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Who Was Jesus Christ Before His Human Birth?

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Who Was Jesus Christ Before His Human Birth?

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A primary reason is that Scripture repeatedly tells us that no one has seen God the Father at any time. For example, the apostle John makes this quite clear in John 1:18 John 1:18No man has seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him.
American King James Version×
: “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him” (verse 18).

John had just explained in this chapter that he was a personal eyewitness of “the Word” who became flesh as Jesus Christ, so this cannot refer to Him. The “God” whom no one has ever seen at any time thus has to be referring to the Father.

Notice also that John says that Jesus Christ “declared” the Father. Other versions translate this as “made him known” (New International Version, English Standard Version, New Revised Standard Version) or “reveal[ed] Him” (Green’s Literal Translation).

Now, if God the Father was known to the Israelites as God during the Old Testament period, why would Jesus need to make Him known? That doesn’t make sense. There’s no need to reveal the Father if the Father was already known when Jesus came.

John repeats this exact same statement in one of his epistles: “No one has seen God at any time” (1 John 4:12 1 John 4:12No man has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwells in us, and his love is perfected in us.
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).

We also see two such explicit statements from Jesus Christ Himself . Notice John 5:37 John 5:37And the Father himself, which has sent me, has borne witness of me. You have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape.
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: “And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form ” (emphasis added throughout).

And just to be clear, Jesus again says that no one has ever seen the Father in John 6:46 John 6:46Not that any man has seen the Father, save he which is of God, he has seen the Father.
American King James Version×
: “ No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father ” (New International Version). Here Jesus plainly says that no one has seen the Father except the One who is from God—referring to Himself. He alone has seen the Father. No human being has ever seen the Father.

The Biblical Record of People Who Saw God

But in the books of the Old Testament period we see that a number of people did see God. They include:

  • Abraham (Genesis 12:7 Genesis 12:7And the LORD appeared to Abram, and said, To your seed will I give this land: and there built he an altar to the LORD, who appeared to him.
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    : 15:1; 18:1).
  • Isaac (Genesis 26:2 Genesis 26:2And the LORD appeared to him, and said, Go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell you of:
    American King James Version×
    , 24).
  • Jacob (Genesis 28:13 Genesis 28:13And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham your father, and the God of Isaac: the land where on you lie, to you will I give it, and to your seed;
    American King James Version×
    ; 32:30; 35:9-10).
  • Moses (Exodus 3:6 Exodus 3:6Moreover he said, I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look on God.
    American King James Version×
    ; 33:11, 21-23).
  • Moses, Aaron and the 70 elders of Israel (Exodus 24:9-11 Exodus 24:9-11 9 Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: 10 And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness. 11 And on the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink.
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    ).
  • Joshua (Joshua 6:2 Joshua 6:2And the LORD said to Joshua, See, I have given into your hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valor.
    American King James Version×
    ).
  • Gideon (Judges 6:14 Judges 6:14And the LORD looked on him, and said, Go in this your might, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent you?
    American King James Version×
    ).

Nearly all of these are described as face-to-face encounters. Two are specifically described as visions, including one of these encounters with Abraham and one with Jacob. But in addition to those visions, Abraham and Jacob had face-to-face encounters with God also—during which Abraham ate a meal with God and Jacob wrestled with God.

In these various encounters, the “God” who appeared and spoke with these individuals is identified as “God” ( Elohim ), “the LORD” ( YHWH or Yahweh ), “the God of Israel,” “the God of your fathers,” “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” “God Almighty” ( El Shaddai ), “the word of the LORD,” “the Angel of the LORD,” “I AM WHO I AM” and “I AM.”

How Do We Reconcile “No One Has Seen God at Any Time” With the Many Individuals Who Saw God?

Earlier we saw multiple statements from the apostle John and from Jesus Christ Himself that no one has seen the Father at any time. So who did these individuals see when they saw God? The only way we can make sense of this is to understand that no man had seen God the Father at any time.

