Our Mormon friends teach the doctrine of eternal progression. Among other things, it means that all people were born into the spirit world – through sexual relations between God and one of his wives – prior to taking on earthly bodies.
As Mormon.org puts it: “Your life didn’t begin at birth and it won’t end at death. Before you came to earth, your spirit lived with Heavenly Father who created you. You knew Him, and He knew and loved you. It was a happy time during which you were taught God’s plan of happiness and the path to true joy. But just as most of us leave our home and parents when we grow up, God knew you needed to do the same. He knew you couldn’t progress unless you left for a while. So he allowed you to come to earth to experience the joy – as well as pain – of a physical body.”
While this is a troubling doctrine that departs from orthodox Christianity, it is even more disturbing to learn that Mormons claim the Bible supports this belief.
Before I formed you …
Specifically, Mormons cite two passages of scripture.
The first is Jeremiah 1:5, where the Lord declares, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
Mormons believe this verse supports the doctrine of pre-mortal existence since God says He “knew” Jeremiah prior to the prophet’s conception.
Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and atheists often argue, “Jesus never claimed to be God.” They assert that Christians have corrupted or misinterpreted the New Testament, or they reject the Bible outright.
But for those willing to consider the eyewitness testimony of the New Testament writers, and the convincing evidence that their words are accurately preserved, we may point our unbelieving friends to seven ways that Jesus does, in fact, claim deity.
First, Jesus calls Himself God. In John 8:58 He tells the religious leaders, “I assure you: Before Abraham was, I am.” These words hark back to Exodus 3 where God reveals Himself to Moses in the burning bush as I AM, or YHWH. The Jewish leaders clearly understand Jesus’ declaration of deity.
Second, Jesus claims equality with God. In John 10:30 He states, “The Father and I are one.” His frequent reference to God as Father – especially by the intimate Aramaic term Abba, or Father dearest – rankles the religious leaders. John writes, “This is why the Jews began trying all the more to kill Him … He was even calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:18).
In His high priestly prayer, Jesus anticipates once again sharing the glory He had with the Father before the world existed (John 17:5). This is a telling claim, for the Old Testament makes it clear that God does not share His glory with anyone (Isa. 42:8, 48:11).
Also note that more than four dozen times Jesus calls Himself the Son of Man – a term that illuminates the Messiah’s deity (Daniel 7:13-14).
In Jesus’ letter to the church at Laodicea (Rev. 3:14-22) He identifies Himself as “the Beginning of God’s creation” (ESV). Does this mean that Jesus is the first being God created, as Jehovah’s Witnesses claim? Of course not. This self-description in no way implies that Jesus is a created being or came into existence at any time. He is the eternal Son of God, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
The Greek word translated “Beginning” is arche, which carries the idea of “originator” or “active cause.” Paul instructed the Colossian church to share his letter with the church at Laodicea (Col. 4:16). If his instructions were obeyed, then believers in Laodicea would have been familiar with Paul’s description of Christ as Creator: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn [Greek prototokos, pre-eminent; not protoktisis, first-created] over all creation; because by Him everything was created … all things have been created through Him and for Him” (Col. 1:15-16). Further, in Col. 2:9, Paul says of Christ, “For in Him the entire fullness of God’s nature [or the deity] dwells bodily.”
John records in his Gospel, “All things were created through [or by] Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created” (John 1:3). Jesus existed before Abraham and referred to Himself as “I AM,” the unique designation for Yahweh, the one true, living, and eternal God (John 8:58). The Jews sought to kill Him because, they said, He claimed equality with God (John 5:17; see also John 10:30-33). In His high priestly prayer, Jesus tells the Father He desires to partake once again of the glory that He shared with the Father before the world existed — a glory reserved for God alone (John 17:5; Isa. 42:8, 48:11).
There is no doubt Jesus is clear about who He is. As He stands before Caiaphas the high priest, He is asked point blank, “By the living God I place You under oath: tell us if You are the Messiah, the Son of God!” Jesus answers with a Jewish idiom: “You have said it … But I tell you, in the future you will see the Son of Man [a reference to Dan. 7:13 and a clear claim of deity] seated at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26:63-64). In the closing verses of Revelation, He calls Himself “the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (Rev. 22:13).
The bottom line: Jesus never came into existence; He has always existed. He was never created; He is the Creator.