If you do not believe that I AM (he) you will die in your sins [John 8:24]
The Gospel of John is unique in many ways, but from its very first verse it seems determined to prove both the deity and pre-existence of Jesus Christ.
To his original Jewish hearers, and perhaps even to us today, the idea that the appearances of God throughout the Old Testament were in fact Jesus Christ were hard to fathom.
Yet, scripture proves the truth of his words.
This – the pre-existence of God in the Person of Jesus – is something the Apostle John seems to have grasped from the start of his relationship with the Messiah on earth, and when he writes his account he majors on these themes.
- Was the Gospel of John written by the Apostle? See the footnote at the end of this post.
God the Word
To begin with, John identifies Jesus as the Logos (Word).
There is some discussion about where John derived his concept of the Logos. Was he intending to appeal to a more non-Jewish audience by using a Hellenistic term (something which also comes across in the rest of his writings) or was there already a Jewish concept of the Logos?
Logos in Greek is termed davar in Hebrew and memra in Aramaic, and is a divine principle that is more closely aligned with rabbinical thinking than the Greco-Roman interpretation. As noted earlier, memra is the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew davar which is translated as logos in Greek. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum [in his book “Yeshua: The Life of Messiah from a Messianic Jewish Perspective.”] argues ancient Jewish rabbis held that the Memra was a divinely embodied person, sometimes associated with the Angel of the LORD or the Metatron (the highest messenger of God in rabbinic angelology). [Source]
In Ancient Greek philosophy, the term logos meant the principle of cosmic reason. The Hellenistic Jewish philosopher Philo merged the Greek and Hebrew themes when he described the Logos as God’s creator of and mediator with the material world. Some would argue that John adapted Philo’s description of the Logos, applying it to Jesus, the incarnation of the Logos. [Source]
No matter what his source, John’s intention was to show that Jesus was incarnate as God. and Creator. For “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” John 1:3
The JW Mistranslation
John plainly states that Jesus was not only WITH God before his incarnation, but IS God.
This brings to mind the doorknocks I’ve had over the years of Jehovah’s Witnesses who believe Jesus is not divine. When presented with this verse, they mistranslate it to “the word was A god.” Unfortunately for them, the Greek text is clear.
- How to refute the JW belief that Jesus is not divine: See this article
- See a thorough refutation of the JW argument in this FOOTNOTE
Christ [in the first verse of John’s Gospel] is clearly identified as God, the Creator of all things. Notice that Genesis 1:1 says “In the beginning God created” everything in the universe. This means Christ is God.
No One Has Ever Seen God
John, quoting Jesus himself, makes the statement that no one has seen God at any time, nor heard his voice. This must have been startling to his hearers, who knew their scriptures well enough to point out the many times they speak of man encountering the Lord.
- John 1:18 – No one has seen God at any time
- John 5:37 – You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form
- John 6:46 – Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God
- 1 John 4:12 – No one has seen God at any time
The I AM Statements
- Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” (John 8:58)
- If you do not believe that I AM (he) you will die in your sins (John 8:24)
John depicts Jesus as divine, pre-existent, and identified with the one God. He talked openly about his divine role, echoing Yahweh’s “I Am that I Am” with seven “I Am” declarations of his own.
- “I am the bread of life”[6:35]
- “I am the light of the world”[8:12]
- “I am the gate for the sheep”[10:7]
- “I am the good shepherd”[10:11]
- “I am the resurrection and the life”[11:25]
- “I am the way and the truth and the life”[14:6]
- “I am the true vine”[15:1]
The soldiers came to arrest Jesus in the Garden fell backwards when Jesus used the divine I AM title:
John 18:4-6: So Jesus … said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered Him, “Jesus the Nazarene.” He said to them, “I am [He].” … So when He said to them, “I am [He],” they drew back and fell to the ground.
Why did the soldiers fall back when Jesus said, “I am He”?
Bible versions add the “He” for clarification, but what Jesus actually said was “I AM.” This is the name of God (Exodus 3:14). Jesus revealed Himself as God!
Jesus is Yahweh
Perhaps the most striking of the appearances in the Old Testament is the one where Moses heard the voice of God in the burning bush, and saw His glory. It was then Jesus referred to himself as Yahweh.
Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” …This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.” – [Exodus 3:13-15]
At that moment, God declared “I AM THAT I AM”. In other words, I EXIST. There is also a connection to the Hebrew words for creation.
The English language doesn’t have an exact translation of the word “Yahweh,” so in our Old Testament we see it written as “LORD” in capital letters. Since Hebrew is written without vowels, we don’t know how precisely it was pronounced in ancient times. All we have is the consonants, in what is known as the tetragrammaton: YHVH (Hebrew yod-heh-vav-heh).
Let’s compare this experience of Moses seeing and hearing the voice of God with what John reports in John 5:37:
“And the Father who sent Me, He has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form.”
