(J. & S. Palmer)
A three part booklet (originally written for an African audience) that looks at the Bible teaching about God’s plan of everlasting life for humans, and how that plan He had from the beginning was all centred on the coming of His real and only son Jesus Christ and the work he would do.
Many churches today teach that Jesus existed before his birth by the virgin Mary. They say that he is ‘from everlasting to everlasting’ just like God his Father, meaning that he has no beginning and no end. Some say he was an angel before his birth, some say he was a spirit. Many people say that it does not really matter what we believe about God and Jesus - that as long as we do believe in them we will be saved. So let's look carefully at the Bible. A good rule in Bible study is to look at Bible verses in the context that they are written in and to interpret them by using other parts of the Bible. There are many verses that may confuse us on this subject so let’s look closely at them.
As Christadelphians, we believe that Jesus did not exist until his birth 2000 years ago. The teaching that says Jesus did exist comes from the Trinity doctrine that was made up around 300 years after the birth of Jesus. This is what the teaching says:
"We worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity — there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Ghost is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty co-eternal. The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate, and the Holy Ghost uncreate... He that will be saved MUST think this of the Trinity"
So it says that Jesus is ‘uncreate’ (meaning that he didn't have a beginning) and that he is equal with his Father because he did not come from Him. We believe that neither of these is true or can be found in the Bible. Even the words 'uncreate1 and 'trinity' are not found in the Bible because this teaching was not known when the Bible was written. In this article we just want to look at whether Jesus did or did not exist before his birth in any way.
Let us look at some of the reasons why believing that Jesus existed before his birth doesn't make sense.
If Jesus existed before his birth (we read about his birth at the beginning of the New Testament in the gospels), we would expect to read about him in Old Testament times. However, even though we find that much of the Old Testament does speak about Jesus it is all prophecy. Prophecy is looking at something that is going to happen in the future. So everything we read about Jesus is saying that he will come in the future. We are told that he will be born of the virgin Mary (Isaiah 7:14); that he will die (Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53); that he will be King of the whole world (Zechariah 14:9); and that he will sit on the throne of David in Jerusalem (2Samuel 7:11-16). But we never read that he is alive or in heaven with God or that he is involved at all with people on the earth in the Old Testament.
Remember too, that God had spoken about Jesus in his promises to Abraham and David. God promised Abraham that he would have a 'seed' or a descendant who would be very special and through this descendant all nations would be able to be saved (Genesis 22:17-18/12:1-3). We know this is talking about Jesus because in Galatians 3:16 it says that this seed is Jesus. God promised David that one of his descendants would sit on his throne for ever and rule over Israel and we know that this is speaking of Jesus because in Luke 1:32-35 it says so. Now, if Jesus already existed, why is God promising to Abraham and to David that Jesus will come in the future, that he will be a descendant of them. It doesn't really make sense. These promises a]| speak in a future tense showing that Jesus had not come yet but that one day he would. Read 2 Samuel 7:12 and 14. Notice that God says to David that this descendant 'will be my son and I will be his father'. So God is saying that Jesus is not his son yet, because he hasn't yet been born, but one day he will be born and God will then be his father. In Isaiah 7:14, the prophecy that shows Jesus would be born to the virgin Mary, it says 'a virgin SHALL conceive' (shall has the same meaning as will), so again it is using the future tense, showing that this still has to happen. In Luke 1:32 'he SHALL be great'. This would be strange if Jesus did already exist because it is saying that he wasn't great before his birth, but if we understand that Jesus didn't start to exist until his birth it makes sense.
We see too that many of the Old Testament prophecies talk about a coming Saviour that the Jews called Messiah. He was going to save them from sin and death. The prophets say what the Messiah would be like and what he would do so that when he came, the Jews would recognize him. When we read in the gospels about the life and death of Jesus, we see that he is the one that was promised in the Old Testament. He was the Messiah. The Messiah that the Israelites were expecting was a man and not God. In the Old Testament the people had been scared when God came and talked to them and they had asked for a man to represent God who would tell them God's words. So they didn't want God to directly speak to them - they wanted Him to do it through a man. Read Exodus 20:18,19. God did what the people asked and used Moses to speak His words to the people. In Deuteronomy 18:15-20, Moses reminds the Israelites what they'd asked God to do. Then he makes a prophecy about the future when another prophet, an Israelite like Moses, would be born to the Israelite people. He would come and speak God's words. This was the promise of the coming Messiah. We know it is talking of Jesus because Acts 3:22 and 7:32 quote these words and say it is Jesus. So we can see that the Messiah (Jesus) was not a God but man. The people didn't want God speaking directly with them, so He sent a MAN. He was born from the Israelite people. So this prophecy is talking of a man who would come in the future, not someone already existing.
