The Glorification of the Son


David K. Bernard

"And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was" (John 17:5)

In John 17 Jesus Christ prayed to the Father shortly before His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane and subsequent crucifixion. He began His prayer by asking, "Father, the hour is come; glorify, thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee" (John 17: 1). In verse 5 He repeated His request for glorification and specified that He desired the glory that He had with the Father before the creation of the world.

This prayer raises a number of interesting questions.

To understand this passage, we must recognize that Jesus prayed as a man. The prayers of Christ stem from His humanity, and any time we seek to interpret those prayers we must keep His humanity foremost in our minds.

Trinitarians say that Jesus was speaking as a second divine person here, but if that were so, Jesus would not be coequal with the Father, as they maintain, but inferior. Jesus would be a divine person who was lacking in glory, who needed the Father to give Him glory, and who asked the Father for help. Jesus would not be omnipotent (all powerful), but lesser in glory and power than the Father. In short, Jesus would not possess some of the essential characteristics of deity. Contrary to the rest of Scripture, He would not truly be God.

If we acknowledge that Jesus is God manifested in the flesh as the Bible teaches (Colossians 2:9; I Timothy 3: 16), then we must affirm that as God He always had divine glory, never lost it, and never needed anyone else to give it to Him. What did He mean, then, when He said, "Glorify thou me . . . with the glory which I had with thee before the world was"?

Glory through the Crucifixion and Resurrection

The setting and context provide the answer. Jesus was praying in view of His upcoming crucifixion. He had come into the world to offer His life as a sacrifice for the sins of humanity (Matthew 26:28). He knew that the time had come for Him to fulfill this plan. His flesh naturally shrank from the upcoming agony, but He knew that this was the supreme, perfect will of God for Him. As He had said earlier in John 12:27, contemplating His death, "Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save Me from this hour'? But for this purpose I came to this hour" (NKJV).

The glory to which Jesus referred in John 17:1,5 was the glory that He as a man would receive by submitting to the plan of God through the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. Immediately after the statement of John 12:27 Jesus prayed, "Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again" (John 12:28). Jesus then explained, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die" (John 12:3233). God glorified Christ by lifting Him up before all the world on the cross.

God further glorified Christ by raising Him from the dead. "Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father" (Romans 6:4). Christ's atoning death became effective for us by His resurrection (Romans 4:25j, which transformed His death into victory over sin, the devil, and death itself. At His resurrection He received a glorified human body (Philippians 3:21).

God glorified the man Jesus throughout His earthly ministry by investing Him with divine power and working through Him miraculously, but the supreme glorification occurred through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That was the ultimate plan for which Jesus was born and lived.

The eternal glory of God is not the subject of discussion in John 17. Jesus said of His disciples in John 17:22, "And the Glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one." Yet God emphatically declares that He will never share His divine glory with anyone else. "My glory will I not give to another" (Isaiah 42:8). "I will not give my glory unto another" (Isaiah 48:11). Jesus could not have meant that He gave the disciples the divine glory.

Instead, He referred to the glory that He as a man received in God's plan of salvation for the human race, the benefits of which He has imparted to those who believe in Him. The disciples had already shared in Christ's glorious, miraculous ministry. Soon they would also share in the glory of His crucifixion and resurrection by receiving the Holy Spirit (I Peter 1: 1 1- 12). They would have "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27), which would be "Joy unspeakable and full of glory" (I Peter 1:8). Through the gospel, we can obtain "the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ" (II Thessalonians 2: 14). By "the salvation which is in Christ Jesus" we have "eternal glory" (II Timothy 2:10).

Moreover, one day believers will "be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ" (I Peter 1:7). Just as God glorified the man Christ by raising Him from the dead with an immortal body, so we will be "raised in? glory" (I Corinthians 15:42-43). We will receive a glorified body "like unto his glorious body" (Philippians 3:21). We will be "glorified together" with Him (Romans 8:17), and we shall "appear with him in glory" (Colossians 3:4) .

The end result of God's plan of salvation is that believers will live with the glorified Christ throughout eternity. They will behold His glory, and will worship Him as the glorified One. They will say, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing" (Revelation 5: 12). With this ultimate objective in mind, Christ prayed, "Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world" (John 17:24).

