Matthew Harmon

Trying to understand how Jesus Christ can be both fully God and fully man at the same time stretches the limits of our finite minds. Even the brightest minds in the first few centuries of the church struggled to explain this reality! But passages such as Philippians 2:6–8 make clear the full deity and full humanity of Jesus Christ. As the Son of God he has existed from eternity past, but at a specific point in history he took on human flesh to dwell among us. When we try to wrap our minds around this reality, one of the questions that arises is what was Jesus doing before he was born in Bethlehem? While the Bible does not provide an exhaustive answer, it does give us some indications.

First, from all eternity the Son has been enjoying the love and glory that he shares with God the Father. Shortly before his death Jesus prays, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). He was receiving the worship of the heavenly hosts that he rightly deserves (compare Isaiah 6:1–8 with John 12:37–41).

Second, the Bible identifies God the Son as the creator of all things. Referring to him as the Word, the apostle John writes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:1–3). Paul speaks of the same reality in Colossians 1:15–16. These passages (along with others such as John 1:10; 1 Cor 8:6) make it clear that the Son of God created everything in the universe.

Third, before his incarnation the Son of God was sustaining the universe. The author of Hebrews says that the Son is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (1:3). Colossians 1:17 communicates the same truth when it says that Christ “is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” The reason that the universe continues to exist is because the Son of God sustains it.

Fourth, the Son was preparing to redeem his people. In John 17 Jesus refers to the Father giving him work to accomplish (17:4) and a people to redeem (17:6). Only when the fullness of time came did God send his Son into the world to carry out his mission (John 17:18, 21; Gal 4:4).

So, while the Bible does not speak extensively of what Jesus was doing before he was born in Bethlehem, it does show him as the creator and sustainer of the universe who was receiving angelic worship while awaiting the time when he would take on flesh for our redemption.