Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Jesus Christ – The Divine Lord of Glory Pt. 1

Sam Shamoun

In what is commonly referred to as his high priestly prayer to the Father, the Lord Jesus made claims which no mere creature could ever dare make. For example, Christ asks the Father to restore him to the glory which they both shared together before the creation of the world:

“And now, Father, glorify me alongside yourself. Give me the [same] glory I had beside (para) you before the world existed… For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came forth from beside (para) you, and they believed that you sent me.” John 17:5, 8

The passage is pretty straightforward. Jesus Christ personally existed (albeit as an unembodied or bodiless Spirit) with the Father in the same divine glory even before the world came into being. He then came forth from the Father’s glorious heavenly presence and entered into the world in order to accomplish his Father’s will, a point which he repeatedly makes all throughout this Gospel.

Jesus’ Personal Prehuman Existence

For instance, Jesus says that he has been sent forth from the Father in order to enter the world, and would be returning back to him in heaven:

“No one has ascended into heaven, but he who descended from heaven: the Son of Man.” John 3:13

“Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before!” John 6:62

“‘Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from beside (para) God. I came from beside (para) the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.’ Then Jesus’ disciples said, ‘Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.’ ‘Do you now believe?’ Jesus replied.” John 16:25-31

Here we not only see Jesus affirming his personal preexistence, but also accepting the disciples’ confession that he knows all things, which is a characteristic that belongs uniquely to God:

“for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.” 1 John 3:20

Jesus also speaks of coming down in order to make known the things which he learned from the Father’s presence in heaven:

“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from beside (para) my Father I have made known to you.” John 15:15

In this next passage, Jesus not only says that he came from the Father’s side, he also claims to have personally seen Abraham who, unlike the Jews of his day, did not try to kill Christ, but was actually happy at meeting him:

“‘I am telling you what I have seen in the presence of/from beside (para) my Father, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.’ ‘Abraham is our father,’ they answered.’ ‘If you were Abraham’s children,’ said Jesus, ‘then you would do what Abraham did. As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from (para) God. Abraham did not do such things. You are doing the works of your own father.’ ‘We are not illegitimate children,’ they protested. ‘The only Father we have is God himself.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love me, for from God I have proceeded forth and am here. I have not come on my own; God sent me.’… Very truly I tell you,’ Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham came into being, I AM!’ At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.” John 8:38-42, 56-59

Christ explains why it was possible for he and Abraham to have seen each other. Unlike Abraham who came into being, e.g., was created, Christ has always existed since his mode of being transcends time!

Jesus even goes as far as to say that no one has ever seen or comprehended the Father besides him, which is why he is the only One infinitely qualified to make him known:

“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets: And they will all be taught by God. Everyone who has listened to and learned from the Father comes to Me— No one has seen the Father except the One who is from beside (para) God; only he has seen the Father.” John 6:44-46

“Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, ‘Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own authority, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him, but I know him because I am from beside (par’) him and he sent me.’” John 7:28-29

Hence, there can be absolutely no doubt that Christ truly existed alongside the Father, and enjoyed intimate, perfect communion with him, even before the world was made.

God’s Glory and His Heavenly Host

Now as far as the glory which Jesus prayed to receive back again is concerned, in context this could only refer to the visible display of majesty that Christ would have possessed alongside the Father by which onlookers would have known that the One that they were beholding was none other than God Almighty. Renowned NT scholar Larry W. Hurtado concurs that “glory” in Biblical literature has this precise meaning:

“… The term ‘glory’ (doxa) and the cognate verb, ‘glorify’ (doxazein), are both used with particular frequency in GJohn; divine glory is clearly a major theme.52 In this, as in so many other matters, GJohn demonstrates a keen aim to communicate in terms and motifs drawn from the biblical tradition. In the Old Testament, reference to God's ‘glory’ denotes 'the luminous manifestation of his person, his glorious revelation of himself.' Thus God's 'glory' is characteristically a visual phenomenon, and is often referred to as appearing, shown, revealed, and seen (e.g., Exod. 16:7, 10; 33:18; Deut. 5:23; Isa. 40:5; 60:1).” (Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Early Christianity [William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI/Cambridge, U.K. 2005], 6. Crises and Christology in Johannine Christianity, pp. 375-376; bold emphasis ours)

52. “Glory” (doxa) appears nineteen times in John, “glorify” (doxazo) twenty-three times, more frequently than in any other New Testament writing. Some cases (John 5:41, 44; 7:18; 12:43a) may reflect ordinary Greek usage (e.g., “opinion,” “reputation,” and so “honor,” “distinction”). But in other important instances in John “glory” and “glorify” reflect the special meaning the terms acquired from being used to translate the Hebrew kavod in the Old Testament. As Dodd noted (Interpretation, 206), God’s kavod is “the manifestation of God’s being, nature and presence, in a manner accessible to human experience.” On “glory” in GJohn, see the whole of Dodd’s discussion, Interpretation, 201-208. (Ibid, p. 375; bold emphasis ours)

Hence, Jesus was basically affirming that his mode of being was(is) essentially that of God, and the glory which he shared with the Father was the visible display of that mode which had been temporarily veiled in human flesh while he was on earth. As the following commentary explains:

17:5 Before Christ came into the world, He dwelt in heaven with the Father. When the angels looked upon the Lord, they saw all the glory of Deity. To every eye, He was obviously God. But when He came among men, the glory of Deity was veiled. Though He was still God, it was not apparent to most onlookers. They saw Him merely as the carpenter’s Son. Here, the Savior is praying that the visible manifestation of His glory in heaven might be restored. The words, “glorify Me together with Yourself” mean “glorify Me in Your presence in heaven. Let the original glory which I shared with You before My incarnation be resumed.” This clearly teaches the pre-existence of Christ. (William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary, edited by Art Farstad [Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN 1990], p. 1556; italic and underline emphasis ours)

Suffice it to say, this is a glory that no created being could claim or posses, and yet Jesus claims to have possessed it.

