. The Real Christ...
God does not decide on His plans on the spur of the moment, devising extra parts to His purpose as human history unfolds. God had a complete plan formulated right from the beginning of creation (Jn. 1:1). His desire to have a Son was therefore in His plan from the beginning. He loved that Son before he was born, just as parents may love a child still in the womb. The whole of the Old Testament reveals different aspects of God’s plan of salvation in Christ.
We have frequently demonstrated that through the promises, the prophecies of the prophets, and the types of the Law of Moses, the Old Testament is constantly revealing God’s purpose in Christ. It was on account of God’s knowledge that He would have a Son that He brought creation into existence (Heb. 1:1,2, Greek text; “by” in the A.V. is better translated “on account of”). It was on account of Christ that the ages of human history were allowed by God (Heb. 1:2 (Greek). It follows that God’s revelation to man down through the years, as recorded in the Old Testament, is full of references to Christ.
The supremacy of Christ and his fundamental importance to God is difficult for us to comprehend fully. It is therefore true to say that Christ existed in God’s mind and purpose from the beginning, although he only came into existence physically through his birth of Mary. Heb. 1:4-7, 13,14, stress that Christ was not an angel; whilst in his mortal life he was less than angels (Heb. 2:7), he was exalted to a far greater honour than them seeing he was God’s “only begotten Son” (Jn. 3:16). Christ did not exist as a ‘spirit’ before his birth. 1 Pet. 1:20 sums up the position: Christ “was foreordained before the foundation of the world but was manifest in these last times”.
Jesus was the central pivot of the Gospel, which God “had promised afore by his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his son, Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made (created by begettal) of the seed of David according to the flesh; and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:1-4).
This summarizes the history of Christ.
1. Promised in the Old Testament - i.e. in God’s plan;
2. Created as a physical person through the virgin birth, as a seed of David;
3. Due to his perfect character (“the spirit of holiness”), shown during his mortal life
4. He was resurrected, and again publicly declared to be the Son of God by the apostles’ spirit-gifted preaching.
The Lord Jesus was the promised descendant of Abraham. Mic. 5:2 speaks of Him as having these very "ancient origins". The same Hebrew term used there is to be found in Dt. 32:7; Mic. 7:14; Amos 9:11; Is. 63:9,11 with the same connotation. As the Cambridge Bible For Schools And Colleges comments: "['origins'] refers to his descent from the ancient Davidic family- cp. Amos 9:11, where 'the days of old' evidently refers to the reign of David". We must see this within the context of how contemporary society would've perceived this statement. "One of the notable phenomena of Near Eastern society in the first century BC is the interest taken by families of social standing in their distant ancestry... the practice was followed of appending to one's name not only one's father's name, but also the name of the remote ancestor from whom one claimed descent" (1).
The Foreknowledge Of God
We will be greatly helped in appreciating how fully Christ was in God’s mind at the beginning, while not physically existing, if we can come to terms with the fact that God knows all things which will occur in the ‘future’; He has complete ‘foreknowledge’. God can therefore speak and think about things which do not exist, as though they do. Such is the totality of His knowledge of the future. There is strictly no Hebrew word for ‘promise’- only a ‘word’; so sure is God’s word of promise of fulfilment. What He says is as if it has happened. Thus God “speaks of those things which be not as though they were” (Rom. 4:17). He can therefore declare “the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” (Is. 46:10). Because of this, God can speak of the dead as if they are alive, and can speak of men as if they were alive before birth. He can speak of a day coming as if it has come (Is. 3:8; Ez. 7:10,12).
The “counsel”, or word of God, had prophesied Christ from the beginning; he was always in God’s purpose or “pleasure”. It was therefore certain that at some time Christ would be physically born; God would fulfil His stated purpose in Christ. The certainty of God’s foreknowledge is therefore reflected in the sureness of His word. Biblical Hebrew has a ‘prophetic perfect’ tense, which uses the past tense to describe future things which God has promised. Thus David said, “This is the house of the Lord God” (1 Chron. 22:1), when as yet the temple was only promised by God. Such was his faith in that word of promise that David used the present tense to describe future things. Scripture abounds with examples of God’s foreknowledge. God was so certain that He would fulfil the promises to Abraham, that He told him: “Unto your seed have I given this land...” (Gen. 15:18) at a time when Abraham did not even have a seed. During this same period before the seed (Isaac/Christ) was born, God further promised: “A father of many nations have I made you” (Gen. 17:5). Truly, God “calleth those things which be not as though they were”.
Thus Christ spoke during his ministry of how God “has given all things into his (Christ’s) hand” (Jn. 3:35), although this was not then the case. “You have put all things in subjection under (Christ’s) feet...but now we see not yet all things put under him” (Heb. 2:8).
God spoke about His plan of salvation through Jesus “by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began” (Lk. 1:70). The prophets “have been since the world began” (Acts 3:21 RV). Because they were so closely associated with God’s plan, these men are spoken of as though they literally existed at the beginning, although this is evidently not the case. Instead, we can say that the prophets were in God’s plan from the beginning. Jeremiah is a prime example. God told him: “Before I formed you in the belly I knew you; and before you came forth out of the womb I sanctified you, and I ordained you a prophet” (Jer. 1:5). Thus God knew everything about Jeremiah even before the creation. In like manner God could speak about the Persian king Cyrus before the time of his birth, using language which implies he was then in existence (Is. 45:1-5). Heb. 7:9,10 is another example of this language of existence being used about someone not then born.
In the same way as Jeremiah and the prophets are spoken of as existing even before creation, due to their part in God’s plan, so the true believers are spoken of as existing then. It is evident that we did not physically exist then except in the mind of God. God “has saved us, and called us with an holy calling...according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (2 Tim. 1:9). God “has chosen us in (Christ) before the foundation of the world...having predestinated us...according to the good pleasure of His will” (Eph. 1:4,5). The whole idea of individuals being foreknown by God from the beginning, and being ‘marked off’ (‘predestinated’) to salvation, indicates that they existed in the mind of God at the beginning (Rom. 8:27; 9:23).
In the light of all this, it is not surprising that Christ, as the summation of God’s purpose, should be spoken of as existing from the beginning in God’s mind and plan, although physically he could not have done so. He was “the lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8). Jesus did not die then literally; he was the “Lamb of God” sacrificed about 4,000 years later on the cross (Jn. 1:29; 1 Cor. 5:7). In the same way as Jesus was chosen from the beginning (1 Pet. 1:20), so were the believers (Eph. 1:4; the same Greek word for “chosen” is used in these verses). Our difficulty in comprehending all this is because we cannot easily imagine how God operates outside of the concept of time. ‘Faith’ is the ability to look at things from God’s viewpoint, without the constraints of time.
(1) Donald Redford, The Biblical Story of Joseph (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1970) p. 5.
Duncan Heaster has written over 20 books, some of which contain material relevant to The Real Christ. And there is a host of other relevant material...