The Pre-Existence of the Son
By Elder Ross Drysdale
Did The Son Of God Exist Before His Birth At Bethlehem? Who Was The Mysterious “Angel Of The Lord “Mentioned In The Old Testament?
A CHALLENGE TO ONENESS
Dr. Boyd throws out a challenge to Oneness believers concerning the question of the Pre-existence of the Son of God. He cites a number of texts from John’s Gospel, Paul’s writings, and the epistle to the Hebrews, which seem to teach a Pre-existence of Christ as Son. Dr. Boyd then asks “How does Oneness Theology handle these texts?” (Boyd, p. 37).
It is an honest question, and deserves a comprehensive answer. In this chapter we shall provide it.
DID THE SON OF GOD PRE EXIST?
To the question whether the Son of God Pre-existed, the Bible answer is yes. He did Pre-exist. But how? In two ways. We shall first look at his Pre-existence in the Foreknowledge of God.
God is not bound by the limits of time as we are. We think and operate in terms of past, present, and future. God is in an eternal Present. He calls “those things which be not, as though they were” (Rom. 4:17). Thus in God’s mind or plan, the Son of God “existed” countless ages before he was ever born of Mary. He had “existence” in God’s foreknowledge. In fact, the crucifixion is. spoken of as having occurred before “the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8). How could “the Lamb” be “slain from the foundation of the world?” In God’s mind and foreknowledge! Even the Church is said to have existed in God’s mind “before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4-5). We Christians are said to have been given grace “before the world began” (I Tim. 1:9). This occurred in God’s mind. In actuality we were not given grace until we responded to the gospel call. So also it is with the Son of God. He existed in God’s mind, long before His Birth took place. “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things” but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you” (I Peter 1:18-20). The Son of God was foreordained in the mind of God, but did not take actual existence, or become manifest, until these last times. The son’s idealistic existence was in God’s mind from all eternity. His actual existence in time however is pin pointed for us in scripture. “But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of woman, made under the law” (Gal. 4:4). The son’s actual existence began when He was born of a woman, and this agrees with Luke 1:35. The Bible says in two places that the son was “made.” One is here in Gal. 4:4, where he is said to be made of a woman. The other is Heb. 2:9, “But we see Jesus who was made a little lower than the angels.” If the son is “made” how could he be eternal?
PRE-EXISTENCE AS “THE WORD OF GOD”
The idea of the Son existing “ideally” in the mind of God does explain a number of texts, especially those I have cited. However there are also a number of scriptures that speak of Christ in the Old Testament that cannot be explained on this basis. We read of God who created all things by Jesus Christ” (Eph. 3:9), and God who “path in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, by whom also he made the worlds” (Heb. 1:2); and Christ Himself speaks of the glory He had with the Father “before the World was” (John 17:5). The answer to these texts lie in the scripturally revealed fact that the Son of God did Pre-exist, but not as the Son of God, for that would be the same as having a Pre-existed male human being. No, the Son of God Pre-existed as “the Word of God”(“the Logos” in Greek). He who was the Word of God in the Old Testament became the Son of God in the New Testament. The Son of God, the male person born of Mary, did not pre-exist as a Son, per se. That would mean a pre-existent humanity, for the Son is precisely that, a human being. But that does not negate the fact that He who was the Son of God in his earthly sojourn, had existed before in a different form!
THE MYSTERY OF THE LOGOS
John speaks of the Word (Logos in Greek) who was “in the beginning” “with God” and yet “was God.” What was the Logos, or Word of God?
As we have seen, the Son of God was God’s visible body, form, or Temple in the New Testament times. God dwelt in Christ His Son and used Him as His own body. Whoever saw Christ, saw the Father, for God was in Christ. The Bible also teaches that God had a visible body or form in Old Testament times as well. It was not a human body of flesh, but it was a glorious body. And just as God dwelt in the human body of the Son of God after Bethlehem, so also did he dwell in the celestial body of the Word of God before Bethlehem. Whether in the Old Testament as the Word of God, or in the New Testament as the Son of God, Christ has always been the visible Temple of the invisible Spirit. A Oneness of “God in Christ” exists in both Testaments.
THE VOICE OF THE LORD
The glorious “Word” was the body God used when he “walked” Adam and Eve in the cool of the evening. Naturally He would have some form or body to fellowship with .them. They couldn’t “walk” with an omnipresent Spirit! “And they heard the voice of the Lord walking in the Garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden” (Gen. 3:8). The “Voice of the Lord” is the same as the Word of God. It was God’s vehicle of visual and audial communication with his creation.
“THE BODY OF HEAVEN”
In the time of Moses the Elders of Israel were given a view of the Logos. “And they saw the God of Israel: and there were under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness ” (Ex. 24:10). They could not have seen his Spirit nature, for a spirit is necessarily invisible. Yet they saw God’s feet, and described his visible form as the “body of Heaven. God has only had two bodies. In the Old Testament times it was the body of heaven, but in New Testament times it was the body of Humiliation (Phil. 2:8), which the world crucified and pierced!
“IMAGE OF THE INVISIBLE GOD”
The Word of God was God’s visible image in the Old Testament times. He was “the brightness of his glory and the express image of his person” (Heb. 1:3). He was the “image of the invisible God and the firstborn of every creature” (Col. 1:15). When men saw Him, they saw God: “And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved ” (Gen. 32:30). Did he see God as spirit? Of course not. A Spirit doesn’t have a “face.” What he saw was the Word, who was God’s visible image and as such did have a “face.”
“THE FORM OF GOD”
God had a visible form in the Old Testament times. Jesus spoke of God’s “shape” as well as his “voice” (John 5:37). Paul mentions the “form of God” in Phillip. 2:6. A pagan king once saw a form that was the Word of God. This “form of God” was later changed into “the form of Man” at the Incarnation FOR THE PURPOSE OF REDEMPTION (Phil. 2:2-8)
THE WORD WAS WITH GOD, AND WAS GOD
Now we understand the meaning of John’s prologue. The Word, or God’s visible form, was “with God,” just as our bodies are with us wherever we are. And yet the Word “was God.” Because God dwelt in that “form, used it as His visible Temple, it can be said that the Word “was God.” Wherever this Form appeared, It was God Himself appearing. The same situation obtains in the New Testament dispensation. Christ, the Son of God is also God’s body or form. The Father is said to be with Christ (John 8:29), and also to be “in” Him (John 10:38), and Christ is thereby said to be God (John 20:28). Whoever saw Christ, saw God (John 14:8-10). God in Christ makes Christ God. God in the Word, made the Word God.
It was the “voice” of God, speaking out of his “shape” or visible image (John 5:37) that said: “Let there be light, and there was light.” This is how the worlds were created by the Word of (Heb. 11:3). By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made (Ps. 33:6). God’s glorious visible Form, the Word or Logos, spoke and creation resulted. “All things were made by Him, and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3). And this Word was eventually changed into flesh and became the “Son of God.” “The Word was made Flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).
