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Christ Jesus: Eternal Yet Begotten

Christ Jesus: Eternal Yet Begotten

Click HERE to download the PDF version; updated 3/11/19

By Paul Chung

“The Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of the Father, is truly God in infinity, BUT NOT IN PERSONALITY.” — (E.G. White, MS116, December 19, 1905) (emphasis in caps added throughout)

What did Ellen White mean when she said, Christ "is truly God in infinity, BUT NOT IN PERSONALITY."?

In the quote below, E. J. Waggoner appears to be saying the same thing but says it in a way that is easier to understand. I would throw out a disclaimer here that while these two statements appears to be saying the same thing, I cannot say for certain if what Mrs. White had intended is accurately represented in the words of Waggoner. At least in Waggoner’s mind, he believed Christ’s Personality had a beginning:

“Jesus is the only begotten Son of God. He was begotten, not created. He is of the substance of the Father, so that in his very nature he is God; and since this is so ‘it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell.’ Col. 1:19 ... While both are of the same nature, the Father is first in point of time. He is also greater in that he had no beginning, WHILE CHRIST'S PERSONALITY HAD A BEGINNING.” — E.J. Waggoner, Signs of the Times, April 8, 1889

Waggoner also wrote,

“We know that Christ “proceeded forth and came from God” (John 8:42), but it was so far back in the ages of eternity as to be far beyond the grasp of the mind of man.” — E. J. Waggoner, Christ and His Righteousness, p. 9, 1890

“The Scriptures declare that Christ is “the only begotten son of God.” He is begotten, not created. As to when He was begotten, it is not for us to inquire, nor could our minds grasp it if we were told. The prophet Micah tells us all that we can know about it in these words, “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto Me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from the days of eternity.” Micah 5:2, margin. There was a time when Christ proceeded forth and came from God, from the bosom of the Father (John 8:421:18), but that time was so far back in the days of eternity that to finite comprehension it is practically without beginning.” — ibid p. 21.2

Most non-trinitarians agree with Waggoner’s statements being an accurate reflection of what Ellen White has said and thus have concluded that since Christ was begotten, then that would make His Personality to have “begun” at some point in time in eternity past and that He may not have existed until such a “time” when He came forth from the Father, etc. If that were the case, some may conclude that since the Father existed without beginning, then the duration of time in which the Father existed all alone in the universe (pointing to the past before Christ was begotten), would have been longer than Him having existed with His Son (pointing forward to future).

<———————Eternity<—FATHER WAS ALONE?—>Father begets Son—>Creation of angels—>Lucifer’s rebellion—>Creation of man—>PRESENT—Eternity-——————>

How then should we consider the following inspired statements?

Let’s take a closer look at a few Inspired statements concerning Christ’s eternal existence:

“But while God’s Word speaks of the humanity of Christ when upon this earth, it also speaks decidedly regarding His preexistence. THE WORD EXISTED AS A DIVINE BEING, EVEN AS THE ETERNAL SON OF GOD, in union and oneness with His Father. FROM EVERLASTING He was the Mediator of the covenant, the One in whom all nations of the earth, both Jews and Gentiles, if they accepted Him, were to be blessed. “The Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Before men or angels were created, the Word was with God, and was God....”  (The Review and Herald, April 5, 1906) {LHU 74.5}

“FROM THE DAYS OF ETERNITY the Lord Jesus Christ was one with the Father; He was “the image of God,” the image of His greatness and majesty, “the outshining of His glory.”’ {DA 19.1}

“FROM ALL ETERNITY Christ was united with the Father, and when He took upon Himself human nature, He was still one with God. He is the link that unites God with humanity.” {1SM 228.4}

“Christ was God essentially, and in the highest sense. HE WAS WITH GOD FROM ALL ETERNITY, God over all, blessed forevermore. {LHU 16.3}

“After His inauguration, the Spirit came and Christ was indeed glorified, EVEN WITH THE GLORY WHICH HE HAD FROM ALL ETERNITY with the Father. During His humiliation upon this earth, the Spirit had not descended with all its efficacy; and Christ declared that if He went not away, it would not come, but that if He went away, He would send it. It was a representation of Himself, and after He was glorified it was manifest. {ST May 17, 1899, par. 3}

“Christ is declared in the Scriptures TO BE THE SON OF GOD. FROM ALL ETERNITY HE HAS SUSTAINED THIS RELATION TO JEHOVAH. Before the foundations of the world were laid, He, THE ONLY BEGOTTEN SON OF GOD, pledged Himself to become the Redeemer of the human race should men sin…. {Ms22-1905.4}

“In speaking of His pre-existence, Christ carries the mind back through dateless ages. He assures us that THERE NEVER WAS A TIME when He was not in close fellowship with the eternal God. He to whose voice the Jews were then listening had been with God as one brought up with Him.” {ST August 29, 1900, par. 15}

Note: If Christ existed from ALL eternity as the only begotten Son of God, then at which juncture did he came forth from the Father? At which “time” did he not exist?

