Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
Yeshua the Messiah -- The "Firstborn"
In Colossians 1:15 Yeshua the Messiah is called "the firstborn of every creature" -- does this mean he "pre-existed"? If not, wouldn't Adam be the firstborn? The status of "firstborn" is a result of OBEDIENCE rather than birth sequence or inheritance; and it was the Messiah's perfect obedience to YEHOVAH's will that made him worthy of the position of the "firstborn" at his resurrection.
by A. Thomas and John D. Keyser
"Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature." -- Colossians 1:12-15
Did Yeshua the Messiah pre-exist? At first glance, the last phrase of the 15th verse of Colossians might seem to prove the idea. However, if kept in perspective with the entire Word of YEHOVAH God, such a conclusion is impossible. Although we understand that the Messiah existed in the mind and purpose of YEHOVAH God -- and was loved by his Father before the "creation of the world (kosmos)" (John 17:24) -- the Bible gives us plenty of evidence to DENY that Yeshua existed in any sort of physical, or disembodied spirit form, as a second or third person of the Godhead, before the account of his birth found recorded in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. As the archangel Gabriel clearly revealed to Mary:
Look! You will become pregnant, you will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Yeshua. He will be great, he will be called Son of HaElyon [the Highest]. YEHOVAH, God, will give him the throne of his forefather David....The Ruach HaKodesh [holy spirit] will come over you, the power of HaElyon [the Highest] will cover you. Therefore the holy child born to you will be called the Son of God (Luke 1:31,32,35, Jewish New Testament).
Many people take the above verses to buttress their viewpoint that Mary was somehow "impregnated" by YEHOVAH God to produce the child Yeshua. Let's consider this for a moment. If Mary was married when YEHOVAH "impregnated" her, He would have committed adultery, which is a violation of the eighth commandment. Conversely, if she was only engaged/betrothed when YEHOVAH "impregnated" her, then He would have committed fornication. Needless to say, YEHOVAH God will NEVER commit adultery or fornication -- or break any other of His own Commandments!
YEHOVAH never does anything to his disciples, prophets, teachers, servants, etc. without first asking them if they would do it; how much more so in the case of "impregnating" someone? YEHOVAH simply does not force Himself upon people! The New Testament clearly states that the Messiah was "born under the law," which is an unshakable indication that he was NOT conceived through fornication or adultery.
The only way that we can correctly say that the Messiah "pre-existed" in any way is to understand that he has existed in the plan and purpose of YEHOVAH God since the creation. We see him as the promised "seed" of the Woman (Genesis 3:15), a promise given to Adam and Eve as an eventual remedy to the condemnation of death that now rested on the human race as a result of their disobedience. The Messiah would be that promised remedy by the destruction of sin in his own flesh through his death on the tree, "that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil (diabolis)" (Hebrews 2:14).
A proper understanding of the meaning of John 1:1 also helps us to understand the supposed pre-existence of the Messiah. It is not our intent to delve into an exposition of this verse (which would take pages), but understanding that the "Word" or Logos carries the meaning of a declared or expressed intention, we see through the smoke screen created by apostate Christianity. The Logos, defined as a doctrine or declaration, helps us to understand YEHOVAH's purpose on the earth, and what He has promised. Consider the apostle Paul's letter to Titus: "In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began" (Titus 1:2). In John 1:1 we are told that "in the beginning was the word" and in the second verse that "the same was in the beginning with God." What was in the beginning with YEHOVAH God? Was it Yeshua himself? Was the Messiah that word? No, the "word" was YEHOVAH's declared purpose to people the earth with an immortal race of beings that would manifest his name. It was that "promise of eternal life" that Paul made mention of that "was with God, and was God."
To understand the Messiah's relationship to this "word" or declaration, we must continue down to the fourteenth verse of the same chapter where we are told that Yeshua was the "Word" made flesh. The Messiah is the vehicle in which the promise of eternal life, YEHOVAH's expressed intention or declaration, was to be carried out. He was the promised seed of Eve to provide a way out of death. As Yeshua confessed of himself: "I am the resurrection and the life." It was through the Messiah that YEHOVAH's declared purpose was to be manifested and carried out. In this we see no evidence of a physical pre-existence but a glorious truth concerning our heavenly Father's plan and purpose with the earth and those that live on it.
