About the pre-existence of the Son (3)21-09-2017 - Posted by Andre Piet
Earlier this year I wrote two blogs under the same title. In the first blog I emphasized that Jesus became the Son of God by his conception in the virgin Mary. “The word became flesh”. The same word as by which God once created the world.
In the second blog attention was paid to Proverbs 8, which speaks about “the wisdom” that was with God when He created the world. By which we shouldn’t think about a co-Creator, because God alone created the world without help from anyone. Indeed, His wisdom and intelligence were involved and through his word He caused everything to come into being. In that second blog I also discussed John 17:5 in which Jesus ask his father to glorify him with the glory he had before the world was. The Lord hereby refers to the glory which God had appointed to him from the beginning. A comparable formula can be found in Revelation 13:8 where we read about the Lamb slain from the disruption of the world.
But in this context, there are more places in Scripture which ask for a precise discussion. This week I received an email with the question:
But how do you explain when Jesus says: “Before Abraham came into being, I am”? John 8:58 (…)
We also read I Hebr. 1:2 that God made the world through the Son. Wasn’t this much earlier than when He was born?
And John the baptist, who was born 3 months before our Lord Jesus, says in John 1:15; This was He of Whom I said, “He who is coming after me, has come to be in front of me for He was first, before me”.
See also Col. 1:15-17
In this blog I would like to briefly discuss the mentioned Scripture verses.
Jesus said to them: “Verily, verily, I am saying to you, Before Abraham comes in to being, I am”.
This verse is being related to the pre-existence of the Son, because the text is predominantly read as: “…before Abraham was, I am” With this I would have no problems, because Jesus would have referred to “the word” that would later become flesh. Before Abraham existed, “the word” of God was already there. Indeed Abraham has walked in the light of that word.
But the point is, that in this verse, Jesus doesn’t refer to Abraham in the past at all. Literally it reads: “Before Abraham, becomes, I am…” Present tense. Abraham once was”. Now he is dead but later he will become again. Which means that he will be resurrected. Jesus refers to the resurrection, Abraham was looking forward to as well (:56). And before this happens, Jesus Himself will rise out of the dead. As First. Abraham will ‘become’ because from the grave, he will hear the voice of the Son of God and he will rise (John 5:25). Hence “…before Abraham comes into being, I am”.
In (the) last of these days He speaks to us in a Son, Whom He appoints enjoyer of the allotment of all, through Whom He also makes the eons…
The bolded part of the sentence is under consideration here. Just like under the previous heading we are dealing with a matter of translation. The KJV reads here: “…by whom he also made the worlds”. And the NIV reads: “…through whom also he made the universe”. Again, on their own, I don’t have a problem with these translations. God has created the world and the universe through “the word” (“For He spoke and it came to be”) and this word became flesh.
But here as well, the translations are not correct. First, this verse doesn’t talk about ‘the worlds’ or ‘the universe’, which is singular, but about ‘the eons’ plural. In the second place ‘to make’ is not used in the perfectum (has made) neither in the present tense (is making). In the Greek an ‘aoristus’ is used, which is a grammatical form which is hard to render in English. Literally it means ‘without horizon’ in the sense of indefinite. A time cannot be derived from this verb form. Consequently, the meaning in Hebrew 1:2 is that God “makes the eons” through the Son, no matter when. Just the fact is stated. Because the context points to the coming eras in which the Son will rule (1:8), it is obvious that God will also make the coming eons through the Son, which means that He will shape and control them.
So, on closer inspection, also Hebrews 1:2 doesn’t speak of the pre-existence of the Son.
John is testifying concerning Him and cried saying, “This was He of Whom I said: He Who is coming after me, has come to be in front of me, for He was first, before me.
Here, John the Baptist points to his 6 months younger cousin Jesus. Nevertheless John says of him: “he has come to be before me, because he was first”. This statement does clearly refer to the pre-existence of the Son. For the preceding verses, the so-called prologue of book, speak of the word of God which was from the beginning and through which all things were accomplished. And subsequently in verse 14: “…and the word became flesh…”. God’s word came to Mary and she became pregnant. Thus became the word flesh. So that John the Baptist can rightfully declare in verse 15: he was before me.
Who is the Image of the invisible God, Firstborn of every creature, for in Him is all created (…) all is created through Him and to Him and He is before all, and all has its cohesion in Him.
Besides John 1 as a main witness of the pre-existence of Gods Son, we can also count Colossians 1 as one. The similarity between both passages is clear. Nevertheless, there is also a remarkable difference. John’s subject is God’s word while Paul’s subject is God’s image (:15).
In Colossians 1 Paul introduces “the Son of God’s love” (:13) as the “image of God”. Off course we know this concept from the first chapter of the Bible. Man who, as a crown of creation is created ‘in God’s image’ (Gen. 1:26). Who this image of God is, is not revealed until the New Testament: It is the Christ, risen out of the dead (:18, 2 Cor.4:4). Though that “image of God” appeared thousands of years later, still, Paul writes, he is the motive behind all of creation. “The first Adam” was made according to the model of “the last Adam”. This means that to God the “the last Adam” precedes “the first Adam”! All things (“all”) is created “through Him” which means, because of Him. He is God’s motive. All things are “to Him”. He is the goal and meaning of the creation.
As “the Image of God” the Son is “the Firstborn of every creature”. The firstborn is the foremost heir. It is not an indication of sequence but of ranking order. In the book Genesis the birthright consistently goes to the one who is born later. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and Ephraim all received the birthright of the firstborn, but none of them was born first in the family. Also Solomon was made to be firstborn (Ps. 89:27), but apparently not because he was David’s first son.
The Son of god is the “firstborn of every creature”. He has the highest rank of every creature. He is counted among “every creature”. Like ‘prime minister’ is a minister himself. But of every creature , the Son is the first! (:18). Because as “image of God” he is the motive and purpose of all creation.
Both John and Paul speak of a pre-existence of the Son. John addresses God’s word through which all things came about. Paul focuses on God’s image as the motive and purpose of God’s creation. Both are prominently present in Genesis 1. And since Christ is the embodiment of both concepts (logos and ikon) it follows that the Son of God (in that sense) is “before all things”.