“To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.”
(Colossians 1:27–28 ESV)
"Christ in you, the hope of glory" is a phrase that is becoming increasingly misunderstood, especially in some Charismatic circles in the body of Christ today. It's important to have clarity on what this phrase means from the Bible, especially if we as Christians base our message and lifestyle on the truths of Scripture.
In the narrow context of the verse, Paul is expounding on one facet of the "mystery" that was revealed to him - that even the Gentiles, through the simplicity of faith in the Jewish Messiah Jesus, can participate in the promises of "blessing" made to the Jewish patriarch Abraham (Ephesians 1:9; Ephesians 3:6).
The phrase "hope of glory" is also informed by other verses in context - just a few verses prior to 27, Paul used the phrase "the hope of the gospel" (Colossians 1:23). In the book of Acts, Paul also said that he was on trial for preaching the gospel: that he had "the same hope in God as these men [the Jews], that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked” (Acts 24:15).
When set in the larger Biblical narrative, this idea of "blessing" and "glory" is not referencing revival in the church or a pain-free, prosperous life with Jesus dwelling in our hearts in this age. While cheerful, comfortable circumstances may be the experience of some before God's decree to return to the dust overtakes them (Genesis 3:19; Psalms 90:3), the "glory" Paul speaks about is related to unending joy and blessing in the age to come when Jesus raises the dead and grants eternal life to His people, reigns over the nations from Jerusalem, and restores the heavens and the earth to be the home of righteousness (Acts 3:19-21; Matthew 19:28; Romans 8:18-25; Romans 15:7-13; Psalm 145:11; Daniel 7:14; 2 Peter 3:13). Though this inheritance of believers (both Jew and Gentile) is yet future, we possess the down payment of the Spirit today as a guarantee of that restoration and our resurrection (Ephesians 1:13-14; 2 Corinthians 5:4-5).
Paul clarifies the future-oriented "hope" of this "glory" even more in Romans 8:18-24:
"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us... we groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope [the hope of "glory", restoration and resurrection, verses 18-23] we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?"
(Romans 8:18-24 ESV)
Though the saints are appointed by God to suffering in this age as a witness to the sufferings of Jesus (1 Thessalonians 3:3; 1 Peter 4:13; 2 Timothy 1:8; 2 Corinthians 1:5), a day is coming when the saints will awake in the glory of the resurrection and to a day when "[God] will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore” (Revelation 21:4).
To say that Paul's understanding of "glory" references individuals having the indwelling Christ in this age is to be unfaithful to the context of Scripture. Why?
- First, it is a contradiction to say that we hope for something if we already have it, as Romans 8:24 says.
- Additionally, while it is true that individual believers are indwelt by the Spirit, we often read Colossians 1:27 through an individualistic, self-centered lens. In fact, the individual believer is probably not Paul's primary focus in Colossians 1:27, because he is using a second-person plural pronoun in the original Greek. It could be likened to someone saying Christ in "you all". I believe he is speaking of the outworking of Jesus' life and words in the midst of His church as a whole (Galatians 4:19) - not just repentant Jewish people, but even the Gentiles who put their faith in Jesus.
- Moreover, even if Paul was speaking of the individual's experience of the indwelling Spirit in this passage, many of his other writings are are clear that the Spirit is not our inheritance - it is merely the people of God's "allowance" until the day of redemption when we will receive our inheritance - eternal life in the resurrection together as "one new man" (Ephesians 1:14; Ephesians 4:30; Ephesians 3:3-6). In other words, there is a greater "glory" than the indwelling Spirit that we have yet to participate in.
Understand that I am not trying to downplay the individual experience of the indwelling Christ today. We should enjoy the blessings of God and the provision of the Spirit in our sojourn of this age, but we must live soberly in such a way that anchors our hope fully in glory in the age to come. My zeal against the misunderstanding of "the hope of glory" is that it actually diminishes the Biblical vision of "glory" and uproots the anchor of hope from the age to come and places it in this present evil age. It is only when we "set [our] hope fully on the grace that will be be brought to [us] at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:13) that we find "joy inexpressible and full of glory" (1 Peter 1:8) and "may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:18-19).