The Eternal Christ
The Bible teaches that Jesus pre-existed His birth in human form. Before He was incarnate as the Son of Mary, He was the Son of God, second Person of the Trinity, sharing eternal fellowship with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. He shared in the work of creation and long before there was a world to redeem, He committed Himself to be our Redeemer.
Jesus, Eternal God
1. In chapter one of John’s Gospel, the apostle presents Jesus as the Word of God: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being,” (John 1:1-3).
John uses this term, the Word, to refer to the second Person of the Trinity, Jesus. In the beginning, the Word (Jesus) was. Jesus existed before creation; all of creation came into being through Him. Since time began with creation, anything that existed before time is, by definition, eternal. Jesus is eternal and He is eternally existent as God. John attests that the Word “was God,” (John 1:1).
2. The prophet Micah, ministering seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus, prophesied of the coming Messiah, “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity,” (Micah 5:2). Jesus’ pre-existence is from the days of eternity.
Jesus, Eternal Creator
Jesus, as a member of the eternal Trinity, shared with the Father and the Holy Spirit in the work of creation. As we have seen, this truth is expressed in chapter one of John’s Gospel.
“All things came into being through Him and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being,” (John 1:3). All of creation — all physical and spiritual creation, the laws and forces that govern creation, all of time and eternity — all things came into being by God’s creative act through His Son.
The Apostle Paul adds,
“For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things and in Him all things hold together” (Col. 1:16,17).
Thrones, dominions, rulers and authorities refer to categories of angels and expand on the previous phrase, “visible and invisible.” Jesus shared in the work of creation. Nothing was created without His participation. As Creator, all things hold together or consist in Him (Col. 1:17). “He upholds all things by the word of His power,” (Hebr. 1:3). That is, He continually sustains that which He created.
Jesus’ participation in the work of creation speaks of His Deity and His eternal pre-existence. As Creator, Jesus must be uncreated. If He is uncreated, then He must be eternal.
Jesus, Eternal Redeemer
1. “All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast — all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world” (Revelation 13:8, NIV).
Some translations read, “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, (the beast) everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain,” (13:8, NAS).
The Greek syntax supports the traditional, “Lamb slain from the creation of the world.” However, even the alternate translation supports the concept that the redeeming sacrifice of the Lamb of God was decreed from the counsels of eternity. There could have been no names written in the book of life if there had been no plan of redemption. There could be no eternal plan of redemption without an eternal Redeemer.
This does not mean that Jesus was slain before the worlds were created but that it was understood in the mind of God that His atoning sacrifice would be necessary. God understood that if He created morally free creatures, they would eventually use their freedom to sin against Him. They would then either perish in their sin or require a Redeemer. The members of the Trinity agreed that Jesus would be that Redeemer.
2. This idea is expressed by the Apostle Peter, who reminds us that we were not redeemed with silver or gold “but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world,” (I Peter 1:19,20).
Foreknowledge, as used here, implies predetermination. God not only knew that humanity would need a Redeemer; God determined to provide that Redeemer. Before humanity fell, indeed, before there was a created universe, our Lord determined to be the atoning sacrifice for fallen humanity, the Lamb for sinners slain.
Since Christ's redemptive sacrifice was determined before the creation of the world, it preceded anyone sinning or falling from grace. Jesus was our Redeemer before there was anything or anyone to redeem. This sheds new light on the verse, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). In fact, God loved us before we were sinners. His redeeming love is more ancient than creation itself.
Testimony of Jesus, Eternal Member of the Godhead
1. “Before Abraham was born (or came into being), I am” (John 8:58).
Jesus was not only testifying of His eternality but also of His Deity. He could have said, “Before Abraham was born, I was.” But in using “I am,” He was intentionally invoking the name of God -- Yahweh / Jehovah / I Am (the name revealed by God to Moses, Exodus 3:13,14).
In a related text, Jesus said, “For unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins,” (John 8:24). In the Greek text, the word He is not present. Jesus literally said, “For unless you believe that I am, you will die in your sins.” This is the same phrase that was used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament when God revealed His name to Moses, “I Am Who I Am,” or in the Greek, “ego eimi” (Ex. 3:14).
When Jesus invoked the name of God in John 8:58, His listeners understood exactly what He meant, that He was claiming Deity. That’s why in 8:59 we read, “Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him.” Refusing to believe that Jesus was God in human flesh, they attempted to stone Him for blasphemy.
2. “Now Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was” (John 17:5).
After washing His disciples feet, sharing a last meal and instituting Holy Communion, Jesus prayed what is known as the High Priestly prayer (recorded in John 17). In only a few hours He would be arrested, tried in a mockery of justice and hung on a cross. There He would bear the sins of the world as the wrath of His Father would be poured out upon the sacrificed Lamb.
Yet in this prayer Jesus looked beyond the cross to restored fellowship with His Father in the glory of heaven. It is the glory He had enjoyed from eternity, before the world was. Again, Jesus claimed to be the eternal, pre-existent God.
3. “For You loved Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24).
Again in the High Priestly prayer, Jesus refers to the perfect communion of love which the members of the Trinity had enjoyed from eternity. In the above verses, among many other references, Jesus testified that He existed with God in eternity, before creation, before time or history began.
Other witnesses testified of Jesus’ eternal Deity:
1. Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, testifies that Jesus is God and therefore, eternal:
“Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped” (Phlpns. 1:6).
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation,” (Col. 1:15).
The word image which Paul uses here is not the same word as in Hebrews 1:3. This word is eikon from which we derive the word icon. It means copy, stamp or likeness. Jesus is the exact likeness of the eternal God. Therefore, Jesus must be eternal.
Don’t be misled by the word firstborn in Colossians 1:15. That does not mean that Jesus was created before anything or anyone else. He was not created. As Creator, He pre-exists creation. God is by definition uncreated, Self-existent beinh. Firstborn, prototokos, can refer to one who was born in time before someone else but more typically it refers to preeminent position, exalted status. Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the Preeminent One, exalted over all creation.
2. John the Baptist testified that Jesus is eternally God:
“The next day he (John the Baptist) saw Jesus coming to him and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me,’” (John 1:29, 30).
John then added, “I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God,” (John 1:34).
We know from the Christmas story that John was born several months before the birth of Christ (see Luke 1:24, 36, 39-41). Yet he testified that Jesus, existed before me (John 1:30). This can only be taken as a reference to the pre-existence of Christ. By divine inspiration, John recognized Jesus as the Lamb of God and eternal Son of God in human form.
3. The Apostle Nathaniel recognized Jesus as the Son of God (John 1:49).
4. The Apostle Peter recognized Jesus as the Son of God (Matt. 16:16).
5. Even the Roman officer who presided over Jesus’ crucifixion recognized His Deity, confessing, “Truly, this was the Son of God,” (Matt: 27:54).
The Deity of Jesus testifies of his eternal being. Before He was born in human form, He was God. Then He must be eternal for God is everlasting.