Thus, according to Jesus himself, no one has seen the Father at any time (except the Son of God) and the Person who is seen in the Old Testament, who guides, rebukes, protects and saves, is the pre-incarnate form of Christ.
Now if we turn to the famous passage in Isaiah 6 we read this:
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim… and they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory…. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”  Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
Who did Isaiah see, according to the gospel of John? For nobody has seen or heard the Father God at any time. Clearly, the ‘Lord’ seen by Isaiah is the same glorified Lord Jesus seen by John in the Book of Revelation. And Isaiah himself testified that he was GOD.
- Further Study: Has Anyone Seen God or Not?
The Personal Appearances of Christ in the Old Testament
It is even disturbing to some of us today to realise, therefore, that each time God shows up in the Old Testament, it is actually Jesus they are seeing and hearing.
- Gen 21:17,18 (called angel of God – cared for Hagar)
- Gen 22:11-18 (called angel of the Lord – blessed Abraham)
- Gen 28:13-16 (called Lord – blessed Jacob)
- Gen 31:11-13 (called angel of God – instructs Jacob)
- Exod 3:1,2 (John 8:58 & Acts 7:30-33) (instructs Moses)
- Exod 13:21 (Exodus 23:20-23) (called Lord – leads and protects Israel)
- Exod 14:19 (called angel of God – leads and protects Israel)
- 2 Kings 1:3,15 (called angel of the Lord – protected Elijah)
- 2 Kings 19:35 (2 Chron 32:21; Is 37:36) (angel of the Lord – Zech 1:11,12; 3:1,5,6; 12:8)
- Daniel 6:22 (Num 20:16 & Is 63:9 & Dan 3:28) (protected Daniel)
Jesus himself testified to that. He said:
“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me” John 5:39
Later, on the road to Emmaeus:
“And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself”. Luke 24:27
- The Pre-Incarnate Christ
- Theophanies in the O.T.
- Pre-Incarnate Christ
- Appearances of Christ in Genesis
Jesus the Lord, Messiah and God
How awesome it is to realise that Jesus led the Israelites out of Egypt, spoke to Moses on the Mount, counselled kings, inspired the prophets, was the Lord of the Psalmists, walked on the earth and talked with his people long before he was made incarnate.
Knowing this, how can we ever minimise Jesus and bring him down to our level as a humanoid god who merely spent three years among us in what the Pope once called a “failed mission” before being glorified by the Father?
How can we – as some false teachers do – portray Jesus Christ, the Almighty God, as a “mate” who cheerfully mixes in with our day to day activities, even “going on a picnic” (as has been said) even less having a romantic “date” with one woman ‘leader’.
See my full commentary on the subject HERE:
The pictures we often see emphasise the humanity of Jesus Christ, instead of his divinity, and this is how people expect him to act.
How then can they not be deceived by a lookalike, but false, messiah before the Second Coming?
We must bear in mind that, although Jesus did “humble himself” (Phil 2:7) to take on the form of man, we are not supposed to see him as human any longer: “even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer”. [2 Cor 5:16]
Remembering all the appearances of Jesus as the God of the Old Testament will guard against that.
The JW Argument Refuted
The JWs argue that because the Greek definite article ho (the) is not used before the Greek word for God (theos), when referring to Jesus, he cannot be the God, Jehovah (as they call him). There are defects with this argument.
First, in this passage the word theos is a predicate nominative preceding the verb, and according to Koine Greek grammar rules, predicate nominatives in this pre-verbal position tend to omit the definite article. Yet, while “and the Word was a god” is grammatically possible, this rendering contradicts many other passages affirming the Deity of “the Word” as well as the Incarnate Word, Jesus.
Second, the JW’s are inconsistent. Their New World Translation Bible translates theos (without the definite article ho) as “Jehovah” or “God” numerous times (cf. Matt. 5:9, 6:24; Luke 1:35, 2:40; John 1:6, 12,13, 18; Rom. 1:7, 17,18; Titus 1:1). The reason they won’t translate it that way in John 1:1 is because to do so would shatter their claim that Christ is not God.
Third, Christ is called ho theos (the God) elsewhere in Scripture. For example: “But to the Son [the Father] saith, ‘Thy throne, O God (ho theos) is for ever and ever'” (Heb. 1:8; see also Titus 2:13, where the definite article tou [the genetive singular form of ho] precedes the phrase “Great God and Savior”; and “Thomas answered, and said to [Jesus]: ‘My Lord and My God'” (John 20:28). The Greek reads: ho kurios mou kai ho theos mou (“the Lord of me and the God of me”). If the Witnesses argue that in John 20:28 Thomas was exaggerating about Jesus, point out that if Jesus was not God, Thomas would have been blaspheming and Jesus would have rebuked him, but He didn’t – He clearly approves of what Thomas said.
- For a thorough correction and re-examination of the core issues surrounding this topic, please see this article from the CrossWise Blog, particularly the section “And the Word Was ___” as well as “And the Word was the Agent of God?“