After all, the inspired Scriptures are clear that, even though the heavenly host existed with God before the world was made,

“Then Yahweh answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: ‘Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?’” Job 38:1-7

None of the heavenly beings share in Yahweh’s glory, e.g., his mode of being and the visible radiance which emanates from it.

In fact, the Holy Bible is emphatic that there is absolutely no one among the inhabitants of heaven who is like Yahweh or can do the things he does in the manner in which he does them:

“The heavens praise your wonders, Yahweh, your faithfulness too, in the assembly of the holy ones. For who in the skies above can compare with Yahweh? Who is like Yahweh among the heavenly beings (lit. sons of God [bibane elim])? In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared; he is more awesome than all who surround him. Who is like you, Yahweh God Almighty? You, Yahweh, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you.” Psalm 89:5-8


There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours. All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name. For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God.” Psalm 86:8-10

Furthermore, these beings are commanded to ascribe praise and glory to Yahweh since that is his due:

“Ascribe to Yahweh, you heavenly beings (lit. sons of God [bane elim]), ascribe to Yahweh glory and strength. Ascribe to Yahweh the glory due his name; worship Yahweh in the splendor of his holiness. The voice of Yahweh is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, Yahweh thunders over the mighty waters.” Psalm 29:1-3

Moreover, the Holy Scriptures depict Yahweh seated on his throne in contrast to the heavenly host who are presented as nothing more than servants standing in Yahweh’s presence, eagerly ready to carry out his will:

“And Micaiah said, ‘Therefore hear the word of Yahweh: I saw Yahweh sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven STANDING on his right hand and on his left. And Yahweh said, “Who will entice Ahab the king of Israel, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?” And one said one thing, and another said another. Then a spirit came forward and stood before Yahweh, saying, “I will entice him.” And Yahweh said to him, “By what means?” And he said, “I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.” And he said, “You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.” Now therefore behold, Yahweh has put a lying spirit in the mouth of these your prophets. Yahweh has declared disaster concerning you.”’” 2 Chronicles 18:18-21 – cf. 1 Kings 22:19-23

Yahweh has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all. Bless Yahweh, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word! Bless Yahweh, all his hosts, his ministers, who do his will! Bless Yahweh, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless Yahweh, O my soul!” Psalm 103:19-21

“As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire. A stream of fire issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands SERVED him, and ten thousand times ten thousand STOOD before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened.” Daniel 7:9-10

The NT even goes so far as to say that these spirit beings also serve God’s elect people, i.e., all those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ:

“Of the angels he says, ‘He makes his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire.’… Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” Hebrews 1:7, 14

Jesus is exactly like the Father and is superior to the hosts of Heaven

Jesus, on the other hand, is said to be exactly like the Father, being the exact representation of the Father’s very own uncreated substance. Christ is further depicted as being able to do whatever God the Father does, such as creating and sustaining the entire universe by his powerful word, as well as giving life to whom he is pleased to give it to. Jesus is even said to be seated on God’s heavenly throne in order to reign forever as God over the entire creation:

“And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father is working until now, and I am working.’ This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For WHATEVER the Father does, that the Son does LIKEWISE. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. For AS the Father raises the dead and gives them life, SO ALSO the Son gives life to whom he will… Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear THE VOICE OF THE SON OF GOD, and those who hear will live. For AS the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son ALSO to have life in himselfDo not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear HIS [the Son’s] VOICE and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.’” John 5:16-21, 25-26, 28-29


“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the Heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high… And again, when he brings the Firstborn into the world, he says, ‘Let all the angels of God worship him.’… But of the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.’ And, ‘You, Lord (the Son), laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.’ And to which of the angels has he ever said, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet’?” Hebrews 1:1-3, 6, 8-13

What makes the citation from Hebrews rather amazing is that the inspired author has taken the following Psalm which highlights Yahweh’s immutability and refers to his roles as the Creator and Sustainer of the heavens and the earth,

“‘O my God,’ I say, ‘take me not away in the midst of my days—you whose years endure throughout all generations!’ Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, but you are the same, and your years have no end. The children of your servants shall dwell secure; their offspring shall be established before you.” Psalm 102:24-27

And applies it to Christ!

Nor is this the only time where the NT does this. For instance, the Apostle Paul takes the following OT citation,

“The chariots of God are twice ten thousand, thousands upon thousands; the Lord is among them; Sinai is now in the sanctuary. You ascended on high, leading a host of captives in Your train and receiving gifts among men, even among the rebellious, that Yahweh God may dwell there.” Psalm 68:17-18

And applies it to Christ’s ascension into heaven after his descent to the earth:

“But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore it says, ‘When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.’ (In saying, ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)” Ephesians 4:7-10

What makes Paul’s use of this citation all the more impressive is that the blessed Apostle took a text which states that the heavenly host belong to God himself, and applied that to Christ. This means that, for Paul, the hosts of heaven actually belong to Christ himself!

In other words, Jesus is not one of God’s chariots or a member of his heavenly host. Rather, Jesus is actually the Lord God of the hosts of heaven!

We come to the conclusion of part 1. Please move on to part 2.