Before Abraham was, I am - The following is a literal translation of Calmet's note on this passage: - "I am from all eternity. I have existed before all ages. You consider in me only the person who speaks to you, and who has appeared to you within a particular time. But besides this human nature, which ye think ye know, there is in me a Divine and eternal nature. Both, united, subsist together in my person. Abraham knew how to distinguish them. He adored me as his God; and desired me as his Savior. He has seen me in my eternity, and he predicted my coming into the world." On the same verse Bishop Pearce speaks as follows: - "What Jesus here says relates (I think) to his existence antecedent to Abraham's days, and not to his having been the Christ appointed and foretold before that time; for, if Jesus had meant this, the answer I apprehend would not have been a pertinent one. He might have been appointed and foretold for the Christ; but if he had not had an existence before Abraham's days, neither could he have seen Abraham, (as, according to our English translation, the Jews suppose him to have said), nor could Abraham have seen him, as I suppose the Jews understood him to have said in the preceding verse, to which words of the Jews the words of Jesus here are intended as an answer."
Verily, verily - This is an expression used only in John. It is a strong affirmation denoting particularly the great importance of what was about to be affirmed. See the notes at John 3:5.
Before Abraham was - Before Abraham lived.
I am - The expression I am, though in the present tense, is clearly designed to refer to a past time. Thus, in Psalm 90:2, “From everlasting to everlasting thou art God.” Applied to God, it denotes continued existence without respect to time, so far as he is concerned. We divide time into the past, the present, and the future. The expression, applied to God, denotes that he does not measure his existence in this manner, but that the word by which we express the present denotes his continued and unchanging existence. Hence, he assumes it as his name, “I AM,” and “I AM that I AM,” Exodus 3:14. Compare Isaiah 44:6; Isaiah 47:8. There is a remarkable similarity between the expression employed by Jesus in this place and that used in Exodus to denote the name of God. The manner in which Jesus used it would strikingly suggest the application of the same language to God. The question here was about his pre-existence. The objection of the Jews was that he was not 50 years old, and could not, therefore, have seen Abraham. Jesus replied to that that he existed before Abraham. As in his human nature he was not yet 50 years old, and could not, as a man, have existed before Abraham, this declaration must be referred to another nature; and the passage proves that, while he was a man, he was also endowed with another nature existing before Abraham, and to which he applied the term (familiar to the Jews as expressive of the existence of God) I AM; and this declaration corresponds to the affirmation of John John 1:1, that he was in the beginning with God, and was God. This affirmation of Jesus is one of the proofs on which John relies to prove that he was the Messiah John 20:31, to establish which was the design of writing this book.
“Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” DA 463.1
When He spoke these words, Jesus was in the court of the temple specially connected with the services of the Feast of Tabernacles. In the center of this court rose two lofty standards, supporting lampstands of great size. After the evening sacrifice, all the lamps were kindled, shedding their light over Jerusalem. This ceremony was in commemoration of the pillar of light that guided Israel in the desert, and was also regarded as pointing to the coming of the Messiah. At evening when the lamps were lighted, the court was a scene of great rejoicing. Gray-haired men, the priests of the temple and the rulers of the people, united in the festive dances to the sound of instrumental music and the chants of the Levites. DA 463.2
In the illumination of Jerusalem, the people expressed their hope of the Messiah's coming to shed His light upon Israel. But to Jesus the scene had a wider meaning. As the radiant lamps of the temple lighted up all about them, so Christ, the source of spiritual light, illumines the darkness of the world. Yet the symbol was imperfect. That great light which His own hand had set in the heavens was a truer representation of the glory of His mission. DA 463.3
It was morning; the sun had just risen above the Mount of Olives, and its rays fell with dazzling brightness on the marble palaces, and lighted up the gold of the temple walls, when Jesus, pointing to it, said, “I am the light of the world.” DA 463.4Read in context »
“Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad. Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.” LHU 17.2
Here Christ shows them that, although they might reckon His life to be less than 50 years, yet His divine life could not be reckoned by human computation. The existence of Christ before His incarnation is not measured by figures (The Signs of the Times, May 3, 1899). LHU 17.3
“Before Abraham was, I am.” Christ is the preexistent, self-existent Son of God. The message He gave to Moses to give to the children of Israel was, “Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” LHU 17.4
The prophet Micah writes of Him, “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” LHU 17.5
Through Solomon Christ declared: “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old.... When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth: then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him.” LHU 17.6
In speaking of His preexistence, Christ carries the mind back through dateless ages. He assures us that there never was a time when He was not in close fellowship with the eternal God. He to whose voice the Jews were then listening had been with God as one brought up with Him. LHU 17.7