In light of the above statements, here’s another way to look at Ellen White’s expression, “but not in personality”:

“The Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of the Father, is truly God in infinity, BUT NOT IN PERSONALITY [He is not the same PERSON as God the Father. He is a distinct PERSONALITY, and yet He is truly God in infinity, NOT that Jesus’ personality had a beginning as Waggoner has intimated].”

Now, let’s also look at some Inspired statements regarding Christ as a pre-incarnate begotten Son.

"CHRIST WAS THE ONLY BEGOTTEN SON OF GOD, AND LUCIFER, THAT GLORIOUS ANGEL, GOT UP A WARFARE OVER THE MATTER, until he had to be thrust down to the earth. {Ms86-1910 (August 21, 1910) par. 30}

“Angels that were loyal and true sought to reconcile this mighty, rebellious angel to the will of his Creator…THEY CLEARLY SET FORTH THAT CHRIST WAS THE SON OF GOD, existing with him before the angels were created; and that He had ever stood at the right hand of God, and His mild, loving authority had not heretofore been questioned; and that He had given no commands but what it was joy for the heavenly host to execute.” (Ellen White, Story of Redemption p. 15 par 2, 3)

“Angels were expelled from heaven because they would not work in harmony with God. They fell from their high estate because they wanted to be exalted. They had come to exalt themselves, and they forgot that their beauty of person and of character came from the Lord Jesus. THIS FACT THE [FALLEN] ANGELS WOULD OBSCURE, THAT CHRIST WAS THE ONLY BEGOTTEN SON OF GOD, and they came to consider that they were not to consult Christ.” — Ellen White, This Day With God, 128.2 (bracket appears in the published article)

“When Christ first announced to the heavenly host His mission and work in the world, He declared that He was to leave His position of dignity and disguise His holy mission by assuming the likeness of a man, WHEN IN REALITY HE WAS THE SON OF THE INFINITE GOD.” {CTr- Christ Triumphant, 1999 p. 227}

“The dedication of the first-born had its origin in the earliest times. GOD HAD PROMISED TO GIVE THE FIRSTBORN OF HEAVEN to save the sinner.” — Ellen G. White, Desire of Ages, p. 51

“Christ is the star that should arise out of Jacob, and the one in whom all the nations of the earth should be blessed, AS THE FIRST BORN OF HEAVEN, AND THE ONLY BEGOTTEN OF THE FATHER, filled with all the treasures of eternity. He assumed humanity, and impressed upon it the glorious image of the everlasting God.” — Ellen G. White, Lt101, February 17, 1896

“O what a gift God has made to our world! The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. God sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, liable to physical infirmities, tempted in all points like as we are. HE WAS THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD. HIS PERSONALITY DID NOT BEGIN WITH HIS INCARNATION IN THE FLESH.” — Ellen G. White, Lt77, August 3, 1894

“I am instructed to say to you, All this holding to sentiments of infallibility is a specious device of the angel that was so exalted in the heavenly court. His[Lucifer] beauty was so highly exalted that he[Lucifer] thought he should be as God, and Christ must be second to him; BUT THE LORD INFORMED SATAN THIS COULD NOT BE POSSIBLE. CHRIST WAS HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON.”{E.G. White, Lt157-1910}

“IT WAS IN SEEKING TO EXALT HIMSELF ABOVE THE SON OF GOD that Satan had sinned in heaven.” {Ellen G. White, Desire of Ages, p.129}

Notes: What is most significant here in these statements is that the core issue surrounding Lucifer’s rebellion was the “REALITY” that Christ was the Son of God and that THIS FACT THE [FALLEN] ANGELS WOULD OBSCURE. Furthermore, it was this very thing that Lucifer took issues with in that he “GOT UP A WARFARE OVER THE MATTER.” Lucifer coveted Christ’s position as the only begotten Son of Godthis was the heart of the great controversy.

Interestingly, what I’ve observed is that the trinitarians, in order to establish Christ’s divinity, they put all the emphasis on the eternality of Christ, whereby they make pre-incarnate Christ “unbegotten.” Trinitarians would have you believe that “begotten” does not connote “being brought forth” but that it simply means “unique” and thereby denies the ontological reality of the Sonship. Moreover, the expression, “eternity,” to a trinitarian, means “without beginning” and accordingly, they reason, if Christ was literally begotten at some point in time then that would violate His eternal existence, etc.

By contrast, majority of non-trinitarians are just the opposite. In order to establish Christ’s pre-incarnate begotten Sonship, many deny His “eternal” existence; some even find fault with Inspiration. For in their mind, if “eternity,” means “without beginning” then that would place Christ along side the Father always and would violate their version of theology which maintains that Christ’s personality did not existed until He was begotten. Thus the proponents of either camp are making “eternal” and “begotten” aspect of Christ’s personality incompatible or mutually exclusive.

I willingly admit here that I don’t pretend to know everything there is to know about this subject but it would help us to at least recognize how the Inspiration seems to embrace both without diminishing one aspect in favor of the other. Perhaps there is a solution to this seeming impasse without violating the truth in either case. I believe the solution may lie in how we define the terms, “begotten” and “eternal” and how we understand “time” as it relate to “eternity.

