It is often said that the verb ‘glorified’ is in the past tense because Paul was so certain about what would happen in the future to believers. While that may be correct, I think it sounds unusual to say that a past tense describes a future experience, especially in a sentence where the other verbs retain their tenses. So I think it is worthwhile asking if there is a meaning or meanings of ‘glorified’ that could describe all the justified but be true of their present state as justified rather than of their future. In other words, are there any verses that indicate believers are glorified even while living here on earth so that it would have been possible for Paul to say to his friends at Rome, ‘Each of you is predestined, called, justified and glorified?’
One verse that could indicate present glorification is Ephesians 2:6: God ‘raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.’ Paul there is describing an aspect of union with Jesus in which believers share his exaltation while still living on earth. Union with Christ involves the reception of a status of glory that is given to every believer when they are justified. And in that verse in Ephesians the divine Person who bestows it is the Father, which fits in with what Paul says in Romans 8:30 about the Father glorifying his people.
Another verse that could point in this direction is 1 Peter 4:14: ‘If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.’ Describing them as having the Spirit of glory resting on them suggests a kind of glorification. Paul has said a great deal about the work of the Spirit in Romans 8, so could he mean that possessing the Spirit even as the firstfruits of salvation means believers can be regarded as glorified? Moreover, the one who gives the Spirit in Christ to his people is the Father.
Paul also describes an experience of glory in 2 Corinthians 3:18: ‘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.’ That verse describes a progress in glory that occurs now in the life of a believer, and it is a reflected glory that is connected to the glory of Christ. While it is not to the same degree as will be known by God’s people in the eternal state, it does follow the same method of reception in that it comes from the glorified Christ.
It looks as if those verses say that we can describe Christians as already glorified in different ways. So it could be that Paul has in mind under ‘glorified’ the aspects that happen in this life as well those aspects that will occur in the next life. And since this explanation includes features of glorification that happen to believers at the time of their justification we can see why Paul would use the past tense to describe it.
How should we respond to such a concise but comprehensive description of the Father’s purpose for his people? There should be gratitude for being so blessed, there should be wonder at such a divine display of kindness, there should be assurance that the Father will complete what he commenced, and there should be dedication to the service of such a kind and wise God.