Jesus’ existence didn’t begin with His birth or conception, but pre-existed Creation, as made by Him and for Him. Jesus was both with God and God Himself. That such a divine Person exists is taught throughout Scripture, starting in Genesis. The plurality within the Godhead makes it possible for God to be intrinsically a ‘God of Love’.
In Jesus, God took on human nature, so He could die for our sins as a fellow human, taking the penalty we deserve for our sins. In fact, this was planned from Eternity, as the names of the Redeemed were already written in His Book of Life from the foundation of the World.
When Jesus took on humanity, this was an addition to His divine nature, not a subtraction of His divinity. Thus everything He taught, He taught with authority—including about Creation and the Flood.
Illustration by Caleb Salisbury
CMI sends all our fans best Christmas wishes. But why should a creationist organization even care?
It comes down to the most important thing: the identity of our Creator. In our Statement of Faith, we state:
As we showed in our previous article Christmas and Genesis (which we recommend reading before this one):
The reasons these doctrines are even more important than creation is that the Bible provides at least two key concepts that were in operation even “before”1 the Creation of the world, let alone Jesus’ birth. The biblical teachings are impossible to understand without these.
In Genesis 1:1, we read, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” But this wasn’t the first thing. John 1:1 follows Genesis in starting with “In the beginning”: the Greek copies the Septuagint2 translation of Genesis: Ἐν ἀρχῇ (en archē), but then it diverges from Genesis. The creation of the universe isn’t mentioned until v. 3.
In between, we are told that a Person described as the Word (Greek λόγος logos; Hebrew memra—see discussion3) was both with God as well as God himself. V. 3 tells us that this Person, the Word, was the One by whom all things were created.
This Word is also called God the Son—in Hebrews 1:8, God Himself addresses “the Son” as “God”. To back up “the Word was God” in John 1:1, the Son likewise has all the attributes of Deity (Colossians 1:15–20, Philippians 2, Hebrews 1:3).
The plurality in the Godhead is vital for understanding the biblical teaching, “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). A Unitarian God, such as Islam’s Allah, could not be a God of Love in his nature, since by definition love requires another person to be the recipient. Allah might conceivably be able to love after he created, but that would make love contingent on creation, not an intrinsic property of Allah.
But with the true God of the Bible, the love between God the Father and God the Son has always existed, even before creation. Furthermore, the Bible reveals a third person who is God, the Holy Spirit. This enables an even more perfect love that includes not only individual love, but collective love. This is the sort that should occur in a family, where the husband and wife love not only each other, but combine their love towards their child.
As we have often taught, Genesis is the seedbed of Christian doctrine. This includes the teaching of the Trinity: one God in three Persons. While the overt doctrine of the Trinity is not taught, the plurality of the Godhead is, and the New Testament provided a fuller revelation. Meanwhile, even before then, as N.T. Wright points out:
Even in the first verse of the Hebrew Bible, we see the beginnings of this doctrine: the word for God is the plural form אֱלֹהִים Elohîm, yet the verb “created” is the singular form בָּרָא bārā’, not the plural form baru.
Later on, Genesis reveals a curious incident, where God appears to the man He chose to be the Father of the Messianic People, Abraham, in Genesis 18–19. Genesis 18:1 explicitly tells us that YHWH/Yahweh/Jehovah (the LORD) appeared to Abraham, but what Abraham actually saw at first was three men (18:2). Yet these were evidently of such awe-inspiring appearance that Abraham bowed to them. Similarly, Mark’s Gospel describes an angel at Jesus’ tomb as a “man”, and again with an awesome appearance that at first alarmed the women who were the first at the tomb.
Later, we see that one of these “men” is the spokesman for the three, and described as the LORD in 18:13. The other two are just angels, and they are dispatched to Sodom (18:22–). The LORD remains with Abraham, and Abraham pleads for the city since his nephew Lot and his family were there. Yet although even 10 righteous people would have been enough to spare the city, such were not to be found. Thus Lot needed to be rescued. (Incidentally, this is one of many arguments against the local flood compromise—why didn’t God tell Noah to move to another part of the world that wasn’t flooded, given that Lot just had to leave the cities to be destroyed?)
