The Preexistence of Christ

by Elmer Towns
 I will declare the decree: The LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Psalm 2:7


     An honest person cannot study the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as taught in the Bible and not be impressed with his influence. The years Jesus traveled throughout Galilee and Judea have had a greater impact upon civilization than any other thirty-year period in the history of the world. Jesus taught a limited group for a limited time, yet his teachings have outlived those who taught a lifetime. Though Jesus Christ was not personally engaged in the arts, he has furnished the theme for more poems and songs, paintings and sculptures than any artist in history. None of the original projects that were built by this Carpenter remain in our museums, yet in almost every city around the world exist buildings and structures erected in his honor. The earthly life of Jesus Christ cannot be denied by an honest student of history. The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is the second Person of the Trinity; as such he is equal with God in nature, yet submissive in office. What the Bible says about God, it also maintains about Jesus Christ. And, since God is eternal, Jesus Christ existed before his birth in Bethlehem. The Son of God was born into this world as you or I because he had a human birth (see Chapter 16, The Virgin Birth). But the Bible also describes his birth, "the Word became flesh" (John 1:14). Jesus Christ existed from eternity past. Since the evidence in the documents overwhelmingly attests to the life and ministry of Jesus on earth, they also attest to his eternal past. Jesus was the Son of God in the Old Testament; this is the doctrine of preexistence. Jesus Christ has always existed and has n point of beginning. This is the doctrine of eternality.

     The eternality of Christ means he is not limited by time, has no beginning, and will have no end. The preexistence of Jesus Christ means he existed before his birth in Bethlehem. Because Christ existed before his earthly birth, his eternality gives him Godlike qualities. This concept of preexistence and the proofs of eternality support the proofs of the deity of Christ.


     A key to understanding Christ in eternity past is in understanding his deity. Jesus of Nazareth was not just another religious leader who had a following in his day. He was not just a teacher who gave some moral principles for our day. Jesus is God. Since eternal existence is one of the attributes of God, it follows that if Jesus is God, then he must have an eternal past. Though some theologians question the deity of Christ, conservative Bible scholars recognize the Bible contains an abundance of evidence to confirm this doctrine.

     The claims of Jesus. Because a man claims to be God does not make his claim true. On the other hand, it is assumed that if God would reveal himself, he would also identify himself by a claim that he is God. This becomes one foundation upon which we consider the deity of Christ. The one who claims to be God would have to demonstrate Godlike moral power of holiness, love, and goodness. He would also have to back up his claim with demonstration of power, knowledge, and omnipresence. Finally, his teachings must be consistent within themselves and correspond to the wisdom of God. The biblical account of Christ gives ample evidence that Jesus claimed he was God.

     Jesus often used the term "my Father" when referring to God. This is a common expression today and many Christians say "my Father" when speaking of God. When Jesus said, “my Father," the Jewish leaders recognized that he claimed deity for himself as well as God. "Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him [Jesus], because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God" (John 5:18). On another visit to Jerusalem, Jesus was asked for a clear statement concerning his claim. He responded, "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30). Jesus understood he was saying, "I am the Son of God" (John 10:36). Certainly his audience understood what he was saying. On several occasions they attempted to kill him for claiming to be God. When the religious leaders finally brought Jesus to Pilate for crucifixion, they accused him of blasphemy. "The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God" (John 19:7).

     The teaching of the Bible. Jesus recognized his claim was not enough to make him God. "If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true" (John 5:31). Jesus was pointing out that any claim, true or false, could be assumed false if unsubstantiated. Jesus pointed his critics to another authority. "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me" (John 5:39).

     The Bible records many statements concerning the deity of Christ (Heb. 1:8). John says "the Word was God" (John 1:1). Writing hundreds of years before his birth, Isaiah called him "the Mighty God" (Isa. 9:6). Paul was "looking for that blessed hope, and glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13). Paul quotes an early church doctrinal statement, "God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory" (1 Tim. 3:16). The teaching of both Old and New Testament is clearly that Jesus is God.

     The triune nature of God. God is one God in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each member of the Trinity is completely God. The deity of the Trinity has been recognized from the beginning. Isaiah recorded the predictive words of Jesus, "Come near unto me, hear ye this: I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am 1; and now the Lord God, and his Spirit, hath sent me" (Isa. 48:16). When Christians are baptized, they are baptized "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy' Ghost" (Matt. 28:19). The very act which God has prescribed for every believer as he begins the Christian life recognizes the place of Jesus Christ as the Son of God. What is true about God is true of every member of the Trinity of God. If God has existed from eternity past (Ps. 90:2), then every member of the Trinity has existed equally as long.

     The heavenly origin of Christ. Christ is eternal. The writer of Hebrews compared Melchizedek to Christ. "Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God" (Heb. 7:3). When we think of the earthly life of Christ, however, we recognize that he had come from heaven. John the Baptist said, "He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all" (John 3:31). Because of this, John could accept the growing popularity of Jesus at his expense. Jesus told the people of his home region, "I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me" (John 6:38).

     The preincarnate work of Christ. Before Jesus was born as the babe in Bethlehem, he was engaged in the work of creation. "All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made" (John 1:3). In addition to his Work in creation, he was also involved in the work of inspiration. Paul described the Scriptures as "the word of Christ" (Col. 3:16). Jesus Christ traveled with Israel throughout the wilderness providing for them. Israel "did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ" (1 Cor. 10:4). The presence of Jesus Christ protected and sustained Israel as they wandered in the wilderness. Jesus demonstrated his deity his activity in the Old Testament.