Read Isaiah 11:5. Another prophecy of the coming Messiah shows that the people were expecting a MAN who came from the same tribe as the man called Jesse (the father of King David). He would be a man with special powers from God. The Israelite people have NEVER thought their Messiah would be a God made into a man.
In Galatians 3:24 it shows that the Law of Moses (the commands and laws that God gave the people to follow in the Old Testament) pointed forward to Jesus. It taught the people about the life and death of the promised, coming Messiah.
Acts 28:23 shows that the Apostle Paul taught the people about Jesus by using the Old Testament Bible (also Acts 26:22,23), because Moses and the prophets had written about him. Have a read of Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 and you will see that these are incredible prophecies about the death of Jesus telling us exactly how he would die.
But nowhere in the Old Testament does it talk of Jesus being alive at the time, they all talk of his coming in the future. Now, if Jesus is the Saviour of the whole world and is so involved with the Christians lives in the New Testament, why does he do NOTHING in the Old Testament? In the Old Testament we never read of Jesus saying anything to anyone or doing anything. So if Jesus was an angel or spirit before his birth, why didn't God use him?
This question is easily answered if we believe that Jesus didn't exist until the New Testament times.
The language used in the gospels of the birth of Jesus is interesting. It uses the same words that we would use to describe a baby being born today. Luke 1:35 says that Mary 'conceived'. This word means to begin. If an idea is conceived in my mind, I am the one who first thought of it - nobody else has given me the idea. The idea BEGAN or was CONCEIVED in my mind. The same with a baby. A baby starts its life when the sperm meets the egg in the woman's body - this is the conceiving of the baby, the very start of life and this is the word used in the Bible to describe the birth of Jesus, So using His power, God fertilized the egg in Mary's womb. Jesus began life in Mary's womb. Galatians 4:4 says that Jesus was made or produced by a woman - he developed in the womb and was born in exactly the same way as we were. John 3:16 says that Jesus was the only BEGOTTEN son of God and this means he was the only one born of God. This is different to how Adam was made. God created him but he was not Adam's physical father, just a spiritual creator. Just like us - in the New Testament Christians are called 'adopted sons and daughters of God' but God only had one real son. We are brothers and sisters in Jesus, but spiritually not physically.
It was this miracle upon Mary that made Jesus. But read Luke 1:35. The angel said that because God was using His power to create a child, that child would be His son. So the reason Jesus was God's son was because God had used His power on Mary. He was His son because of this miracle. This shows that Jesus began as the son of God when he was born of Mary, not before. This is why God says in Psalm 2:7 “Today I have become your father". It was the birth of Jesus that brought the relationship of father and son. Before this birth, Jesus could not have been a son. When people believe that Jesus existed as God the Son before his birth, we can see this is not true. He became the son of God when he began at his birth.
Now, if Jesus had already existed, we would expect the gospel to tell us that his birth was a change from spirit to flesh, but the Bible says nothing about this. We read that God's power came down and conceived Jesus in the womb of Mary, not that Jesus the spirit or Jesus the angel came down into Mary's womb! If Jesus did exist before as an angel or spirit what happened to him as he entered Mary?
The Bible uses words that we can understand as humans. Jesus was a SON - what do we understand by the word son? A son is a male child born to a father and mother. So when God calls Jesus a son, He knows what we will think as humans so that is why He uses the word. The Bible also describes Jesus as a DESCENDANT of David and we understand this word because we have also descended from fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers. Now, a father always exists before his sons and a descendant can only come after the ones he has descended from. Would you exist before your father or grandfather? No; neither did Jesus. If these words 'son' and 'descendant' don't mean what they mean to humans, why does God use these words to confuse us? God is not trying to confuse us - he uses these words because He knows we understand what they mean. We know that God has existed 'from everlasting to everlasting' (Psalm 90:2), that He has no beginning and no end, but the Bible never says this about Jesus. The Bible is clearly telling us that Jesus DID have a beginning.