Much more could be said to disprove the pre-existence of the Messiah, but that is not the main focus of this article. Our purpose is not to show what the phrase "firstborn of every creature" does not mean, but the very beautiful truth it, in fact, expresses. Instead of teaching pre-existence, this statement reveals what the Messiah accomplished when he was on this earth.
The Messiah -- The Firstborn of YEHOVAH God
In Luke 3:38, we find a lineage of the Messiah that traces him back to Adam. When we arrive at the 38th verse we read: "Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, Which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God." Here we have it stated that Adam was the Son of God (YEHOVAH). Knowing that Adam was the first created of the physical race, for he had no natural father, there is nothing questionable about this statement. As every child's memory verse states; "And the Lord God formed man (Adam) of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul" (Genesis 2:7). But how do we understand the statement that the Messiah is the firstborn of every creature? We have all been taught the account of the creation since being a child and that Adam was the first man created. We all have been taught, since an early age, the events surrounding the birth of the Messiah some 4,000 years after the Creation. How can the scriptures speak of the Messiah being the firstborn when chronology and simple logic seem to prove otherwise?
Adam was considered the son of YEHOVAH God, for he had no natural father, and the Messiah was also considered the Son of YEHOVAH -- even though he had a HUMAN, NATURAL father. If Yeshua had a natural father, how could he be termed the "Son of YEHOVAH God"? In scripture the Messiah was given the title of the FIRSTBORN. In ancient -- and to some degree modern times -- there were many benefits that went along with being the firstborn. A certain degree of prestige and power went along with such a position. But if we were just to consider the different accounts in the book of Genesis alone, we see that the rights and benefits of the firstborn mainly went to the younger child. Shem was the youngest son of Noah but was given the pre-eminence over Japheth the firstborn. Isaac was placed over Ishmael, Jacob before Esau, Joseph before his brethren, and Ephraim before Manasseh.
Just as YEHOVAH God told Rebekah, "the elder shall serve the younger", these examples point forward to Yeshua the Anointed. Even though the Messiah was the "only begotten of the Father" in the truest sense at his resurrection, as opposed to Adam being physically created directly from the clay, at first it might not be thought that Yeshua would be considered the "firstborn of every creature" -- unless he "pre-existed"! It would seem that such a title would appropriately fall on Adam, yet the title is given to the Messiah. Let us consider further! The book of Psalms in the 89th chapter makes prophetical reference to this exaltation of Yeshua: "I have found David my servant; with my holy oil have I anointed him: With whom my hand shall be established mine arm also shall strengthen him." Verses 20,21. "He shall cry unto me, 'thou art my father, my God, and the rock of my salvation. Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth. Verses 26, 27.
Benefits of the Firstborn
If being the firstborn, or possessing the title, is such a desired position, what benefits go along with the title?
1. The firstborn were set apart as belonging to YEHOVAH. (Exodus 13:2) "Sanctify unto me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and beast: it is mine."
2. The firstborn received a double portion of his father's possessions. He was to receive twice as much as his brethren. (Deuteronomy 21:15-17). "But he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn, by giving him a double portion of all that he hath: for he is the beginning of his strength, the right of the firstborn is his."
Even though this makes reference to the justice delivered to the son of a hated wife (in the event that the man had more than one wife), the reference clearly shows that the right of the firstborn was a double portion of the father's possessions.
3. The firstborn was held in honor next to the parents. The other children were expected to look up to the firstborn, and the firstborn was to be an example for them. (Genesis 49:3) Jacob spake of Reuben his firstborn as "my might and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity and the excellency of power."
4. The firstborn was appointed ruler in his father's house. In 2 Chronicles 21:3, Jehoram was made a kin over Israel "because he was the firstborn."
5. The firstborn acted as a priest and led the family in their approach to YEHOVAH. In Numbers 8:14-18, we learn that the Levites were to be separated from the rest of Israel and minister to the service of the Tabernacle. Before the Levites were chosen for this service, the firstborn of every family group offered the sacrifices for the family. See verse 16.
In this fifth benefit lies the key of our consideration. Levi was not the eldest tribe, but why is it chosen to fulfill the priestly duties of the firstborn? Because when Moses descended the mount after forty days, it was the tribe of Levi that stood by YEHOVAH in destroying those that had rebelled in the absence of Moses.
So, it would seem that the duties and benefits of the firstborn rely on obedience rather than natural inheritance. The scriptures show that a younger brother could replace the natural firstborn in a family if the elder was disobedient or could not perform the necessary duties.