JOHN PATERSON COMMENTS
John Paterson was one of the most insightful writers on Oneness topics. His early work, The Revelation of Jesus Christ,” was used as a Godhead textbook in the infancy of the Oneness Movement. He has summarized the doctrine of the Logos in very clear and logical terminology. He writes: How did God show Himself to Abraham, eating and drinking before him? (Gen 18:6-8, 33); or How did Moses see his back parts? (Ex. 33:23), or How did the elders of Israel see the God of Israel, and did eat and drink? (Ex. 24:10, 11). In the answer to these questions lies the secret of the Mystery of God: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made'(John 1:1-3). In the beginning! That refers to Gen. 1:1, which reads, ‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
“Now what is a ‘word’? Is it not the expression of an inward abstract thought in a substantial concrete form. It means this in English, but as a matter of fact, the Greek word Logos means not only the expression of the thought, but also the inward thought itself. So we conclude that the Word was the visible expression of the invisible God`’ other words, the invisible God embodied in visible form; and not only this, but the word was, essentially nothing less than the Eternal God Himself, as it is written, ‘The Word was God'” (John I:1). (John Paterson, God in Christ Jesus, p. 9-10).
THE ANGEL OF THE LORD
The Pre-Incarnate Christ also appeared frequently in the Old Testament times as the Jehovah Angel, or Angel of the Lord in the KJV. The Angel of the Lord was none other than the Word of God. He was the Form or Image of the Invisible God which we have already discussed. The “body of Heaven” which Moses and the elders of Israel saw, the Logos or Word of God, was none other than the glorious Angel of Jehovah. In the Old Testament dispensation the invisible 40 was embodied in the visible form of Christ as the Angel of God. In New Testament times the same God is embodied in the visible form of Christ as the Son of God. Christ has always been God’s Temple or body, whether as the Angel of God, or as Son of God. The same Oneness Truth prevails throughout recorded (and unrecorded) history, namely that the one divine invisible spirit has always had his visible Person in whom he dwelt and manifested Himself. This Christ, whether as Angel of God or Son of God has always been the Mediator between the invisible God and his visible creation. An examination of some of the frequent appearances of the Angel of Jehovah will prove very enlightening on this theme. It must always be borne in mind that we are not talking about two distinct Persons in the Godhead.” For God the Father is not a Person; He is a divine Omnipresent Spirit (John 4:24). Christ, whether as Angel of God or Son of God, has always been God’s Only Person, God’s visible Image. God the invisible Spirit has always embodied his essential deity and nature in the visible body of His “Person,” the Christ.
THE ANGEL OF JEHOVAH APPEARS TO JACOB
In Gen. 28:13 Jacob had a vision of God at Bethel; God declared to him at this time that He was “The God of Abraham and the God of Isaac.” Twenty-one years later the Angel of God appears to Jacob and tells him that He was the God that appeared to Him at Bethel (Gen. 31:11-13). Thus the Angel of God is the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac!
Shortly after this a “man” wrestled with Jacob (Gen 32:24). This mysterious “man” is called the “face of God.” What Jacob saw was the Logos, the “image of the invisible God.” This was the pre-incarnate Christ, then known as the Angel of the Lord.
The Prophet Hosea speaking about Jacob’s unusual “wrestling match” said: “Yea, he had power over the Angel, and prevailed: he wept and made supplication unto him: he found him in Bethel…even Jehovah God of hosts: Jehovah is his memorial” (Hosea 12:4-5 margin). Here we see that the mysterious “man” who wrestled with Jacob, as a man, is none other than the Angel of the Lord, and in His divine nature, Jehovah God Himself! Jacob wrestled with God in Christ! And this is the same One who is described as the “Word” who was in the Beginning, and was God! There can be no other conclusion. Jacob’s mysterious “man” is identified by Hosea as the Angel of God. And this Angel of God is defined by the same prophet as Jehovah God.
ANGEL OF JEHOVAH AND MOSES
The Angel of the Lord figures prominently in the life of Moses and in the Wilderness History of Israel. In Exodus 3:2 the Angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. When Moses drew nigh the bush the Angel said: “I am the God of thy Father, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:6). It is clear that the Angel was Christ, the visible image of the invisible God, because the same verse says: ‘”And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.
THE ANGEL WHO LEADS TO THE PROMISED LAND
God promised to lead the children of Israel by means of His Angel manifestation. “Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared.” Christ as the Angel of God led the earthly Israel to an earthly Promised Land. But in this dispensation, Christ as the Son of God, leads the “spiritual Israel,” his church, to their heavenly home: In my Father’s house are many mansions, if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you (John 14:2).
‘THE ANGEL WITH GOD’S NAME
Christ has always been the divine Name bearer. This is because wherever the fullness of the divine nature is embodied, there God’s Name is also. Christ, the human Son of God, was the Temple of the embodied Father, hence he had the Father’s name, and announced the fact in John 5:43: “I am come in my Father’s name and ye receive me not.” The Angel of God, Christ in the Old Testament, was also the visible Temple of the Father: “Beware of him and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my name is in Him” (Ex. 23:21). God’s name was in Him, because God was in Him! Who else has ever borne the Father’s name but Christ? And how else could the Divine Father Spirit transfer his name to a person except by incarnation or embodiment? The parallels between the Word of God (the Angel) and the Son of God are drawing ever closer.
THE ANGEL WHO CAN FORGIVE SIN
When Christ was here on earth as the Son of God he shocked the Pharisees by forgiving sin. In Luke 5:20 he said to the palsied man: “Thy sins are forgiven thee.” The Pharisees remonstrated, reasoning that only God could forgive sins. Christ responded to them by announcing: “The Son of Man hath power upon earth to forgive sins” (Luke 5:24). Because God the Father was incarnate in the Son, the Son could’ forgive sins. “Whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak” (John 12:50). This makes Christ, the God-Man, the mediator between sinful men and a sinless God.
The Angel of God in the Old Testament also “had power upon the earth” to forgive sins: “Provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions” (Ex. 23:21). The power to retain or pardon transgressions was a perogative of the Angel of the Lord. This Angel had this power because God Himself was embodied in Him and functioned through Him. Just as the “God-Man” was a mediator between sinners and God in New Testament times, so also was the “God-Angel” a similar mediator in Old Testament times. In either dispensation, Christ (her as Word of God or Son of God) is the One mediator and the only “Person” with power to forgive sins. And the basis for this is the same in both `time periods, namely, God (with His Name) was in Christ!
