Literal Pre-existence?

The following is taken from Chapter 6 in my book, “Can We Handle The Truth?”

 Literal Pre-existence?

   Most churches argue for the literal pre-existence of Jesus. Pre-existence is defined as: “existence in a former state or previous to something else.” However, where it concerns Christ, it is regularly taught that Jesus literally pre-existed as the second person of the triune God before he became a man in the flesh. However, there is a vast difference when we have the Hebrew understanding of “pre-existence” vs. the influence of Greek culture of a “literal physical pre-existence.” To believe the literal physical pre-existence of Jesus is to abandon the Jewish concept of pre-existence.

You might be thinking at this point, “Well, what is the Jewish concept of pre-existence?” I will give you a few examples. The first example can be taken from John 17:5 where Jesus says:

Now, Father, glorify me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.

This is supposed to prove that Jesus literally existed with God before he became a human being here on earth. Unfortunately, the context is ignored. The context shows us where Jesus gives this same glory to future believers who are not yet alive (v. 22):

I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in me through their word…The glory which You have given me I have given [past tense] to them.

If we were to remain consistent with the interpretation that promotes a literal pre-existence, then we would have to conclude we also pre-existed!

The passage does not establish Jesus pre-existed. Jesus was glorified when he was raised from the dead, and he speaks of it as if he already has it. If we go back to John 7:39 we read:

Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

In Luke 24:26 we read:

Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?

But here in John 17:5, Jesus speaks of his glorification as though he already has it. In addition, we saw that Jesus has given (past tense) this same glory to his disciple and future disciples who end up believing through their word. Therefore, the glory Jesus had “before the world was,” has to do with God’s purpose that is assured to be fulfilled.

We can have something, in Jewish ways of thinking, “with God,” meaning that it is planned and promised for the future. John 17:5 means that Jesus desired that God give him the glory which he had stored up in God’s plan for the future.

Another example can be taken from 2 Cor. 5:1:

For we know that if our temporary, earthly dwelling is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal dwelling in the heavens, not made with hands.

None of us would think that we already have an eternal body in heaven. One may talk themselves into believing that they are literally up in the heavens, but it does not make it so. Like Jesus, we have it in God’s promise. One day we will have a glorified body given to us at the resurrection when Jesus returns even though scripture says we have it now. We have it in the sense that we possess it in God’s promise.

The apostle Paul is known as the “Hebrew of Hebrews” and was not void of the Hebraic concept of pre-existence. He states in Romans 4:17:

As it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and CALL INTO EXISTENCE THE THINGS THAT DO NOT EXIST.

What Paul says here provides the strongest evidence that supports the traditional Hebraic concept and meaning of pre-existence in his description as God who calls those things that do not exist as though they did. It is not a literal pre-existence but has everything to do with God’s promises that are assured to come to pass.

For those who promote a literal pre-existence, what do they do with the book of Revelation where it says:

And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb [The Messiah] SLAIN FROM THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD. (Rev. 13:8)

For those who uphold a literal pre-existence, this would mean Christ was slain twice! The Messiah did not literally exist until he was born.

Another major proof text to try to prove the literal pre-existence of Jesus is John 1:1. It is also worth noting the blatant bias by capitalizing the W for word:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

How can we have “the word was WITH God, and then say, “the word WAS God?” The word “with” means “accompanied by.”  If the “word” is supposed to be Jesus, it should read like this:

In the beginning was the Son, and the Son was with God and the Son was God.

“The Son was with God and the Son was God?” This is a classic example of eisegesis. Jesus (Son) is read into the text when it does not mention him at all. The word “word” is “logos” in the Greek.

Lexical definitions for the Greek word logos are:

  • utterance
  • statement
  • question
  • proclamation
  • command
  • revelation
  • decree
  • plan
  • expression of the mind
  • creative thought
  • purpose
  • promise
  • reason

This is not an exhaustive list, but you will notice that nowhere is the “word” (“logos”) ever referred to as a person distinct from the Father.

The word has to do with God’s utterance, his plan, his creative power. It was the logos which was in the beginning with God; it does not say it was Christ.

Everyone is thankful to William Tyndale for giving us our first English translation of the bible based upon the Hebrew and Greek text. His New Testament was published in 1526 and revised to its final state in 1534. However, William Tyndale would probably be considered a heretic for translating John 1:3-4 as:

In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God. All things came into being through IT, and without IT nothing was made that was made.

When I presented this to my friend she got upset and said, “So God is now an it!

Tyndale used “it” rather than “him” and so does the Matthew’s Bible of 1537, the Great Bible of 1539, the Geneva Bible of 1560, and the Bishop’s Bible of 1568, which she probably did not realize. From what I understand, “it” is a translation of the Greek “autou” meaning “he, she, or it.” Since Tyndale did not read Jesus the Messiah into the “logos,” it shows he was not influenced by the Latin Vulgate of Jerome.