In Genesis 19:1, we see only two angels arriving at Sodom. They rescued Lot, his wife and two daughters from the first recorded Gay Pride march in history (19:5). But where was the One who was one of the three ‘men’ who appeared to Abraham? We see in Genesis 19:24 that “the LORD rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the LORD out of the heavens.” That is, there was a Jehovah on Earth raining down fire from Jehovah in heaven, pointing to two distinct Persons with the divine name. And the paraphrase of this passage in Targum Jonathan states:
The last book of the Bible, Revelation, reveals a Book of Life, which contains the names of all saved people, and it is stated to have been written from the foundation of the world. Revelation 17:8 states:
Revelation 13:8 uses the same phrase, and identifies the Owner of this book of life, the slain Lamb, who is also the Word:
This lines up with the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 1:4 who uses similar wording, and states that the choosing even happened before the creation of the universe:
But this writing presents a dilemma: how could we sinful people merit inclusion in a book belonging to the spotless Lamb of God?
God created us and therefore owns us, and has the right to make the rules for us. He has set a perfect moral standard of which we fall short (Romans 3:23). He is perfectly just, so must punish moral shortcomings. Since our shortcomings offend His infinite holiness, the punishment must also be infinite.
Either we must suffer such punishment, or else a Substitute must endure it in our place (Isaiah 53). This Substitute must fulfil two conditions:
1. He must be fully human to substitute for humanity. Hebrews 2:14–17 tell us that Jesus died for mankind, precisely because He “shares their humanity”; but he didn’t share angelic nature, so sinning angels are out of luck. Furthermore, the prophet Isaiah foretold this coming Saviour as literally the ‘Kinsman-Redeemer’, i.e. one who is related by blood to those he redeems (Isaiah 59:20, which uses the same Hebrew word גּוֹאֵל (gôēl) as is used to describe Boaz in relation to Naomi in Ruth 2:20, 3:1–4:17). This is possible only because this Saviour is a physical descendant of the first man Adam via Mary (Luke 3:38)—and is called ‘the Last Adam’ (1 Corinthians 15:45)—which makes him the relative of all humans in all ‘races’ or people groups who have ever existed. Thus theistic evolution doesn’t just undermine Genesis and a literal Adam, but jeopardizes this vital Kinsman-Redeemer concept as well.
2. He must be fully Divine to endure God’s infinite wrath (Isaiah 53:10), since a mere creature could not withstand it. Furthermore, יהוה/YHWH/Jehovah/God Himself said “I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no saviour.” (Isaiah 43:11). So calling Jesus ‘Saviour’ is logically calling Him YHWH since YHWH is the only saviour. No wonder that the great Trinitarian Church Father Athanasius (c. 293–373) noted: “Those who maintain ‘There was a time when the Son was not’ [i.e. was a created being] rob God of his Word, like plunderers.”
This required dual nature of the Redeemer fits perfectly with 1 Timothy 2:5:
An ideal mediator between two groups should ideally be a member of both. Thus Jesus is such a mediator, because He is the only member of both groups: ‘God’ and ‘man’.
And since the Bible teaches that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), this Substitute had to die to pay for our sins. (We see here how long-age teachings damage even the Gospel and Incarnation, because they all undermine this sin-death causality—see The Fall: a cosmic catastrophe: Hugh Ross’s blunders on plant death in the Bible). And as shown below, for a Divine Person to be able to die, He had to add human nature.
We see when this happened in John 1:14:
Yet this was fulfilling a long line of prophecy. Right after sin first appeared in the human race, God foretold of a coming Seed of the Woman who would crush the head of the tempting serpent (Genesis 3:15). This passage is called the Protevangelion or first mention of the Gospel in the Bible. It also prophesies the virginal conception of Christ—that is why He is the seed of the woman, in contrast to the usual biblical pattern of listing only fathers in genealogies. This is supported by Galatians 4:4, “God sent forth His Son, coming (γενόμενον genomenon) from a woman.”
