Did Jesus Christ Pre-Exist?

Print

True Bible Teaching - Gods Word Explained

Did Jesus Christ Pre-Exist?

Did Jesus Christ Pre-Exist?

A Bible Study

New Testament Teaching

Let us begin by stating the obvious. Only in the New Testament do we read of Jesus as someone who is alive Only in the New Testament do we read of Jesus in the present tenseand taking part in the affairs of human beings living on the earth. And, equally importantly, it is only in the New Testament that we read about the God of heaven being described over and over again as “Father”, a term which is extremely rare in the Old Testament Scriptures.

That does not mean that there is no mention of Jesus in the Old Testament. As the coming Jewish Messiah, much is made of the fact that God would send a Saviour and Deliverer. But the Jewish Scriptures only speak of Jesus in the sense of looking forward to his Coming.

He is not spoken of as already existing, but as someone who would exist one day, when the time was right. Let us look at this more closely.

From the time when Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden through to the end of the Old Testament there are repeated prophecies about the future coming of Jesus. Here are some of them.

Old Testament Prophecies

In the Garden of Eden a ‘Seed' – a descendant of Eve – was promised, who would overcome sin and reverse the problem introduced into the world by Adam and Eve when they disobeyed God.

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel”(Genesis 3:15 ).

In Psalm 22, David wrote about Jesus, using many phrases that pointed forward quite explicitly to the crucifixion. For example “they pierced my hands and my feet” and “They parted my garments among them”.

Once the prophet Isaiah met wicked King Ahaz and made one of the most famous prophecies of the Old Testament. He said that a virgin would one day bear a son:

”Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call his name Immanuel”(Isaiah 7:14 ).

The prophet Micah predicted that a ruler would come from the town of Bethlehem to reign over the people of Israel , adding something of much interest to our theme.

“You, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to me the One to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting”(Micah 5:2). This ruler, he says, has been planned from the beginning of time. We will come back to this point later.

Zechariah predicts the entry into Jerusalem by Jesus, an event that occurred just before Jesus was crucified just outside that very city. He too speaks of Jesus as a king but we know from the events themselves that this prophecy is fulfilled when Jesus is about to suffer his greatest trial (see Zechariah 9:9 and Matthew 21:4-5).

None of the men who wrote these things met Jesus. They did not hear his voice; they did not see him crucified; they do not claim that he existed in their time. They all expected him to appear in the future, at a time to be decided by God himself.

Mortality of Jesus

There is an even more important reason for limiting the existence of Jesus to New Testament times. It has to do with the fact that Jesus came into this world to bring salvation to all people. They had become a mortal race because Adam and Eve disobeyed God and the removal of the curse could only be done if another human being could obey Him perfectly. Jesus came to do this.

For that to really happen it had to be possible for Jesus to be tempted as other humans were, and it had to be possible for him to disobey. That is exactly what happened. His temptations were absolutely genuine and so were his accomplishments.

“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin”(Hebrews 4:15).

Jesus perfectly obeyed his Father and salvation for mankind was accomplished. Jesus rose from the dead and became immortal – the first to rise from the dead never to go back into the grave again.

Exalted by God

The notion that Jesus had lived as a spirit before he was born takes away the power of his triumph over sin and death and the Bible knows nothing of such an idea. Indeed it carefully explains that Jesus was rewarded for his faithful obedience by his Father, who exalted him to sit at His right hand in heaven because he had been faithful. He was not returning to somewhere he had been before, but was being elevated to a new status and position by and with his Father:

"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted him and given him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”(Philippians 2:5-11).

Although he was the Son of God, because God was his Father, Jesus was born a man, lived a life serving others, and was willing to go to the cross – all in obedience to his Father. Then, and only then, did God exalt him and give him a name above every name. It is only at this stage in the plan of salvation that Jesus is given the greatest honour. Again the idea that he had existed before his birth does not fit in with these Bible truths.

In the next article in this series we look at those passages that are sometimes said to teach something quite different about the nature and work of the Lord Jesus.

Did Jesus Christ Pre-Exist?

