How do we deal with certain biblical passages that seem to imply the pre-existence of Christ? (Deut. 18:15, 18; John 6:62; John 1:1, 14; Micah 5:2; Ps. 90:2)
The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear … I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. (A prophecy of Jesus spoken by Moses)
We can extract from this passage that Jesus was to be raised up and not sent down from heaven. The passage reiterates that Jesus was to be from among brethren and also that he was to be like Moses, namely flesh and blood. This passage supports the belief that Jesus’ mortal life began when he was risen up from our midst and his immortal life when he was risen up from the dead. He did not pre-exist. If Jesus were equal to God, would he be our ‘brethren?’
What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before?(The words of Jesus Christ)
A close scrutiny of John, chapter 6 from verse 50 forward, reveals that Jesus was not referring literally to Himself, but figuratively of the Divine Wisdom which He represented. Jesus was the perfect personification of this Divine Wisdom because he, in his own life, exemplified it completely. It is however, important to study this passage in context in order to obtain a clearer understanding.
Take chapter 6 verse 51 where he says “I am the living bread which came down from heaven.” Jesus is not literally claiming he is ‘living bread’ whatever that might be. He was using Himself in a symbolic sense, just as he does in verse 62, in that His life was an example for others to follow and following him or ‘eating the spiritual bread’, the world could indeed have ‘life.’
His disciples do not understand what He is saying and object – but Christ continues with a more profound statement in verse 53 “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.” Jesus was not promoting cannibalism. Jesus says as much himself in line 63 where He says that “the flesh profits nothing.” He was in fact speaking of Himself symbolically as a personification of the wisdom or knowledge of God.
Now, we can look again at 6:62. What he is in fact asking, in the spirit of verse 53, is “What if the whole system of Divine knowledge should withdraw from you and return to God from whence it came?” Jesus was not however, talking of his physical return to heaven, because he had not physically come from heaven, because he did not preexist.
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting. (A prophecy of Jesus)
Remember, when reading this passage, especially the last line, that we are reading a translation from the original Hebrew. The last line is not saying that Jesus is going to go forth from everlasting – but that His lineage goes far back into the past. This is a point of prophecy: that He should be of the seed of David.
A look at other translations makes the meaning clearer. The New English Bible translates it, “One whose roots are far back in the past, in days gone by.” The Moffatt Bible translates it, “One whose origin is of old, of long descent.”
Before the mountains were brought forth, Or ever You had formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. (A prayer of Moses)
This is a clear description of the work of God Almighty, as the Great Creator, with no mention of Jesus Christ. The Bible speaks often of God as the Creator of the heavens and earth and this is no exception. (Isa 40:26-28; 42:5; Jer 10:10, 12; Neh 9:6).