I would propose two ways in which we may view the eternality of Christ’s existence:

  1. Christ’s substance is eternal. As a preincarnate Son, He has inherited the Father’s eternal substance.

  2. He was begotten from the days of eternity. The timing of Christ’s begetting was such that He was begotten in a period that is outside of the reckoning of our “time.”

Click HERE for a more thorough study on expressions such as, “infinite” or “time” and “eternity” as it relate to Christ’s pre-existence.

With all that said, the following are just a few thoughts in an attempt to reconcile the eternal and the begotten.

Same Substance

A Stone was cut out of the Mountain, A biblical illustration

We see a picture of this idea in Daniel 2:45. While interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s vision— in particular, the stone that crushed the statue—the Prophet Daniel stated the following:

“Forasmuch as thou sawest that the STONE WAS CUT OUT OF THE MOUNTAIN WITHOUT HANDS, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.” ( Daniel 2:45)

Notice here, the stone, which clearly represents Christ (cf. Rom 9:33; 1 Cor 10:4; 1 Pet 2:8) and His forthcoming kingdom, was CUT OUT WITHOUT HANDS from its source, the mountain. THE STONE IS OF THE SAME NATURE AND SUBSTANCE, containing all the same elements, and is—essentially—the SAME AGE, as the mountain itself. And yet, this stone, which was always a part of the mountain, was “brought forth” to become a separate “stone” apart from its "source" at some point in time.

The inclusion of the words "CUT OUT WITHOUT HANDS" is perhaps significant in regard to creation versus begotten. We think of objects that we create (artistic, scientific etc) as being made "by hand" or we think of God’s creation as God’s “handiwork.” (“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.” Psalm 19:1). And this stone, cut out from the "original" material "without hands,” strongly indicate that the “stone” was perhaps not "made" or "created."

When a person creates something, they make something other than themselves; i.e a sculptor makes a statue. But if that sculptor begets something, it will be another person of the same kind as himself; the nature of the one who is begotten is of the same nature as the one who begets him. Similarly, When God creates something, the nature of His creation is finite and of a different order of existence than God. But unlike God’s creation, Christ, the only begotten Son of God, bears the very nature as the Father Himself and therefore eternal and divine.

A finite created being begets a finite created son and an infinite uncreated Being begets an infinite uncreated Son. The nature of the begotten is always that of the begetter.

Notice the following statements (how Christ is essentially the same “material” as the Father):

“With what firmness and power he uttered these words. The Jews had never before heard such words from human lips, and a convicting influence attended them; for it seemed that divinity flashed through humanity as Jesus said, "I AND MY FATHER ARE ONE." The words of Christ were full of deep meaning as he put forth the claim that he and the Father were of ONE SUBSTANCE, POSSESSING THE SAME ATTRIBUTES. The Jews understood his meaning, there was no reason why they should misunderstand, and they took up stones to stone him." (ST, November 27, 1893 par. 5 )

Note: Here, Sister White refers to the Father and the Son as having “one substance,” but she qualifies the statement by adding, “possessing the same attributes.” Father and Son are two separate, distinct personalities and yet they have the SAME divine nature—“one substance, possessing the same attributes.” (Ellen White is not saying that the Father and Son are an amalgamation of one indivisible being.)

”Though sin had produced a gulf between man and his God, a divine benevolence provided a plan to bridge that gulf. And WHAT MATERIAL DID HE USE? A PART OF HIMSELF. The brightness of the Father's glory came to a world all seared and marred with the curse, and in His own divine character, in His own divine body, bridged the gulf. . . . The windows of heaven were opened and the showers of heavenly grace in healing streams came to our benighted world. . . ." (Our High Calling, 12.2; Emphasis in caps added)

"...Christ was the one who consented to meet the conditions necessary for man’s salvation. No angel, no man, was sufficient for the great work to be wrought. The Son of man alone must be lifted up; for only an INFINITE NATURE could undertake the redemptive process..." {ST March 5, 1896, par. 6}

The pen of inspiration tells us that it is “Through the beloved Son, the Father’s life flows out to all.” (DA 21.2) Though begotten, the LIFE which Jesus possesses is actually His Father’s, not an inferior derivative but a SAME MATERIAL, an “INFINITE NATURE” not unlike His Father’s. It is the very life of God, bearing all the Father’s authority, power, honor and glory. That divine life is neither generated nor created but has eternally existed.

Question: If Christ had no filial relations with the Father, meaning, if he is an independent, ingenerate God without source or cause; without any ontological connection with the Father, then how is it that Christ's "MATERIAL" is "PART OF” the Father’s?

For any trinitarian, who holds to some form of tri-theistic (one god composed of 3 distinct, ingenerate individual Gods, each having independent source of life) view of “one God” would be hard-pressed to give an answer unless he concedes to some form of orthodox, consubstantial trinitarianism (A single Being composed of 3 Persons, who are inextricably bound together in one inseparable, divine substance); both, by the way, has no inspired textual evidence. The way I see it, the best answer would be that it is really the ontological Sonship of Christ that gives the most logical sense as to why.