Christ's words were spoken with a quiet dignity and with an assurance and power that sent conviction to the hearts of the scribes and Pharisees. They felt the power of the message sent from heaven. God was knocking at the door of their hearts, entreating entrance (The Signs of the Times, August 29, 1900). LHU 17.8
He was equal with God, infinite and omnipotent.... He is the eternal, self-existent Son (Manuscript 101, 1897). LHU 17.9
In Christ is life, original, unborrowed, underived. “He that hath the Son hath life” (1 John 5:12). The divinity of Christ is the believer's assurance of eternal life. “He that believeth in me,” said Jesus, “though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die”.... Christ here looks forward to the time of His second coming (The Desire of Ages, 530). LHU 17.10Read in context »
I AM means an eternal presence; the past, present, and future are alike with God. He sees the most remote events of past history and the far distant future with as clear a vision as we do those things which are transpiring daily. We know not what is before us, and if we did, it would not contribute to our eternal welfare. God gives us an opportunity to exercise faith and trust in the great I AM.... Our Saviour says, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad” (John 8:56). Fifteen hundred years before Christ laid off His royal robe, His kingly crown, and left His position of honor in the heavenly courts, assumed humanity, and walked a man among the children of men, Abraham saw His day, and was glad. “Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am” (verses 57, 58).... TMK 12.2Read in context »
Abraham learned of God the greatest lesson ever given to mortal. His prayer that he might see Christ before he should die was answered. He saw Christ; he saw all that mortal can see, and live. By making an entire surrender, he was able to understand the vision of Christ, which had been given him. He was shown that in giving His only-begotten Son to save sinners from eternal ruin, God was making a greater and more wonderful sacrifice than ever man could make. DA 469.1
Abraham's experience answered the question: “Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” Micah 6:6, 7. In the words of Abraham, “My son, God will provide Himself a lamb for a burnt offering,” (Genesis 22:8), and in God's provision of a sacrifice instead of Isaac, it was declared that no man could make expiation for himself. The pagan system of sacrifice was wholly unacceptable to God. No father was to offer up his son or his daughter for a sin offering. The Son of God alone can bear the guilt of the world. DA 469.2
Through his own suffering, Abraham was enabled to behold the Saviour's mission of sacrifice. But Israel would not understand that which was so unwelcome to their proud hearts. Christ's words concerning Abraham conveyed to His hearers no deep significance. The Pharisees saw in them only fresh ground for caviling. They retorted with a sneer, as if they would prove Jesus to be a madman, “Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast Thou seen Abraham?” DA 469.3
With solemn dignity Jesus answered, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I AM.” DA 469.4
Silence fell upon the vast assembly. The name of God, given to Moses to express the idea of the eternal presence, had been claimed as His own by this Galilean Rabbi. He had announced Himself to be the self-existent One, He who had been promised to Israel, “whose goings forth have been from of old, from the days of eternity.” Micah 5:2, margin. DA 469.5Read in context »
I AM means an eternal presence; the past, present, and future are alike with God. He sees the most remote events of past history and the far distant future with as clear a vision as we do those things which are transpiring daily. We know not what is before us, and if we did, it would not contribute to our eternal welfare. God gives us an opportunity to exercise faith and trust in the great I AM.... Our Saviour says, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad” (John 8:56). Fifteen hundred years before Christ laid off His royal robe, His kingly crown, and left His position of honor in the heavenly courts, assumed humanity, and walked a man among the children of men, Abraham saw His day, and was glad. “Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am” (verses 57, 58).... TMK 12.2
Christ was using the great name of God that was given to Moses to express the idea of the eternal presence. [See Ex. 3:14.] Isaiah also saw Christ, and his prophetic words are full of significance. He says, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Speaking through him, the Lord says, “I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour.... Fear not: for I am with thee.... I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no saviour.... Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, that I am God. Yea, before the day was I am he.... I am the Lord, your Holy One, the creator of Israel, your King” (Isaiah 43:3-15).... When Jesus came to our world, He proclaimed Himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).... TMK 12.3
The Lord must be believed and served as the great “I AM,” and we must trust implicitly in Him.12 TMK 12.4Read in context »
To Moses, Jehovah declared, “I am that I am” (Exodus 3:14). Christ declared, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). By this declaration He laid open the resources of His infinite nature, imparting in His words assurance of pardon for the guilty race. He is the Word, conscious of power that He can take up and lay down His life as He chooses [in order] to secure the salvation of those who have fallen under Satan's falsehoods and intrigues.... UL 144.5Read in context »