Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The Preexistence of Christ

Leslie Basham: Jesus has existed from eternity past. What was He doing before coming to earth as a baby? Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Jesus not only delighted in His Father and enjoyed His Father’s company, but He was also in eternity past delighting in us.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, February 20, 2015.

When did Jesus begin to exist? It’s an important question that you need to understand to keep your theology straight. When you understand it, it will affect your worship.

Nancy’s tackling this issue while going through a book called The Incomparable Christ. Here she is speaking before a group of women.

Nancy: Ever since I was a little girl I have been a huge fan of biographies. I love reading biographies. I have a big collection of them, and have read many of them over the years. One thing that I have learned is that most biographies start out with the era or the circumstances into which the person was born. Most biographies start around the birth of the person that the book is about.

We’re talking in this series about the incomparable Christ; there is no one like Him. We want to look today at another thing that makes Christ unique.

He is unique among other founders of religions, other people who might have biographies written about them, because if you’re talking about anyone else who’s had a biography written, their existence began when they were born—not so with Christ.

Jesus Christ did not come into existence when He was born of Mary in Bethlehem. I don’t know if you’ve thought about this, but He existed long before that night that we celebrate at Christmas, long before His incarnation and His life here on this earth. In the beginning of time, He already was.

Now, we’re going to be talking today and throughout this series about some things that are really hard to wrap your mind around, things that you can’t really understand, but you take them by faith because we’re dealing in supernatural realities, things that our rational minds cannot fathom. But when time began, Jesus was already there. He already was. In the beginning, He was. He always existed.

There are some cults and false religions that deny His eternal existence and claim that He was a created being. That’s one of the ways you can know whether the religion you’re studying measures up to the Scripture. Do they believe that Christ was always existent?

In this series, we’re using as a track, the book by Oswald Sanders called The Incomparable Christ. You can follow along with us during this Lenten season. We’re actually going to continue a week past Easter in this series on The Incomparable Christ. You can go on ReviveOurHearts.com and find out which chapter we’re looking at each day.

Today we’re looking at chapter 2 in The Incomparable Christ. It’s a chapter called “The Preexistence of Christ.” Now, no other biography starts out with a chapter on the preexistence of that person because they didn’t exist before they were born. But Christ always existed. He eternally existed, in time past and also for all of eternity will exist. This is the testimony of the Old Testament prophets. They talked about the fact that Christ was in existence before the worlds began, before He came to Bethlehem as a baby.

For example, in Micah 5:2, a verse you will often hear quoted at Christmas time, it says,

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel [Who’s it talking about? Jesus], whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting (NKJV). 

He will come forth, but He has always been. He is from of old—the eternal preexistence of Christ.

Then we come to Isaiah 6. This is a passage that’s familiar to many of us. The prophet says,

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said, "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD [Jehovah the Lord] of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” (vv. 1–3). 

Now this was hundreds of years before Christ was born, and Isaiah saw the glory of God, Jehovah, but as we get to the New Testament, it’s clear that Isaiah was seeing Christ. He was seeing the Messiah seated on that throne.

In John 12, you have to kind of follow this logic here, but in the twelfth chapter of the Gospel of John, John quotes a passage from Isaiah 6, the same chapter that I just read from. He quotes a passage from Isaiah chapter 6, and he applies it to Jesus.

He says, “I’m talking about Jesus.” And then he says in John 12:41, “Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory." Whose glory? Jesus’ glory. "He saw his glory and spoke of him.” Isaiah saw Jesus sitting on that throne. It was the glory of Christ. It was the glory of God. It was the glory of Christ—one with the Father.

So Christ was in existence hundreds of years, thousands of years, in fact for all of eternity before He came to this earth as a man.

Not only did the Old Testament prophets give testimony to the preexistence of Christ, but as we come to the New Testament, John the Baptist gave testimony of the preexistence of Christ.

John 1:15, "John bore witness about him [about Christ] and cried out, 'This was he of whom I said, "He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me."'"

