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Doctrine of Preexistence of Christ

July 23, 2010

Preexistence of Christ
John 8:58, “Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I
am.” This statement by our Lord to the Jews clearly affirms that the preincarnate or preexistence
of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God. It will be noted that Christ’s existence prior to
becoming a human being is nowhere in Scripture argued as a doctrine, but is everywhere
assumed and used as the basis of the doctrines of the incarnation, hypostatic union and
atonement for sin.
Our Lord’s birth in Bethlehem 2000 years ago was not His origin, only His incarnation. In
the context of Christian theology, the incarnation is the act whereby the eternal Son of God, the
2nd Person of the Trinity, without ceasing to be what He is, namely God the Son, added to His
deity what He did not possess before the act, namely an impeccable human nature, thus making
Him, the unique theanthropic Person of the cosmos.
The incarnation is the act whereby God the Son became what He wasn’t before, namely a
human being. The incarnation was accomplished through the virgin birth.
It was the act of God becoming a human being that made possible or in other words produced
the hypostatic union.
The hypostatic union is a technical theological term describing the unique theanthropic
Person of the Lord Jesus Christ and which states that He is undiminished deity and true humanity
in 1 Person forever.
The word hypostatic is a Bible Word meaning that it is derived from the original language of
Scripture (Heb. 1:3).
The term hypostatic comes from the Greek word hupostasis. Hupostasis was a term that
belonged to the realm of science and medicine, and has a variety of meanings in classical Greek.
Hupostasis means “essence,” or “substance.” Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary
defines essence, “the properties or attributes by means of which something can be placed in its
proper class or identified as being what it is.” The word essence refers the “nature of something.”
The doctrine of the hypostatic union teaches that our Lord’s deity and humanity were united.
John 1:14, “And the Word (The Lord Jesus Christ) became flesh (a Man), and dwelt
(“tabernacled”) among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only uniquely born One
from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Romans 8:3, “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh
(humanity), God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and an offering
for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh (in His humanity).”
1 Tim 3:16, “By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was
revealed in the flesh, was vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the
nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.”
There could be no incarnation and hypostatic union without our Lord having a previous
existence. To deny the preexistence of our Lord renders the incarnation and hypostatic union
impossible. To go back further, could there be a Trinity were there no preexistent Son of God?
The one necessarily presupposes the other. Christ’s preexistence is not a matter of purely
academic interest but in fact it is the foundation on which the whole superstructure of the
Christian faith rests. If our Lord is not preexistent, He cannot be God, and if He is not God, He
cannot be Creator or Redeemer. Jesus was unique among men in that His birth did not mark His
origin, but only His appearance as a man on the stage of time. Of no other person would it be
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possible to distinguish between His birth and His origin, or to say that His life did not begin
when He was born.
Jesus was the meeting place of eternity and time, the uniting of deity and humanity, the
junction of heaven and earth. His origin was not related to His birth, or His nature dependent
only on human ancestry. His nature was derived from His eternal being.
The Lord Jesus Christ did not become God’s Son at the incarnation or when He rose from the
dead. His resurrection in fact demonstrated that He was the eternal Son of God who has no
beginning.
Rom 1:1-4, “Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the
gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures,
concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who
was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to
the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
The Lord Jesus Christ is God, supreme and without beginning. Our Lord was conscious of a
previous existence. He spoke of the glory He had with the Father before the foundation of the
world.
John 17:5, “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had
with You before the world was.”
He claimed preexistence in explicit and unmistakable terms. John 16:26-28, “In that day
you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will request of the Father on your
behalf; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that
I came forth from the Father. I came forth from the Father and have come into the world;
I am leaving the world again and going to the Father.”
Every other man in history entered life as the result of a biological process and as a new
being, but the Lord Jesus knew neither beginning of days nor end of life (Heb. 7:3).
Our Lord’s 1st appearance on earth was not when born of His virgin mother. The Lord
appears many times in the Old Testament and is called the “Angel of the Lord.” These
appearances in the Old Testament are called in theology, theophanies. A theophany is a
theological term used to refer to either a visible or auditory manifestation of the Son of God.
Ex 3:2, “The angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a
bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not
consumed.”
Ex 19:18-20, “Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the LORD descended upon it
in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain
quaked violently. When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and
God answered him with thunder. The LORD came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the
mountain; and the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.”
Gen 3:8, “They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of
the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God
among the trees of the garden.”
Gen 32:29-30, “Then Jacob asked him and said, “Please tell me your name.” But he
said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And he blessed him there. So Jacob named the
place Peniel, for he said,”I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.”
Josh 5:13-15, “Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his
eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his
hand, and Joshua went to him and said to him, Are you for us or for our adversaries? He
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said, “No; rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the LORD.” And Joshua fell
on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, “What has my lord to say to his
servant? The captain of the LORD’S host said to Joshua, “Remove your sandals from your
feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.”