God (Yahweh) spoke creation into existence. If you read Genesis chapter 1, note how many times we read, “God said.”

I recently read where someone argued that the “beginning” in John 1:1 refers to the beginning of Christ’s ministry, and to support this interpretation he used the passage in 1 John 1:1. However, the Gospel of John in chapter 1 is drawing from Genesis 1 as we can see by verse 3, which refers to God and not Christ.

Now, in the last part of the verse we read:

and the word was God.

This is where we see that the “word” belongs to the sphere of God; it is not a separate being from God. We do not separate the word from the person. We can see samples of this In Psalm 33:6:

By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. (Ps. 33:6)

For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast. (Ps. 33: 9)

…so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isa. 55:11; see also Ps. 107:20; 147:15, 18, 19)

We cannot separate the word from God. The word was fully representative of God, “the word was God.” Author Chuck LaMattina has well stated that John 1:1-3 could accurately be paraphrased like this:

In the beginning God had a creative and redemptive plan. And this plan or purpose revealed his heart and was fully representative of all that God is. All things were made through this plan and without this divine plan nothing was made.[1]

As an architect draws his plan for a building on a roll of paper, it is not until he starts construction that the building becomes a reality. So too, it is not until we get to John 1:14 that this plan became a reality. This plan becomes a living-breathing human being revealed in the promise, by God, of the coming Messiah for God’s people. This was done by the holy spirit overshadowing the virgin Mary that resulted in a unique pregnancy.

So though the Jewish concept believes in the pre-existence of the Messiah, they did not believe it as a literal physical pre-existence, but rather it had to do with the plan and mind of God, which always included the coming Messiah.

 “Sent” Does Not Mean Dropping Out Of The Sky

There is another passage used to try to prove the literal pre-existence of Jesus. When trying to uphold the trinity teaching, we will often muddle the meaning of simple words by redefining them. For instance, take the word “sent.” Scripture states that Jesus was “sent into the world” by God (Jn. 10:36). This is supposed to prove he existed as the divine Son of God before he came into the world.

Now, if we are to stay consistent with the trinity teaching and its interpretation, we must also conclude that John the Baptist also pre-existed prior to his birth for we read:

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. (John 1:6)

Being “sent” or “sent into this world” does not mean a spirit being dropped from outer space into a woman’s womb.

Jesus also said:

For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. (John 6:33)

And:

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:51)

Did Jesus come down as literal bread from heaven? Also, if Jesus was a literal person on this earth, then he existed in the flesh up there in heaven prior to his birth!  Yes, it is absurd if we must think this way.

Jesus said in John 8:42:

If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.

Think about it. If Jesus is God, how can he “come from God” and be “sent by God?”

In John 3:13 we read:

No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.

Many read these passages and think of literal pre-existence. The Biblicalunitarian Websites states accurately:

The Jews would not have taken John’s words to mean that Christ “incarnated.” It was common for them to say that something “came from heaven” if God were its source. For example, James 1:17 says that every good gift is “from above” and “comes down” from God. What James means is clear. God is the Author and source of the good things in our lives. God works behind the scenes to provide what we need. The verse does not mean that the good things in our lives come directly down from heaven. Most Christians experience the Lord blessing them by way of other people or events, but realize that the ultimate source of the blessings was the Lord. We should apply John’s words the same way we understand James’ words—that God is the source of Jesus Christ, which He was. Christ was God’s plan, and then God directly fathered Jesus.

There are also verses that say Jesus was “sent from God,” a phrase that shows God as the ultimate source of what is sent. John the Baptist was a man “sent from God” (John 1:6), and it was he who said that Jesus “comes from above” and “comes from heaven” (John 3:31). When God wanted to tell the people that He would bless them if they gave their tithes, He told them that He would open the windows of “heaven” and pour out a blessing (Mal. 3:10 – KJV). Of course, everyone understood the idiom being used, and no one believed that God would literally pour things out of heaven. They knew that the phrase meant that God was the origin of the blessings they received. Still another example is when Christ was speaking and said, “John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven or from men?” (Matt. 21:25). Of course, the way that John’s baptism would have been “from heaven” was if God was the source of the revelation. John did not get the idea on his own, it came “from heaven.” The verse makes the idiom clear: things could be “from heaven,” i.e., from God, or they could be “from men.” The idiom is the same when used of Jesus. Jesus is “from God,” “from heaven” or “from above” in the sense that God is his Father and thus his origin.