What they saw as recorded in these many passages, and at other times when God appeared to individuals, was the Word who was God (John 1:1 John 1:1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
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), the One who was born in the flesh as Jesus of Nazareth. With this understanding, which has been the belief of the Church of God for decades, there is no contradiction. We know that “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35 John 10:35If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;
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).

What Scripture reveals is that Jesus was the One who interacted with the patriarchs and prophets and the people of Israel as the LORD or God on behalf of the Father. They never saw the Father, but only the Word or Spokesman of God, who came to reveal the Father.

Various scriptural passages show that the God who communicated with them was the Messenger of another who was also God. Still, the One who became the Father was not generally known to the Israelites.

“What Scripture reveals is that Jesus was the One who interacted with the patriarchs and prophets and the people of Israel as the LORD or God on behalf of the Father.”

Again, the One who appeared and spoke to people as God was the One who became Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself clearly said this, and the people who heard Him knew that was exactly what He meant. Notice this in John 8:57-58 John 8:57-58 57 Then said the Jews to him, You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham? 58 Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, Before Abraham was, I am.
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, where Jesus was in a heated debate with some of the Jews who opposed Him, and He said that Abraham rejoiced to see His day.

“Then the Jews said to Him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM .’”

Here Jesus specifically told them of His divine identity—that He existed before Abraham, and then that He was the God who had interacted with people during the Old Testament period. Who did He specifically claim to be?

We find the answer in Exodus 3:13-14 Exodus 3:13-14 13 And Moses said to God, Behold, when I come to the children of Israel, and shall say to them, The God of your fathers has sent me to you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say to them? 14 And God said to Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shall you say to the children of Israel, I AM has sent me to you.
American King James Version×
, where God appeared to Moses at the burning bush and told Moses that He would deliver the Israelites out of their Egyptian slavery.

“Then Moses said to God, ‘Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they say to me, “What is His name?” what shall I say to them?’ And God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you.”’”

And 15 centuries later, who did Jesus say He was? Going back to what we just read in John 8:58 John 8:58Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, Before Abraham was, I am.
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, “Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.’”

And notice what happened immediately after Jesus said these words: “ Then they took up stones to throw at Him ; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by” (John 8:59 John 8:59Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the middle of them, and so passed by.
American King James Version×
).

The Jews who heard Jesus say these words knew exactly what Jesus meant—that He was claiming to be the “I AM” who had interacted with Moses. And how did they react? They immediately took up stones to stone Him to death for claiming to be God.

New Testament Writers Applied Prophecies of “the Lord” to Jesus Christ

Let’s notice a prophecy in Isaiah 8:13-14 Isaiah 8:13-14 13 Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. 14 And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
American King James Version×
, which reads: “The LORD of hosts, Him you shall hallow; let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread. He will be as a sanctuary, but a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel . . .”

This prophecy foretold that “the Lord of hosts” would be a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense. So whom did the title or name “the LORD of hosts” refer to? We find the answer in 1 Peter 2:7-8 1 Peter 2:7-8 7 To you therefore which believe he is precious: but to them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, 8 And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.
American King James Version×
: “To you who believe, He [Jesus Christ] is precious; but to those who are disobedient, [He is] . . . ‘ a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense .’”

Peter here tells us that “the Lord of hosts” in whom this prophecy was fulfilled is Jesus Christ . The apostle Paul applies several Old Testament passages about the Lord, Yahweh , to Jesus Christ. For example, Joel 2:32 Joel 2:32And it shall come to pass, that whoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD has said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call.
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says, “And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved .” In Romans 10:9-13 Romans 10:9-13 9 That if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved. 10 For with the heart man believes to righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made to salvation. 11 For the scripture said, Whoever believes on him shall not be ashamed. 12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich to all that call on him. 13 For whoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
American King James Version×
Paul applies this to Jesus Christ: “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved . . . For ‘ whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved .’”

“[In] 1 Corinthians 10:1-4 1 Corinthians 10:1-4 1 Moreover, brothers, I would not that you should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2 And were all baptized to Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat; 4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.
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Paul clearly tells us that the God who directly accompanied Israel during the Exodus was the Being who became Jesus Christ.”

