Jesus—The Ruler “Whose Origin Is From Early Times”
EXCITEMENT mounts as you await the arrival of a long-lost relative. Finally, you meet him and greet him warmly. You listen attentively as he tells you why his father sent him to visit you. Then the time quickly arrives for his return home. Sadly, you bid him good-bye. The loss you feel at his departure diminishes when news arrives that he has reached home safely.
Later, when searching through some old papers, you become aware of letters that briefly mention your relative’s exploits long before he started out on his journey to meet you. What those letters tell you offers interesting insights into his background and enhances your appreciation for both his visit and his present work.
“From Early Times”
Among the old papers available to first-century Jews were the writings of God’s prophet Micah, recorded some seven hundred years previously. These pinpoint the Messiah’s birthplace. “You, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, the one too little to get to be among the thousands of Judah, from you there will come out to me the one who is to become ruler in Israel, whose origin is from early times, from the days of time indefinite.” (Micah 5:2) True to these words, Jesus was born in the Judean village of Bethlehem in what is now called the year 2 B.C.E. But how could his origin be “from early times”?
Jesus had a prehuman existence. In his letter to the Christians in Colossae, the apostle Paul described Jesus as “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.”—Colossians 1:15.
Jehovah, the Source of wisdom, created his first Son as his ‘earliest achievement,’ to use the inspired expression recorded by King Solomon in the book of Proverbs. After Jesus’ sojourn on earth and his return to heaven, he testified that he was indeed “the beginning of the creation by God.” As wisdom personified, the prehuman Jesus declared: “When [Jehovah] prepared the heavens I was there.”—Proverbs 8:22, 23, 27; Revelation 3:14.
From the start, God’s Son received a unique assignment, that of being “master worker” alongside his Father. What joy this brought to Jehovah! “I came to be the one he [Jehovah] was specially fond of day by day,” notes Proverbs 8:30, adding, “I being glad before him all the time.”
Jehovah later invited his firstborn Son to share in the creation of humankind. “Let us make man in our image,” he declared, “according to our likeness.” (Genesis 1:26) As a result, another fondness developed. “The things I was fond of,” explained the prehuman Jesus, “were with the sons of men.” (Proverbs 8:31) At the beginning of his Gospel, the apostle John acknowledged Jesus’ prehuman role in creation: “All things came into existence through him, and apart from him not even one thing came into existence.”—John 1:3.
John’s words draw attention to another privilege that God’s Son enjoyed, namely, being a spokesman. From the beginning, he served as the Word. Thus, when Jehovah spoke to Adam, and later when he addressed Adam together with Eve, he likely did so through the Word. And who better to convey God’s instructions for mankind’s welfare than one who had a fondness for them?—John 1:1, 2.
How it must have pained the Word to see Eve and then Adam disobey their Creator! And how he must have yearned to remedy the ills their disobedience brought on their offspring! (Genesis 2:15-17; 3:6, 8; Romans 5:12) Addressing Satan, who had encouraged Eve to rebel, Jehovah declared: “I shall put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed.” (Genesis 3:15) Having witnessed what happened in Eden, the Word realized that as the primary part of the woman’s “seed,” he would become the target of vicious hatred. He knew that Satan was a manslayer.—John 8:44.
When Satan later questioned faithful Job’s integrity, the Word must have felt outrage at the slanderous accusations leveled against his Father. (Job 1:6-10; 2:1-4) Indeed, in his role as archangel, the Word is known as Michael, whose name means “Who Is Like God?” and indicates how he champions Jehovah against all who aspire to usurp God’s sovereignty.—Daniel 12:1; Revelation 12:7-10.
As the history of Israel unfurled, the Word observed Satan’s attempts to turn humans away from pure worship. Following the Exodus from Egypt, God told Israel through Moses: “Here I am sending an angel ahead of you to keep you on the road and to bring you into the place that I have prepared. Watch yourself because of him and obey his voice. Do not behave rebelliously against him, for he will not pardon your transgression; because my name is within him.” (Exodus 23:20, 21) Who was this angel? Likely, the prehuman Jesus.
Moses died in 1473 B.C.E., and his body was buried “in the valley in the land of Moab in front of Beth-peor.” (Deuteronomy 34:5, 6) Apparently, Satan wanted to use the corpse, possibly to promote idolatry. Michael opposed this but submissively deferred to the authority of his Father, Jehovah. ‘Not daring to bring a judgment against Satan in abusive terms,’ Michael warned Satan: “May Jehovah rebuke you.”—Jude 9.
Israel next began its conquest of the Promised Land of Canaan. Near the city of Jericho, Joshua received reassurance of the Word’s continuing oversight of the nation. There he met up with a man carrying a drawn sword. Joshua walked up to the stranger and asked: “Are you for us or for our adversaries?” Imagine Joshua’s surprise when the stranger revealed his identity, saying: “No, but I—as prince of the army of Jehovah I have now come.” Little wonder that Joshua fell on his face before this exalted representative of Jehovah, no doubt the prehuman Jesus who would later become “Messiah the Leader.”—Joshua 5:13-15; Daniel 9:25.
