How Long Has Jesus Existed?

By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)

One of the great questions that can intrigue the mind deals with the Nature of Jesus Christ, especially the subject of His origins.  

Many theories abound regarding the question, How long has Jesus existed? 

Some hold to the idea that Jesus was created at some point in the past, perhaps being the very first created being.  

Others teach that Jesus has always existed as God the Son, and therefore had no beginning.  

In the Gospel of John, the Apostle writes to Christians who are being influenced by the Gnostics, a group of heretics who were arising in his day and age. These religious teachers were combining Christianity with pagan Greek religions, and John was vigorously refuting their false teachings about the Identity of Jesus.  

In the beginning of His Prologue, he writes: 

John 1:1-In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

In this article, I would like to pay attention to that little preposition that we often take for granted, the word “was.”

In the original Greek, it teaches us some important lessons about the Word (the Logos, also shown in John 1:14 to be another Name for Jesus).  

One scholar, describing the use of this preposition, has noted:

“The English word “was” is about as bland a term as you can find. Yet in Greek, it is most expressive. The Greeks were quite concerned about being able to express subtleties in regard not only to when something happened, but how it happened as well. Our little word “was” is poorly suited to handle the depth of the Greek at this point. John’s choice of words is deliberate and, quite honestly, beautiful. Throughout the prologue of the Gospel of John, the author balances lbetween two verbs. When speaking of the Logos as He existed in eternity past, John uses the Greek word rlv, en (a form of eimi). The tense’ of the word expresses continuous action in the past. Compare this with the verb he chooses to use when speaking of everything else-found, for example, in verse 3: “All things carne into being through Him,” eyeve ro, egeneto. This verb2 contains the very element missing from the other: a point of origin. The term, when used in contexts of creation and origin, speaks of a time when something came into existence. The first verb, en, does not. John is very careful to use only the first verb of the Logos throughout the first thirteen verses, and the second verb, egeneto, he uses for everything else (including John the Baptist in verse 6). Finally, in verse 14, he breaks this pattern, for a very specific reason, as we shall see. Why emphasize the tense of a little verb? Because it tells us a great deal. When we speak of the Word, the Logos, we must ask ourselves: how long has the Logos existed? Did the Logos come into being at a point in time? Is the Logos a creature? John is very concerned that we get the right answer to such questions, and he provides the answers by the careful selection of the words he uses. Above we noted that John gave us some very important information l about the time frame he has in mind when he says “in the beginning.” That information is found in the tense of the verb en. You see, as far back as you wish to push “the beginning,” the Word is already in existence. The Word does not come into existence at the “beginning,” but is already in existence when the “beginning” takes place. If we take the beginning of John 1:1, the Word is already there. If we push it back further (if one can even do so!), say, a year, the Word is already there. A thousand years, the Word is there. A billion years, the Word is there.’ What is John’s point? The Word is eternal. The Word has always existed. The Word is not a creation. The New English Bible puts it quite nicely: “When all things began, the Word already was.” Right from the start, then, John tells us something vital about the Word. Whatever else we will learn about the Word, the Word is eter-nal.4 With this John begins to lay the foundation for what will come.” (James R. White, The Forgotten Trinity: Recovering The Heart Of Christian Belief, 50-51 (Kindle Edition); Minneapolis, Minnesota; Bethany House Publishers)

Another scholarly reading confirms this use of the preposition:

“First, the use of the verb eimi, “to be”—in this case the word “was” (n)—is extremely important, and readers should pay particular attention to its appearances in the Prologue (1:1a,b,c,2,4,8,9,10,15b,c). It is to be contrasted with the use of the Greek word egeneto (“became”), which is used in the LXX of Genesis 1 and which is rendered in the NIV here variously by the following formulas: “were made” (v. 3), “come … who was” (v. 6), “was made” (v. 10), “became” (v. 14), and “came” (v. 17). The verb “was” (n) in the Prologue was used by the evangelist to denote a supertemporal reality in existence; the other verb (egeneto) was used to denote that something had taken place or come to pass in time and space. Accordingly, in John 1:1 we are dealing with a thesis that means that just as in Gen 1:1, where there was allowed no hint of the creation of God, there is here no time envisaged when the Word was not in existence or in relationship to God.18” (Gerald L. Borchert, The New American Commentary: An Exegetical And Theological Exposition Of Holy Scripture: John 1-11-Volume 25A, 2565-2579 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN; B&H Publishing Group)

From these facts, several things are clear.  

First, Jesus has always existed. There never was a time when He did not exist! Being God the Son, He has eternally existed with God the Father and God the Spirit (cf. Isaiah 48:16; John 8:58; 17:5, 34; Titus 2:11-14).  

Second, John points out that God the Father and God the Spirit are also greatly involved in Jesus’ work. All throughout his Gospel, John points this out:

John 3:5-5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

John 3:16-For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

John 3:34-For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure.

John 5:18-Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.

John 10:30-I and My Father are one.

John 14:16-17-16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—

17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.

John 14:23-23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.

All of these passages (and more) show us that the entire Godhead-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit-are intricately involved in the work of the Gospel.  

Finally, Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14) in order that people might be saved from sin. John writes:

John 1:12-But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:

Those who “receive” Christ are those who “believe in His Name.” What does the word “believe” mean?

“If we wish to put this very simply, we may say that through Jesus there is possible a relationship, an intimacy, a unity with God which are possible in no other way. Through what he is and does men may enter into the very life of God himself. (iv) This eternal life comes through what the NT calls belief in Jesus Christ (John 3.15, 16, 36; 5.24; 6.40, 47; I John 5.13; I Tim. 1.16). What does this belief mean? Clearly it is not simply intellectual belief. Belief in Jesus means that we believe absolutely and implicitly that what Jesus says about God is true…But belief goes even further than that. We believe that God is Father and that God is love, because we believe that Jesus, being the Son of God, has told us the truth about God—and then we act on the belief. We live life in the certainty that we can do nothing other than render a perfect trust and a perfect obedience to God.” (William Barclay, New Testament Words, 535-545 (Kindle Edition); Louisville, KY; Westminster John Knox Press)

So the word “believe” carries with it the ideas of trusting in what Jesus has taught, and in obeying what He has taught. So those who “receive” Christ are those who “trust and obey” Jesus’ teaching.

The New Testament teaches us when it is that we actually become sons of God:

Galatians 3:26-27-26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

Friends, the eternal Son of God became flesh and dwelt among us in order to save us from our sins. By dying in our place on the horrible Cross of Calvary, Jesus became the Lamb of God that can take away the sins of the whole world (John 1:29). After His death, Three days after His death and burial, He arose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:1-8) with the promise to return one Day and usher in the end of the world (Matthew 28:19-20). He promises to save all those who-as “believers”-will repent of their sins, confess Him before men, be buried in baptism with Him, and will live faithfully (Acts 2:37-47; 8:35:38; Revelation 2:10).  

When we sin and fall away as Christians, He will forgive us when we repent and confess those sins to Him in prayer (1 John 1:8-2:2).  

Why not obey Him today?

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.  

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