This brings us to Yeshua as the firstborn. We read in Psalms 89:27 that YEHOVAH would make him (Yeshua) his firstborn. The key word in this reference is the use of the word "make", that YEHOVAH would make him his firstborn. By his natural birth, Yeshua was not automatically the "firstborn" of all creatures. In the examples that we have already mentioned, we see that it was Yeshua's perfect obedience to the Father's will that made him worthy of the position of the firstborn.
In 1 Corinthians 15:45, we have Yeshua referred to as the "last Adam". As the first Adam is the head of a race of people, so is the last Adam placed at the head of a race or family. We haven't the space to consider at length the two federal heads, but we know that those who are connected to the first Adam are related to sin and death, while those related to the last Adam are related to life and eternal blessings (1 Corinthians 15:22). The first Adam lost his position of favor and likewise lost his position of the firstborn, while Yeshua gained the title and all its benefits by his obedience to the Father's commands.
Since the Messiah was raised to the status of firstborn, he naturally inherited the duties and benefits that go along with such a title. The duties and benefits are as follows:
1. He was set apart as belonging to YEHOVAH. (Luke 1:32,33). "He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest." "I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things." (John 8:28).
2. He received a double portion of an eternal inheritance. (Hebrews 1:4) "Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they."
3. He acts as a priest. (Hebrews 7:17) "Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec."
4. He will be appointed ruler over part of his Father's Kingdom. (Luke 1:32,33) "and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever."
5. His name will be held in honor next to his Father. (Isaiah 9:6) "and the government will be upon his shoulders. And his name will be called the Wonder of the Counsellor, the Judge of the Mighty everlasting Father -- the Prince of Peace."
An important point that we have yet to touch upon is that before the Messiah could enjoy the benefits we have just mentioned, he had to become the firstborn from the dead. Not only did Yeshua's obedience grant him all the glorious benefits that his Father wished to bestow upon him, but more importantly, his perfect obedience made it possible for YEHOVAH to raise him from the dead and grant him immortality. Referring back to the first chapter of Colossians in the eighteenth verse: " And he is the head of the body, the ecclesia: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence."
There had been others that had been raised from the dead, Lazarus for example, but none had ever been raised from the grave to be granted a perfect nature, never to return to the grave. And no other man has ever been appointed to be the arm of YEHOVAH, a Saviour for fallen man. All this was no accident but according to the plan and purpose of the Father.
Our Relationship to the Firstborn
Natural Israel can be seen as a type of firstborn in a natural sense. Because of disobedience, on a national scale, the benefits that YEHOVAH had promised to his people, namely the Kingdom, would be extended to the Gentile. "Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof" (Matthew 21:43). Although some of us are Gentiles after the flesh, we have been adopted into the position of the firstborn (or firstfruits) through the blood of the Messiah. In a sense, there is a comparison with our previous position as "children of wrath" (Ephesians 2:3,11-13) and the hope that we now have as being Spiritual Israel, as compared to the law concerning the "son of the hated" (Deuteronomy 21:15-17). As the "son of the hated" was to be given a double portion, so are those Faithful of Spiritual Israel (once "children of wrath") to receive a double portion over the Natural Israelite. Though Natural Israel will be saved and be allowed to dwell in the Land and enjoy preeminence over the nations (Romans 11:26; Zechariah 8:23), it will be those of Spiritual Israel that will be given absolute power over the earth and the prize of all prizes -- IMMORTALITY! (Revelation 2:7,26,27)
Along with the redemption from sin that we have gained through the Messiah and the righteousness that has been imputed to us, we also have the promise of sharing a portion with our elder brother. And by continued obedience, upon our resurrection and judgment, we may be granted the gift of eternal life and inheritance after the pattern of Yeshua the Anointed. "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures" (James 1:18). "These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb" (Revelation 14:4).
As we think upon these things, may we realize the beauty, wisdom, and supreme justice of YEHOVAH's plan of salvation as carried out through His firstborn Son. We see through YEHOVAH's workings with the position of the firstborn that what may appear logical or just according to the flesh is not in harmony with the thinking of the spirit. "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing."
May we be thankful to have the hope and privilege of being able to share with Yeshua the Messiah the benefits of the firstborn; not by our own doing, but by the work of our elder brother -- THE FIRSTBORN OF EVERY CREATURE.
Hope of Israel Ministries -- Preparing the Way for the Return of YEHOVAH God and His Messiah!
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