Jesus was called the 'son of God' and the 'son of man'. Why? Because his father was God and his mother was a human. So just like a child will act in some ways like his mother and other ways like his father, so Jesus was like his mother and his father. He had human nature from Mary (which means that he was tempted to do bad things and able to sin against God) and he had characteristics from his Father, God. So Jesus couldn't have existed before his mother because we are all made of characteristics from both of our parents. If Jesus had existed before his birth, he would have been a different Jesus to the one who lived on the earth.
Remember, a person's character is created in them when they are conceived by their parents. Our character is part of our flesh; it is not separate to our flesh. Feelings and emotions come from our brain which is part of our body (flesh).
We see that Jesus is still called a man, even after he has gone to heaven and after his fleshly body has been changed to a spiritual body. In 1 Timothy 2:5 we read that he is the mediator between God and men, the MAN Jesus Christ. He was always a man. We never read in the Bible about him being an angel or a spirit. If he had been an angel or a spirit in heaven before and had become a man just to save us, you would think that when he had done the work and returned to heaven he would go back to being an angel or a spirit like before. The Bible tells us he is a man, because that is what he has always been. In their teaching, the disciples also emphasized that he was a man after he'd gone to heaven. Read Acts 2:22,23. They made no teaching about Jesus returning to being God again.
Some Christians today teach that he was an angel before his birth but Hebrews 2:7 shows that he was made lower than the angels, he was a man with human nature which means that he could die, Luke 20:36 tells us that angels are immortal, it is impossible for them to die and yet we know that Jesus did die a horrible death and wasn't immortal until after his resurrection, Again we see that Jesus couldn't have been an angel, We can see how incredible his life was when we think that he was tempted to sin just like us but EVERY time he chose to obey God rather than satisfy himself so he never sinned.
People who believe that Jesus existed before his birth believe that he created the world with God and yet we never find Jesus saying that he created with God. Just the opposite. He always says that God created it, Look at what Jesus says in Mark 10:6:
‘...but at the beginning of creation, God made them male and female…’
Now this would seem a strange thing for Jesus to say if it was he that had helped God to create Adam and Eve and the world! The Bible tells us that God was the only power at work at creation. He alone had the power to create things, See Isaiah 44:24 and Job 9:8.
So if Jesus didn't exist at creation and God was the only power creating, how do we explain the following passages?
People use this verse to say that Jesus must have been alive at creation. But notice that nowhere in this chapter does it even mention Jesus. This verse can easily be explained. The word God here isn't the real name of God (YAHWEH - the LORD) but a title like the word president. It means 'mighty ones' and in the Bible angels and men are called gods or mighty ones if they have the word of the LORD or if they are doing His work (for example see John 10:34-35 and Exodus 3:2-4), In the Hebrew language (the Old Testament was written in Hebrew), this word God is ‘Elohim’ and is a plural word, meaning that God here represents more than one person. We know that there weren’t any men around at creation because they hadn't been created yet, but there were angels and we know from Psalm 8:5 that the angels were with God at the creation. In Psalm 8:5 the word for angels is this same word ‘Elohim’, this time translated as angels instead of God, Remember too, that we know that angels look like men because when angels went to Sodom to rescue Lot in Genesis 19 he thought they were men. So we are created in the image of angels. It is the angels who are speaking in Genesis 1:26 when they say ‘let us make man in our image’. They were doing the work of God. He was using them as servants to carry out his commands and so they can be called God.
If we read these verses, it seems to suggest that Jesus was with God when He created the world, but we have done a very dangerous thing. We have taken these verses out of a chapter, without reading the verses before and after, and decided that it is talking about Jesus, when it is not. Jesus is not even mentioned in the book of Proverbs. Look at verses 1-3. Who is this chapter talking about? It is talking about WISDOM. Now wisdom is not a person, it is a characteristic, a word that describes what someone is like. But if we read the whole of the chapter we see that the writer of the Proverbs is painting a clever picture. He is talking of wisdom as if it were a woman - and if we read the first 9 chapters of this book, we see he uses this picture so much; He also talks about a woman that represents foolishness. The writer is giving advice to his son to look for and follow wise things, not foolish. So this passage is not talking about Jesus at all, it is saying that God had wisdom and that everything He did was wise and not foolish. There was a purpose behind everything that God did; He created the world for a purpose.