The idea of coming from God or being sent by God is also clarified by Jesus’ words in John 17. He said, “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world” (John 17:18). We understand perfectly what Christ meant when he said, “I have sent them into the world.” He meant that he commissioned us, or appointed us. No one thinks that we were in heaven with Christ and incarnated into the flesh. Christ said, “As you have sent me, I have sent them.” So, however we take the phrase that Christ sent us, that is how we should understand the phrase that God sent Christ.[2]

Dear reader, as you search these verses[3] in the footnote, you will begin to understand that “sent,” “sent from God,” or “send” does not prove that Jesus the Messiah literally came down from heaven and is God. Jesus “sends” his disciple in the same manner as the Father sent him into the world (John 20:21).

It is unfortunate that most churches abandon and conceal the true Hebraic concept of pre-existence. This leaves the sincere Christians in ignorance of Jewish understanding of the New Testament, especially in the Gospel of John. The New Testament was written by Jews. Could it be that the suppression of the Jewish ways of understanding the scriptures damage the orthodox dogmas that have developed over the centuries?

We have seen that the term “logos” has many definitions that are more understandable and logical than the biased rendering of the “Word” as it is defined and upheld in mainstream orthodox Christianity to this day.

It is crucial that we understand scripture from within its context of what was written because the authors, who were Jews, wrote within a Hebraic framework. Therefore, it is critical to interpreting the bible with this in mind. The prime example is the Gospel of John where most trinitarian teaching is drawn from that abandons the Hebraic mindset of the New Testament authors. When this happens, the outcome has many disastrous interpretations, the use of nonsensical language, and definitions that end up having to be explained by analogies to try to get the listener to understand a doctrine that is said to be incomprehensible by many who embrace the doctrine of the trinity. The Gospel of John ends up grossly misinterpreted and distorted because of the failure to apply the proper context and its interpretation within the Judaic mindset.

Traditional Christian theologians who choose to conceal, whether ignorantly or deliberately, the Hebraic concept of pre-existence, gives birth to students who end up believing in either a “Triune God” or in some cases, a “Biune God.” In either case, it erroneously teaches that Christ is God Almighty.

How unfortunate to have gone down this path that has led to much dissension, controversy, debate, and even believers of the truth being put to torturous death over the centuries. This perversion of the truth began at least one hundred years after the death and resurrection of Christ when false doctrines began to infiltrate and plagued the church. All because church leaders have abandoned the Hebraic understanding of scriptures and have clung to the influences of Greek philosophy (also known as “Hellenism”).

The idea of pre-existence would have us believe that Jesus was really alive and conscious in heaven and active in the affairs of the Old Testament patriarchs before his birth in Bethlehem, is a deception. Jesus is and has always been authentically a human being like us. He was not an angel who became a man or some spirit being who entered Mary’s womb and became a man, nor an eternal Son of God who gave up his heavenly realm to come to earth and become a man, or the third part of a “godhead” that made a conscious decision to come to earth.

I would also like to add a note that some of the brethren would consider it blasphemy to call Jesus a man, and therefore just a mere man. They like to give their spin by asking, “So you think Jesus was just a mere man or only a man?” Well, let me ask, “Was Jesus anything other than a man?” No. He was a human being just as we are a human being. Certainly, he is a unique human being by the fact that he was directly begotten by the Father and not through the normal process of procreating. He is just as human as Adam was human. The scriptures never fail to emphasize how much Jesus is like us in every respect to his being. If Jesus is something else, then he cannot rightly be called a man. Jesus himself said he was a man and referred to himself as the son of man. In 1Tim. 2:5, Jesus is called a man. Everything about him was human. The only reason to mock the brethren who believe Jesus was a human being like the rest of us is that they hold to the belief that God became a man and therefore had two natures that made him fully man and fully God. That is why they have the problem of thinking of Jesus as a man, a human being like the rest of us. Until they can prove from scripture that teaches Jesus was ontologically different from his brethren, then they might have my ear.

[1] APPENDIX 1-John 1:1-3 by Chuck LaMattina

[2] Buzzard, pp. 154-157; Norton, pp. 246-248 as cited on Biblicalunitarian.com

[3] Matthew 10:40;  Mark 9:37; Luke 4:18; Luke 9:48; Luke 10:16; John 1:6; 4:34; 5:24; 5:30 ; 5:36; 5:37; 6:38; 6:39; 7:16; 7:28; 7:29; 7:33; 8:16; 8:18; 8:26; :29; 8:42; 9:4; 11:42; 12:44-45; 12:49; 13:20; 14:24; 15:21; 16:5; 17:18; 17:21; 17:23; 17:25; 20:21

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2 Responses to Literal Pre-existence?

  1. silasza says:

    Great Post! Thanks.

  2. Priscilla jERVEY says:

    Sandra, I love this excerpt from your wonderful book. So many Christians have this (preexistance) all wrong, but you have given great insight supported by Scriptures. The Trinity can only be supported if Jesus did preexist his earthly birth. But as you attest, he was in God’s plan. Even Peter stated that Jesus was preordained and in the foreknowledge of God the Father.

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