Eve was part of Adam

Notice the parallel in the following statement that speaks of Eve being part of Adam not unlike how Christ, the Son of God, is also part of the Father.

"Adam regretted that Eve had left his side; but now the deed was done. He must be separated from her whose society he had loved so well. How could he have it thus? His love for Eve was strong, and in utter discouragement he resolved to share her fate. He reasoned that EVE WAS A PART OF HIMSELF; and if she must die, he would die with her; for he could not bear the thought of separation from her." {SR 36.2}

Here we find another illustration of how the Father and Son’s relationship is paralleled in the story of the creation of Adam and Eve.

We are told that the man was created first then the woman (Gen 2:18, 20). Why was Adam created first without a companion? Why weren’t Adam and Eve created at the same time? Would you say that that is a mere coincidence or could it be that God is perhaps trying to communicate to us as to the nature of His relationship with His Son? Moreover, consider how Eve was created. Unlike Adam, Eve was not created from the dust of the ground. Instead, the Lord put Adam to sleep and took a rib from his side and made Eve from it.

Thus, not unlike how the stone was cut without hands from its source, the mountain in Daniel 2, the rib also was brought forth from its source — Adam. And since Eve was made from Adam’s rib, we can also say that EVE IS OF THE SAME NATURE AND SUBSTANCE, containing all the same elements, and is—essentially—the SAME AGE, as Adam himself. Furthermore, no one believes that Eve, although she was made after Adam from a rib taken from his side, is ontologically inferior to him. So why should anyone say that of the Son’s divinity is inferior even if He was begotten after the Father?

Interesting to note, the name “Adam” is not only the title of the first man, but it also denotes “mankind” or “humankind.” There was one quantitative "Adam", the first male, Eve’s husband, the progenitor of the human race. But Eve was also "Adam" but in a qualitative sense (Genesis 5:2).

“Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called THEIR name Adam, in the day when they were created” (Gen 5:2)

Thus "Adam" in this sense means, "Adam-kind" or we would say "mankind.”

To illustrate this further let’s take a look at John 1:1. It reads,

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Now let’s substitute Eve for “the Word” and Adam for “God.”

With the words inserted, the passage would read, “In the beginning was the Eve, and Eve was with Adam [first male], and Eve was Adam [a human being/mankind].”

Did you catch that? Eve, who is “with Adam” (first male, Eve’s husband) should not be confused with Eve, who “was Adam” (mankind). Similarly, the Word who was “with God” (referring to the Father in an exclusive, quantitative sense) should not be confused with the Word who “was God” (referring to the Word/Son in a qualitative sense-a divine being who is ontologically equal with the Father), recognizing therefore that “God” in John 1:1 is not necessarily referring to the Father and the Word as a singular Being as some trinitarians (orthodox variety) would have you believe, but rather two distinct personalities but possessing the same attributes.

Fullness of the Godhead Bodily

Colossians 1:19 (KJV) For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;

"A complete offering has been made; for “God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son,”—not a son by creation, as were the angels, nor a son by adoption, as is the forgiven sinner, but a Son begotten in the express image of the Father’s person, and in all the brightness of his majesty and glory, one equal with God in authority, dignity, and divine perfection. IN HIM DWELT ALL THE FULLNESS OF THE GODHEAD BODILY." — The Signs of the Times {ST May 30, 1895, par. 3}

“For centuries the Jews had vainly endeavored to show wherein the promise of God given by Haggai had been fulfilled; yet pride and unbelief blinded their minds to the true meaning of the prophet’s words. The second temple was not honored with the cloud of Jehovah’s glory, but with the living presence of One IN WHOM DWELT THE FULLNESS OF THE GODHEAD BODILY—WHO WAS GOD HIMSELF MANIFEST IN THE FLESH.” — The Great Controversy pg. 24.2 {GC 24.2}

“In contemplating the incarnation of Christ in humanity, we stand baffled before an unfathomable mystery, that the human mind cannot comprehend. The more we reflect upon it, the more amazing does it appear. How wide is the contrast between the divinity of Christ and the helpless infant in Bethlehem’s manger! How can we span the distance between the mighty God and a helpless child? And yet the Creator of worlds, HE IN WHOM WAS THE FULLNESS OF THE GODHEAD BODILY, was manifest in the helpless babe in the manger. Far higher than any of the angels, EQUAL WITH THE FATHER IN DIGNITY AND GLORY, and yet wearing the garb of humanity! Divinity and humanity were mysteriously combined, and man and God became one. It is in this union that we find the hope of our fallen race.” — The Signs of the Times, July 30, 1896 {LHU 75.6}

What is all the FULLNESS OF THE GODHEAD BODILY which dwelt in Christ?