When Jesus was born, we read that:
So, how can we understand some of the Bible verses that seem to say that Jesus DID exist before his birth? We will look at some of these in detail later, but first we must understand about the foreknowledge of God, This simply means God knowing things before they happen. God is omniscient - this means that He knows everything. He knows our thoughts, what will happen to us in 10 years time and He even knew us before we were born. Psalm 139 is a beautiful psalm that talks about how much God knows each one of us. This is hard for us to understand because we think that we know everything about ourselves but we don't - our knowledge is limited, we cannot see into the future to know what we will say or do but God can and does.
Ephesians 1:4 ‘...for He chose us before the creation of the world…’
So God knew that I was going to be born even before He created the world!! What a wonderful thing - that God chose me to be a Christian over 6000 years ago before creation. I was in His plan for the world. He wanted me to be one of His spiritual children. And this is the same for all the baptised believers of God, They have been chosen to do God's work. God said the same to Jeremiah:
Jeremiah 1:5 ‘...before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart, I appointed you as a prophet to the nations...’
God had chosen Jeremiah to do this work of a prophet for Him before he was ever born. Maybe this can help us to understand the way that God speaks about Jesus, because Jesus was the most important part of God's plan for the world. Jesus had been chosen for the most important work of saving humans from sin and death. Look at Revelation 13:8:
‘...the Lamb WHO WAS SLAIN (or killed) FROM THE CREATION OF THE WORLD.’
Jesus is the Lamb of God and here it says he died before creation. Now we know that Jesus didn't die before creation - he died about 4000 years after creation, so what does this verse mean? It must mean that in GOD'S PLAN, He knew that His son, Jesus, would have to die to save people from their sins. It wouldn't happen for many years but it was part of God's plan and everything was working towards this. Now we would never say that you or I or Jeremiah existed before the creation - so why do people say that Jesus did?
God is using the same language to talk about you, me, Jeremiah and Jesus, all of us in God's plan before the world was created.
Read these lovely verses in Romans 8:29,30. These are difficult verses, but basically they are saying that God knew from the beginning who would accept Jesus (foreknew) and so worked in the lives of those people to bring them to a knowledge of His son (predestined). He put them through experiences so they would learn about Christianity (conformed to the likeness) and then gave them the opportunity to follow Jesus (called). If they accepted and became baptized, their sins were washed away (justified) and if they keep following Jesus they will be in the Kingdom of God (glorified).
Remember too, that God has foreknowledge (He knows what will happen in the future). When God says something is going to happen it ALWAYS happens. So God sometimes speaks about things as though they HAVE already happened because He knows they will happen!! For example, in Genesis 15:18, God says to Abraham 1 have given you the land', yet we know that Abraham never received the land in his lifetime, and won't until Jesus returns to the earth and raises him from the dead. In Genesis 17:5, God says to Abraham 1 have MADE you a father of many nations' - but Abraham didn't have any children when he said this! But God can speak like this because NOTHING can make Him break His promises. We may think sometimes that God's promises are like ours. If I make a promise I may have to break it because I fall sick or have an accident or run out of money - but these things can't happen to God. It is impossible for God to break His promise and so we always know that what God says is going to happen.
Romans 4:17 ‘...the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were’
Isaiah 46:10,11 ‘...I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come...I say, My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please... what I have said, that will I bring about: what I have planned, that will I do.’
These verses are showing that when God says something will happen. Nothing will stop it, even though it may not happen for a long time. There is no doubt that it will happen eventually.
So God can talk about something that has not happened as if it has already happened because with His foreknowledge He knows it will happen.
Because God was so certain that He would have a son who would die for our sins, he sometimes speaks in the Old Testament as if it had already happened. But we know that Jesus didn't exist or die before his birth - this was just in God's plan for Jesus.
I Peter 1:19-20 ‘...Christ.. was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake...’
These verses explain clearly how Jesus was in God's plan from the beginning but he didn't exist until he was born, when he, the Son of God, was revealed to the world. Finally read Hebrews 1:1,2
‘... in the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His son whom He appointed heir of all things and through whom He made the universe.’