THE ANGEL WHO MUST BE OBEYED
The Angel of God is to be obeyed as God Himself: “Beware of Him and obey His voice, provoke him not” (Ex. 23:21). Why is this? Because the words of the Angel are actually the words of God Himself who is embodied in Him: “But if thou shalt obey his voice, and do all that I speak…” (Ex. 23:22). The Angel’s “voice” is actually God “speaking.” When the same Angel-Word was made flesh (“and the Word was made flesh”), and became the Son of God, the exact same situation prevailed. The Son said: The Words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me He doeth the works” (John 14:10). God has always used His Form or Image as his “mouthpiece,” so to speak. The results of obeying the Angel of God, are the same as obeying the Son of God: deliverance from enemies (v. 22-23), a blessing through bread (Lord’s Supper) and water (Baptism in Jesus Name), and divine healing (v. 25), and of course a new home on “the other side of Jordan.”
THE ANGEL OF THE COVENANT
The most positive identification of the Son of God with the pre-incarnate Angel of the Lord is found in Malachi’s prophecy. In the first verse of the third chapter we read: “Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me.” This was clearly John the Baptist who was the preparing messenger for Christ, the Son of God. Mark 1:2 applies this to John the Baptist. Then the next thing that is to happen is “The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly appear in his temple, even the Angel of the Covenant, whom ye delight in” (Mal. 3:1 margin). The Angel of the Lord, who had walked the earth in a “celestial body, would now become the Son of God in a new “flesh and blood” human body. The Angel of God had delivered to Israel the Old Covenant (Heb. 12:25-26, Acts 7:53, Gal. 3:19). Now the same Angel or messenger of the Covenant appears on earth as a man to deliver the New Covenant: “This the Covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (Neb. 10:16-17). In the Old Testament as the Angel of God, the Christ delivered the Old Covenant to the old Israel. Now in the New Testament, as the Son of God, He delivers the New Covenant to the New Israel.
THE ANGEL OF THE LORD AS REDEEMER
The Angel of the Lord is also designated as the “Angel of His Presence”: “In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the Angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them…”(Isa. 63:9). And this verse is given as an explanation of the preceding one which said Jehovah “was their Savior” (Isa. 63:8).
What does it mean when the Jehovah-Angel is called the Angel of God’s Presence? It means exactly what it implies. God’s very presence, his essence or nature, is embodied in this Angel. The Angel is God manifested in a visible Form. We cannot strictly call it an “incarnation” for that refers only to human bodies. But, as John Paterson put it: “While no thoughtful person would suggest that He took flesh prior to Bethlehem, His appearances in bodily form from the dawn of human history certainly…. indicate something akin to an incarnation” (Paterson, p. 47). God is so embodied in His Word or Angel, that we can truthfully say: “The Word was God.” The Angel-Word was the visible Temple of the otherwise invisible presence of God, hence he is the Angel of His Presence. Deity embodied in a glorious Personal Form. When the “Word was made flesh” we have the same deity or “presence” incarnate in a human form, the Son of God: “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself” (II Cor. 5:19). God in His Angel was the means by which He reconciled Israel. God in His Son is the means by which He reconciles the world!
THE ANGEL OF GOD AS SAVIOR
The same passage in Isaiah indicates that the Angel of God is the Savior (Isa. 63:8, 9). There can be only one Savior, and that is Jehovah. Isaiah himself told us that: “I, even I, am Jehovah; and beside me there is no Savior” (Isa. 43:11). The Word of God, Jehovah in Angel Form, desired to save Israel, to be their Savior. But the Son of God, Jehovah in human Form, desires to save all mankind: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32).
THE ANGEL OF THE LORD IS CHRIST
Some may wonder if it is correct to refer to the Angel of the Lord as “Christ.” They have assumed this is a New Testament designation only. Christ is Greek for the “Annointed One.” The Hebrew form is “Messiah,” and as such was certainly used in the Old Testament (Dan. 9:26). The Greek Septuagint of the Old Testament, used by the Jews of Christ’s Day, contained the word Christ (Christos-Greek). The Angel of God, being the embodiment of both God’s nature and name, was certainly the “Annointed One” or “Christ” in Old Testament times.
In fact the Bible specifically refers to the Angel of the Lord as Christ, and in more than one reference.
In I Cor. 10:4 Paul designates the Angel of the Lord that was with Israel in the Wilderness, guiding and protecting them, as “Christ.” “And they drank of that spiritual rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” When that same Angel of God was “provoked” (Ex. 23:21) and “pardoned not their transgressions,” but sent fiery serpents into the camp, “much people of Israel died” (Numb 2:6). Yet Paul says it was Christ that had been “provoked” or “tempted,” again clearly identifying the Angel with Christ: “Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents” (I Cor. 10:9).
Moses was called by the Angel of God in the burning bush to forsake all and identify with God’s people and to deliver them (Ex. 3:2-12). This he did. The writer of Hebrews describes it as “esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt” (Heb. 11:26). How could Moses “esteem the reproach of Christ” if there were no Christ? And who could this Christ be, if it wasn’t the Angel that spoke to him “face to face” (Ex. 33:11), , “glory” he saw (Ex. 33:18-19). For the “glory” of God is found in the “face” of Christ (II Cor. 4:6).
Peter refers to the Holy Spirit which operated in the Old Testament Prophets as the “Spirit of Christ” (I Peter 1:11). How could their be a “Spirit of Christ” back then, if there was no Christ Himself! Remember, Isaiah talks about the Angel of His Presence, and how Israel vexed “his holy Spirit” (Isa. 63:9-10). Apparently the Angel administered the divine Spirit to Israel, for it was “His” Holy Spirit, and this, Peter calls “the Spirit of Christ.” Hence the Angel was Christ.
Isaiah saw the Angel of the Lord seated on the throne in heaven as the embodiment of God (Isaiah 6:1). Yet John says that Isaiah saw Christ’s glory and wrote of it (John 12:41).
THE ANGEL AS GOD’S IMAGE
The Angel of the Lord appeared unto Gideon (Judges 6:12). The words the Angel spoke are identified as Jehovah speaking directly to Gideon: “And Jehovah said unto him…” (v.I6). The Angel performed a miracle and then disappeared out of sight (v. 21). In verse 22 we read: And when Gideon perceived that he was an Angel of the Lord, Gideon said, Alas O Lord (Jehovah)God! for because I have seen an angel of the Lord face to face” (v. 22). He feared death, because He knew to see the face of the Jehovah Angel was the same as seeing the face of Jehovah “and no man shall see my face and live.” But Jehovah again spoke to Gideon and assured him he wouldn’t die: “Peace be unto thee, fear not, thou shalt not die” (v.23),
In Judges 13 the Angel of the Lord appears to Manoah’s wife and assures her she will conceive. The woman describes her visitor to her husband as “a man of God” with the “countenance of an Angel of God.” Manoah prayed that the Heavenly Visitor return to give them more instructions (v.8). The Angel of God did return and gave them more information about their forthcoming son, Sampson. As the Angel was about to leave, Manoah asked what the Angel’s name was (v.18). The Angel said his name was “Wonderful” (v.18-margin). This clearly identifies the Angel as Christ, the image of the invisible God, for he is called “Wonderful” in Isa. 9:6. Are there two “wonderfuls?” Not likely. When the Angel of the Lord leaves, it finally “dawns on” Manoah they had actually been communing with God in his Angelic Form as the Word, and Manoah exclaims: “We shall surely die, because we have seen God.”
