What Was Jesus Doing Before He Came to Earth?

Pre-Incarnate Jesus Was Active on Humanity’s Behalf

Jesus Before He Came to Earth
 Cecilie Arcurs / Getty Images  

Christianity says Jesus Christ came to earth during the historical reign of King Herod the Great and was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem, in Israel.

But church doctrine also says Jesus is God, one of the three Persons of the Trinity, and has no beginning and no end. Since Jesus has always existed, what was he doing before his incarnation during the Roman Empire? Do we have any way of knowing?

The Trinity Offers A Clue

For Christians, the Bible is our source of truth about God, and it is full of information about Jesus, including what he was doing before he came to earth.

The first clue lies in the Trinity.

Christianity teaches there is only one God but that he exists in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Even though the word “trinity” is not mentioned in the Bible, this doctrine runs from the beginning to the end of the book. There’s only one problem with it: The concept of the Trinity is impossible for the human mind to comprehend fully. The Trinity must be accepted on faith.

Jesus Existed Before Creation

Each of the three Persons of the Trinity is God, including Jesus. While our universe began at the time of creation, Jesus existed before then.

The Bible says “God is love.” (1 John 4:8, NIV). Before the creation of the universe, the three Persons of the Trinity were in a relationship, loving one another. Some confusion has arisen over the terms “Father” and “Son.” In human terms, a father must exist before a son, but that is not the case with the Trinity.

Applying these terms too literally led to the teaching that Jesus was a created being, which is considered heresy in Christian theology.

A vague clue as to what the Trinity was doing before creation came from Jesus himself:

In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” (John 5:17, NIV)

So we know the Trinity was always “working,” but at what we are not told.

Jesus Participated in Creation

One of the things Jesus did before he appeared on earth in Bethlehem was create the universe. From paintings and movies, we generally picture God the Father as the sole Creator, but the Bible provides additional details:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:1-3, NIV)

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. (Colossians 1:15-15, NIV)

Genesis 1:26 quotes God as saying, "Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness..." (NIV), indicating creation was a joint effort among Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Somehow, the Father worked through Jesus, as noted in the verses above.

The Bible reveals that the Trinity is such a tightly knit relationship that none of the Persons ever acts alone. All know what the others are about; all cooperate in everything.

The only time this triune bond was broken was when the Father abandoned Jesus on the cross.

Jesus in Disguise

Many Bible scholars believe Jesus appeared on earth centuries before his Bethlehem birth, not as a man, but as the Angel of the Lord. The Old Testament includes more than 50 references to the Angel of the Lord. This divine being, designated by the distinct term “the” angel of the Lord, was different from created angels. An indication that it might have been Jesus in disguise was the fact that the Angel of the Lord usually intervened on behalf of God’s chosen people, the Jews.

The Angel of the Lord rescued Sarah’s handmaid Hagar and her son Ishmael. The Angel of the Lord appeared in a burning bush to Moses. He fed the prophet Elijah. He came to call Gideon. At crucial times in the Old Testament, the Angel of the Lord showed up, exhibiting one of Jesus’ favorite pursuits: interceding for humanity.

Further proof is that appearances of the Angel of the Lord stopped after Jesus’ birth. He could not be on earth as a human being and as an angel simultaneously. These pre-incarnate manifestations were called theophanies or christophanies, the appearance of God to human beings.

Need to Know Basis

The Bible does not explain every detail of every single thing. In inspiring the men who wrote it, the Holy Spirit supplied as much information as we need to know. Many things remain a mystery; others are simply beyond our ability to understand.

Jesus, who is God, does not change. He has always been a compassionate, forgiving being, even before he created humankind.

While on earth, Jesus Christ was the perfect reflection of God the Father. The three Persons of the Trinity are always in complete accord. Despite the lack of facts about Jesus’ pre-creation and pre-incarnate activities, we know from his unchanging character that he always has been and always will be motivated by love.

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Fairchild, Mary. "What Was Jesus Doing Before He Came to Earth?" ThoughtCo, Jan. 5, 2018, thoughtco.com/jesus-before-he-came-to-earth-4157459. Fairchild, Mary. (2018, January 5). What Was Jesus Doing Before He Came to Earth? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/jesus-before-he-came-to-earth-4157459 Fairchild, Mary. "What Was Jesus Doing Before He Came to Earth?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/jesus-before-he-came-to-earth-4157459 (accessed May 21, 2018).