THE PREEXISTENCE OF THE PRE-INCARNATE CHRIST

The Bible teaches that Christ is of “heavenly origin” (John 3:13, 31), existing eternally in splendor and majesty before His earthly birth. Donald McLeod develops this thought of the pre-incarnate Christ, “he possessed all the majesty of deity, performed all its functions and enjoyed all its prerogatives…He was invulnerable to pain, frustration, and embarrassment.  He existed in unclouded serenity.  His supremacy was total, his satisfaction complete, his blessedness perfect.”[1]

Furthermore, the Scriptures give homage to Christ’s presence and active involvement in the creation of the world (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2). This is significant because it ascribes Christ as the Creator and Ruler of the universe (Psalm 115:3). In His own words, Jesus prayed to the Father, “glorify Me in Your presence with the glory I had with You before the world began (John 17:5),” as well as admitting that He “came down from heaven (John 6:38).” Paul writes, “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman (Galatians 4:4).” Elsewhere, Paul told the Romans that God “sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh (8:3).” The elements of the preexistence of Christ can be communicated in greater detail by examining the Self-Existence, Eternality, and theophanies of Christ in the Old Testament as the Angel of the Lord.

Christ is Self-Existent

To say God is Self-Existent is to mean He is the Uncaused First Cause who exists in and of Himself, absolutely independent of anyone or anything. The phrase comes from the word aseity, which literally means “of oneself.”[2] Hence, Christ exists endlessly and depends on no one for His own existence because He is Self-Sufficient (John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16, 17). In 1 Corinthians 8:6 it says, “yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.” Thus, Christ is the uncreated Creator who created the universe out of nothing.

Christ is Eternal

The Apostle John opened his gospel with these incredible words, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This opening from John plainly reveals Christ as the eternal Word of God, for it systematically carries the same introduction and weight as Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God.” Likewise, in his vision of Christ, John concludes his final revelation with these words from Christ, “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever (Revelation 1:17, 18).”

Moreover, John the Baptist testifies to Christ’s eternality, when he cried out, “He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me (John 1:15, 30).” Micah states that Christ’s origin is “from old to everlasting” (Micah 5:2), while the prophet Isaiah prophesied the Messiah would be the “Eternal Father.”  Furthermore, the name Jehovah is repeatedly shared between Christ, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit which is a strong affirmation of eternity because it is derived from the eternal “I AM” from Exodus 3:14.  Jesus uses the word eimi to emphasize His eternality in reference to being Jehovah, when He stated to the audience, “Before Abraham was, I AM (John 8:58).”

The brilliant professor and author, Dr. John Walvoord writes, “His preincarnate works of creation, providence, preservation and His promises in eternity past, the appearances of Christ in the Old Testament, and the many other intimations of preexistence combine to form a massive proof that Christ existed before His birth in Bethlehem.”[3] Thus, after a thorough inspection of the testimony of the preexistence and eternality of Christ in Scripture, there leaves no possibility of doubt that Christ existed in all eternity prior to His conception on earth.

Christ as the Angel of the Lord

Another specific revelation of the preincarnate Christ is found in the Old Testament. Both the Angel of the Lord and Jesus Christ are called and sent by the Father, and once the Incarnation takes place, the Angel of the Lord is never mentioned again. Charles Ryrie contends, “Clearly the Angel of Yahweh is a self-manifestation of Yahweh, for He speaks as God, identifies Himself with God, and claims to exercise the prerogatives of God (Gen. 16:7-14; 21:17-18; 22:11-18; 31:11-13; Exod. 3:2; Judg. 2:1-4; 5:23; 6:11-22; 13:3-22; 2 Sam. 24:16; Zech. 1:12; 3:1; 12:8).”[4] Based on these and other depictions of the Angel of Jehovah in the Old Testament, it is quite apparent that it is the second Person of the Trinity.

[1]. Donald Macleod, The Person of Christ: Contours of Christian Theology (Downers, Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998), 213.

[2]. Norman Geisler, Systematic Theology, vol. 2 of God and Creation (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2003), 58.

[3]. John Walvoord, Jesus Christ Our Lord (Chicago: Moody Press, 1969), 26.

[4]. Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1999), 275-76.