Dan 3:26, “He said, “Look! I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the
fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!”
1 John 1:1-4, “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen
with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of
Life and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the
eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us, what we have seen and
heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our
fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that
our joy may be made complete.”
“What was from the beginning” is composed of the following: (1) Accusative neuter
singular form of the relative pronoun hos, which is ho, “who.” (2) 3rd person singular imperfect
active indicative form of the verb eimi, which is en, “has always existed.” (3) Preposition ap’,
“from.” (4) Genitive feminine singular form of the noun arche, which is arches, “eternity past.”
The relative pronoun hos, should be translated “who” since it is personal reference to the
unique theanthropic Person of history, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The figure of speech called constructio ad sensum is in effect here where sense agreement
supersedes tactical agreement. The neuter gender of the relative pronoun does not agree with the
masculine gender of logos, “Word,” and feminine gender of zoe, “life.”)
The context clearly indicates that this a personal reference to the Lord Jesus Christ since John
is stating that he heard someone speak, witnessed with Him with his own eyes, observed and
even touched with his own hands.
In context, the verb eimi is used in an absolute sense meaning “to exist.” This is a customary
imperfect tense, which can be used to indicate a regularly recurring activity in past time
(habitual) or a state that continued for some time (general). Here in verse 1 the latter is in view.
The customary imperfect here refers to an ongoing state. The customary imperfect tense of the
verb eimi in 1 John 1:1 indicates that the Lord Jesus Christ has always existed from eternity past.
This is a stative active voice indicating that the subject (the Lord Jesus Christ) has always existed
from eternity past. This is a declarative indicative used to present John’s assertion that the Lord
Jesus Christ has always existed from eternity past as a non-contingent (or unqualified) statement.
The declarative indicative here indicates John’s assertion is a dogmatic statement of fact or
absolute truth of Bible doctrine.
Here in 1 John 1:1, the preposition apo, “from” is used in a temporal sense. It is employed
with the genitive of time arches. Arche refers to eternity past. The preposition apo plus the
genitive arches does not emphasize kind of time but rather the extent of time. Together, they
answer the question as to how long the Lord Jesus Christ has always existed. Lord Jesus Christ
has always existed from eternity past.
1 John 1:1, “Who has always existed from eternity past, who we have heard, who we
have witnessed with our eyes, who we observed, even our hands touched concerning the
Word who is the life (of God).”
The apostle John in 1 John 1:1 mentions the 1st 2 of 3 states or spheres of existence of the
Lord Jesus Christ: (1) Pre-incarnate: Eternity past as the 2nd Person of the Trinity, the Son of
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God. (2) Incarnate: Virgin birth through the 1st Advent to the resurrection. (3) Glorified
Incarnate: Resurrection and on into eternity future.
Isa 9:6, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government
will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”
Mic 5:2, “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of
Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from
long ago, from the days of eternity.”
John 1:1-4, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the
Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through
Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was
life, and the life was the Light of men.”
1 John 2:13a, “I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him (the Lord Jesus
Christ) Who has been from eternity past.”
1 John 2:14a, “I have written to you, fathers (pastor-teachers), because you know Him
(the Lord Jesus Christ) who has been from eternity past.”
Revelation 1:8, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, Who is and who
was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
Revelation 21:6, “And He (the Lord Jesus Christ) said to me, it is done. I am the Alpha
and the Omega, the beginning and the end.”
Revelation 22:13, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning
and the end.”
The verb huparcho in Philippians 2:6 clearly expresses the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ
existed as God before becoming a human being. Philippians 2:6-11 formed a hymn to Christ in
the church during the middle of the 1st century. It has been widely recognized as an early
Christian hymn on the humiliation and exaltation of Christ. It is called the Carmen Christi in
Latin. The hymn may well be the earliest extant statement of the 3-fold division of Christ’s
career: (1) His preincarnate state as the Son of God in eternity past. (2) His incarnate state as the
Theanthropos functioning under Kenosis during His 1st Advent. (3) His glorified state as
resurrected humanity at the Great Genuflex.
The hymn consists of 2 main sections, which are built up in parallel style. The 1st section is
contained in verses 6-8 and forms the catabasis of our Lord or His gradual descent from
existence in eternity past to His substitutionary spiritual death on the cross. The 2nd section is
contained in verses 9-11 and forms the anabasis of our Lord or His gradual ascent from
resurrection out from the dead to the Great Genuflex at the conclusion of human history. The
traditional view of the hymn expresses the true humility of the Lord Jesus Christ in Hypostatic
Union functioning according to Kenosis. The hymn emphasizes the obedience of Christ as the
Last Adam in contrast to the disobedience of the 1st Adam.