We already reviewed the incident when Jacob wrestled with the Angel of God (Gen 32:24-30). He too asked the Angel for His Name. His request was denied. The Angel said his Name was “Wonderful,” meaning “secret’.” It would not be revealed until Christ was born at Bethlehem, when we hear: “Call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). Jacob also recognized he had seen the Word Image, God’s visible Angelic Form, for he said ‘I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved” (v. 30.).
The same “Word” (Logos) appeared as the Angel of the Lord to Joshua and identified Himself as the “Captain of the Lord’s Host” (Joshua 5:14). He then commanded Joshua to worship Him, which He did! (Joshua 5:15). There can be only one “Captain” and He is identified in Heb. 2:10 as Christ! As the Angel of God, Christ was Israel’s Captain for earthly warfare. But now as Son of God, Christ is the Captain of our salvation in spiritual warfare! In both dispensations it was necessary for the “captain” to come to earth and “appear” before his “troops,” and lead them in battle!
THE ANGEL WHO SPOKE AS GOD AND MAN
Zechariah relates a mystifying incident involving Joshua the High Priest (not the same Joshua who succeeded Moses). He saw Joshua the High Priest standing before the “Angel of the Lord” and Satan standing on the right hand, resisting Him(Zech. 3:1). The Angel, speaking as a “man” would, rebukes Satan saying: “Jehovah rebuke thee, O Satan, even Jehovah that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee” (v.2). But just a few verses later, the same Angel speaks in the first person as Jehovah God Himself saying: if thou wilt keep my ways, and if thou wilt keep my charge, then thou wilt also judge my house” (v.7). The Angel of the Lord appears to be speaking from two perspectives. One, as the messenger or Angel, and the other as the deity embodied in that Angel. In the New Testament Christ also spoke from two perspectives. As the Son he said: “I can of my own self do nothing.” But as the embodied Father he said: “Thy sins be forgiven thee.”
In the first chapter of Zechariah we encounter the same phenomenon. The Angel, speaking as a “man; would ask God; “O Lord of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem” (Zech 1:12). Yet in the second chapter the same Angel replies in the first Person, as Jehovah Himself, saying: “For I, saith the Lord, will be unto her a wall of fire round about” (Zech 2:5). Thus we see that God’s Word in the Old Testament on occasions can speak from his nature or perspective as the Angel of God, the Messenger, or He may speak out of the divine nature resident in Him as Father. The same pattern we notice in the New Testament concerning our Lord, who sometimes spoke as man, as when he inquired about Lazarus’ burial site: “Where have they laid him, and sometimes spoke as God, as when he commanded Lazarus to rise: “Lazarus, come forth!”
The same “dual speech” from the one Person is glimpsed in the incident of Abraham offering up Isaac. When Abraham had demonstrated his faith, the Angel of God addressed him thusly: “I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me” (Gen 22:12). First he speaks of God as apparently distinct “I know thou fearest God.” And then the same Angel speaks directly as Himself: “Thou hast not withheld thy son…from me!”
The same “key” of the “dual natures of Christ,” which explains such speech in the New Testament, can also be used to “unlock” the mystery of such speech in the Old Testament. For in both cases we are dealing with the same God in the same Christ.
FROM “WORD OF GOD” TO “SON OF GOD”
In the history of redemption the time came when He who had been God’s “heavenly body;” known as the Word or Angel of God, would become the Human Son of God. The Lord, “whom ye seek,” would suddenly come to his human “temple” (Mal. 3:1; John 2:19). *God’s glorious Personal Form, his Old Testament Image, had to be “laid aside.” The price of redemption required the shedding of blood. The Angel of Jehovah, the Word, was a celestial body. (Ex.24:10) It was not composed of “flesh and blood.” It was visible and tangible, but lacked the key elements for salvation, namely blood that could be shed, and flesh that could be pierced (Heb. 9:22). It had served its purpose. So the Scriptures tells us that “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). This mystery occurred through the process of the Virgin Birth. The glorious body of the Old Testament Word was transformed into a flesh body known as the Son of God. There was no Son of God until the flesh body emerged from the womb of the Virgin Mary: “Therefore that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God”(Luke 1:35). “God sent forth his Son made of a woman” (Gal. 4:4). The Bible says that this “Word Made Flesh,” known as the Son of God, “dwelt among us”(John 1:14). The Greek word for dwelt is “tabernacled” or “pitched his tent.” Now if the Son of God is a tabernacle or tent, then someone must live in it, for that’s what tabernacles are for! And Christ very unmistakenly revealed who was living in the tabernacle of his fleshly body: “The Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works” (John 14:10). Paul agreed to this when he said: “In him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9). So just as the Word had been God’s temple or body in the Old Testament, so the “Word made flesh,” the Son of God, continues to be the temple of God in New Testament times.
Paul talks of this “transformation of bodies” in Philippians the second chapter. He speaks of Christ who had been in the “form of God” and was the visible equivalent of the invisible God in earlier times (Phillip 2:6). This “form” was the Angel of God, and the “Body of Heaven.” However Paul tells us that this “body” or “form” was exchanged for the “form of a servant” and the “likeness of a man” (v.7). This is when the “Word was made flesh” and the whole idea of Christ laying aside the glorious “form of God” and taking upon himself the “fashion of a man” was for the purpose of dying on the cross for our sins (v.8).
TRUE MEANING OF MORPHE
It should be mentioned at this point, that much “misinformation” is being circulated by Trinitarians concerning the interpretation of the Word “form.” The Greek word for “form” in this text is “morphe. While this word may embrace more than just the outward or visible form, its primary meaning is related to visible physical appearance, or outward form. In fact, in the writings of the earliest Latin fathers and in the -satin Vulgate, the word is translated by a Latin phrase that is strictly understood in a physical outward sense. The only other place that morphe” is used in the Bible is Mark 16:12, and there it clearly refers to Christ’s physical visible body. To try and translate “form” as something other than “that which strikes the eye” or “physical body,” or appearance,” is simply to mistranslate it. So the “form of God” was a visible tangible body which could be seen. Christ called it God’s shape (John 5:37), and said it could be “seen.” He ought to know!
