Did Christ Pre-exist the Incarnation?

Let me start by saying that this is the single most difficult topic to understand concerning the Godhead. If you have a grasp on everything else but are still tackling this, you are ahead of the game.

There are some major problems with the Trinitarian view of Christ’s pre-existence. Let us take a look at that first.

The Trinitarian View

Trinitarians say that God the Son (the second person) existed in eternity and became the Son of God. It was the second person of the Godhead that is incarnate in the person of Christ Jesus. This is the trinitarian position.

Basically Jesus (God the Son) always was and when it was time for Him to come into the world, He did so as the Son of God. Remember, this is not the Spirit of the Father doing this, but the Spirit of God the Son. This is unscriptural on many levels. Let’s take a look.

Ephesians 4:4-6

There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

This verse of scripture sums up the whole question of the Godhead quite well. It is impossible for Christ to have pre-existed the incarnation as the second person or God the Son.

How could the second Spirit person of the Godhead exist eternally when there is only one Spirit to begin with? There is but one God, and that God is the Father.

Genesis 1:1

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

Isaiah 44:24

Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself;

Isaiah 45:18

For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.

In the beginning there was just God. He was alone and by Himself. There is no God beside Him. He performed the act of creation alone.

This is a very easy understanding until we come to a statement that John makes to start his account of the gospel.

John 1:1

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

We know that Jesus is the Word of God. The “Word” was in the beginning with God. How can this be? How can the “Word” be with God and yet God be alone? Further, how can Jesus be the Word that is with God and yet be God at the same time? This is a little confounding until we seek a better and clearer understanding of the whole picture.

Ephesians 3:9

And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:

What does it mean that God created all things “by” Jesus Christ? What trinitarians will say is that God created all things using Jesus’ body as the vehicle of His physicality. Basically, that He used Christ as the vessel through which He created everything.

This wreaks havoc on the entire trinitarian doctrine of the incarnation. According to the Trinity, it is not God the Father, but God the Son, who manifested to the world in Christ. If the Father created the world from within the body of Jesus Christ, did He then get out of that body when it was time for God the Son to get in at the birth of Jesus? This is utter confusion.

If Jesus’ physical body was not the vehicle through whom the Father performed creation, then what does Paul mean when he says that God created the world “by” Jesus Christ?

Ephesians 3:9

And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:

The Greek word used here for the English word ‘by’ is diot, pronounced ‘dee-ah”.

This word has a number of applications. It is defined as: causal, after, always, at, to avoid, because of (that), briefly, by, for (cause), by occasion of, of, by reason of, for the sake of, that, thereby, therefore.

As you can see there are many applications of this word. The word is applied as ‘because of, by reason of and for the sake of. This shows that Jesus’ body was not the physical vehicle used to create the world, but the reason why the world was created. The Father didn’t create the world using the physical body of Jesus. He created it with Jesus as the central focus of its purpose.

We know this is so because of verse 11…

Ephesians 3:11

According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:

Eternal Purpose

This verse tells us clearly that God did this act of creation for the eternal purpose that is in Christ Jesus. It was all part of God’s plan of the ages. He never does anything “off the cuff”. His plan is eternal. He never had a time where He had to figure it out, He just always knew. There was always a purpose and that purpose was fulfilled in Christ.

Truth of the Pre-Existence

John 1:1

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

Isaiah 45:15

Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour.

Isaiah 45:18

For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.

This is clearly telling us that Jehovah is going to be the Saviour of mankind. This is a problem because we know that Jesus is the one who died for the sins of the world, effectively becoming the saviour.

When the words of these verses were spoken, had Jesus/Jehovah saved the world yet? Not physically. We had not yet seen the redeemer come and make the ultimate sacrifice. That makes these statements odd. God spoke of Himself in present tense as the saviour of the world, before the world was actually saved. How could He do this?

He rightfully spoke of Himself as Saviour prior to the salvation of man’s souls in His divine omnipresence. God, being omnipresent, transcends space and time. He fills the entire universe and does so in all times of existence.

God is the only one who can speak about something that is not going to happen for another 2,000 years as though it were right now. His omnipresence allows Him to exist at all times.

We call this foreknowledge. He can tell us things about what is going to happen before we ever get there, because He is already there. That is how He can call Himself Saviour before we ever see His saving action. In God time, it is already done.

This is much the same way that Jesus is spoken of in the present tense in the Old Testament. When John said that Jesus was in the beginning with God (Jn.l:l) it was in this God-time foreknowledge. Jesus was not physically present in His human body. He was there only in the omnipresent mind of God.