Now, that sounds a little convoluted. “He who comes after me was before me.” Well, John was born six months before Jesus, and in His human nature, Jesus came after John. John was before Jesus. But as the eternal Son of God, Jesus existed eternally before John. So John says, “He who came after me—He who was born after me—was before me. He was preexistent in eternity past.”

Now, it was not only the testimony of John the Baptist about Jesus, but it was the testimony of Christ about Himself on numerous occasions. John 3:13, Jesus said, “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven” (NKJV). Jesus is saying, “I’m here on this earth; I came down from heaven; I came from heaven.”

Now, we say little girls and little boys come from heaven, but they don’t come from heaven. God creates them, but they weren’t existent in heaven before they came to earth. Jesus was existent in heaven before He came to this earth.

In John 6:33, Jesus says, “The bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Then He goes on to say, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven.” Jesus says, “I was somewhere before I was here. I came from somewhere before I came here. Where did I come from? I came from heaven.” Jesus says, “I was around. I was in existence before I came to this earth. I came down from heaven.”

Here’s another passage: John 8, which again is a little confusing, but let’s see if we can grasp it. Beginning in verse 56, Jesus said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day.” Now, Abraham had lived thousands of years earlier. He looked forward to, anticipated the day when Christ would come to earth. He saw it by faith and was glad.

"So the Jews said to him, 'You are not yet fifty years old.'" Jesus, in fact, was still in His early thirties. "'You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?'" who lived thousands of years earlier (v. 57).

Jesus said to them—now imagine how this must have struck them listening to it that day. "Jesus said to them, 'Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was, I am'” (v. 58). Now they must have been scratching their heads. "Is this man nuts?"

No, He’s not nuts! He’s the incomparable Christ. He came to earth. He was born at what marked the hinge of the whole human calendar—before Christ and after Christ—born around the B.C./A.D. marker—but He was in existence before that. Before Abraham was—thousands of years ago—Jesus says, "I AM."

He doesn’t say, “I was.” He says, “I AM.” He is the eternally existent I AM. He was always I AM. He is I AM. He always will be I AM. Always was, always is the eternally existent Christ. There is never a time when He did not exist in all His fullness.

Now, having established that, what is intriguing to me is to consider what do we know about the life of Christ before He came to this earth? Well, let’s go to John 1:1. This is a passage we’ll look at numerous times during this series, but John says, “In the beginning was the Word.” Now, we know that the Word is referring to Christ—the expression of God; Christ the Living Word of God.

"In the beginning was the Word"—not the Word began, but the Word was already there; Christ was already there—"and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

So what do we know about Jesus’ life before He came to this earth? Well, first of all we know that He was with God. He had close, intimate, personal communion and fellowship with God. He was with God.

John 1 goes on to say in verse 18: “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” Who’s it talking about there? Jesus Christ, the only God. He is God, but He’s also at the Father’s side. He has made God known to us.

In some of your translations, it will say that Jesus is in the bosom of the Father. He’s at the Father’s side. The NIV says, “He is in closest relationship with the Father.” He’s at the Father’s side. He is with the Father. For all of eternity past, Jesus has been close to God. He has been with God. They have intimate fellowship. Now that’s going to be important as we realize why Jesus Christ came to this earth.

But not only was He with God, He was God. He has been eternally one with the Father while being distinct. He is a distinct Person—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—three distinct Persons and yet one. Now, we’re not going to go into all the Trinity here, and we would lose our minds if we tried to understand this, but we know that He is eternally one with the Father.

He always existed in the form of God as Philippians 2 reminds us: He is equal with God. He is God.

Hebrews 1 tells us "He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature" (v. 3).

Now, I will be the first to say we are delving into mystery here. There is no way we can fathom this. We’re just putting our toe into the depths of these waters, but He has always been with God, and He has always been God. He’s the imprint of God’s nature. He’s the radiance of the glory of God.