Key Principles

In our study so far we have seen the following:

  • The Birth of Jesus and important details about his life on earth are often mentioned in the Old Testament, but he is always spoken of there as someone who was to come, when the time was right, not as someone who was already in existence;
  • It was vital that Jesus should be born a mortal man if the purpose of God was to be accomplished – he had to be made like Adam, tempted like him, but obedient – unlike him! As we all know, we inherit characteristics from our father and mother when we are born; Jesus inherited his mortality from Mary, and all that came with that. It was an important part of his makeup; so he could not have lived in heaven before-hand as the same person who then lived on earth – otherwise Mary would have contributed nothing except a mortal body;
  • God rewarded Jesus for his faithful obedience by exalting him to a place at His right hand in heaven. He did not return there because it was his original abode. Scripture says that God his Father, who raised him from the dead, also exalted Jesus to glory.

Perfect Plan

God’s purpose was known to him from the foundation of the world, as the Bible makes clear: “Known to God from eternity are all his works” (Acts 15:18).

Now and again that Divine foreknowledge is specifically referred to. Jeremiah, for example, said that he was known by God even before he had been born:

“The word of the LORD came to me, saying: ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; and I ordained you a prophet to - the nations’”(Jeremiah 1:4,5).

One New Testament passage says that the names of all God’s people were both known and recorded from the beginning, and the same passage tells us something very important about the person and origins of the Lord Jesus. Writing about the Dragon power that will oppose the Lord, the vision reveals that:

“Authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. And all who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world”(Revelation 13:7,8).

It is the description of the Lamb that we particularly need to notice. He is described as having been “slain from the foundation of the world”. What does this mean? It cannot mean that he was slain at the foundation of the world. We know when the crucifixion took place.

We also know that God was able to predict to Adam, Eve and many others that Jesus would come to bring salvation. The only way we can understand this verse in Revelation is to recognise that God knew from the beginning that His Son would overcome and give his life in a most painful way.

The Right Time

The great truth that arises from these things is that God loved the world from the beginning and put His plan in place at the very start of the creation of the world. This plan centred on Jesus – but Jesus would not appear immediately. He would only appear in the fullness of time. Then he would be born of Mary:

“When the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons”(Galatians 4:4,5).

Let us not interfere with the wisdom of God. Clearly Jesus came into existence when the time was right for God’s only-begotten son to be born. He had been in God’s plan and purpose from the beginning; now that plan came into effect.

Jesus before Abraham?

There is a passage in John’s gospel which is perfectly consistent with what we have already considered. Here it is:

“Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad.”Then the Jews said to (Jesus), “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:56-58).

This passage has often been used to support the idea that Jesus existed before he was born. When reading the Bible we must remember that it always gives us the same message. It is consistent throughout and verses that seem to conflict require closer consideration. If we have questions about a verse we should always look at its setting. In this case one thing is quickly seen.

Heated Debate

There are many other references to Abraham in the discussion Jesus is having with the Pharisees. In v33 they boast of their descent from Abraham. In v39 Jesus tells them that they ought to follow in the ways of Abraham if they were truly his descendants.

Because of what Jesus says they ask an important question in verse 53: “Are you greater than our Father Abraham, who is dead?”

Remember that we have a big advantage when answering this question because we know what happened to Jesus after this and those events established him as much greater than Abraham. But, when the question was asked, the Pharisees did not know and Jesus still had to try to convince all Jews that he really was their Messiah. You sense the hostility from v53: “Who do you make yourself?”

Now look at the answer Jesus gives in v56 – ”Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad”. How could this be? The Pharisees were dismissive:“You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Note the way in which they have changed round the words of Jesus. He did not claim to have seen Abraham, but that Abraham saw his day. What could that mean?

Gospel to Abraham

In Paul’s letter to the Galatians we are told that God could see in advance the way things would work out for the Gentile nations:

“The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the nations by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, In you all the nations shall be blessed”(Galatians 3:8).

God knew that Jesus would come into the world and that, through faith in him, all nations would then have the opportunity to be saved. This plan was given to Abraham through one of the major promises of God: "In you shall all nations be blessed" (Genesis 12:3) and, Paul says, this was the gospel preached to Abraham. Note carefully the fact that this development was foreseen by God and was told to Abraham as something yet in the future, something we know was due to happen "in the fullness of time" (Galatians 4:4).