God created the earth with the purpose of everlasting life (Titus 1:2). This was His wise plan and He knew that as part of His plan a Saviour would be needed to bring that everlasting life.
So God spoke to men and women through
prophets in the Old Testament but when the
time was right, He created His son who the prophets had talked about - and sent
him to speak to the people (Galations 4:4-5).
Let us look in more detail at some verses that seem to say that Jesus DID exist and see if we can find a way of understanding them which follows the teaching of the rest of the Bible. Remember the Bible cannot teach that he did exist and that he didn't exist. The Bible is one complete message from God and it teaches that Jesus did not exist until he was born,
Many of the confusing verses come from the gospel of John. As we read the writings of John we see how different he was from the other gospel writers - he used language that was very difficult. Often he speaks in words with a very spiritual meaning so we have to think about them a lot to understand what point he was trying to make. Just like the parables - Jesus wanted us not just to enjoy his stories about sowers and lost sheep but to think carefully and see the spiritual meanings underneath the story. We see in the gospel of John that SO often Jesus would say spiritual things and the people didn't understand him. For example, in John 3, Jesus is telling Nicodemus that he needs to be born again and Nicodemus misunderstands him, thinking that he has to enter his mother’s womb again and go through the whole birth process to be saved!! In John 4:15, the Samaritan woman asks for the ‘living water' of Jesus so that she would never have to go to the well again to fetch water - she doesn't understand that Jesus is talking of the water of salvation. In John 6:52, Jesus is telling the people they must eat of his flesh because he is the bread of the world. Many of the disciples stopped following him then because they couldn't understand him. We can see that Jesus is NOT speaking about real things, but using these real things as pictures to make people think spiritually. So when we read the gospel of John, let us not make the same mistake, let us understand what Jesus is really saying.
John explains why
he wrote his gospel in John 20:30,31 - to show that Jesus was the Messiah promised
in the Old Testament, Christ is the Greek word that means Messiah. John is not
trying to show that Christ is God or that he was in heaven with God before his birth.
Firstly in John, there are many times when Jesus says he is 'sent' from heaven or that he 'came from' his father. Now if Jesus didn't exist physically in heaven before his birth, how are we to understand these verses? Much of John's gospel records conversations between the religious leaders of the day (the Pharisees and Sadducees) and Jesus. The Pharisees and Sadducees didn't believe that Jesus was the son of God. Even seeing God's power in miracles didn't convince them and because of envy they finally had Jesus killed. Jesus, in these conversations, is trying to show them that he IS God's son. That God HAS given him power and authority from heaven to do His work and speak His words and how they must believe this to be saved. So, he keeps saying over and over again 1 am sent from God, I have come from God'.
This may seem strange, but we use the same sort of language today in English. You may say you come from the tribe of Buganda or Basoga or you come from your parents but this isn't talking of a physical journey. It is just telling someone your origin, in the same way, I can write to my mother in UK and ask her to go somewhere for me. She could say she has been sent from Uganda or she has been sent by her daughter, even though she hasn't physically been with me in Uganda In the same way, Jesus says he's been sent by his Father or sent from heaven, even though he has not physically been with God in heaven.
My friend Mary says that she is from Tanzania because her parents were born there but she was born in Uganda and has never lived in Tanzania. Her origin is Tanzania. Jesus says he is from heaven because his Father is in heaven and even though Jesus had never been there before he was born, his origin is heaven. So Jesus never physically came down from heaven, these verses are saying that his ORIGIN was heavenly.
We read in John 1:6 that John the Baptist was also sent by God but we would never say that John the Baptist was in heaven with God and that he physically left heaven to come to earth! (see also Isaiah 6:8, Psalm 105:17, John 1:9 and Jeremiah 7:25 - all verses that say someone was sent by God but we don't think that Isaiah, Joseph, 'all men' or Jeremiah were in heaven). The Bible also says that wisdom and good gifts come down from heaven in James 1:17 and James 3:17 but we would never say that our job or clothes or food were in heaven before we got them. We just understand that they are provided by God, that He is the one who has given them to us. Read Matthew 21:25. Again, this doesn't mean that John's baptism came down from heaven, it just means that it was something commanded by God who is in heaven.