"THE FATHER IS ALL THE FULNESS OF THE GODHEAD BODILY, and is invisible to mortal sight." SpTB07 62.3

"What manner of love is this, that the ETERNAL GOD SHOULD ADOPT HUMAN NATURE IN THE PERSON OF HIS SON, and carry the same into the highest heaven!" YI July 29, 1897, par. 7

“In the person of Christ we behold the eternal God...” (ST, Aug. 20, 1894)

Note: We know that the Bible uses the term "God" in two ways. It can refer either quantitatively (as in appellation/title) to the individual One True God - the Father. Or it can refer qualitatively to the QUALITY (essence/nature) of divinity. In this sense, the Son is 100% fully God; Christ is ontologically equal with the Father and shares the same infinite quality of divinity as the Father, having “all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col 2:9). The Father’s eternal divine qualities are equally in the Son. Though, we understand that the substance/material of the Son, which makes him God is of the Father by the virtue of His begetting or inheritance.

C. S. Lewis explains the difference between what is begotten verses creation

"We don't use the words begetting or begotten much in modern English, but everyone still knows what they mean. To beget is to become the father of: to create is to make. And the difference is this. When you beget, you beget something of the same kind as yourself. A man begets human babies, a beaver begets little beavers and a bird begets eggs which turn into little birds. But when you make, you make something of a different kind from yourself. A bird makes a nest, a beaver builds a dam, a man makes a wireless set-or he may make something more like himself than a wireless set: say, a statue. If he is a clever enough carver he may make a statue which is very like a man indeed. But, of course, it is not a real man; it only looks like one. It cannot breathe or think. It is not alive. Now that is the first thing to get clear. What God begets is God; just as what man begets is man. What God creates is not God; just as what man makes is not man. That is why men are not Sons of God in the sense that Christ is. They may be like God in certain ways, but they are not things of the same kind. They are more like statues or pictures of God." (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book 4, Chapter 1, Making and Begetting)

Caveat to C.S. Lewis’ statement- Lewis believed in the "eternal generation" of Christ. The doctrine of "eternal generation" is clearly an orthodox trinitarian teaching that maintains Christ is always in the process of being begotten; not a one time event but a continual begetting (My view is that the begetting was a single event in eternity past which was the unanimous view of SDA pioneers). Nevertheless, Lewis understood the crucial difference between that which is begotten and that which is created. The crucial difference is about substance. That which is created and that which is begotten both involve a coming into existence. However, that which is begotten is of the same substance of that which begets. That which is created is of a different substance than that which creates. Christ is very God of very God.

Concerning “time”— Christ's existence extends from eternity to eternity

“103.— PLEASE explain the following expressions in Micah 5:2, "Whose goings forth have been from old, from 'everlasting," and in Rev. 3:14, "The beginning of the creation of God." W. H. L.

They undoubtedly refer to Christ. The marginal reading of Micah 5:2 is, "from the days of eternity," WHICH PLACES THE ORIGIN OF CHRIST IN THE DAYS OF ETERNITY. The following expression is used in the Bible more than once, "from everlasting to everlasting," or, from eternity to eternity. THIS, I UNDERSTAND, INDICATES THE INTERVAL IN THE CIRCLE OF ETERNITY WHICH WE CALL TIME. TIME IS BOUND ON BOTH SIDES BY ETERNITY; IN FACT, IT IS A LITTLE PIECE IN ETERNITY. CHRIST’S EXISTENCE EXTENDS FROM ETERNITY TO ETERNITY, AND SPANDS THE WHOLE COURSE OF TIME. WE CANNOT SAY THAT THE TIME WAS WHEN CHRIST WAS NOT; FOR HE HAS ALWAYS EXISTED IN TIME. The claim that Christ is a created being is sometimes predicated upon the expression in Rev. 3:14, but no such conclusion is necessary. It is elsewhere stated in the Scripture that CHRIST WAS “BEGOTTEN” OF GOD, AND AS SUCH, WAS NOT A CREATED BEING. The word "beginning" in Rev. 3:14, is translated from the Greek word ápxń (arkā), which Greenfield, alluding to this same text, defines, "the head, author, efficient cause." Not that he was the first created being, but he was the leader, the head, the efficient cause, of the creation of God. The same word is used in those expressions, I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending;" that is, the author and the finisher.” — G. C. Tenney, Adventist Review and Sabbath Herald, Vol. 73, No 21, May 26, 1896, pg. 330 (pdf pg. 10) “TO CORRESPONDENTS”

Note: Here, G. C. Tenney affirms Micah 5:2 as being a reference to the “origin” of Christ. Here we see SDA theology, post 1890, presenting the idea that the “beginning” of pre-incarnate Christ’s existence was outside of time. In other words, His begetting and His existence was BEFORE time, “in the days of eternity.” We cannot say therefore that there was a TIME when Christ was not for he has ALWAYS EXISTED IN TIME. Thus Christ is not defined in terms of time.