In John chapter 8 therefore – the passage we were looking at – we are told that Abraham saw Jesus' day – he looked forward to it as something that would happen in the future and, because that day contained so much promise, he rejoiced in the knowledge that he would be there to see the purpose of God come to its fulfilment, when he was raised from the dead.

This the Pharisees did not understand, so Jesus had to spell it out for them. When he said "Before Abraham was I am" he was gently explaining to them that he is more important than Abraham in the purpose of God, because God has built His whole plan of salvation around the Lord Jesus. It was a matter of who has the pre-eminence; not of who pre-existed.

We do well to recognise the truth of God's plan ourselves, so that we can take our place alongside Abraham and many others who are looking forward to the day when Jesus will be revealed as the Saviour of the world.

The fact is that if you believe in a Christ that pre-existed, then clearly you do not believe in the Christ that is taught in the Bible and therefore by consequence of this you are not on the path to the salvation that only the real Christ brings to all those who believe in him in Truth.

Learn here of the real salvation with have in the Truth of Christ..

Yes there are some passages in the New Testament that some would suggest teach that Christ existed before his natural birth.

Given that Christ's birth was natural we need to look more carefully at what these passages are saying to us, remembering that God sometimes calls or speaks of "things which be not as though they were" as we read in Romans 4:16-17

16 Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, "
17 (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were."
There are principly 2 passages that provide the greatest difficulty to understand what is being said of Christ in the New Testament.
The first of these 2 passages is:

John 1:1-3
trinity

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made."
trinity

Problem:
trinity

This passage is usually the chief reference on which the pre-existence and deity of Christ are argued.
trinity

Explanation:

  1. Christ was not literally the Word. He was the word "made flesh". (vs. 14). The Greek word "logos" translated "Word" expresses the divine intention, mind, or purpose.1Young defines "logos" as "a word, speech, matter, reason."2In the A.V. "logos" is translated by more than 20 different English words and is used for utterances of men (e.g., John 17:20) as well as those of God (John 5:38).
  2. "In the beginning was the Word . . . all things were made by him."3"Logos" does not in itself denote personality. It is personified by the masculine gender in the A.V., The Diaglott avoids confusion by translating the pronouns in the neuter - "through it every thing was done."4An Old Testament parallel to the personification of logos is the personification of wisdom: "The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was." (Prov. 8:22, 23). In this passage, wisdom is personified as a woman. (vs. 1, 2).
  3. "All things were made by him" - John is apparently alluding to the creation recorded in Genesis. God spoke, and it was done (e.g. "And God said, Let there be light: and there was light." Gen. 1:3. Notice another allusion - John 1:7, 8). But this creation was not accompanied by Christ, but by the "logos" of God. This is indicated by several passages:
    trinity
    1. "By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth." "For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast." (Psa. 33:6, 9). See also Psa. 107:20; 147:15, 18, 19; Isa. 55:11.
      trinity
    2. " . . . by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water . . . But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men." (2 Peter 3:5, 7).
      trinity
    3. See also Hebrews 11:3 cf. Jeremiah 10:12, 13.5
  4. Angels, prophets and Christ have been vehicles by which God has expressed his logos. Christ is the complete manifestation of the logos - "in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." (Col. 2:9). It was the "logos" which was in the beginning with God, not Christ. When the "word was made flesh" (John 1:14) then, and then only, Christ became the "Word". Christ is called the Word (Rev. 19:13 cf. 1 John 1:1; Luke 1:2) since his doctrine and words came from his Father (John 7:16; 17:14). He was the logos lived out in speech and action, not merely written on scrolls.
 

Footnotes:

  1. This can be supported by evaluating all references to "logos" in the New Testament and the Septuagint. Return
  2. Robert Young, Analytical Concordance to the Holy Bible, (London: Lutterworth Press, 1965). Return
  3. It is sometimes argued that the "beginning" referred to in John 1:1 is the beginning of Christ's ministry. 1 John 1:1 is offered in support of this interpretation. It should be noted, however, that John's allusions in John 1 are drawn from Genesis 1 as point 3 outlines, thereby implying that the beginning refers to the same narrative and not to the ministry of Christ. Return
  4. Benjamin Wilson, The Emphatic Diaglott, (Brooklyn: International Bible Students Ass., Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1942). Return
  5. It is also noteworthy that although the writer to the Hebrews speaks in exalted terms of Christ (e.g. "express image of his {God's} person" - Hebrews 1:3), "logos" is used of God's message, and not of Christ himself. See Hebrews 2:2; 4:2, 12; 7:28; 12:19 and 13:7, 22. Return
The second passage is:

Hebrews 1:1-3

“1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; 3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;

4 Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. 5 For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? 6 And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.”