So He was with God. He was God before He came to this earth. Then what was He doing? Well, as we study the Scripture, we learn that He has always been active. He’s always been at work. Not only just when He came to this earth did He do great works, but He was always at work during eternity past. He was at work creating the world. He’s the uncreated Creator.

John 1:3 tells us, “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” He’s the Creator. You see this coming all the way through the New Testament record.

Colossians 1 says, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him” (v. 16). He was busy creating all things.

Hebrews 1 says that “[God] has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom he also created the world” (verse 3). Jesus was actively involved with the Father in creating the world, but not only in creating the world. He was actively involved in sustaining the world.

Colossians 1 tells us that “He is before all things"—the preexistence of Christ—"and in him all things hold together” (v. 17). He is the glue of this universe. If it weren’t for Christ holding this universe together, things would just spin out of control.

He’s not a God who just created the world, flung it out there into the universe, and then stands by passively to just let it go on. He is actively involved in holding our world together.

Hebrews 1:3 tells us that “He upholds the universe by the word of his power.” He’s actively involved in sustaining His creation.

Let me ask you to turn for a few minutes here to Proverbs 8. This is an Old Testament passage that I think gives us a really neat glimpse of what Jesus was doing before He came to this earth.

This chapter is a personification of wisdom. Wisdom is considered to be a person in this chapter. The whole chapter talks about Wisdom does this; Wisdom does that. But many commentators believe that this refers to Christ who is the Wisdom of God. So wherever you read the word wisdom in this chapter, you can think of Christ. As we read several of these verses, I think you’ll agree that this is a picture of Christ.

Beginning in verse 27, we’re jumping into the middle of the passage. It’s talking about the creation. Wisdom said,

When he established the heavens, I was there [Jesus speaking of being there at creation];

When [God] drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master workman (vv. 27–30).

Jesus says, “At creation, I was there. I was by the side of My Father, like a master or a skilled workman.” Some translations will say, “Like an architect.” The word actually in the Greek version of the Old Testament says, “I was arranging. I was by His side; I was arranging.” He was actively involved with His Father as a master skilled workman, arranging the pieces of the universe.

So when God created the world, Jesus was with the Father, beside Him, not as a passive spectator or bystander, but actively working with His Father. And it’s the same when God devised the plan of salvation in eternity past. Jesus was there with Him devising that plan with Him.

Then we see, as we move on in Proverbs 8, that through all of eternity, Jesus was joyful—the joyful God. It says,

I was beside him like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of men (vv. 30–31).

“I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always.” Jesus was never anything but joyful—daily, always joyful. That word "delight" mean "enjoyment or pleasure." The word "rejoicing" means "to play, to laugh, to make merry." Jesus says that for all of eternity past, "I was celebrating with my Father. We were celebrating as we created the world. We were rejoicing; we were delighting in each other. We were delighting in what we were doing. We were celebrating as we were devising the plan of salvation. We were having a great time." Delighting. Rejoicing.

It’s a picture, if I can say it without being in any sense trite or disrespectful, a picture of a happy God, of a joyful Savior. The Father and the Son took great delight in each other. The Father was delighted with the Son, was pleased with His work. “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). Remember that?

“I was daily his delight.” And the Son was rejoicing in the Father and rejoicing in His work. “Delighted to do his will.” This mutual enjoyment of each other—a joyful God.

And then we see in this passage a relational God. They enjoyed each other. They enjoyed being together. They had daily unhindered, unbroken fellowship and communion with each other. But Jesus . . . and this is what will blow your mind if you stop and think about it. Jesus not only delighted in His Father and enjoyed His Father’s company, but He was also in eternity past delighting in us—delighting in humanity.

“I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man” (v. 31). They were rejoicing and delighting in each other's company, but they were also delighting in us, rejoicing in us. You see, Jesus loved His Father, loved to be with His Father, so He also loved human beings who were made in the image of His Father and delighted in us.

Now this is a whole different picture than some people would have us think about God. We think of God as being stern, impossible to please, not taking delight in us at all but looking at how He can make our lives hard.