A further confrontation with Satan took place in the days of God’s prophet Daniel. On this occasion Michael supported his fellow angel when the demon prince of Persia ‘stood in opposition’ for three weeks. The angel explained: “Look! Michael, one of the foremost princes, came to help me; and I, for my part, remained there beside the kings of Persia.”—Daniel 10:13, 21.
Prehuman and Human Glory
In 778 B.C.E., the year Judean King Uzziah died, God’s prophet Isaiah beheld a vision of Jehovah on his lofty throne. “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” asked Jehovah. Isaiah volunteered, but Jehovah warned him that his fellow Israelites would be unresponsive to his declarations. The apostle John compared the unbelieving Jews of the first century to the people of Isaiah’s day, and noted: “Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory.” Whose glory? That of Jehovah and of the prehuman Jesus alongside him in the heavenly courts.—Isaiah 6:1, 8-10; John 12:37-41.
Some centuries later came Jesus’ greatest assignment up to that time. Jehovah transferred the life force of his beloved Son from heaven into the womb of Mary. Nine months later she gave birth to a baby boy, Jesus. (Luke 2:1-7, 21) In the words of the apostle Paul: “When the full limit of the time arrived, God sent forth his Son, who came to be out of a woman.” (Galatians 4:4) Likewise, the apostle John acknowledged: “The Word became flesh and resided among us, and we had a view of his glory, a glory such as belongs to an only-begotten son from a father; and he was full of undeserved kindness and truth.”—John 1:14.
At least by the age of 12, the young Jesus had come to appreciate that he must be busy doing his heavenly Father’s business. (Luke 2:48, 49) Some 18 years later, Jesus came to John the Baptist at the Jordan River and was baptized. As Jesus prayed, the heavens opened, and the holy spirit descended on him. Imagine the flood of memories that came to mind as he recalled the countless millenniums he had served alongside his Father as master worker, spokesman, prince of God’s army, and as the archangel, Michael. Then came the thrill of hearing his Father’s voice telling John the Baptist: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.”—Matthew 3:16, 17; Luke 3:21, 22.
John the Baptist certainly did not doubt Jesus’ prehuman existence. As Jesus approached him, John declared: “See, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world!” And he added: “This is the one about whom I said, Behind me there comes a man who has advanced in front of me, because he existed before me.” (John 1:15, 29, 30) The apostle John too knew of Jesus’ preexistence. “He that comes from above is over all others,” he wrote, and: “He that comes from heaven is over all others. What he has seen and heard, of this he bears witness.”—John 3:31, 32.
About the year 61 C.E., the apostle Paul urged Hebrew Christians to appreciate the full importance of Messiah’s arrival on earth and his work as High Priest. Drawing attention to Jesus’ role as Spokesman, Paul wrote: “God . . . has at the end of these days spoken to us by means of a Son . . . through whom he made the systems of things.” Whether this refers to Jesus’ role as “master worker” at creation or to his involvement in God’s progressive arrangements for man’s reconciliation, Paul here adds his testimony to Jesus’ prehuman existence.—Hebrews 1:1-6; 2:9.
Loyalty From “Early Times”
To first-century Christians in Philippi, Paul addressed this exhortation: “Keep this mental attitude in you that was also in Christ Jesus, who, although he was existing in God’s form, gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God. No, but he emptied himself and took a slave’s form and came to be in the likeness of men. More than that, when he found himself in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient as far as death, yes, death on a torture stake.” (Philippians 2:5-8) Jehovah lovingly responded to Jesus’ loyal course by resurrecting him and then welcoming him back home to heaven. What a sterling example of integrity through aeons of time Jesus has left for us!—1 Peter 2:21.
How grateful we are for the glimpses the Bible provides of Jesus’ prehuman existence! They surely strengthen our resolve to imitate his example of loyal service, especially now that he reigns as King of God’s Messianic Kingdom. Let us hail the “Prince of Peace,” Christ Jesus, our Governor and Ruler “whose origin is from early times”!—Isaiah 9:6; Micah 5:2.
[Box on page 24]
Testimony to a Prehuman Existence
Jesus’ own words, as noted below, abundantly testify to his prehuman existence:
□ “No man has ascended into heaven but he that descended from heaven, the Son of man.”—John 3:13.
□ “Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but my Father does give you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. . . . I have come down from heaven to do, not my will, but the will of him that sent me.”—John 6:32, 33, 38.
□ “This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that anyone may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread he will live forever.”—John 6:50, 51.
□ “What, therefore, if you should behold the Son of man ascending to where he was before?”—John 6:62.
□ “My witness is true, because I know where I came from and where I am going. . . . You are from the realms below; I am from the realms above. You are from this world; I am not from this world.”—John 8:14, 23.
□ “If God were your Father, you would love me, for from God I came forth and am here. Neither have I come of my own initiative at all, but that One sent me forth.”—John 8:42.
□ “Most truly I say to you, Before Abraham came into existence, I have been.”—John 8:58.
□ “Father, glorify me alongside yourself with the glory that I had alongside you before the world was. Father, as to what you have given me, I wish that, where I am, they also may be with me, in order to behold my glory that you have given me, because you loved me before the founding of the world.”—John 17:5, 24.
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Joshua meets the prince of Jehovah’s army