Foreordained Glory

God planned this glory for the Son and loved the Son before the foundation of the world. Knowing that the human race would fall to sin, He foreordained a plan of salvation based on the birth, death, and resurrection of the Son of God. "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in. these last times for you" (I Peter 1:18-20). Jesus is "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8) .

Jesus Christ was not actually born before the creation of the world, nor was He actually crucified at that time. But in the plan of God the atoning sacrifice of Christ was a foreordained, certain. event. God does not inhabit time as we do; the past, present, and future are all alike to Him. He "calleth those things which be not as though they were" (Romans 4:17). He created the world with the Son in view, predicating all creation upon the future arrival and atonement of the Son of God.

When Jesus asked for the Father to give Him the glory He had with Him before the world began had with Him before the world began, He was not speaking of a time when He lived alongside the Father as a second divine person. Glory from such a time would be divine glory, which He could never have lost and which He could never share with His disciples.

Before the Incarnation, the Spirit of Jesus was the one eternal God, not a second person. The glory of which Jesus spoke was the glory He as a man would have in the fulfillment of God's foreordained plan of redemption for the human race. That was what Jesus looked forward to as He prayed, and that was what He asked the Father to give Him so that He could share it with all believers.

The Glorification of the Name

Jesus asked for glory so that He could in turn glorify the Father, and He also affirmed that He had already glorified the Father (John 17:1,4). Throughout His earthly ministry He exalted God through His teachings and through the miracles He performed. But He knew that the supreme glorification of the Father would take place through His crucifixion and resurrection. His crucifixion would reveal God's love in an unparalleled way (Romans 5:8), and His resurrection would supremely demonstrate God's almighty power (Ephesians 1:19-20).

Jesus prayed, "Father, glorify thy name" (John 12:28). In the context, the subject of discussion was Christ's death. Jesus wanted God to glorify the divine name through Christ's own life and death.

God's name represents His character, power, authority, and abiding presence. (See Exodus 6:3-7: 9:16; 23:20-21; I Kings 8:29, 43.) Jesus thus requested that God's character and presence be revealed through His human life. In John 17, Jesus stated that He had indeed revealed God's name, that is, God's character and presence, to His disciples. "I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world. . . . I kept them in thy name. . . . I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it" (John 17:6,12,26). In short, Christ has revealed the Father to us. To put it another way, in Christ the Father has revealed Himself.

In John 17:1 1, Jesus prayed, "Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me." Interestingly, most scholars conclude today that in the original Greek text the word translated as "those" is actually in the singular rather than the plural. If so, the meaning would be, "Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name-the name you gave me" (NIV).

This reading would correspond to other statements in Scripture that Jesus bears the Father's name. Jesus said, "I am come in my Father's name" (John 5:43). Hebrews 1:4 says of the Son, "He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name." Since the Son inherited His name, it must have first belonged to His Father.

The name that Jesus actually received was Jesus (Matthew 1:21). It was the name He bore all His life, and the name that was broadcast throughout the country as a result of His miracles and teachings. It was the name given credit for the miracles in the early church (Acts 3:6, 16). It is the only name in which we receive salvation and remission of sins (Acts 4:12; 10:43).

When we invoke the name of Jesus in faith, all the power and authority of God becomes available to us. Moreover, when God answers prayers offered in the name of Jesus, the Father is glorified in His Son. "And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it" (John 14: 13-14).

The Father has chosen to reveal Himself to this world by the name of Jesus, which literally means "Jehovah-Savior" or "Jehovah Is Salvation." The Father glorified the man Jesus by investing His name (character, power, authority, presence) in Him, by leading Him to the cross to die for the sins of the world, and by raising Him from the dead. Far from manifesting to us a second person of the Godhead unknown to Old Testament saints, the Son has manifested to us the one, indivisible God for the purpose of our salvation.

David K Bernard is the associate editor of the Pentecostal Herald, and the pastor of the New Life United Pentecostal Church of Austin, Texas. His article appeared in the December '93 issue of the Pentecostal Herald.