In fact, the word ‘word’ used in John 1:1 in the Greek is ‘logos’, meaning a thought, blueprint or plan. This shows us again that Jesus was the blueprint and the reason for creation, not the physical vehicle. Prior to the incarnation at Bethlehem, where Jesus was born of a woman, He existed only in the foreknowledge of God.

The Father did have a form in the Old Testament, but that form is not the man Christ. A few examples of this are found in the following verses.

The Angel with the Name

Exodus 23:20-23

[20] Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. [21] Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my name is in him. [22] But if thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak; then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries. [23] For mine Angel shall go before thee, and bring thee in unto the Amorites, and the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites: and I will cut them off.

Some people will say that this angel is actually Christ in the Old Testament. The whole stance is based on the angel bearing the name. It is the angel in whom the name is. They say this must be Christ in the Old Testament because this angel has the name of God. The problem is; we have the name of the Father as well. When someone is baptized into Christ they literally take upon themselves the name of God. Since you have the name, does that make you God?

Just because the angel came bearing the name of the Father that does not mean he is the Father. That just means that he came bearing the name, the same way a believer bears the name. This angel was literally part of the family of heaven. This angel was definitely not Christ.

The Angel Of The Lord

Zechariah 1:12-13

[12] Then the angel of the LORD answered and said, O LORD of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of ]udah, against which thou hast had indignation these threescore and ten years? [13] And the LORD answered the angel that talked with me with good words and comfortable words.

The stance some take here is that the angel of the Lord is the body of God in the Old Testament. They say, when you see the bible say “angel of the Lord” that is God in an angelic bodily type form.

In some cases, when we see the angel of the Lord it is the Lord. This is true, but not in every case.

Matthew 1:20

[20] But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.

An angel comes to deliver the birth announcement of the Christ to Joseph, telling him not to worry because this baby was from God. This angel is called the angel of the Lord. Is this God manifesting to do this?

Luke 1:26

[26] And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,

This is not God delivering this message, it is Gabriel. We aren’t going to say Gabriel is God next, are we? Gabriel is called the angel of the Lord. Just because an angel is said to be the angel of the Lord doesn’t mean it is the Lord Himself. It simply means that the angel belongs to God.

This angel in Zechariah is not the Lord, but an angel of the Lord. What we are seeing is an angel asking the Lord a question and the Lord replying to that question. This, again, is not Jesus.

Christ In The Old Testament

Daniel 10:5-6

[5] Then I lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a certain man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz: [6] His body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in colour to polished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude.

Daniel 12:7

[7] And I heard the man clothed in linen, which was upon the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand unto heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever that it shall be for a time, times, and an half; and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished.

This one is the most interesting of all. The argument, again, is that this shows Christ in the Old Testament. Wouldn’t you know it? This time they got it. This is Christ! They are exactly right about one thing. This does show Christ in the Old Testament. However, this is not Christ in pre-existence. Confused?

Remember, we are not saying that Christ did not exist; we are saying He did exist, but only in foreknowledge. This is absolutely the same description given i)y John as to the one He saw in His vision. This is Jesus.

How do we understand what it was that Daniel is talking about? Who did Daniel see?

Daniel 10:7

[7] And I Daniel alone saw the vision: for the men that were with me saw not the vision; but a great quaking fell upon them, so that they fled to hide themselves.

What we must understand is the fact that this was not a physically present Christ. This was a vision. Notice that the other men did not see this man. This is because it was a vision exclusively for Daniel. God showed Daniel a vision of a victorious Christ in a time before He had ever corporeally existed. In other words, Daniel was allowed to look into God’s mind and see His future plan. What an amazing experience. God showed Daniel what He showed John, but Daniel saw it many years early.


The question is, did Christ pre-exist the incarnation? The answer is yes. Christ existed for all eternity, in the mind and foreknowledge of God, but not in physicality until the incarnation and birth in humanity.

God had a plan the whole time. Because God is omnipresent and reserved the ability of foreknowledge to Him, we could not always see that plan. Jesus was always the plan for mankind and through the ages certain people were blessed to have seen glimpses of this blueprint as God opened their eyes to be aware of His mind as He revealed it to them.

Concerning our human time, Christ did not exist until He was born to the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem. Before that, He was just a prophecy. The plan had not yet been fulfilled, so to mankind, He did not exist. It was in God time that He existed eternally, and that was only in the omnipresent, omniscient foreknowledge of God.

Published by

Dr. Larry L Yates

Dr. Larry L Yates is a Minister, Author and Bible Teacher with Doctorates in Theology, Religion, and Ministry. He is President of Mineola Bible Institute as well as a member of the Board of the International Apostolic University-London, in the UK. He is the author of numerous books on apostolic theology, prayer, and healing.

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