Bible students often wonder if Jesus existed before He took human form, and if so, what His activities were prior to His birth. Jesus did exist before He was born as Mary’s child, but organizing the facts on this subject takes some investigation. The Bible does teach that Jesus has existed forever. Jesus existed along with the Father and the Holy Spirit as a separate and distinct God before anything was brought into existence.
Jesus Speaks about Himself
Jesus gave the apostle John a vision on the isle of Patmos. Carefully consider what John heard Jesus say about Himself: “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! “ (Revelation 1:17–18, italics mine) Later in the book of Revelation, Jesus said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” (Revelation 22:13, italics mine)
These two passages provide three titles that belong to Jesus. The phrases “the First and Last,” “the Alpha and the Omega,” and “the Beginning and the End” all describe Jesus. He existed in the beginning before there was anything. Notice that Jesus calls Himself God in the book of Revelation: “He said to me [John]:
It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. (Revelation 21:6–7, insertion mine) We learn from this verse that Jesus, “the Alpha and the Omega” and “the Beginning and the End,” declares Himself to be God!
Now that we have established that Jesus is God and that Jesus is “the First and the Last,” consider this verse from Isaiah: “This is what the Lord says Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God. . . You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one. (Isaiah 44:6,8 italics mine) When these verses from Isaiah are included with the previous verses from Revelation, a very interesting fact is revealed. Most of the passages in the Old Testament referring to God (about 95% of the time) pertain to Jesus! In other words, titles such as Jehovah, the Almighty, Lord God Almighty, etc. usually refer to the God we call Jesus.
Jesus told Isaiah that there is no other Rock (or God) besides Himself. Of course, Jesus was not talking about the Father or the Holy Spirit (who are separate and distinct Gods). When Jesus said there is no other God, He affirmed there was no other God overseeing Israel.
He was in charge. Paul supports this conclusion in this verse: “For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.“ (1 Corinthians 10:1–4, italics mine)
The Bible teaches that Jesus is called God, the Lord Almighty, Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Rock, the First and Last, the Alpha and the Omega, and the Beginning and the End. These passages should remove any doubt that Jesus existed long before He was born of Mary!
Did the Father Create Jesus?
The Bible teaches that Jesus is a separate and distinct God who existed with the Father before anything was created. The Father did not create Jesus; in fact, all three Gods have existed from eternity. Carefully examine the words of John: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father [in the beginning] and has appeared to us.” (1 John 1:1–2, insertion and italics mine) As eternal beings, the Father and Jesus have no origin since Jesus was with the Father before anything existed. John amplifies Jesus’ eternal life with the following verses:
“In the beginning was the Word [this title describes Jesus], and the Word [Jesus] was with God [the Father and the Holy Spirit], and the Word [Jesus] was God [having the same substance as the Father and the Holy Spirit]. He [Jesus] was with God [the Father and the Holy Spirit] in the beginning [when eternity began].
Through him [Jesus] all things were made [Jesus is the Creator of all life and substance]; without him nothing was made that has been made. . . . The Word [Jesus] became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We [Peter, James and John] have seen his glory [on the Mount of Transfiguration], the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1–3, 14)
There is no evidence in the Bible that the Father created Jesus or that Jesus is “a lesser God” than the Father. The Bible does reveal that from eternity, Jesus has the same substance, powers, glory, and authority as the Father and Holy Spirit! All three Gods are equals in every way.
The differences between them is found in their service. Now, please consider two passages. The first passage shows that the Jews would not accept the idea that Jesus was an equal to the Father and this made them very angry. “For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” (John 5:18) The second passage affirms that Jesus considered Himself equal with the Father.
Paul wrote: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” (Philippians 2:5–7) Equality with the Father was not something that Jesus sought because He was “in very nature” God.
Jesus Is the Creator of Everything in Heaven and on Earth
Jesus created the universe, including the angels in Heaven. He also created Earth and mankind in six days. (Exodus 20:8–11) “For by him [Jesus] all things were created: Things in Heaven and on Earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:16–17) This passage affirms again that Jesus existed before anything was created. This is why He is called “the First” and “the Alpha” and “the Beginning.”