Here is a good example. In John 6:32,33,38,51,58 Jesus compares his coming down from heaven with the manna or angels’ food that came down from heaven to feed God's people in the desert. But when we look back in the Old Testament we can see that the manna did not really come down from heaven, it appeared on the ground in the morning when the dew went. It 'came down' from God just like all good gifts come down from God - it just means it was provided by God. Jesus was the greatest gift that God has given us.
This is another verse in John that may confuse us. A mistake many people make with this verse is they think it says ‘before Abraham was, I was’ - meaning that Jesus existed before Abraham. But if we read carefully, it doesn't say this. It says ‘before Abraham was, l am’. Now, remember that God had promised to Abraham that Jesus would be his descendant, that he would come in the future, so this verse can't mean that Jesus existed before Abraham. Jesus was only in the plan of God when Abraham was alive. This verse could mean that even before Abraham was alive, Jesus was in the plan of God. Jesus was the centre of the promise made to Abraham, so without Jesus, none of the promises could ever have been kept. Jesus was more important than Abraham. It was Jesus who would bring salvation and blessing, not Abraham. Before God made the promise to Abraham, He had to have Jesus in His plan because the promise was about Jesus. Jesus was the ‘seed’ or descendant promised to Abraham. Abraham understood about the gospel or good news of Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:8) and he was happy when he realized what the promise really meant. So, when it says in verse 56 that ‘Abraham rejoiced to see my day’, Jesus is saying that Abraham understood that one day Jesus would come and bring blessings to the world, keeping the promise that God had made to Abraham.
These verses seem to be saying that Jesus was the first one born before anything else was created and that then he created the world with God. Now, if we believe Jesus existed before he was born by Mary, how was he born before creation? Notice it doesn't say he was the first created of all creation, but the first born of all creation. So, did Jesus have a birth before his birth by Mary? Of course he didn't. Let’s look at these verses more closely.
Verse 18 says that he was the firstborn from the dead, not the first one born at creation. He was the first man to be born again (raised from the dead) who would never die again. Many people were raised from the dead before Jesus, like Lazarus and Jairus’ daughter, but they died again. Jesus was raised and given everlasting life. Revelation 1:5 says the same and 1 Corinthians 15:20 says ‘but Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep’. What is a firstfruit? It is the first fruit that you see on a tree. It tells us that the rest of the tree will soon be covered with hundreds of fruits. Jesus was the first one to be raised and given everlasting life, but wonderfully there will be many, many more who will also be raised from the dead when Jesus returns and given everlasting life. When we are baptized into Jesus, we enter a relationship with God through Jesus, where we can be raised from the dead and given everlasting life. When we are baptized we are born again and it is as if we have been created again, this time not created as part of the world but as part of the church. Jesus created the church - he is the head of all the members (Ephesians 4:15,16). So we can be a part of the New Creation (church) when we accept and believe in Jesus and be baptized (Ephesians 2:10, II Corinthians 5:17).
Come back to Colossians 1 and look at what Jesus has created. It's not trees, mountains, animals and plants that Jesus created. They were created in the first, physical creation in Genesis by God. Jesus has created 'thrones, dominions, principalities and powers'. This is the creation that Jesus was the beginning of and the creation that he is now in control of. It is the church. The people that are part of this new creation will sit on thrones and have powers in the Kingdom to come. You should read the whole of this wonderful chapter to see what Jesus has really done for us.
Back to John's gospel. Now, we have seen that the beginning does not always mean the beginning of the world but in the New Testament it often means the beginning of the preaching of the gospel to those who would become the new creation (become baptized).
It seems that John 1:1 is also talking of this new creation. The language is very similar to that in Colossians, and if we look at the first verse of Mark and also the first verse of John's letter (1 John 1:1) we see that both times it is referring to the new creation. In fact, every time that we read the phrase ‘In the beginning’ in the writings of John, it is talking about the beginning of the gospel, not the Genesis creation.
So this verse is not telling us that Jesus existed at the creation of the world. It is talking of the new creation that is the church that exists because of Jesus. Without Jesus there would be no church - he is the one who created it.
Some people think these verses are saying that Jesus did not begin and will not end. That just like God, Jesus also was from ‘everlasting to everlasting’. We know God is the only person who has no beginning (Psalm 90:2) so what do these verses mean?
