“I am misunderstanding when studying about these lessons—justification, sanctification, glorification. I know a little about justification; that it only takes a short time and sanctification; that it takes a long time, but how do these work?”
In the Christian life, justification is being forgiven of sins of the past. This justification a person receives from God the moment they repent, and in at least one sense of the word they are sanctified at that moment as well. (See Romans 3:24-26; 1 Corinthians 6:11.)
The word sanctify can have different meanings depending upon the way it is used. Many times in the Bible inanimate objects are said to be sanctified. For example, some things that can be sanctified are: a field (Leviticus 27:16), a house (Leviticus 27:16), an altar (Leviticus 8:11), a mountain (Exodus 19:23), etc. In these cases, and in many cases where people are said to be sanctified, it signifies a dedication of a person or a thing for sacred purpose. When we ask God for forgiveness and receive His Spirit we are sanctified, set apart, to do service for God.
However, there is a deeper meaning to sanctification at times when it is used of people, which signifies a process that is the work of a lifetime.
Paul wrote, “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.… If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.” (2 Timothy 2:19-21) Here the word sanctified carries the meaning of a man being so dedicated to Christ that he has “ceased from sin.” (1 Peter 4:1)
This sanctification is accomplished in us through the work of the Spirit of God in our lives and through belief of the truth. Paul wrote, “But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” (2 Thessalonians 2:13)
Belief of the truth has a great deal to do with the work of sanctification. Jesus said, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth… And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.” (John 17:17, 19) As more truth is revealed to us, and we obey it, the more we are sanctified from all wickedness.
Let me give an illustration of how the truth sanctifies us. When I first gave my heart to the Lord and asked Him to forgive my sins, I still had many bad practices that I did not know were wrong, yet they needed to be corrected. I had received justification, and in a sense I was sanctified—set apart to serve God. I had given up drugs, alcohol, and a long list of other wickedness, but I still had hair down to the middle of my back, I listened to some of the most ungodly music, I didn’t really know what it meant to keep the Sabbath day holy, and I had many other problems that needed refining. As I learned the truth from God’s Word on some of these points, God was able to purify me from these habits. I had already been justified, but now I had begun the process of being sanctified, and this process is still taking place in my life today. God is still tenderly leading me into all truth to sanctify me wholly.
Regarding the continuing work of sanctification, Paul wrote, “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23)
Glorification is something that takes place at Christ’s return when the dead in Christ are raised to immortality and the living righteous are changed. Jesus explained this when, just prior to His death and resurrection, He said, “The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified.” (John 12:23) Christ was glorified at His resurrection. “These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him.” (John 12:16)
Paul spoke of glorification as a future event when he wrote, “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” (Romans 8:17)
In the Christian life, justification is being forgiven of sins, sanctification is dedicating ourselves to God, as well as and the lifetime process of learning more truth, obeying that truth, and allowing the Spirit of God to give us the victory over every sin; and glorification is the physical change that we experience at Christ’s second coming.
I hope this helps to answer your question.