Q: This may be considered a silly question, but is there a difference between God’s presence and God’s glory?
A: It is not a silly question. There is a difference between God’s presence and His glory. Presence points to someone being present, or his or her person actually being in your midst as a means to interact (fellowship), influence (persuade or reason), and/or to lead (instruct and guide) you in some way. Glory points to the light, beauty or honor that actually distinguishes that person.
The difference between God’s presence and glory can be clearly observed in Moses’ life. Moses encountered God’s presence in different ways, but he could only behold the backside of God’s glory, while being hidden in the cleft of the rock. God’s presence will express itself in different ways as a means to establish a proper environment and response from man, but the fullness of His glory must be veiled in some way, so that man in his present state will not die when beholding it. For example, the fullness of God’s glory was veiled in the tabernacle in the wilderness, and in the humanity of Jesus Christ.
As Christians, we have the presence of God working in, through and on our behalf through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. For example, we are born again with the Spirit. This means we have the presence of God working in us. We are to follow after, be led by, and walk in the Spirit in the ways of righteousness. Such a walk points to a life that is surrounded by the presence of God. Finally, we are to be filled up daily by the Spirit, which points to God empowering our lives to walk out the Christian life according to His will, mercies and compassion. Such filling points to our connection with the throne of God.
The purpose for God’s presence in us is to work the life of Jesus in us. We are to have His disposition, mind, and ways worked into our very being, attitude and conduct. In other words, we are to take on His likeness so that we can reflect His glory to the world. Keep in mind that God made man in His image for the sole purpose of reflecting His glory. By reflecting His glory, man would serve as God’s crowning glory in the midst of His creation. However, sin marred man’s inner being, causing him to become a reflection of the darkness of sin, self and the world. Hence enters the Scripture: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). (Emphasis added.)
The Holy Spirit’s responsibility is to work the life, light or glory of Christ in us. However, working this glory in us has four tenses to it. There is the perfect tense of this glory which involves suffering. The Apostle Paul stated that we must suffer with Him so that we may be glorified together (Romans 8:17). The past tense of His glory being worked in us points to the expectation that we possess due to being born again. Colossians 1:27b talks about the expectation we have been given: “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” We have the present work of His glory taking place, which is being made evident in us when we actually begin to reflect Jesus’ life to those around us. Second Corinthians 3:18 describes it in this way: “But we all, with open face behold as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
The more we live in and according to the Spirit, the more our inner man will be changed to reflect Jesus’ glory. As we are continually changed from glory to glory, we need to realize that such change is preparing us for our future glory, where the fullness of Christ’s life will be completely realized in us as we live in His unhindered majesty, knowing that our fellowship with Him will be unbroken and eternal, and that we will also rule with Him in the next age to come (2 Timothy 2:11).