Who being the brightness of His glory
The writer, in his constant and continuous crescendo, persists with His approach in identifying the Son to His reader by utilizing language that is almost foreign to us today. This language would have however been so incredibly poetic and real to the reader of that day. We must go back to the time of the letter in order to attempt to grasp the words of the writer since our modern mind cannot truly find the application in its fullest sense.
Firstly, an examination of the verb “being” here would be a good point of beginning to our study. The verb does not denote a language expressing time but simply is simply denoting existence. The Lord Jesus did not become or begin to exist in the brightness of His glory but He simply is the brightness of His glory. The term signifies absolute and timeless existence! This is the same expression surrounding the proclamation of the Lord Jesus in John 8:58 where He states not only that He had existed before Abraham but that “before Abraham was, I AM”. The words uttered by the Lord caused these Jews to pick up stones to end His life for they understood that He was confirming His eternality.[i]
The expression “the brightness of His glory” is a remarkable attribute of the Lord Jesus. Jehovah is said to be the “king of glory” (Psalm 24:10) and the Father’s glory is what will illuminate the city of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:24). Some have attempted to downplay its significance by stating that He is merely “the brightness” and this somehow implies a “lesser” insinuation to the expression. It should be noted that this type of thinking begins with the presupposition that Christ is inferior to the Father since when a proper study of the language is conducted, we see that it promotes not only that He shares in the glory of the Father (John 17:5) but also that the Lord Jesus is the very essence of His glory. This is substantiated when we look at the parallel between the king of Glory (Psalm 24:10) and the term “Lord of Glory” in 1 Corinthians 2:8. The brightness or radiance relates back to the Father Himself since it is the Father “who alone has immortality, dwelling in the unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see” (1 Timothy 6:16). The only means by which a person can see the Father is by seeing Jesus Christ. Christ is the manifestation of the effulgence of God in its totality. The apostles, during the mount of transfiguration, saw His glory (Luke 9:32) and, as John could write, we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14) The people of God await patiently His coming will be with power and great glory. (Matthew 24:31) The glory is not something that is simply in His possession but something that He shared with the Father. During the Lord’s High Priestly prayer, He speaks to the Father relishing His plea: O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. (John 17:5). This was a glory that they possessed together as the one true God Jehovah. As the solar light brings the very essence of the sun to us, so has Christ brought to us the holiness, the wisdom, the beauty, the perfection, of God.[ii]
This writer is very much in sync with the parallel passages found in John 12:41 in the vision of the prophet Isaiah. Let us take the time to examine this since we feel that it is of great importance to grasp this particular paradigm.
The Gospel of John is so very complete in it’s presentation of the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the twelfth chapter of John we read:
But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet which he spoke: “LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT? AND TO WHOM HAS THE ARM OF THE LORD BEEN REVEALED?” For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, HE HAS BLINDED THEIR EYES AND HE HARDENED THEIR HEART, SO THAT THEY WOULD NOT SEE WITH THEIR EYES AND PERCEIVE WITH THEIR HEART, AND BE CONVERTED AND I HEAL THEM.” These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him. Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue. (John 12:37-42)
After speaking to some Greeks who were wishing to see the Lord Jesus, the Lord spoke of His coming death and their need to “believe in the light so that you may become sons of light’. John then expresses the unbelief of those who were with Him even though He had “performed many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him” This was to fulfill two of Isaiah’s prophecies, the first from Isaiah 53:1
Who hath believed our message? and to whom hath the arm of Jehovah been revealed? (1901 ASV)
We must keep in mind that the passage in chapter 53 is speaking of the coming Messiah and the disbelief of those who saw firsthand the Lord of Glory. And the second from Isaiah 6:10 once again stressing the unbelief of those who saw Him.
Render the hearts of this people insensitive, Their ears dull, And their eyes dim, Otherwise they might see with their eyes, Hear with their ears, Understand with their hearts, And return and be healed.”
After addressing the unbelief of some, John continues with a very bold statement in v.41, he states:
These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him
What does John mean when he says that he saw His glory and he spoke of Him? Who is the “Him”? In v. 37, we see that they didn’t believe “in Him” which refers to the Lord Jesus even though He had showed them many signs. In v.42, John continues the identity of Him by saying that some believed in Him, once again, they believed in Christ Jesus. So John is saying that Isaiah is speaking of “Him” (the Lord Jesus). We can conclude this by the fact that the context only allows for the passage to be referring to the Lord Jesus, there is no evidence linguistically that the Him should be anyone else but the Lord hence the Him is still directed to the Lord Jesus. Directly before, John says that Isaiah said these things because “He saw His glory”, but whose glory did he see? If we look at the context of the passage cite (Isaiah 6), we can find the answer.
In the year that king Uzziah died I saw the Lord (Jehovah) sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and his train filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. 3 And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is Jehovah of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. 4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, Jehovah of hosts. 6 Then flew one of the seraphim unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: 7 and he touched my mouth with it, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin forgiven. 8 And I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then I said, Here am I; send me. 9 And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. 10 Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they sea with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and turn again, and be healed. 11 Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until cities be waste without inhabitant, and houses without man, and the land become utterly waste,
We have a slight predicament here. If we remember the opening of this article, we had confirmed that no one had ever seen God yet, in this passage in Isaiah, we are told that Isaiah saw Jehovah. Is there a contradiction within the bible?
Isaiah saw the Lord (Jehovah) sitting on a throne, surrounded by seraphim who were praising their God. Isaiah quickly expresses his unworthiness and thathis eyes have seen the King, Jehovah of hosts. This is followed by Isaiah’s commission to the people of Israel, which is quote by John in chapter 12.
If we are to look at the context shown to us in John’s usage of the passages. The word “kai” (and) unites both the one whose glory he saw and the one spoken of. So the question remains, whose glory did Isaiah see, looking at the Isaiah 6 passage, we see in v.1 that Isaiah saw Jehovah yet in John’s usage we see that it is Jesus that Isaiah saw. From a logical perspective, we must conclude that Jesus Christ is Jehovah God.
[i] It should be noted that the language employed by the Lord Jesus “I AM” can be traced back to the name which Jehovah had declared would be the name He would be known by to the Hebrews. We read: “Then Moses said to God, indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, “the God of your fathers has sent me to you”, and they say to me, “What is His name?” what shall I say to them?” And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, I AM has sent me to you” (Exodus 3:13-14)
[ii] What the Bible Teachers: Hebrews, J. Flanigan, John Ritchie, Page 21