WHY THE WORD WAS MADE FLESH
God inhabiting the body of the Angelic-Word could never have offered that up on the cross for redemption. So God, through the Incarnation and Virgin Birth, transformed his immortal celestial body into a mortal human body. The “form of God” became the “form of man.” And as God had been “incarnate” in the pre-Bethlehem Angel-Image, so was He also incarnate in his post-Bethlehem human image. God took this body to the cross (Heb. 9:14), offered it for salvation, withdrew from it so it could die (Mark 15:34), and after three days re-entered and resurrected it (John 2:19-20). Now that body, having been resurrected and glorified, is similar to the one God had in the Old Testament. “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body” (I Core 15:44). It is “flesh and bone” (Luke 24:37) but not “flesh and blood” (I Cor. 15:50). In his new glorious resurrected body, Christ is not only known as the Son of God (Rom. 1:4), but has resumed his title as Angel of God also. “There stood by me this night the Angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, saying Fear not (Acts 27:23-24) is Paul’s witness. The resurrected Son of God also appears under the title of Angel on occasion in the book of Revelation. In the tenth chapter of Revelation we read of a mighty Angel Clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire (Rev. 10:1). If we compare this with the description of Christ in Rev. 1:13-16 and Rev. 4:2-3, we see it is the same Person.
Christ himself made reference to his previous glorious “form” which he possessed in ancient times when he spoke of “the glory” which He had with the Father “before the World was.” This was his glory as the Word of God, the “Body of Heaven” which was mediator to all God’s universe. His form as Angel of God was “glorious,” especially in comparison to the human form in which he now existed, and by which “he humbled Himself, being obedient unto death” (Phillip 2:8). Nevertheless, in His resurrection and glorification Christ regains that glory which he had. “Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in Him (John 13:31). He is again in the Body of Heaven, but with the “reminders of redemption,” by which is meant the nail prints in his hands and the wound in his side.
WHY IS THE PRE- EXISTENT CHRIST CALLED “SON”?
There are some passages, very few, that refer to the Old Testament Word of God as “Son.” One such example is Hebrews 1:2, which talks of the worlds being created “by the Son.” How can this be, if the Son did not exist until the “Word was made flesh” at Bethlehem? The answer is very simple. In these instances the Bible writers are simply talking about the One who would later (at Bethlehem) be known as Son. They do not mean he was Son at that time. They are projecting his birth acquired title back through time. This is a common practice, even in today’s speech. I once saw a film where the narrator said: This is the cabin where President Lincoln was born.” Was he “President” at the time of his birth in that humble cabin? Of course not. But he, who would become President, had been born there. In the same way we hear of the High School that President Nixon attended and the football field President Reagan played on. Were they president at the time? Certainly not. They did not become President till long after their High School and football days. The speaker is merely using a title they acquired later in life to more fully describe them. He is projecting a title back in time. So when we hear of the world being created by the Son” we understand it is the Word that is being referred to and not a pre-existent human being. In other words, he that would later be known as the Son, created the worlds. But he did not do it as “Son.” He was the Word at that time. His Sonship acquired title (Son) is being projected back.
Even Trinitarians admit this is so: It is not unusual for Scripture to denominate appellatives which do not, in a strictly literal sense, appertain to the entire range of age-times under consideration in the respective contexts. An obvious example occurs in the words of the Son of God to his grumbling disciples…’What then if you should behold the Son of Man ascending when he was before’ (John 6:61062 NASB). It is axiomatic that the Lord of Glory was not effectively the Son of Man in pre-incarnate conditions, although such in prospect according to divine counsels” (Ronald F.Hogan, The God of Glory, p. 72).
IS THIS DOCTRINE ONENESS?
Some may be wondering if this concept of “God in Christ” in both Testaments is in conformity with Biblical Oneness. Nothing could be more oneness, and as I will shortly prove, this message was an original and authentic part of early oneness Exegesis. If God the Father, as a divine Spirit, can be manifested in the body of Christ in the New Testament, and it be oneness, then why can’t the same God be similarly manifested in the body of Christ in the Old Testament? If God in Christ is oneness in the New Testament, why is it not in the Old Testament? The only difference involves the bodies in which He dwelt. In the Old Testament it was a celestial body, known as the Word of God. In the New Testament it is a human body, known as the Son of God. It is the same God, the same Christ, and the same indwelling. Only the form of Christ’s body has changed, from the “form of God” to the “form of Man.”
God in Christ in the Old Testament is shown to be Redeemer, Savior, Captain, and Provider. The Angel of God embodies God’s Presence or divine nature, and bears God’s name, and administers God’s Spirit. He who sees the Angel of God sees God.
God in Christ in the New Testament is also revealed as Redeemer, Savior, Captain, and Provider. The Son of God likewise embodies God’s presence or divine nature, and He too bears the Father’s name and administers God’s Spirit. He, who sees the Son of God, sees God also.
Neither in the old or New Testament are we speaking of “two distinct Persons.” The only Person is Christ, God’s Image. He has always been the Person of God. God Himself is not a Person, divine or otherwise. He is never called a “person” in Scripture. God is a Spirit (John 4:24). So what we have is one invisible Spirit dwelling and manifesting Himself in one visible Image, know as the Angel of God in one dispensation and the Son of God in another. Pray tell, where are there two persons anywhere?
LET THE FOUNDERS SPEAK
Many of the early pioneers of Oneness truth recognized and taught the concept of God in Christ in the Old Testament. It was cart parcel of the message. It did not receive as much attention as the New Testament “God in Christ” truth due to the fact that the battle lines with Trinitarianism were primarily drawn on New Testament territory. Nevertheless they recognized the important truths concerning the Jehovah Angel as the Word of God. The neglect of this aspect of Oneness has resulted in much needless controversy with Trinitarians, where might have been more profitably spent. Oneness exponents of today need to realize, as their forbearers did, that the “idealistic Son doctrine will never adequately answer all the texts presented to us on the pre-existent Christ by our opponents. The entire Oneness message will never come into complete harmony without this segment of the Truth fully integrated into our theology. Let us now examine the record of our early writers.
Bishop Haywood, first Bishop of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, was a theologian, journalist, composer, and artist. A genius by any definition of the term. His theological works on Oneness were among the first to appear. Concerning the Angel of Jehovah as the Word, he writes: “Elohim is God, the living God, the power of Creation (John 1:1-3; Col. 1:15-17; Rev. 3:4-11). He first assumes a creature form, though spiritual in nature (Gen. 12:7, 32:24-30, Isa. 6:1, 5); afterwards, the human form for the purpose of redeeming mankind. (John 1:14, Heb. 2:9, 14, 16, 17; Phil2:7, Rom8:3). That Elohim, in his creature form spiritually, who appeared to the Patriarchs and Prophets is the same who appeared in a human form 1,900 years clearly seen by reading the following Scriptures: Gen. 17:13, Ex. 6:23, with John 8:56-58, Isa. 6:1,2,5,9,10 with John 12:39-40,41,44,45.
