I have mentioned Herman Witsius before on this website (see here and here). Having recently celebrated Jesus’ ascension to the right hand of the Father, I thought it would be worth sharing how Witsius addresses an important question for Christology, namely, the significance of the ascension for the kingly glory of Jesus Christ.
Witsius addresses this question under several aspects. He considers what the ascension means for Christ personally in his mediatorial office, as well as what it means for his divine and human natures.
In discussing the significance of Christ’s ascension for his divine nature, Witsius introduces some helpful categories. He says that Christ’s reception of a kingdom upon his ascension comes “not by attaining a new authority that he did not formerly possess, but by manifesting, and signally demonstrating that ancient sovereignty, which he always enjoyed.”
That’s not all he has to say about Christ’s kingly glory in the ascension (he also discusses the increase of glory that comes to Christ’s human nature upon his ascension, etc.). But these are helpful categories for interpreting texts like John 17:5, where Jesus prays for the restoration of the glory he had with the Father before the world began.
Here’s the section in Witsius’ own words:
If you attend to the Divine nature, it [i.e., the ascension] is the vindication and demonstration of that authority over all, which, in his own right, the Son of God, who has become man, possesseth, possessed from all eternity, and will possess to eternity. He emptied himself, in some respects, of the glory of his kingdom, during the period of his humiliation; not by divesting himself of that dominion which is inseparable from godhead, but by veiling it under the form of a servant. So, when he laid aside the appearance of a servant, he is said to have received the kingdom;–not by attaining a new authority that he did not formerly possess, but by manifesting, and signally demonstrating that ancient sovereignty, which he had always enjoyed; that, although clothed with a human nature, he may be universally recognized as Lord.