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.” “In the beginning,” that is, before creation, BEFORE TIME WAS; for in his prayer at the last supper he said: “O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold the glory which thou hast given me; for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.” John 17:5, 24. HOW LONG BEFORE, NO FINITE MIND CAN MEASURE; for in the announcement by the prophet of the place of his birth, when he came into the world, it is said: “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” Micah 5:2. The margin reads, Hebrew, from “the days of eternity.” THE MIND MUST BE ABLE TO GRASP ETERNITY BEFORE IT CAN MEASURE THE LENGTH OF DAYS OF THE SAVIOUR OF THE WORLD; BEFORE IT CAN KNOW HOW LONG THE WORD WAS BEFORE THE WORLD WAS. {A.T. Jones SITI March 25, 1886, p. 186.1}

Note: A.T. Jones places “eternity” as a period that is beyond what we would consider a measurable time (“before time was”), a realm in which a finite mind cannot grasp.

"Christ was begotten of the Father SOME-TIME BEFORE THE PERIOD KNOWN AS TIME, (Rev 3:14) and he was begotten again at his resurrection (Acts 13:33, 34) [C.F. McVagh “Stick to the Message Western Canadian Tidings December 18, 1918] 

Note: Above, McVagh tries to convey the idea of Christ’s begetting to have had taken place in a period he describes as, “a time before the period known as time.” While there seems to be a contradiction in terms, we can see that he is referring to a period that is outside of the reckoning of our “time.”

At the 1919 Bible Conference, W. W. Prescott said,

“There is a proper sense, as I view it, according to which the Son is subordinate to the Father, but that subordination is not in the question of attributes or of His existence. It is simply in the fact of the derived existence, as we read in John 5:26: ”For as the Father hath life in himself, even so gave he to the Son also to have life in himself.” — W. W. Prescott, Notes on the discussions of the 1919 Bible Conference and Teachers Meeting held at Takoma Park in Washington D.C. July 2nd

Notice Prescott’s remarks concerning the “derived existence” of Christ’s life – also his reference to the words of Jesus as found in John 5:26 as having application to it.

He also said

“Using terms as we use them, the Son is co-eternal with the Father. That does not prevent His being the only-begotten Son of God. We cannot go back into eternity and say where this eternity commenced, and where that eternity commenced. There is no contradiction to say that the Son is co-eternal with the Father, and yet the Son is the only-begotten of the Father.” (Ibid)

Note: We can see here that Prescott is grappling to blend the two concepts — concept of the begotten Son of God vs Christ being coeternal with the Father.

In his book published the next year (‘The Doctrine of Christ: A Series of Bible Studies for Use in Colleges and Seminaries’) he wrote,

“The Son is equal to the Father in everything except that which is conveyed by the terms Father and SonHe is equal to the Father in that he shares to the full the Father’s existence from eternity and his infinite power and wisdom and love. But inasmuch as the Father possesses these divine attributes from himself alone, whereas the Son possesses them as derived from the Father, in this real sense and in this sense only, the Father is greater than the Son.” (W. W. Prescott, The Doctrine of Christ: A Series of Bible Studies for Use in Colleges and Seminaries, page 20, 1920)

Notice again that Prescott states very clearly that Christ’s attributes were “derived” from the Father. This is in contrast to the Father who possesses them “from himself alone”. Notice too that Prescott was saying that it was this difference alone that made the Father “greater than the Son”.

Prescott also said,

“Evidently in an eternal Father and an Eternal Son the ideas of older and younger can have no place. As we lift up the conception of sonship out of time into eternity, these elements of it, ever present in human fathers and sons, at once disappear. When they fall away, does any conception essential to our idea of son ship remain?” (Ibid, Page 20)

He then answers his own question by saying

 “Yes; there still remains the chief idea, viz., personal existence and powers derived from another person. And this idea is plainly embodied in John 5:26, and in other express assertions from the lips of Christ describing his own relation to God.” (Ibid)

This was how Prescott explained that Christ was truly the Son of God and yet was eternal. He maintained that Christ had “derived” His divine attributes from the Father and yet at the same time says that He was co-eternal with the Father. Note in particular Prescott’s reference to the words of Jesus found in John 5:26 as Jesus Himself describing His own “personal existence and powers derived” from the Father.

I will add here that Prescott’s usage of the phrase, “derived” appears to contradict the Pen of Inspiration, which does state that Christ’s had in Him, “life that is original, unborrowed, underived.” It would be helpful though to understand that Ellen White’s usage of the expression (“derived” or “underived”) may have been different than how Prescott is using it in his quotes. According to Ellen White, Christ's life is “underived” for Christ is "self-existent"; which is to say that His life is not dependent by the Father to sustain it but is self-sustaining. In other words, Christ's present existence (which was originally given by the Father) doesn't need to draw from the Father continually, but this should not negate the idea that it was set in motion to begin with. Click HERE to learn more.


Charles Longacre describes how Christ existed "in the bosom of the Father" from all eternity

Charles Longacre was born in 1871. He was intimately acquainted with Ellen White, Uriah Smith and other Adventist pioneers. He was one of six pall bearers selected at Ellen White's funeral. He also attended the 1919 Bible Conference and was a member of the Bible Research Fellowship which was organized in 1940 by the North American Bible Teachers. Under the chairmanship of L.L.Caviness in 1944. He was offered the opportunity of presenting a paper at Pacific Union College on "The Diety of Christ." in January 1947. A sermon on the same subject was presented shortly thereafter at the Takoma Park Church in Washington, D.C.

