that both these solutions serve the same singular purpose. That purpose of course is to make much of (i.e. bring glory to) God. We've already seen that God is worthy of our worship and worthy to be made much of, but we can also see clearly in scripture that He is indeed in the process of doing exactly this.
To show this clearly we need to understand the language that communicates this. It is throughout scripture, but generally we glide over the specific words without really grasping what they are telling us.
God makes himself known
So – there are some key words to look for when you read your Bible. They are words such as "show", "make known", "manifest", "declare", "proclaim", "demonstrate", "display" etc. Whenever we see these words and the subject of these words is God (Father, Son, Spirit or simply even an aspect of God such as His attributes) know that God is exposing one way or reason why He is worthy of glory and that he expects the appropriate response. In other words these words indicate a means by which God is bringing glory to himself – when you read these words, know that this is a method by which God will be glorified – even if we don't see it right now.
Let us consider some examples.
Psalm 19:1 reads:
"The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork."
The point of this verse is that the sky and stars tell us about the majesty and splendour of the God who created it. Similarly it is said of Jesus after He had turned water into wine:
"This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him." (John 2:11)
That is that through the turning water into wine, he made known something about His significance by demonstrating that He was not simply a human like all the rest of us but something fundamentally greater. This was confirmed by many of His other works and miracles.
Thus, when God is making some aspect of Himself known, he is doing this in order to show His greatness which brings Him glory. We will see this in more detail as we go through this lesson.
How God is glorified in these solutions
We find with Pharaoh that God said to him through Moses:
"But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth."
The truly scary thing about this statement is that it means that the reason God gave Pharaoh his kingship over Egypt was so that God's power could be made known through the ten plagues. The ten plagues were only required because Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let the Israelites go. The entire point of Pharaoh's life was so that God could use his stubbornness to judge Egypt in order to make known His power which ultimately spread Gods fame throughout the known world at the time. Pharaohs destruction was to bring God glory.
We see this clearly in Romans 9:17-18 where we read in conclusion:
"So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills."
This of course begs the protest "Thats not fair!" and the question "Why does God judge us if He hardens peoples hearts"? The answer of course comes back to the freedom of God to do as He desires to do (Rom 9:19-21) – and He desires to bring glory to himself (and rightly so) through both the destruction and glorification of people.
In fact, if we continue reading through Romans 9:22 we read the following:
"What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,"
This gives us a strong hint about why some people are destroyed (eternally) – not merely because our sin makes us worthy of this, but so that the full power and wrath of God can be made known on them (which we covered here).
In Isaiah 66 we get an even more graphic understanding of this:
"“For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the Lord, so shall your offspring and your name remain. From new moon to new moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, declares the Lord. “And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”"
When the end of time has come and the people of God are living in the new heavens and new earth, as people go to worship, they will see those who have been cast into hell and will be reminded afresh of the fierce wrath and power of God – and they will worship Him for it because whenever God makes known something about Himself, He does so in order that His creation may worship Him for the great God that He is.
On the other hand, those who give themselves wholly to the Lord will equally be a trophy for the glory of God – because deserving this awful punishment, they have been forgiven and granted an inheritance that is infinitely greater than the punishment that they deserve.
Paul saw his own salvation as Christ demonstrating His patience with him:
"But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life." (1 Tim 1:16)
To the Ephesians, Paul explained that the reason that the Christians at Ephesus (and indeed us today) have been raised up and seated with Christ in the heavenly places is:
"so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." (Eph 2:7)
Thus, both the eternal destruction of the unrighteous and the mercy and amazing grace shown to those who are granted faith (Rom 12:3, Eph 2:8) serve to bring glory and honour to the eternal God who is worthy of all our affectionate attention.
Regardless of whether we like it or not, creation is entirely for the purpose – and indeed glory of the Creator – not for any other fundamental purpose. As Paul concluded in Romans 11:
"For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen." (Rom 11:36, cf Col 1:16)