Read the whole chapter and notice verses 1-3,6,11-15,22-24. The Jewish people were saying that Jesus couldn’t be a priest because he was not from the tribe of Levi. This chapter is showing that Jesus is a special priest. In the Old Testament Law of Moses, priests in God's temple had to be from the tribe of Levi and no other tribe of Israel. They had to be able to prove they were from a priestly line and that their parents were both Levites. They started their service as priest at the age of 20 and finished at the age of 50. The Jewish people knew that Jesus was descended from the tribe of Judah not Levi and he wasn't from a priestly family (verse 14) so they questioned how he could be a priest.
To show them that Jesus was a special priest, Paul reminds them of Melchizedek, the first mentioned priest in the Old Testament. The Jews accepted him because he was chosen by God, even Abraham honoured him. Then Paul compares Melchizedek with Jesus, who was also a special priest chosen by God. Neither of them were from the tribe of Levi, neither of them had parents from a priestly line, neither of them had started their priestly service at the age of 20 and finished when they were 50. But Paul is showing that this doesn’t matter. God had chosen them for a special work, they were to be accepted as special priests. Paul is not saying that Jesus has no beginning or ending. He is saying that unlike the priesthood in the Old Testament, Jesus did not start being a priest at the age or 20 and finish at 50, Jesus is a priest FOREVER (verse 17). All of these verses are just comparing the Old Testament priesthood with the New Testament priesthood of Jesus.
So, the priesthood of the Law of Moses in the Old Testament ended, but the priesthood of Jesus will never end.
This verse seems to say that Jesus existed with God before the world began and that they both had glory together. This is not what Jesus is saying. He is praying to God, his Father, asking Him to keep the promise that He made. From the beginning of time, God's plan was to give men and women everlasting life. This could only come through Jesus. Jesus is asking God to complete His purpose with him. Jesus does not ask God to give him back the glory that he had - just for God to give him the glory that God had planned for him from the beginning of the world. Jesus is saying that the time is now right.
We have to understand the language of the Bible. Remember God can speak about things as if they have already happened because he knows nothing is going to stop His purpose. Jesus also knows this. Look at how the Bible talks about the reward that WE will have as faithful Christians.
2 Corinthians 5:1 ‘we HAVE a building from God’ (our spiritual body, not given to us until Jesus returns)
1 Peter 1:5 ‘Inheritance... kept in heaven for you’ (our inheritance is the earth, not heaven. The inheritance is already ours, we are just waiting for Jesus to come and give it to us)
Matthew 25:34 ‘inheritance... Kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world’ (God's plan for us was from the beginning of the world but will not happen until Jesus returns)
John 17:22 ‘HAVE given them the glory that you gave me’ (the disciples had not been given this yet and neither had Jesus, it was a promise of future glory)
Now we know we haven't received our reward yet. Revelation 22:12 says that Jesus is bringing our reward with him when he returns to the earth in the future.
These verses are just saying that we will have this when the time is right because God promised it. Nothing can stop it happening.
So the Bible is using language to show us how certain God's promises are, telling us that we HAVE something before we get it. In these verses Jesus is asking for what is his. He's not had this glory yet but in God's plan from the beginning it was something that He would give to Jesus. He would make Jesus Saviour of the world and a future king.
Finally, look at 2 Timothy 1:9,10. WE have been saved by the death of Jesus. This work of salvation, everlasting life, was given to Jesus. This was God's plan from the beginning. And this purpose was revealed when Jesus was born 2000 years ago. He started doing the work that God had created him to do.
'this grace was given us in Jesus before the beginning of time'.
Salvation for us through Jesus was in God's plan from the beginning of the world too. But we didn't need to have grace (forgiveness of sins) until we were born because that is when we started to exist. But God knew as humans we would be sinners and would need saving so He put this in His plan before we were born.
So, if we look carefully at the Bible and try to understand these verses in the context of the whole Bible, we can see that Jesus did not exist before he was born by Mary.
The birth of Jesus was the beginning of Jesus.
The Old Testament is full of prophecies about the coming of a human Messiah to save people from their sins and when the time was right, in God's plan, Jesus was born to fulfil the promise of the prophecies.
We must not confuse Jesus existing in God's plan with him physically existing as something (an angel or spirit) before his birth. This is not the teaching of the Bible.
The Bible teaches that Jesus existed in the thoughts of God as the
centre of His plan for the earth.