     The preexistence of Christ is further substantiated by the many recorded preincarnational appearances in the Bible. often the Bible identifies these appearances as those of "the angel of the Lord." A closer look at the references of these events will demonstrate that this angel was more than just another angel; he was God. At other times these were an appearance of Jesus in human form but not identified as an Angel of the Lord.

     A Man (Gen. 18:1-33; 32:24-32; Dan. 3:23-29). On at least three occasions, Jesus appeared as a human before the incarnation. On these occasions, he appeared among men as a man. Three men appeared to Abraham and Sarah to confirm God's provision of a son and to inform Abraham of the coming destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. One of these men is identified as "the Lord" (Gen. 18: 1, 13, 17, 20, 22, 26, 27, 30-33) and also called "the judge of all the earth" (Gen. 18:15). This man must have been Jesus Christ because "no man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him" (John 1:18). Since Christ is the only one of the three Persons of the Trinity to be seen, we are left to believe this man on this occasion and the angel of the Lord who is called God was in fact the second Person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only member of the Trinity to have taken on a physical body at any time.

     At a later time, Christ appeared to Jacob and wrestled with him during the night. Jacob recognized the next morning he had met with God. "And Jacob named the place Peniel; for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved" (Gen. 32:30).

     On a third occasion, Jesus joined the three young Hebrews in Nebuchadnezzar's furnace. Though assured that Nebuchadnezzar had thrown only three men into the furnace, "He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form Of the fourth is like the Son of God" (Dan. 3:25).

     The Angel of the Lord. By far the most common appearance of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament is as the Angel of the Lord. There can be no question but that he is God. When he appeared, it was usually to an individual who was commissioned to do a special work for God. Jesus took the time personally to enlist that individual in his service.

Reference Occasion Called God
Gen. 16:9-14 To Hagar Gen. 16:13
Gen. 22:11-14 Sacrifice of Isaac Gen. 22:14
Exod. 3:2-4:17 Burning bush Gen. 3:14
Judg. 6:11-24 To Gideon Judg. 6:22
Judg. 13:2-23 To Samson's mother Judg.13:18, 22
When we consider that Christ would meet with men as he did throughout the Old Testament and then spend a life among men on earth, we cannot help but be impressed with the intense personal concern of Christ. He is intensely interested in our personal lives and takes a personal interest in the problems and decisions which face us day by day. As he existed in the past and demonstrated his interest in the affairs of men, so today he is interested in our problems. He desires to become involved in our lives.


     Son of God. One of the many names of Jesus Christ in the New Testament is Son of God. The term "Son of God" is used by Christ when he is referring to his deity. The first reference to the Sonship of Christ is, "I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee" (Ps. 2:7). This verse reveals a conversation between God the Father and God the Son. The Father called the second Person of the Trinity by the name "Son" to whom he said, ,I have begotten thee."

     Some Bible interpreters raise a question as to when Jesus became the Son of God. Some teach Jesus became the Son of God at the incarnation. To prove this, they use the prediction to N4ary by the angel, "He shall be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35).

     Still others say Jesus became a Son of God at his baptism. It was there God broke the silence of heaven to announce, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 3:17).

     A third view is that Jesus became the Son of God at his resurrection, because Paul said, "Declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead" (Rom. 1:4).

     Yet another group cites Hebrews 1:1-4, arguing that Jesus became the Son of God by "appointment" at his ascension. All of these fail to recognize the teaching of one of the Bible's best-known verses: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). Jesus was recognized as the Son of God before he came to earth to provide eternal salvation. Jesus was the Son of God even before the first presentation of the gospel in Genesis 3:15, "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." This verse recognized the coming of the seed of the woman to bruise the head of the serpent.

     The key to understanding when Jesus became the Son of God is to understand the meaning of the word "day" in Psalm 2:7. The word "day" does not refer to a twenty-four hour period in time. God lives beyond time. This word means an eternal day. Technically this is called eternal generation. Jesus did not become the Son of God at a point in time. He has always been in the process of becoming the Son of God in God's eternal day. The conclusion is that there never was a time that Christ was not the Son of God.

     Only begotten Son. The Bible identifies angels, Jews, and Christians at various times as sons of God, but the relationship that exists between God the Father and Jesus Christ is different. Jesus is the "only begotten Son of God." The terra "only begotten" is used to describe the unique relationship between the Father and Jesus (John 1:14, 18; 3:16; 1 John 4:9). Though any individual who trusts Christ personally for salvation will become a child of God (John 1:12), there is only one "only begotten Son of God." In this phrase Christ ex. presses the nature of God, just as a son possesses the nature of his father. The only begotten Son of God is just like his heavenly Father, for he is God.


     The history of Jesus Christ began before Bethlehem. He is God and has always lived and performed the work of God. Even before the incarnation, Jesus was personally involved in the lives of men. Today he lives in heaven with the same interest he has had in eternity. Since he is God, we can trust him not only for our eternal salvation but also for the guidance we need each day.


     Monday: John 1:1-18

     Tuesday: John 14:1-14

     Wednesday: John 5:17-35

     Thursday: John 5:36-47

     Friday: Judges 13:2-23

     Saturday: Judges 6:11-24

     Sunday: Genesis 18:1-33

Taken from: What The Faith Is All About by Elmer Towns