(G.T. Haywood, Divine Names and Titles of Jehovah, p. 7-8)
“When Jacob wrestled with the Angel he sought to obtain the secret name, but was prohibited…The children of Israel were led by the Angel of the Lord and Jehovah said, Beware of him..for my name is in him (Ex. 23:21). To Manoah the Jehovah Angel replied, Why asketh thou after my name, seeing it is a secret (margin, Wonderful)? (Judges 13:18). The Prophet Isaiah declared that his name shall be called Wonderful (Isa. 9:6). From these scriptures it can be clearly seen the Jehovah had a name to be revealed which was to be above all his names! There is not a shadow of a doubt but that the angel that appeared to the Virgin of Nazareth was the Jehovah Angel of Old who bore that Wonderful name. It was there that He had finished his journey over the hills of time and deposited that secret name in the bosom of her who was highly favored of God.’ …The Word was God from the beginning (John 1:1-4) and when the Word became flesh, it was given a name that is above every name, for he there and then ‘magnified his Word above all His Name. His name shall be called Jesus!”(Haywood, p. 13-14).
In 1920 John Paterson wrote his classic Oneness Treatise entitled “Revelation of Jesus Christ.” This was used as a textbook in early Oneness Circles and was printed by both G.T. Haywood and A.D. Urshan. It has been reprinted by Word Aflame Press under the Title “God in Christ Jesus.” Bro. Paterson, Whom I knew, presented me with a personally autographed copy of his book when he first reprinted it. I quote now from this Oneness pioneer’s masterful work which contains over 800 scripture references: “The visible Being who appeared to Jacob and declared Himself to be God, and who was recognized by Jacob as God, is variously described in the Bible as the Angel of Jehovah’ (over 50 references), ‘the Angel of the Covenant’ (Mal. 3:1, I Cor. 10:9), and ‘the Angel who can refuse to pardon iniquity, because the name of Jehovah is in him’ (Ex. 23:21, Psalm-2:12). Surely no one will deny the Power to forgive, or the right to refuse pardon, belongs solely to God. Who is this angel if he is not the pre-existent Christ?…Likewise, the fact that Christ was not just another angel’ did not prevent Him from being The Angel of God’s Presence and the Angel of the covenant who ‘suddenly came to His Temple’ (as foretold in Malachi 3:1 and fulfilled in John 2:13-16)” (John Paterson, God in Christ Jesus, p. 48-49).
John Paterson’s book “The Real Truth About Baptism in Jesus Name” has been in circulation over 50 years. It is considered the most popular and widely disseminated Oneness book of all time. On page 13 we read: �God gives a fearful warning against trifling with His name in the Person of His Son when He says concerning the Angel of the Covenant, ‘Beware of Him. And obey His voice, provoke him not’ Why? for my name is in Him’ (Ex. 23:21). Every Bible student knows that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Angel of the Covenant (Mal. 3:1, I Cor. 10:9).”
And on page 14 of the same book Rev. Peterson writes: “In Ex. 6:3 this is the name by which God made covenant with Moses and the children of Israel and it was therefore the Name in the Covenant Angel referred to in Ex. 23:21, concerning whom we have seen that He was the Lord Jesus Christ” (John Paterson, The Real Truth About Baptism in Jesus Name, p. 13-14).
FRANK J. EWART
Bro. Ewart was the first to see the light on Water Baptism in Jesus Name as the fulfillment of Matthew 28:19. Back in 1913 he began baptizing in Jesus Name those first Oneness believers. He was also an articulate author. Concerning the Pre-existent Christ he writes: “There is not a single Scripture that asserts Jesus existed eternally as a Son. He is called ‘the Word; ‘God’s Wisdom,” Back in the Beginning,’ but never God’s Son. See John 1:1, Prov. 8:22-31….He asserts that His existence was inseparable from the One True God. He asserted that back in the beginning He was in ‘the bosom of the Father.’ It is written in Zechariah that He was ‘God’s fellow.’ Micah said the babe of Bethlehem was ‘from everlasting.’ Isaiah says He was ‘the everlasting Father’…” (Frank Ewart, Revelation of Jesus Christ, p. 37).
Bro. Ewart recognized the “Word” or “God’s fellow” to be the embodiment of the invisible Father back in “the beginning and who would later become the “Babe of Bethlehem.”
C.H. Yadon, a well revered Oneness Pioneer, had reprinted a remarkable book entitled “Jehovah-Jesus.” This book was originally written by one R.D. Weeks. For years this book was the principal Godhead work circulated by the United Pentecostal Church. Often quoted out of context, and distorted grossly by enemies of Oneness, the book fell into disfavor, and has not been reprinted in years. However it contained a very thorough exposition of the Angel of Jehovah as the Pre-existent Christ and the embodiment of the Father. He writes: “It was the same divine ‘Angel,’ the ‘God of Israel,’ that was seen by Moses and the elders of Israel on Mount Sinai, and who spoke to them there. We are told that ‘no man hath seen God at anytime,’ that is, God as a Spirit. What they saw must have been the Angel Jehovah, the same who ‘spoke unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto a friend’ The Lord, (Jehovah) who spoke to Moses not in a vision, nor in a dream, but mouth to mouth, even apparently, whose ‘similitude’ he beheld. He was a created being, because ‘seen’ and talked with ‘mouth to mouth’ and ‘face to face’ yet also Jehovah, God Himself. He was the spiritual rock, the ‘angel’ that was with the Israelites in the Wilderness, which ‘Rock was Christ'” (C.H. Yadon, Jehovah–Jesus, p. 51).
In the early 1930’s the Lord Jesus Christ Himself appeared to Theodore Fitch, who was a Trinitarian, and revealed the Oneness of the Godhead to him. Rev. Fitch immediately set about writing his book “The Deity of Jesus.” It is still the most comprehensive work ever published on the Oneness. Fitch wrote many other books on the Oneness which enjoyed wide circulation among believers. I quote from “The Deity of Jesus” page 4: “The ‘Angel of the Lord’ represented the Great Eternal Spirit that filled the Universe. The Spirit of God was present everywhere. The Angel ‘Person’ of God was God in One Place. Please notice that every time the Angel of the Lord appeared or spoke to anyone it was God Himself ‘in person” …Before the Son of God was born of the Virgin Mary, the Lord God existed in two definite ways. God was manifested as an Angelic Spirit ‘Person’ and as an omnipresent Spirit, that is present everywhere all the time. His ‘person’ was in the form of a man, and his eternal Spirit was without form, body or parts” (Theodore Fitch, The Deity of Jesus, Pentecostal Publishing House, Hazelwood, MO n.d., p. 4). “Before the incarnation, the fullness of God dwelt in a Spirit body which was in the form of a man. This beautiful angel body was made flesh by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the Virgin Mary. This made the God-Angel a God-man-If the Word or ‘Person’ of God was made flesh, then the Father is the Son and the Son is the Father…The Word that was God, was ‘made over’ into a flesh man John 1:14. When God the Word was made flesh, he became a Son but still remained God, the Word. Though a change was made in the substance of his body, he still remained the same. Person… The angel Person of the Lord from Heaven is now called the Son of God” (Fitch, p. 22, 23).