And in a prophecy that is so obvious that we tend to read right over it, Isaiah 40:3 Isaiah 40:3The voice of him that cries in the wilderness, Prepare you the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
American King James Version×
foretold the coming of “the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.’” This is a prophecy of John the Baptist. But for whom was he to prepare the way? It tells us here plainly. John was to prepare the way for “the LORD,” for Yahweh . How was this prophecy fulfilled? Read Matthew 3:3 Matthew 3:3For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare you the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
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:

“For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the LORD . . .”’” (see also Mark 1:2-3 Mark 1:2-3 2 As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before your face, which shall prepare your way before you. 3 The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare you the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
American King James Version×
and Luke 3:3-4 Luke 3:3-4 3 And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare you the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
American King James Version×
).

John was to prepare the way for the coming of whom? The coming of Yahweh . And who was the Yahweh John prepared the way for? Jesus Christ .

Jesus Christ—“the Rock” of the Old Testament

We’ll conclude with one more example that identifies Jesus Christ as “the Rock” who accompanied Israel at the time of the Exodus from Egypt. Notice 1 Corinthians 10:1-4 1 Corinthians 10:1-4 1 Moreover, brothers, I would not that you should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2 And were all baptized to Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat; 4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.
American King James Version×
: “Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ .”

Here Paul clearly tells us that the God who directly accompanied Israel during the Exodus was the Being who became Jesus Christ. But why did Paul use the unusual term “Rock” to apply to Jesus Christ? Clearly he was pointing to the miracle of water coming from the rock (Numbers 20:11 Numbers 20:11And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also.
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), but notice Moses’ repeated references to God as “the Rock” in Deuteronomy 32:

He is the Rock , His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He” (Deuteronomy 32:4 Deuteronomy 32:4He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.
American King James Version×
).

“He [Jeshurun, another name for Israel] . . . abandoned the God who made him and rejected the Rock his Savior ” (Deuteronomy 32:15 Deuteronomy 32:15But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked: you are waxen fat, you are grown thick, you are covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation.
American King James Version×
).

“You deserted the Rock , who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth” (Deuteronomy 32:18 Deuteronomy 32:18Of the Rock that begat you you are unmindful, and have forgotten God that formed you.
American King James Version×
).

“How could one man chase a thousand, or two put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock had sold them, unless the LORD had given them up? For their rock is not like our Rock , as even our enemies concede” (Deuteronomy 32:30-31 Deuteronomy 32:30-31 30 How should one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, except their Rock had sold them, and the LORD had shut them up? 31 For their rock is not as our Rock, even our enemies themselves being judges.
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).

Paul, an expert in the Old Testament Scriptures, seems to have had at least some of these other references to Israel’s “Rock” in mind when he identified Israel’s “Rock” as Jesus Christ.

These are not all the scriptures pertinent to this subject, but they are enough to abundantly demonstrate why the United Church of God believes and teaches that the One who interacted with human beings in the Old Testament period as God on behalf of the Father was the One we know today as Jesus Christ.

This is why we state in our booklet Fundamental Beliefs of the United Church of God : “The Old Testament focuses on the God of Israel, who identifies Himself as ‘I AM’ and ‘the LORD God . . . of Abraham,  . . . of Isaac, and . . . of Jacob’ (Exodus 3:14-15 Exodus 3:14-15 14 And God said to Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shall you say to the children of Israel, I AM has sent me to you. 15 And God said moreover to Moses, Thus shall you say to the children of Israel, the LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial to all generations.
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) . . . In John 8:58 John 8:58Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, Before Abraham was, I am.
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, Christ refers to Himself as ‘I Am.’ Thus, the One the Israelites knew as God, who delivered them from Egypt and accompanied them in the wilderness, was later known in the New Testament as Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4 1 Corinthians 10:4And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.
American King James Version×
). The existence of the One whom Christ referred to as ‘the Father’ was not well understood by many before Christ’s coming—though He is sometimes specifically referred to in the Old Testament” (2009, p. 5). 

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