Philippians 2:6-11 is a Christ-hymn from the 1st century which expresses a succession of
events from our Lord’s preexistence in eternity past to the incarnation continuing to His
glorification at the Great Genuflex at the conclusion of human history which runs coterminous
with the appeal trial of Satan.
Phil 2:5-11, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who,
although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be
grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the
likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming
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obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly
exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name, which is above every name, so that at the
name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and
under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of
God the Father.”
Let’s look at verse 6 in greater detail. Philippians 2:6, “who, although He existed in the
form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped.”
“Although He existed” is the nominative masculine singular present active participle
huparchon, which is from the verb huparcho. Huparcho occurs as early as Homer in the 8th
century B.C. It is a compound word composed of the preposition hupo, “under,” and arche, “a
beginning.” The preposition hupo is often prefixed to other words to intensify or alter their
meaning. The prepositions apo, ek, para, and hupo all denote “issuing, proceeding from.” As we
noted in 1 John 1:1, the term arche means “eternity past.” Huparcho is a word use to denote
existence, which proceeds or issues from eternity past.
Paul does not use the simple verb of being here which is einai but instead employs the
stronger huparcho to denote existence, which proceeds or issues from the beginning. In
Philippians 2:6, huparchon denotes the inherency and expression of the divine attributes by our
Lord in His preincarnate state. It refers to eternity past in which our Lord functioned as infinite
and eternal God. Huparchon expresses the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ prior to entering the
human race was the eternal Son of God, and who expressed all the attributes of deity.
Colossians 1:18, “He (the Lord Jesus Christ) is also the Head of the body, the Church;
and He is the beginning (arche), the first-born out from the dead; so that He Himself might
come to have first place in everything.”
The gnomic present of the verb huparcho in Philippians 2:6 indicates the perpetual
possession and expression of the divine attributes by our Lord in eternity past. The gnomic
present expresses the perpetual state of our Lord as infinite and eternal God expressing all the
attributes of the divine essence as the 2nd Member of the Trinity.
Huparchon is what we call a concessive participle, which is used by Paul to call attention to
the fact that God the Son, 2nd Member of the Trinity did something for us under unfavorable
circumstances, i.e., He became human! He became for a little while lower than the angels (Heb.
2:9).
2 Cor 8:9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich,
yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.”
Heb 2:7-8, “YOU HAVE MADE HIM FOR A LITTLE WHILE LOWER THAN THE
ANGELS; YOU HAVE CROWNED HIM WITH GLORY AND HONOR, AND HAVE
APPOINTED HIM OVER THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS; YOU HAVE PUT ALL
THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET.”
The Creator left heaven where He received the worship of angels in order to become a human
being and to suffer the humiliation of dying as a criminal on a cross as well as spiritual death!
God the Son made the concession of becoming human.
We will translate huparcho, “although existing from eternity past.”
Philippians 2:6, “who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality
with God a thing to be grasped.”
The phrase “In the form of God” in Philippians 2:6 is composed of the preposition en plus
the feminine singular locative noun morphe and the masculine singular noun, genitive of
possession theou. Morphe can have the following meanings depending upon the context:
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“essence, nature, character, form, external appearance, shape.” Morphe is only used in the NT
with reference to our Lord. In Mark 16:12, morphe was used for a post-resurrection appearance
of our Lord. Morphe is used in 2 antithetical or contrasting statements in Philippians 2:6 and 7.
In Philippians 2:6, the word is used as an expression for the function or expression of our
Lord’s divine attributes in His preincarnate, incarnate and glorified states with the latter
continuing up to the present.
In verse 7, it is used with reference to God the Son adding to His divine essence, the essence
of a servant.
In Philippians 2:6, the noun morphe refers to the expression of our Lord’s divine attributes,
which compose His divine essence.
Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines essence, “the properties or attributes by
means of which something can be placed in its proper class or identified as being what it is.”
They also define attribute, “an inherent characteristic.”
Morphe denotes the expression of the inherent characteristics of deity in the Person of the
Theanthropos, the Lord Jesus Christ in Hypostatic Union.
The preposition en plus the locative of morphe expresses the pre-incarnate, incarnate and
glorified states of our Lord as infinite and eternal God expressing all attributes of deity, which
compose His divine essence. The absence of the definite article before the noun morphe denotes
the qualitative aspect of the word rather than its mere identity. The anarthrous construction
emphasizes our Lord’s divine attributes, which compose His divine essence as the 2nd Person of
the Trinity.
Here the prepositional phrase en morphe theou emphasizes our Lord’s divine essence as
infinite and eternal God.
We will translate the prepositional phrase en morphe theou, “in the essence of God.”
Philippians 2:6, “Who although existing from eternity past in the essence of God, He
never regarded existing equally in essence with God an exploitable asset.”