Longacre began his discourse by presenting the various views of Christ's Godhood. After discussing the two extremes of both an only human Christ and a God the Father Christ, he continued,

"We now come to the third group which hold that Christ was the only begotten Son of God, the Father, and that He was such from the days of eternity and was the only one who proceeded directly from God, being begotten by the Father before all creation, before anything was created in an empty universe. This group hold that the Son of God is equal to the Father, is the express image of the Father, possesses the same substance as the Father, the same life as the Father, the same power and authority as the Father, but that all these attributes were given to the Son of God by the Father, when He was begotten by the Father."

"This group believe that the Son of God existed "in the bosom of the Father" from all eternity, just as Levi existed in the "loins of Abraham," as the apostle Paul said; "And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham. For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchesedec met him." Heb. 7:9, 10." (Charles S. Longacre, The Deity of Christ, paper for the Bible Research Fellowship Angwin, California January 1947, page 3)

Disclaimer: There is no further evidence that I’m aware as to what Longacre is asserting in the above article that the Son of God existed "in the bosom of the Father" from all eternity, just as Levi existed in the "loins of Abraham," and I have yet to find anyone else within Adventism or anywhere else for that matter who agrees with Longacre’s idea but the “third group” he referenced seems to suggest that there are some, perhaps within Adventism and from without, who are of the same opinion as Longacre, thus it does warrant some consideration. Click HERE for the full article.

In response to Longacre’s view, here are somethings to consider… Since we are not told as to how or if Christ existed before He was begotten, we cannot simply rule out the possibility of the existence of Christ in some fashion or Him existing in the “bosom” or in the "loins" of the Father as Longacre suggests before He came forth from the Father. Point being, Christ could have existed from all eternity as same age as the Father before He came to his own separate individual personality. Then again, we are dealing with a mystery that cannot be fully explained in our finite minds and yet, I do believe that there was an event that took place where the Father's expression of Himself was brought forth in the literal, corporeal sense and became manifested in the person of the Son as a separate personality.

G. I. Butler explains the divinity of Christ

"Our Saviour, Divine" - G. I. Butler, Adventist Review & Herald, August 22, 1893

"It is an inspiring thought to the true disciple ever to realize that our Saviour who has under taken our salvation, IS A DIVINE BEING, REALLY AND TRULY GOD, AS PROPERLY SO CALLED as the Eternal Father himself, and therefore ALMIGHTY to save. SUCH A SAVIOUR WE NEED. In such a Saviour we can truly trust, knowing nothing is impossible with him. What he has undertaken to accomplish he will surely perform. We need therefore have no fears that he will fail on his part to do all he has undertaken, all he has promised."

"... But when he asked them who he was, impulsive Peter expressed the grand truth, "Thou art the Christ, THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD." This answer Christ declared WAS A HEAVENLY REVELATION TO HIM, NOT A MERE HUMAN CONCEPTION, the grand truth upon which his church is founded, which the powers of hell should never be able to overthrow. Matt. 16:13-18. WHEN THE CHURCH HAS LIVING FAITH IN THIS GLORIOUS TRUTH, Satan cannot destroy it. But to believe in him as a mere human being, or some CREATED AGENT, is quite another thing. ..."

"This pre-existence is beautifully foretold by another prophet: "But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from old, from everlasting. [Literal Hebrew, margin, 'the days of eternity.']" Micah 5:2. Therefore this little babe that came forth and was laid in the manger, in old Bethlehem of Judea, had a PREVIOUS EXISTENCE AWAY BACK IN THE VERY DAYS OF ETERNITY, WITH GOD THE FATHER ALONE."

"This Jesus is the first-born of every creature. "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16. The terms "only begotten" or "first begotten Son" are used at least eight times in the New Testament. These expressions positively imply HIS ABSOLUTE PRE-EXISTENCE TO EVERY CREATED BEING. HE WAS NOT CREATED, and therefore not a creature. HE WAS "BEGOTTEN" IN SOME MANNER NOT REVEALED, AND IS THEREFORE OF THE SAME SUBSTANCE OR ESSENCE OF THE FATHER. HIS EXISTENCE PRECEDES THAT OF ALL OTHERS EXCEPTING THE FATHER. ...Christ was the maker of them all; yea, and all worlds, all elements, creatures, substances, great and small, in the vast universe of God, THE ONLY BEGOTTEN MADE THEM ALL. "He is before all things, and by him all things consist [Revised Version, margin, 'that is, hold together']." HIS DIVINE POWER, therefore, causes all the worlds, and our world, of course, with them, to stand firm, be preserved in order, and upheld, and kept from going into confusion and ruin. DIVINE POWER from Christ our Lord is still being exerted in the universe. Christ therefore is "the beginning of the creation of God" (Rev. 3:14) in the sense that it was HIS FIAT, HIS EXERTION OF DIVINE POWER, carrying into effect the UNITED COUNSELS OF THE FATHER AND SON, which brought the various parts of the universe into existence. He caused it to be."