That this passage was foretelling a divine seed was understood by Eve herself, as shown after she gave birth to Cain, the first human who began by normal conception and birth. She actually said something obscured by modern English translations but is clear in the Hebrew of Genesis 4:1:
Thus she understood that the seed would be both God and man, but she was grossly mistaken in believing that Cain was the seed in question. That is, her error was not in theology but in application—see discussion under Eve and the God-Man, as well as in the box below about Martin Luther’s view.
No, this future human-divine Seed was still in the future. Yet her understanding was backed up about 3,300 years later by the prophet Isaiah (c. 700 BC). In Isaiah 9:6 (9:5 in Hebrew numbering), we read:
Yet this prophecy made it clear that the One who was to be born in Bethlehem did not in fact begin there, but has been in action since Eternity Past.
Jesus Himself was most aware of His pre-existence in John 8:58:
His enemies knew perfectly well that He was claiming divinity, which is why they planned to stone Him. The Greek ἐγὼ εἰμί (egō eimi I am) is important, because the Greek verbs already had information on the person—εἰμί means “I am” on its own. There are a number of these I AM statements, which also relate to God’s statements in Isaiah, ani hu. This one would have brought to mind to God’s revelation of his special name to Moses in Exodus 3:14:
because the Greek LXX has ἐγὼ εἰμί ὁ ὢν (egō eimi ho ōn, I am the being/the one). His Jewish enemies certainly understood Him this way, because they tried to stone Him (John 8:59).
Furthermore, Jesus contrasts Abraham’s γενέσθαι (genesthai) denoting that he came into existence at some point in the past, with His own “am”, which is in the present tense because He just exists. It is very clear that He is claiming not only to have pre-existed Abraham, who died long before He was born, but even more: that He didn’t even come into existence.
The passage Philippians 2:5–11, called “Carmen Christi” or “hymn of Christ”, is one of the most important for the Incarnation:
5In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped;
7rather, he emptied Himself
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
As we see from the above, Jesus already pre-existed the time when He was born. He was also God in His essential nature8. Furthermore, He had no need to grasp equality with God, because He already had it.9
It’s vital to understand that Jesus never ceased to be divine, contrary to the kenotic heresy. Yes, this passage does refer to “emptying” (kenosis10), but what does it actually say? “He emptied Himself by taking … ”. That is, He didn’t empty anything out of Himself, such as divine attributes; rather, He emptied himself. And He did so by taking. That is, it was a subtraction by means of adding—adding human nature to His divine nature, not taking away anything divine.
This addition was indeed an emptying, since as a human being, Jesus was subject to all the things that humans are subject to, such hunger, tiredness, and temptation. The only difference is that not only was He without sin, He was incapable of sin.
And like all humans, He was subject also to death. Indeed, this was the whole reason He came. This is even shown in the symbolism of certain events around the time. When He was born, he was wrapped in cloth, which in the context of the time and place, was burial cloth, as burial cloth was left in mangers. And almost two years later, when the Wise Men came, one of their gifts was myrrh, an important herb used in burial rites.
However, because Jesus never lost His divinity, no one could have killed Him if He hadn’t laid down His own life. This is why He bowed His head first, then gave up His spirit on the cross; the usual order would be to die and muscles go limp and the head collapse. But in His divinity, He could not die.
What actually happened in the kenosis is that Jesus voluntarily surrendered the independent exercise of divine powers without His Father’s authority. For example, this explains why Jesus, in His humanity, did not know the day or hour of His return, because it was the Father’s prerogative. However, He could immediately switch on these powers at will, e.g. to know what people were thinking.
But Jesus never surrendered such absolute divine attributes as His perfect goodness, truthfulness, mercy, etc. which is why He was not only without sin, but incapable of sin.
(Progressive creationist Hugh Ross has erred on these points, and fallen into a false kenotic view of the Incarnation, and his fellow old-earth apologist William Lane Craig has severely criticised him for it, pointing out problems for the Atonement.)