Our Father Is Invisible
Jesus is a visible representative of the Father. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” (Colossians 1:15) This verse summarizes three elements about Jesus that many people have not considered. First, Jesus is the image of the invisible Father because the Father is always invisible. He lives in “unapproachable light” (1 Timothy 6:16) and no one but Jesus (and the Holy Spirit) has actually seen Him! (John 6:46)
The angels cannot see the Father and the saints will not see the Father at or after the Second Coming. The angels have seen His glorious form, and the saints and those who killed Jesus will see the Father’s glorious form at the Second Coming (Matthew 26:64; Revelation 6:16,17), but no one can actually see the Father because His infinite glory and boundless powers keep Him in unapproachable light. Twice in the Bible Paul affirms that the Father is invisible (1 Timothy 6:16; 1:17), and Jesus plainly said (John 6:46) that “no one has seen the Father” except Himself. This fact brings us to another interesting point.
Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen me, has seen the Father.” (John 14:9) This does not mean that Jesus is the Father, but what Jesus means is that His character is a perfect mirror of the character of the Father. (Colossians 1:19) This invisible Father/visible Jesus arrangement may sound confusing at first, but consider this: I understand the Bible to teach there are three co-eternal, separate, and distinct equals the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19–20)
This makes Jesus’ resurrection very simple to understand. The Father (a living God) resurrected a dead God (Jesus). (See Acts 2:32 and Revelation 1:18.) Also, the presence of three distinct Gods explains why the unpardonable sin is uniquely defined as blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and not the other two Gods. (Matthew 12:31–32) If the Holy Spirit cannot live in our heart and communicate with us because of rebellion, fellowship with Jesus and the Father becomes impossible and therefore unforgivable!
Long ago, three divine equals decided to create a family and expand the universe so in love, they willingly surrendered many powers and prerogatives to each other. They became one in purpose, plan, and action. For example, consider this possibility: I believe the Godhead decided one God would sit on the throne of the universe and He would display the awesome powers and infinite glory that belonged to each of the three Gods.
This required the other two Gods to surrender their display of power and infinite glory so that the universe might have one supreme ruler above all. This God was called “the Father.” In return, the Father agreed to live in unapproachable light and infinite glory so that all creation might realize the infinite powers of deity.
The God who came to be called Jesus agreed to become the “voice” of God, or “the Word of God,” because He would speak verbally for the other two Gods. In other words, three Gods would speak through one mouth. This explains why John saw a double-edged sword coming from Jesus’ mouth. He is the Word of God. When He speaks, things appear or disappear. (Psalm 33:9)
The relationship between the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit defines what love is. For example, when Jesus came to Earth, He came to do the will of the Father who sent Him (John 6:38), but do not overlook the larger point. Jesus surrendered Himself to the will of the Father long before He came to Earth. Why would co-eternal members of deity surrender their wills to one another?
The simple answer is that their love for each other produces a universe without conflict or competition. The Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit determined their created beings needed three Gods, but the Godhead decided the creation would need one God (the Father) to be the highest focus of adoration and worship.
They also knew that God’s family would need one God (Jesus) to live among created beings as a created being showing everyone what the Father would do if He walked in their shoes. Finally, the three Gods knew that creation would need one God (the Holy Spirit) to live within each heart so that all creation could have instant and simultaneous communication with the Father.
This arrangement puts God above, beside, and within every living being within the universe! Their desire was that God would be present in every place or heart in the universe (this explains why the Holy Spirit is omnipresent, but the Father and Jesus are not).
To accomplish their goals, three equal Gods surrendered prerogatives to each other and this amazing union is called love. This is why the Bible says that God is love. This declaration means that the Godhead dynamically demonstrates and defines every aspect of love “in real time.”
It is amazing that three infinitely powerful and glorious Gods are constrained by nothing but love and humility to live and work together for the happiness and welfare of their family. The only thing holding the government of the universe together in righteousness is love and humility!
Jesus is a perfect reflection of the Father. The Father is also a perfect reflection of Jesus. In other words, the Father would have died for us if that had been necessary. Moreover, the Holy Spirit is a perfect reflection of Jesus and the Father, and He is willing to remain invisible for eternity so that the glorious Father might be glorified as the supreme Ruler of the Universe.
The mutual surrender between equals is mentioned by Jesus several times: “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? . . . Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe [my testimony] on the evidence of the miracles themselves.” (John 14:10–11, insertions mine)
Finally, remember that Colossians 1:15 calls Jesus “the firstborn over all creation.” People misapply this title to teach that Jesus is a “created” being or that Jesus was born before Cain. The title, “the firstborn over all creation,” means that Jesus is preeminent among created beings. Ponder this verse for a moment: “For by him [Jesus] all things were created: things in Heaven and on Earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:16–17)
This topic is broad and I have just provided a brief synopsis. Next month, I will discuss Jesus’ activities before and after His ministry on Earth. Meanwhile, for further study about Jesus, see chapters 1-3 in my book Jesus: The Alpha and The Omega.