Bro. Vouga’s popular little Book “Our Gospel Message” has this to say concerning the Son of God and his Pre-existence as the Word of God on p. 28: “The Son of God was conceived of the Holy Ghost and born of the Virgin Mary. (Matt. 1:18-25)-the son of David of the tribe of Judah. ‘In the beginning (He) was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…all things were made by him; and without Him was not anything made that was made.’ John 1:1-3. He was in the form of God (Phil 2:6). He was the body of Heaven that Moses and Aaron, with the elders of Israel, saw. (Ex. 24:10). It was He who talked with Abraham (Gen, 17:1), wrestled with Jacob (Gen. 32:24-30), walked in the fiery furnace with the three Hebrew children (Den. 3:25), was and is the creator of all things. ‘.all things were created by Him and for Him’ Col 1:16.
But made himself of no reputation (Nay, he stripped Himself of glory-Weymouth), and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; Phil 2:7. He left the glory of the Father, that is stripped Himself of divine glory, but not of deity, and was made flesh… He is now glorified with the Father with the glory He had before the World was (John 17:5). (Oscar Vouga, Our Gospel Message, P- 28).
The book carries an endorsement from Howard A. Goss, founding father of both the Assemblies of God and the United Pentecostal Church. Bro. Vouga’s exposition of the Godhead on pages 27 to 29 of his book is in my opinion one of the very best ever written.
“Is Jesus in the Godhead or Is the Godhead in Jesus” is the famous little book by the well known Apostle to Ireland, Gordon Magee. On page 7 of the original edition published by the author (It has been changed in the revised edition published by Word Aflame Press), we read: “‘Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.’ Or in other words, before Jesus was born with his human nature He was the Divine visible equation of the invisible God. He was originally in the form of God and thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but he made Himself of no reputation, ‘He took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.’ This being, who prior to His physical birth, was in the very form of God the full equation in a majestic form of the invisible God—This Being, God, at His Incarnation took upon Himself the likeness of men. He assumed human nature at his incarnation, but did not cease to be God…(Gordon. Magee, Is Jesus in the Godhead, n.d., p.7).
ORIGIN AND NATURE OF THE WORD
We have seen that the Son of God, the man Christ Jesus, pre-existed as the Word (Logos) or Angel of the Lord. We have also seen that this Word or Angel was God’s visible Image and Mediator in the Old Testament. He was God’s Personal Form. The invisible divine Spirit was “incarnate” in this Angel of God, just as He would later be in the Son of God. This explains how the Word was with God and yet was God and how God created all things by Christ Jesus. The question now before us concerns the origin of this Word or Angel. Was he created or “eternal” or “begotten?”
The origin of the Logos is shrouded in mystery. We know the Word was “in the beginning” (John 1: 1) and existed before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24).This much we know. Trinitarians feel the Logos was “eternal.” They base their reasoning on such text as Micah 5:2 which speaks of his “goings forth which have been from of old, from everlasting.” The margin reads: from the days of eternity. Also Proverbs 8:23 “I was set up from everlasting.
Others, including oneness theologians, feel the Logos had a definite origin. They point to Christ’s statement in Rev. 3:14, where he refers to Himself as The Beginning of the Creation of God. They view this as a reference to his Pre-existence as the Logos. The Passage in Colossians 1:15-19 is also used to prove the argument. Christ is called the image of the invisible God in verse 15. This, as we have seen, is the Word or Angel of the Lord. The same verse also calls Him the Firstborn of every creature.” This, like the title in Rev. 3:14, is interpreted as referring to his pre-creation origin. He is said to be the instrument of creation ” for by him were all things created. (v.16) And this was possible only because the Father was dwelling in Him as His divine nature: “For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell ” (v. 19). This fullness is the Godhead, for in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Col. 2:9). Heb. 1:6 calls Christ “the first begotten who was brought into the world. This is also taken as a reference to his primeval origin. This First begotten” who was brought into the world. This is also taken as a reference to his primeval origin. This First begotten however receives worship, let all the Angels of God worship him.” Thus, the divine nature of God is resident or incarnate in the First begotten, making Him also God and worthy of Worship.
FIRST BORN AND FIRST BEGOTTEN
Christ as the Word or Jehovah Angel is said to be the “first born” and “first begotten.” Based on what we know these expressions could never be taken literally, for that would require a “divine mother” pre-existing in heaven; “begotten by human reproduction. Christ’s birth at Bethlehem was literal begetting because he had a “real mother and was actually born. God was the real Father of that child, howbeit through a miraculous birth. So Col 1:15 and Heb. 1:6 must be taken as highly figurative language which refers to a process about which we have no real understanding or capacity to understand.
It is apparent from reading the creeds and the writings of the early church Fathers that they believed in the origin of the Logos in Pre-Creation times. The idea of an “eternal generation” always going on, and a “birth always taking place” but never culminating were later “twists” woven around the original and unambiguous statements. We shall examine some.
THE APOSTLES CREED
Considered the Oldest, though not written by the Apostles. It contains no reference to the Pre-existent Logos, or his being “begotten.” It also makes no reference to the deity of Christ. Arians, Trinitarians, and Sabellianists, could all easily subscribe to this creed. It is “controversy free.” No wonder its popularity has endured!
THE NICENE CREED
This creed refers to the son’s pre-existence and origin as Logos in these words: “Begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made.” In this creed we also read of the Son being of one substance with the Father-However, he is still “begotten before all worlds.”
This, the lengthiest of all creeds, speaks of Christ as “begotten before the worlds,” but “of the substance of the Father.” He is still “begotten before all worlds,” but the idea is that He was generated from the Father’s “substance.”
“Begotten of the Father before the Ages” is the phrase used in this creed. He had an origin before the ages begin to roll. The Virgie Birth is also defined as a second “begetting” in these words: “but yet a regards his manhood, begotten for us men and for our salvation, of the Virgin Mary, the God-bearer (or Mother of God-“theotokos” in Greek).
