God’s plan has always been for the world to be full of people displaying His glory and character.
Adam and Eve were made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27) to display His glory and character. They were given the command to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth (Genesis 1:28), and as they did, “the earth would be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14). Just as there is no part of the sea where there is no water, his plan was that God’s glory, His character would be found everywhere on this earth.
The problem was that Adam and Eve failed to display God’s character. Before they got going on filling the earth with other people who displayed His glory, they sinned, and God’s image was corrupted.
But God’s plan to display His glory through gathering a people who would display His character was not over. He chose to bless Abraham, making some wonderful promises, including a big family (a people, the nation of Israel), who He rescued from slavery in Israel, and gave them the law which revealed His character and the command. God said: “I am the LORD who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy” (Leviticus 11:45).
Israel was called to represent God, display His glory and character, so that as they obeyed God’s law, people saw what kind of God they followed. So if you wanted to know what God is like, you looked at the people of Israel. God wanted all the peoples of the world to look at the nation Israel so that they would come to know Israel’s God: “See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the LORD my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him? And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?” (Deuteronomy 4:5-8).
Like Adam and Eve, Israel failed to display God’s character, so God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15), the exact representation of his being (Hebrews 1:3), who represented God perfectly, He succeeded where Adam and Eve, and Israel failed and through His death restored the true image of God by gathering a people who would come to Him in repentance and faith, and He changes them so that they become more and more like Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Through the church, “the manifold wisdom of God” (Ephesians 3:10-11) is being made known. The church is a display of God’s glory in a messed up world and as they show His character, it is anticipated that this will lead to opportunities to share the gospel and conversions so that on the day Jesus returns others are found to be glorifying God (1 Peter 2:12).
On that day God’s people will perfectly display His glory. When Jesus “appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2), and then the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. The New Jerusalem will shine with the glory of God (Revelation 21:10-11), because all the people inhabiting the city will perfectly display God’s glory.