"Personally he is precisely like his Father IN APPEARANCE, IN NATURE, IN CHARACTER, IN SUBSTANCE, AND ESSENCE. ..."

"In him all the fulness of the Godhead dwells bodily. NOT AN ATTRIBUTE OR POWER HAS THE DIVINITY OF THE FATHER WITHHELD FROM THE SON. WHEN HE BEGAT HIM OF HIS OWN SUBSTANCE, the infinite majesty, glory, and excellence, the supreme wisdom, omnipotence, omniscience, and SELF SUPPORTING EXISTENCE from which all the powers of the universe take their origin, was as A NECESSARY CONSEQUENCE CONVEYED TO HIM. Though TWO BEINGS, DISTINCT IN INDIVIDUALITY AND PERSON, they are one in all else, perfectly united in methods, character, love and goodness, power, prescience, and might."

"Yet Christ himself says, "My Father is greater than I." SUSTAINING THE RELATION THEY DO AS THE FATHER AND THE ONLY BEGOTTEN SON, PRECEDENCE IN A CERTAIN SENSE MUST NECESSARILY BE CONCEDED TO THE FATHER. THE EXISTENCE OF THE SON IS DERIVED FROM THE FATHER. THIS IMPLIES SUPERIORITY IN DURATION AND RANK. BUT AS IT PLEASES HIM THAT "all fulness," "the fulness of the Godhead bodily, "should dwell in the Son, IT WOULD BE DIFFICULT TO TELL IN WHAT OTHER SENSE THAT SUPERIORITY COULD BE PREDICATED. We have therefore a divine, a glorious, an omnipotent Saviour, full of majesty, love, benignity, who has undertaken our salvation."

More from G. I. Butler

Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, March 15, 1890, ”Christ in the Epistle if the Hebrews”

"His great effort was to exalt Christ before them, till they should discern the true character of his mission. He proved to them from their own Scriptures, that Christ was above the angels, above Moses, Aaron, Joshua ; yea, that HE WAS THE SON OF GOD HIMSELF, the Maker of, all worlds, the great antitype of all the sacrifices and offerings of the old dispensation, the only hope of the church and the race of man, and the Author of eternal salvation to all who would truly accept him and follow his example...

"When we consider the Scripture statements concerning him,—THAT HE WAS "THE SON OF GOD," MADE IN THE EXPRESS IMAGE OF HIS FATHER; he "thought it not robbery to be equal with God; "is One whom it is RIGHT AND PROPER in addressing him, SINCE HE TAKES HIS FATHER'S NAME AND IS MADE OF HIS SUBSTANCE; One who sits on the same throne with the Father; One to whom THE FATHER HAS INTRUSTED ALL AUTHORITY AND POWER, and by whom the eternal God made the worlds above; the very personation of wisdom itself..."

Summary

Pre-existence of Christ will always remain a mystery… And as we explore further into this topic, I would urge that we ought not to approach this subject without a humble spirit, recognizing the limitations of our finite minds in trying to comprehend that which is infinite. While most of us want things nicely sorted out and there’s always a need for us to come to some satisfied conclusion, but perhaps the tension and the ambiguity that exists in the inspired writings between the “eternal” and the “begotten” nature of Christ’s personality is intentional for we are dealing with a Being who is truly God in infinity and yet were told that He is begotten of His Father.

That said, One thing (eternity) in no way should negate the other (begotten). It would be a mistake for us to go beyond the Inspiration in an attempt to synthesize something that which has not been clearly revealed to us. I don’t want to say that Christ is not eternal nor do I want to deny Christ’s pre-incarnate (ontologically) begotten Sonship. I think each expression can find some flexibility in its meaning (see the links below for related articles) in order for both to somehow be mutually inclusive. The weight of the expression, “begotten” should not be wrested to mean something other than what the inspired writers intended simply because your preference for “eternity” dictates it and vise versa. One expression should not lord over the other based on your theological bias; each expression should carry its own weight in the matter. Even though I don’t fully understand it, it would serve us well to just take the word as it reads and believe just as how the Inspiration reveals to us, nothing more or nothing less. Christ is the eternal and yet an ontological Son of God and thus has the same substance as His father. Christ is also eternal for His existence extends from eternity to eternity, which no other creatures can claim. This however should not negate the ontological Sonship. “Christ is declared in the Scriptures TO BE THE SON OF GOD. FROM ALL ETERNITY HE HAS SUSTAINED THIS RELATION TO JEHOVAH. Before the foundations of the world were laid, He, THE ONLY BEGOTTEN SON OF GOD, pledged Himself to become the Redeemer of the human race should men sin…” {Ms22-1905.4}

For related articles, click below:

Infinite and from All Eternity

Eternal and Self-existent Son of God

Life, Original, Unborrowed, Underived

Self-Existent

A Response to “There never was a time”

Not a Son By Creation