Hebrews 1:2

"[God] hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds."

Some cite this passage to suggest that Christ somehow pre-existed his natural birth because “God made the worlds by him”.

It is suggested that if the worlds were made by Christ, then he must be an eternal and therefore a Person with the Godhead which then leads to the false teaching of the Trinity.

Explanation:

  1. There is no case in this verse to be made for the contention that the Son was an "eternal Person" within the Godhead. The Son is "appointed heir" (vs. 2) - his position of power and authority is delegated and not innate. It is by "inheritance" (vs. 4) that he has obtained a more excellent name, not by virtue of being, (as is supposed), a co-equal person within the Godhead.
  2. "By whom ['through whom', R.S.V.] he made the worlds [ages, R.V. mg., Greek original word is ‘aion’]". The "worlds" does not refer to the earth and the other planets but rather to the ages of dispensations on the earth. The Greek world translated "worlds" is not the usual word for worlds - "kosmos", but "aion" which means, "age, indefinite time, dispensation".  Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone of all ages - whether antediluvian (before the flood), patriarchal (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc.), Mosiac, Gentile, or Millennial. The Seed was promised to Eve (Gen. 3:15) and Abraham looked forward to Christ's day with the eye of faith. (John 8:56 cf. Gal. 3:8). Even the sacrifices of animals under the Law of Moses only had their effectiveness because they pointed to the sacrifices which would be offered once for all time. (Hebrews 10:4, 10). The law was a schoolmaster (custodian, R.S.V.) to bring men to Christ. (Gal. 3:24). The worlds (ages) were made or constituted through Christ since it is in him that they have their meaning and ultimate realization.
  3. Although Christ was the "chief corner stone" (1 Peter 2:6) in the divine purpose, "foreordained before the foundation of the world" (1 Peter 1:20), he was not formed or manifest until "these last times". (2 Peter 1:20). He had no personal existence until he was born of the virgin Mary. (Luke 1:31-35).
  4. The reference to "he made the worlds" is referring to the new creation, not the old creation. This is made clear in Hebrews 2:5 - "It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking."   The writer to the Hebrews is referring to THE WORLD TO COME. Jesus is the creator of the this new world to come. The redeemed are described as a new creation, and Christ our creator. Christ will create "new heavens and a new earth", wherein dwells righteousness.

Now in addition to this explanation we are told in scripture that the true believers also existed before the world was made.

Ephesians 1:1-6

“1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.”

So this is to be understood in the same way ie. God who knows the end from the beginning as He tells us in Isaiah.

Isaiah 46:5-10

“5 To whom will ye liken me, and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be like? 6 They lavish gold out of the bag, and weigh silver in the balance, and hire a goldsmith; and he maketh it a god: they fall down, yea, they worship. 7 They bear him upon the shoulder, they carry him, and set him in his place, and he standeth; from his place shall he not remove: yea, one shall cry unto him, yet can he not answer, nor save him out of his trouble. 8 Remember this, and shew yourselves men: bring it again to mind, O ye transgressors. 9 Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.”

So God knew us before we were and all the true believers names are already written in the “book of life”.

Revelation 3:5

“5 He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.”

So all true believers were know to God just as God’s son was known to him and the generations on the earth were framed in such a way that Christ came exactly at the appointed time to bring salvations to all those who believed in him before and after.

Note the appointed time of Christ in Matthew 1:17

“17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations.”

This is truly amazing and shows that God brought Jesus to life at exactly the right time in his Purpose.

14 = 2x7 and 7 is the number in the Bible that is used of ‘divine perfection’, and we have 3 x 2 x 7 here or 3 x 14 generations, the number 3 in the Bible is used for ‘completeness’.

So Christ came at the right or complete time according to God’s divine plan of salvation