Q&A: Did Jesus have a body already in eternity?

Did Jesus have a body already in eternity?

Question

Since God is eternal, did Jesus have a body already in eternity? How does this time thing work?

Answer

Time came into being with the creation of the universe. Time began when God created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1). However, God existed before Genesis 1:1 and therefore before time. God is self-existent and eternal.

Jesus is God (cf. John 1:1) and, as the second person of the Godhead, he existed before Abraham (John 8:58). God has always been. There has never been a time when God was not. As Jesus said, "I am the Alpha and the Omega … who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty" (Rev. 1:8). The second person of the Godhead - Jesus - has always been.

The incarnation of our Lord took place in time. Christ came from before there was time (eternity) into the very time he himself created (cf. John 1:3; Col. 1:15-17; Heb. 1:2, 10). So, the One who is outside of, above, and transcending time, came into time in the fullness of time (Gal. 4:4).

Jesus did not have a body until the incarnation. This is how the Westminster Larger Catechism explains this:

Question 37: How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?

Answer: Christ the Son of God became man (John 1:14; Matt. 26:38), by taking to himself a true body, and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance, and born of her (Luke 1:27, 31, 35, 42; Gal. 4:4), yet without sin (Heb. 4:15; 7:26).

The Catechism is speaking about the virgin birth. The phrase, "the virgin birth" is theological shorthand for the birth of Jesus Christ, which is described in Matthew 1:18-25 and in Luke 1:26-38. In these verses we discover a divine intervention (Luke 1:35) of the miraculous conception of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Matt. 1:20). The God of heaven and earth in some miraculous and mysterious way intersected our space and time and took upon himself human flesh and dwelt among us in our human nature.

I will add to this that Calvary (Luke 23:33), Jesus’ death (Acts 2:23), his resurrection (1 Cor. 15:20) and his ascension all literally happened in time. And with his ascension (Acts 1:9-10) Jesus (still being fully God and fully man and having a literal body and soul) sat at the right hand of God (Mark 16:19; cf. Luke 22:69; Eph. 1:20; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:3; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2). And on another day in time, "the Lord himself [God in the flesh, John 1:14] will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first" (1 Thess. 4:16).

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Did Jesus have a physical body before his incarnation?

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).