‘Now the Word of God is his Son, as I said before. He is also called ‘Angel’ and ‘apostle.’ For as Angel he announces what it necessary to know…This can be made clear from the writings of Moses in which this is to be found: ‘and the angel of God spoke to Moses in flame of fire out of the bush and said, I am He who is God of Abraham, God of Isaac and God of Jacob…’ But these words were altered to demonstrate that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and Apostle, who was first the Word, and appeared now in the form of fire, now in the image of the bodiless creatures (angels). Now, however, having become man by the will of God for the sake of the human race…The Father of universe has a Son, who being the Word and First begotten of God is also divine. Formerly he appeared in the form of fire and the image of a bodiless being to Moses and the other prophets. But now in the time of your dominion he was, as I have said, made man of a virgin according to the will of the Father.” (Early Christian Fathers, Cyril C. Richards editor, p. 284-285).
“Rather did the Son come forth from the Father to give form and actuality to all material things…The Prophetic Spirit agrees with this opinion when he says: ‘The Lord created me as the first of his ways, for his works’ (Richardson, p. 309).
This is sufficient to show that the idea of the Word being “formed,” “begotten,” “created,” or “coming forth;’ from God in a time described as “before all worlds,” “before the ages,” “in the beginning,” was not an unfamiliar or novel concept in the early church. This Word was also identified with the Angel of God in Old Testament times.
A MODERN DAY WITNESS TO THE LOGOS DOCTRINE
A very interesting discussion concerning the Word appears in Dr. E.W. Bullinger’s previously cited “Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek Testament.” The doctrine Dr. Bullinger brings forth, although he is an ardent Trinitarian, is almost word -for word the Oneness position on Christ as the Word, or Angel of God. Here is what he says:
“The Godhead is ‘Spirit’ (John 4:24) and as Spirit has no likeness to matter, God himself took some creature form, (not human) before He created anything, in order that creation might have a mediator, or a means of communion with Deity. Hence, Christ is said to have been, ‘In the Beginning ‘ (John 1:1); ‘before all things ‘ (Col. 1:17);’The Firstborn of every Creature.’ (Col 1:15); The Beginning of the Creation of God’ (Rev. 3:14); and hence, ‘In Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily’ (Col. 2:9).
“Elohim, therefore, is the Logos or Word, who took creaturehood, to create, (as He afterwards took humanity, to redeem). As such He is the Father’s ‘Servant,’ ‘Angel,’ or ‘Messenger.’ (Elohim, denotes His being set apart to the office with an oath; Messiah or Christ, His anointing to the work of redemption; Angel or Messenger, referring to his actual dispatch; Servant, with reference to the service actually to be done). He appeared to Adam and the Patriarchs, (Gen. 16, 17, 18, 21, 22, 32; Exe. 3, 6; Joshua 5:13-15 with Ex. 23:23; Judges 13, etc, etc.) This view only makes permanent that which most commentators assume as being only temporary.
“His mission in connection with creation was to manifest Deity His creatures, (Prov. 8:22-31). His work was begun with Adam (made in His likeness and image), but the Fall interrupted the mission, and it was necessarily suspended. Then ‘the Word was made flesh’ (John 1:14) in order that He might redeem creation from the curse. Made flesh in order that He might suffer and die (See Heb. 105, Ps. 40:6, Isa. 42:40,Phillip 2:7).”(Bullinger, p. 896-897).
Oneness theologians could find no argument with this marvelous discussion from the pen of a well known and well respected Trinitarian Bible expositor and author.
CHRIST’S OWN WORDS
Christ Himself may have been speaking of his beginning as Word or Jehovah Angel in a number of statements He made. These statements have a cryptic and mystifying ring to them and may be capable of deeper interpretation than what we have accorded them.
“Jesus said to them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God…” (John 8:42). When did Jesus “proceed forth” from God? Could it have been when he emerged from the Father as the Word, or God’s Image, in the dateless past. We know when he “proceeded forth” from Mary as the Son of God, for the Scriptures say: “God sent forth his Son made of a woman” (Gal. 4:4. But where does the Bible speak of his “proceeding forth” as the Word of God? Perhaps John 8:42 provides the Bible answer. In one of his last discussions with the disciples Christ says:
“For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God” (John 16:27). What is this “coming out from God” that Jesus is speaking of? Obviously it is the same as his “proceeding forth” and is a reference to the time when He, as the Word, first made his appearance “before all ages,” even “before the worlds were.” For he was God’s visible Form or Temple before anything was created. The first thing God fashioned was a body for Himself; this was the “beginning of the Creation of God” and the “first born of all creation.” In this body God could dwell and “incarnate”
Himself and thus have a Mediator for all his subsequent creation.
In his final prayer Christ says: “For I have a given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee…” (John 17:8). “Came out” as the “First begotten,” the “Image of the invisible God,” is what he meant! He “came out” from Mary as the “form of man” in 4 BC. But he came “out from God” as the “form of God” back “before all worlds.” Mary produced the human body in which the divine Spirit dwelt, but in the dateless past God produced the celestial body (Ex. 24:10) in which he dwelt, before He was “made flesh” (John 1:14).
IS THE WORD IN ANY SENSE ETERNAL?
The Word of God, as God’s creature form (Bullinger, p. 896) came forth from the omnipresent Spirit in the dateless past before the “foundation of the world.” The emergence of the Angel of Jehovah as God’s “celestial body” and “mediator” at this remote time is scripturally assured for us (Micah 5:2, Prov. 8:23, John 17:24). But is there any sense in which it could be said that the Word was eternal?
Yes, in the sense of having existed in God’s mind or foreknowledge as an unexpressed thought, destined to take substantial form in time. The Word did not exist eternally as a “distinct” divine Second Person in the Godhead. There were no “persons” at all, just Spirit, until the Jehovah Angel was brought forth as God’s Person. And it was in this one and only Person of the Word that God took up residence and deposited his divine nature.
The Catholic Encyclopedia, of all books, has this to say on the subject: “They knew that St. John spoke of the Second Person of the Trinity as the “Word of God” existing from all eternity as an unexpressed word in the mind of a Thinker. Only when God decided to create, and especially when he sent his word upon the earth in the form
of the man Christ, did the inner word come forth; it was now the spoken Word through whom all things were made and who was made flesh and dwelt among us” (Catholic Encyclopedia VoL XI, p. 70. ).
Except for the preposterous notion that an “unexpressed word in the mind of a thinker” can be considered a “second Person” in the Trinity, unexpressed main thrust here is correct. The word existed eternally as an unexpressed concept in God’s mind. Then the Word took actual existence when God “brought forth” His Visible Form, The Jehovah-Angel, called also The Word,” or the “Body of Heaven.” The Deity dwelt in this Form as His visible Temple; this is the Word that was “in the beginning” and was eventually “made flesh.” This is the scriptural doctrine concerning the Pre-existence of Christ.
This article “The Pre-existence of the Son” written by Elder Ross Drysdale is excerpted from the book Enter the Neo-Trinitarians.