Chapter 8 in About God
As was shown in the last chapter, Jesus is God, one with his Father (1). Thus, it should be no surprise that Jesus is self-existent exactly like his Father, as the Apostle John said:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made... And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.
John 1:1-3, 14-18 (KJV)
The eternity, in both the past and the future, of the Messiah who would be born as a man was declared by the Hebrew prophets. For instance, Micah stated that Messiah's "goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting." Micah 5:2. Likewise, looking to eternity future, Isaiah called Jesus the "everlasting Father" and declared that "of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end" because he will reign on the throne of David "with justice from henceforth even for ever." Isaiah 9:6-7.
David also foresaw a king who would sit on his throne who would be "most blessed for ever" and would possess "length of days for ever and ever," Psalm 21:4-6 (2). It was further revealed to a later psalmist that God had sworn and everlasting covenant with David that his seed would call God his Father, and would endure forever on David's throne. Psalm 89: 3-4, 20, 26-29, 35-36.
Before Jesus' conception, his eternity was announced to his mother when the angel told her that God would give him the throne of David "and He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end." Luke 1:33. Thus, although Jesus' pre-existence was not directly in view when the angel spoke to Mary, his future eternity and never-ending kingdom were familiar parts of Messianic prophecy which the angel confirmed to her and to which her faith reached out: "Be it unto me according to thy word." Luke 1:37.
Jesus also declared that he exists above time and has always existed just like his Father. In John 8:58, Jesus declared, "before Abraham was, I am." Likewise, in his prayer for his disciples and those who would later believe in him through their message, Jesus asks his Father to glorify him "with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was" and reminds the Father that "Thou loved me before the foundation of the world." John 17: 5, 24. When Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection and commissioned them to preach the gospel to the world, he encouraged them by reminding them that "I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." Matthew 28:20. As stated, this is not so much a promise that he would, in the future, be with them wherever they would go as a statement of the fact that he was already with them every place they would ever go. It is a statement of his eternity extending into the future, as we see time. Finally, when he appeared to the Apostle John to reveal the things that would occur in the future, Jesus drew his declarations of his eternity all together when he said "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last." Revelation 1: 8, 11 & 22:13.
The letters of the Apostles confirm Jesus' self-existent eternity. For instance, Peter states that Jesus, the lamb offered for us, "was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for" his own. I Peter 1:20. Similarly, John calls Jesus "that which was from the beginning ... that Eternal Life, which was with the Father..." I John 1:1-2. John later refers to Jesus as "him that is from the beginning." I John 2:13, 14. In his gospel, John further declares that Jesus, the Word, existed in the beginning, "was with God, and was God," made everything and was the source of life. John 1:1-4. Paul declares that Jesus is "the first-born of every creature" and the one by whom all things in heaven and on earth were created. Colossians 1:15-16. Like Peter, Paul also teaches that Jesus- purpose from before the creation involves His people, declaring that God "hath saved us and called us with a holy calling, not in accordance with our works, but in accordance with his own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before the world began." 2 Timothy 1:9. Similarly, the writer to the Hebrews states that God made the world by his Son, Hebrews 1:2, and later explains that Jesus, a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek, has "neither beginning of days nor end of life." Hebrews 7:3. Rather, looking to the future, this writer says,
And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest, Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec... And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest: (For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:) By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament. And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
Hebrews 7: 15-17, 20-25 (KJV)
Although Jesus is God, he voluntarily became human. Philippians 2:6-7. The full meaning of this is beyond human comprehension, and various of its implications will be explained at other places in this work. However, for present purposes, it can be said that, when Jesus became human, he took on himself for a short time all of our human limitations, including those which involve time and its passage. Thus, although Jesus is pre-existent with his Father, it is recorded that he was begotten at a time in human history and, therefore, has a beginning.(3) John the Baptizer spoke of the resulting apparent contradiction when he said "after me cometh a man who is preferred before me because he was before me." John 1: 15, 30.
As a man, Jesus was also limited to flowing through time with us. Thus, on more than one occasion, Jesus said his time to perform some act had not yet come.(4) Like us, Jesus was also limited to being in only one place at a time; he was not omnipresent like his Father, as is poignantly illustrated by his words to his disciples when he learned of the death of Lazarus: "I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent that ye may believe. Nevertheless let us go unto him." John 11:15. Likewise, throughout his earthly ministry until the night he was betrayed, Jesus spoke of his death, resurrection and return to his Father as future events, not as things already accomplished.(5) It was only when the time had come that Jesus spoke of his death as a present-tense event. Luke 22:14-22; John 17:1-5. Jesus then died -- although he is eternal, his physical life on earth had an end. Mark 15: 36-45; John 19:29-37.
Jesus, now resurrected, is no longer subject to mortal human limitations. He has resumed his eternity, which must necessarily include even the time of his earthly ministry, else all Creation would have disintegrated when he died. Revelation 1:18; Colossians 1:17-18. Instead, he has now reconciled all things unto himself by the Cross. Colossians 1:20. However, there is one sense in which our resurrected Lord has retained a human limitation: he now exercises his presence and power on Earth through mortal humans, through the Church, his Body. Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 1:22-23. Thus, in giving the Great Commission, Jesus did not promise the disciples that he would be everywhere; rather, he promised that he would be with them always. Matthew 28:20. Likewise, Jesus is found in the midst of two or three gathered in his name. Matthew 18:20. Indeed, the very metaphor of the Church as the body of Christ and individual believers as physical members of that body plainly implies that Jesus now does his work through us and is only able to fully accomplish that work when we work together as a body. I Corinthians 12:12-29. So Jesus, though he has now resumed his eternity, has not resumed his omnipresence in the same sense as previously, having chosen to manifest his presence in part through his people.
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© 1998, 2005 Ian Johnson
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