Many verses describe the existence of Jesus before his birth in Bethlehem. How did Jesus exist before his human life began? Did he exist as the Son of God before his birth in Bethlehem? Did he exist apart from the Father? Was Jesus a created being that God made to dwell in? Is Jesus the Creator as the Son of God? These are some of the many popular teachings about the pre-existence of Jesus, but none of them are found in scripture. Let’s examine the scriptures and allow them to tell us how Jesus existed before his incarnation.
Jesus had a dual nature- he was both God and man at the same time. Any time we examine scripture we must approach it with the dual nature of Jesus in mind. For example, Jesus is the Creator. He is not the Creator as a man, but as God.
John 1:1-3 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
The pre-existence of Jesus is his Deity. The humanity, the Son of God, only existed in the plan and mind of God until he was born in Bethlehem.
Galatians 4:4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,
The Divinity of Jesus pre-existed the incarnation, but the humanity wasn’t born until Bethlehem. The Son doesn’t exist outside of the humanity of Jesus. Jesus did not pre-exist as the Son.
Before the incarnation, Jesus existed as the Word.
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The Word was not a separate being or a second person within the Godhead. The Word is all the fullness of the Godhead. The Word is the fullness of the one God.
Colossians 2:9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
The Word didn’t exist as a Son of God or a part or portion of God. The Word was God in specific presence. The Word became flesh, which is the presence of the Father dwelling among men. The son-ship was begotten of the Father, showing the dual nature of Jesus. He was Deity and humanity, God and man.
John 1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
The Deity pre-existed, but not as a separate God, or personality within the Godhead. The Deity that pre-existed was the one God of the Old Testament. This is why Jesus claimed to be the I Am.
John 8:24 I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.
John 8:58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.
This is how Jesus was the rock that followed Moses.
1 Corinthians 10:1-4 Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat; 4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.
This is how Jesus could say he was in heaven before.
John 6:62 What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?
Jesus wasn’t in heaven before as a man. The term “Son of man” refers to God manifest in flesh, and can refer to his Deity, humanity, or both (Bernard, p. 183). This is also how Jesus came forth from the Father.
John 16:28 I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.
The only pre-existence of the Son was in the plan of God as the lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
Revelation 13:8 And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
“The foundation of the world” is the beginnings of Creation. As God was laying the foundations of the world, He already knew He would become a man to make atonement for our sins. In the same way, we were chosen from the foundation of the world.
Ephesians 1:4 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:
This doesn’t mean that we pre-existed. This just means that God had us in mind when He laid the foundation of the world.
This is the glory that Jesus had with the Father before the world was.
John 17:5 And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.
The glory that Jesus had was the lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
Jesus did not pre-exist as “God the Son” because the scriptures tell us there is one God.
Isaiah 43:10-11 Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. 11 I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour.
Malachi 2:10 Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us?
Mark 12:28-32 28 And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? 29 And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: 30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. 31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. 32 And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he:
Galatians 3:20 Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.
1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
Jesus pre-existed as this one God.
The pre-existence of Jesus is as the one God of the Old Testament. The son-ship only existed in the plan of God until the Son of God was born in Bethlehem. We must always keep in mind the dual nature of Jesus. He was God and he was man. As God, he was the Father- the only God. As a man, he was the Son of God- our ultimate sacrifice for sins.
Bernard, David K., (2001). Oneness of God, The
Hazelwood: Word Aflame Press