There are aspects of the character of God and the heart of Christ that are difficult, especially when we sin. When we’re proud, He humbles the proud. But if you step back and realize that God starts out being a God who delights in us, a joyful God, that Jesus Christ, for all of eternity past, for all of those thousands of years, He was mindful of us, He was delighting in us. He was rejoicing in God’s inhabited world.

And Jesus wants us to be with Him and with His Father, to live at the Father’s side with Him, to rejoice in Him, to delight in Him, to delight in serving and blessing others. He wants us to be able to enjoy the same kind of relationship with the Father that He has enjoyed for all of eternity. He wants us to share in the joy that They experience as Father and Son.

That’s what Jesus says in John 15: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” That's what God wants for you. That’s what Christ wants for you. He wants us to have that fullness of joy and relationship that He had with His Heavenly Father.

Now let me just mention one other thing: We know that before Jesus came to this earth, He was rich. He was glorious. He had glory with the Father. He lived in this amazing sin-free environment because Jesus prays in John 17, at the end of His earthly life, “Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (v. 5). 

So Jesus left all that, emptied Himself of all that glory that He had in heaven, to come down to this earth. He chose to leave it all behind. Why would He give all that up—that fellowship, that communion, that joy, that celebration, that rejoicing, that delighting? Why would He give all of that up and come down to this messed up prodigal planet?

Well, He did it in obedience to the will of His Father. “I delight to do Your will.” But He did it because of His great love for us.

The old hymn writer said it this way:

Out of the ivory palaces,
Into a world of woe,
Only His great eternal love
Made my Savior go.

"Out of the Ivory Palaces" by Henry Barraclough)

It was His love for you; it was His love for me, His delight in us that made Him want to come to this earth. He was sent to earth by the Father on a divine mission. The eternal Son, eternally preexistent, the One who always was, broke into time, came to this planet—and we’ll talk about that in our next session.

And why did He do it? He came to make it possible for us to experience the fellowship, the joy, the oneness with the Father that He had enjoyed with the Father for all of eternity. So we could be brought to God, so we could have that fellowship, so we could have that joy.

Thank you Lord Jesus. We worship You, the eternally preexistent God. Thank You for giving us just a glimpse of what You were doing for all eternity past. Thank You for breaking that time and eternity barrier and coming to this earth so that we could have with the Father what You have enjoyed with Him for all eternity. I pray in Jesus' name, the name of Christ, the incomparable One, amen.

Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss exploring a deep question: What was Jesus doing in eternity past?

Oswald Sanders wrote a chapter on that topic in the book The Incomparable Christ. And Nancy, I’m glad so many of our listeners are reading that book along with us as you teach related material through Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.

Nancy: Yes, Leslie, and it’s not too late to join them. We’ll send you a copy of the book, The Incomparable Christ, when you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts. When I first read the book a number of years ago, it helped me think about Jesus in some new and sweet ways. For instance, the question we asked today, “What was Jesus doing in eternity past?” is so intriguing and the answer is so rich. Questions like these really broaden your appreciation for your Savior.

Our team has created a journal to go along with this book. It includes follow-up questions to help you apply this teaching in practical ways.

When you support Revive Our Hearts, you’ll get the book and journal, and you can know that you are playing an important role in calling women to freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ. One listener wrote to tell us how teaching like this was affecting her. She said:

The way Revive Our Hearts paints the picture of Jesus Christ based on the Scriptures is just wonderful. I am beginning to understand more what I've learned at the Sunday school all these years. And at the same time Jesus means so much more to me personally than ever before.”

When you support Revive Our Hearts, you’re involved in stories like that one! Thank for you praying for this ministry and for giving to help make it possible.

Ask for The Incomparable Christ by Oswald Sanders when you call to make your donation of any amount. Here’s the number:  1–800–569–5959, or you can visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Leslie: On Monday Nancy returns to the series, The Incomparable Christ by focusing on the incarnation. What does it mean that God became flesh? Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

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