A Case for the Pre-Existence of the Son of God
Defining Who is the Son of God and Proving His Eternal Existence
Over two-thousand years ago in the small village of Bethlehem, made famous as the boyhood home of King David (1 Sam 16:1, 17:12, Luke 2:4), a baby was born. Only a few miles from Jerusalem, the epicenter of the Jewish religious culture of the time, this baby would grow up amidst swirling controversy regarding who he was. Who is this child? He would be called many things, however, one title condemned him for blasphemy by the High Priest Caiaphas and the Council of scribes and elders who arrested and tried him and led to his execution (Mt 26:37, Mt 26:62-66, Jn 19:7). The question came from Caiaphas, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus answered directly, “You have said so.”You have stated the truth. Caiaphas tore his clothes – a forbidden act by the High Priest – as a display of extreme grief for blasphemy. Jesus claimed to be the Son of God and he was executed for it.
We have the advantage on this side of the cross, two-thousand years later, with the aid of Holy Scripture to see that Jesus was in fact the Son of God (Jn 1:1-14) and was wrongly executed by the council in a purely legal point of view. However, Jesus is God and his mission was to come to earth and be executed as a sacrifice for the sins of the children of God (Ephesians 1-2, Phil 2:5-8, Col 1:11-22, 1 Pet 1:2). Although we now have great hope in Christ, the Son of God, controversy still swirls around who he is. Several religions that claim the name of Jesus do not consider him to be God, such as the LDS and Jehovah Witnesses, but they consider Him to be a created being. Within the orthodox Christian circles Jesus is known to be God, but there is disagreement on whether or not he has been God for all eternity. Did the Son of God exist eternally, outside time and space, as the Son before he was born in the form of man before born as the baby Jesus, born of Mary? Or was it at the incarnation that Jesus came into being by becoming man generated by the Father?
I propose that the evidence proving the Son of God’s pre-existence before the incarnation is overwhelming and inarguable for not only LDS and Jehovah Witnesses, but also for all within the Christian faith. Before proposing the evidence supporting the pre-existence of the Son of God, a brief description of the opposition is in order.
OPPOSITION TO THE PRE-EXISTENCE OF THE SON OF GOD
The opposition to who Jesus is and what it means for Him to be the Son of God has been argued since Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Many false doctrines were found in the early church, towards which Jesus’ beloved disciple John wrote his entire Gospel and epistles to refute (John 20:31), the Apostle Paul worked diligently to correct through his many epistles and missionary journeys (Rom 8:1-4, Col 1:15-20), as well as Peter and the writer of Hebrews (1 Peter 1:20, 2 Peter 1:16-21, Heb 1:1-3). The eternality of the Son, as the second person of the Trinity was so hotly contested a few hundred years after the incarnation that the Nicene Council developed the Nicene Creed to establish a proper view on the Son and to distance themselves from the modalistic theology of Sabellianism and the argument by the Arians of the day that insisted that the Son of God was a created being.
Centuries later new religions arose which claimed the name of Jesus Christ, yet they did not attribute deity or pre-existence to him. In the early 1800’s, Joseph Smith founded the Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints, claiming that the Son of God was merely a created being and Lucifer’s brother. In the 1870’s Jehovah Witnesses arose who teach Jesus is no more than the archangel Michael, another created being. The LDS and the Jehovah Witness religions are rightly consider by professing Christians to be cultic and not a denomination within the protestant faith.
Another high profile stream of incorrect teaching regarding the Son of God has invaded the charismatic denominations. In particular, the televangelist T.D. Jakes with his “oneness” Pentecostal faith, author of over 30 books many of which have been on the NY Times Bestseller List, has had a worldwide stage for many years and teaches that Jesus is the Father, Jesus is the Son, and Jesus is the Holy Spirit and that the doctrine of the Trinity is in fact a polytheistic heresy. Although no credible theologian would give Jakes theology thirty seconds of consideration, the average Christian is easily fooled by the TV shows, bestselling books, and charismatic personality. These fallacies are as important to refute as what the Fathers of the Nicene Creed were fighting against 1700 years ago.
More interesting even yet, and much closer to home, is the change that John MacArthur has transitioned through only a decade ago. MacArthur, one of America’s greatest teachers and preachers, released an article in 2001 stating:
“…I want to state publicly that I have abandoned the doctrine of ‘incarnational sonship.’ Careful study and reflection have brought me to understand that Scripture does indeed present the relationship between God the Father and Christ the Son as an eternal Father-Son Relationship. I know longer regard Christ’s sonship as a role He assumed in His incarnation.”
MacArthur’s abandonment of this doctrine through careful study of the Scriptures signals to us that there is a vital need for careful study and reflection on the Scriptures by every believer, even for every respected teacher, preacher, and theologian. Let us now turn to carefully considering what the Bible says about the relationship between God the Father and God the Son.
EVIDENCE OF THE PRE-EXISTENCE OF THE SON OF GOD
Ten proofs regarding the pre-existence of Jesus Christ as the Son of God and second person in the Trinity need careful consideration.
Proof (1): I Am. The most basic proof of Jesus Christ’s pre-existence as the Son of God, and an assumption that must be made at the outset, is his divinity. Jesus being fully God implies his eternality. We see from the “I am” (egō eimi) statements found in Jesus’ own words, that He is claiming to be equal to God, the Father. In chapter 8 of John’s gospel, Jesus provides a direct claim to deity and pre-existence through the most notable “I am” statement. Jesus tells the Jews, “If anyone who keeps my word, he will never taste death,” (Jn 8:52, ESV). The Jews fire back at Jesus by asking if he is greater than Abraham. After all, Abraham died and so did all the other prophets of God. So how can this man claim to have power over death? How can he speak with authority regarding Abraham as if he knows him? Jesus, they argue isn’t even fifty years old, how can he have seen Abraham? Jesus then makes the claim to deity and pre-existence: “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am,” (Jn 8:58, ESV). Continue reading