Several things can be stated about these errors:
A) If the claim is basically, “Jesus was mistaken, because in the Incarnation His omniscience was masked”, then this commits the Kenotic Heresy. But:
B) Another excuse that doesn’t blatantly fall into the kenotic heresy is, “Jesus deliberately accommodated Himself to the mistaken views of His audience.” But:
Martin Luther’s commentary on Genesis12 has good insights into this passage:
Seed of the woman [Latin version has feminine pronoun, hence Mariolatry]. The promise and the threat (in this text) are both clear and obscure. It left the serpent in the dark about which woman should give birth to the Seed of the Woman, so that he had to think of every woman as (possibly) becoming the mother of the blessed Seed (Christ). On the other hand, it gave our first parents great faith that from that very hour they expected the Saviour. When Eve brought first her first son, she surely believed that she had given birth to Him. (Luther rightly translates Genesis 4:1: thus: “I have the man, the Lord.” This properly is the meaning of the Hebrew original.) Isaiah added clarity to the promise by saying, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive.” This prophecy made it clear that the Saviour was not to be the offspring of the union of a man and wife. In the NT this (fact) was revealed still more clearly by the angel (Luke 1:26–28). Since, then, there was promised man, through the Seed of the Woman, deliverance from the Law, sin and death, and there was given to him a clear and sure hope of the resurrection and renewal in the future life, it is clear that he could not by his own power remove sin and its punishment. Nor could he (by his own power) escape death and make amends for his disobedience. Therefore the Son of God had to sacrifice himself and secure all this for mankind He had to remove sin, overcome death, and restore what Adam had lost by his disobedience. … pp. 80–81.
The words of Eve, “I have the Man, the Lord” [In his commentary, Luther translates, “I have gotten a Man of the Lord,” that is the Redeemer. In his Bible Luther translates more correctly, “I have the Man, the Lord.”—Mueller] supply another reason why she did not call Cain a son. In her great joy and reverence she did not want to call her offspring a son, for she believed that he was to be much more, the Man who was to bruise the serpent’s head. Therefore she called him “the Man, the Lord.” She thought that he (Cain) was the one whom the Lord had meant when He said, “Thy Seed shall bruise the serpent’s head.” Though Eve was mistaken in her hope, her words show that she was a pious woman who believed the promise of the coming salvation by the blessed Saviour. Therefore she did not call him a son, but the Man, the Lord, whom God promised and gave (to her). Her faith in the promised seed was laudable. By faith in this promised Saviour all saints (in the OT) were justified and saved. But her faith that Cain was the one who would end the misery of sin was misplaced, for this she believed without a definite sign and Word (from God) by her own conviction. Just because she was so sure of the promise that she regarded her first son as the one who would carry out what the Lord had promised. Her mistake was that she did not know that from (sinful) flesh nothing could be born but (sinful) flesh, and that sin and death could not be overcome by flesh (corrupt nature). (p. 91).
Clear and relevant scholarship. Very greatly appreciated.
Thank you and may the Lord bless you even more!
Many Thanks Greatly appreciate the clarity and explanation of the theological implications of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ (True God True man).
May you and all at CMI have a blessed and joyous Christmas.
A beautiful and faith-building look at our Lord and Saviour.
God bless you.
Thanks for your lengthy and concise analysis. The Kinsman-Redeemer aspect certainly hits home with the attempt by theistic evolutionists to wed a God-directed evolutionary scenario as God’s method of creation. If there was no first historical Adam who sinned in disobedience, then why did Christ have to pay the price of physical death for a myth?
A fabulous article again from Jonathan Sarfati. A very comprehensive look at our Lord Jesus that forces the reader to completely focus on Him. What a faith-building article. A great encouragment to me. May God bless your work.
Great article! I learned quite a bit of new info.
Thanks Dr Sarfati for applying your genius not only to creation, but also to the judeo-christian theology. A very eye-opening read. I read that God calls Himself the only savior in Isaiah, and calls Jesus (the Son) God in Hebrews. I never saw that before. I always heard this typical Christian wording from either Jesus or man, and only in the New Testament. To hear it from God in the Bible, and even in the Old Testament is breathtaking and groundbreaking for me.Much love and encouragement.