The preexistence of Jesus Christ is foundational in Christology. This doctrine grounds the eternal nature of the Second Person of the Trinity. Jesus is fully aware and truly intentional with the purpose of His coming as the God who redeems His people—a divine entry into history from eternity.
In John 8: 58, Jesus declared that He is the “I AM”. Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” The Greek translation is “egō eimi.” In here, Jesus is thus claiming to be eternal since He alludes to the One who appeared to Moses at the burning bush. When Moses asked God after a mind-blowing moment of learning that He was called to lead thousands of Israelites to flee from Egypt; plus, seeing a burning bush that is not actually burning. He then asked God, who are you? Then God said, “I AM who I AM”.
The present tense is remarkable. Both because it emphasizes the ageless open-endedness of Christ’s existence and because it brings out the continuity between his incarnate life and his eternal past. It also relates him most strikingly to “the God of your fathers” who, when Moses inquired as to his name, replied; “I Am who I Am, this is what you are to say to the Israelites: “I Am has sent me to you” (Exodus 3:14).
This “I AM” can also be interpreted as the revealed “name” of God. By saying as the “is/be” or the “eternal now”, God reveals himself as everything and everyone and everywhere that he needs to be in every moment. He is the fullness, he is the completion, and he is the satisfaction of every need or desire we could ever know. You could string together every superlative and exaggeration and still not begin to describe God. He doesn’t need a name that will put him in a box because He is the Great I AM. This name stretches from before the beginning of the world and the time the created world will consummate (Gen 1, Jn 1:1 to Rev 21).
What can we learn from this? Our Lord Jesus Christ revealed Himself as not only the “Immanuel” who will always be with us in this word. He is also telling us that He will be with us on the other side of eternity. His preexistence as the “I AM” both in the Old and New Testament points to the powerful captivating worthiness of Christ as Lord.
Further reading: Douglas McCready, “He Came Down From Heaven”: The Preexistence of Christ Revisited, Journal of Evangelical Theological Society 40.3 (Sept 1997):419-432.
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