“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” (Hebrews 1:3)
This is another name of Jesus which totally blows out of the water any idea that Jesus was anyone other than God Himself. In order to understand what it means we first need to have some idea about what God’s glory is.
The word “glory” means “brightness.” It says in 1Timothy 6:16: “he who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see.” In the book of Ezekiel, we read that the prophet had a vision of heaven. He described the throne room of God, saying: “And the glory of the Lord went up from the cherub to the threshold of the house, and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was filled with the brightness of the glory of the Lord.” (Ezekiel 10:4). When the Lord came to the Israelites at Mount Sinai, it describes His appearance as such…”Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel.” (Exodus 24:17)
The word ‘glory’ not only implies extreme brightness but also carries with it a sense of ‘heaviness’ or ‘weightiness’. When Solomon’s temple was finished, God’s glory filled it so that the priests were not even able to stand up…”And when the priests came out of the Holy Place, a cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord.” (1 Kings 8:10-11). It was more than the brightness of God’s presence which prevented them from standing. It was the sheer weight of His glory.
Now that we have an idea of what the glory of the Lord is, let’s look at the fact that Jesus is the radiance of that glory. God’s glory is communicated through Jesus Christ, but it would be a mistake to say that He merely reflects glory. It is important to understand that “radiance” does not mean reflection. When we see a full moon in a clear sky it appears to be shining pretty brightly, but of course it has no ability in and of itself to shine at all. It is a lifeless piece of rock, its brightness is just a reflection of the sun’s light. Jesus’ radiance is not like that. The sun’s light is radiated from the centre of our solar system. Christ is not reflecting God’s glory, as the moon reflects the sun, but He is the radiance of God’s glory, as the light and energy waves bring the power of the sun to us.
Without light waves, we would not see the sun. Without its energy being transmitted to earth, we would not feel its heat. Like the sun’s beams, the radiating lines of the Son’s glory are too numerous to count. Have you ever tried counting sunbeams? It can’t be done; it would be like trying to count airwaves in the wind. Without Jesus Christ, we could not see God. But now, because Christ has come, we have seen God.
Even thinking about the brightness and strength of the sun doesn’t do it justice. One day the sun will be replaced by the glory of God and there will be no more night because the glory of the Lord will illuminate the new heavens and the new earth: “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.” (Revelation 21:23). “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.” (Revelation 22:5).
I leave you with a wonderful thought that the more time we spend with Jesus, the more His radiance reflects off us. The more we spend time with Him the more we are becoming like Him and are being changed. This will attract others to Him: “and we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18).