Did Jesus exist before the world? If you read John 17:5, it sure sounds like it!
“And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”
As clear as that seems, some people make objections to understanding this verse as speaking of Jesus’ existence before he was born. For example:
He makes the point that Jesus speaks of having already given glory to believers who weren’t born at the time.
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one…”
This must refer to a glory that already laid up for us to receive at some point in the future. Could it be that John 17:5 is referring to the same thing by the words ‘the glory I had with you before the world existed’?
The answer is no.
There’s a very important difference between the two, and it comes out when you look at the grammar. Take the phrase from verse 22, ‘I have given [the glory] to them.’ The subject of this phrase is Jesus. It’s talking about something Jesus did at a time when Jesus existed. It doesn’t matter much that we didn’t exist yet. But this sentence wouldn’t make any sense if Jesus hadn’t existed yet.
Now look at verse 5, ‘I had [the glory] with you before the world existed.’ Once again the subject of the phrase is Jesus. Rather than having God be the subject, as in, ‘God gave me glory before the world existed,’ this phrase has Jesus as the subject. He’s doing something; he’s the one having the glory. If he’s the subject – the one doing the having – shouldn’t he exist at the time the having takes place?
In order for verse 22 to be the same as verse 5, it would have to say that we modern believers had glory with Jesus in the first century. But we didn’t – and we don’t have glory now. The glory has been given, but we haven’t received it yet. Jesus, on the other, actually had glory with the Father before they made the world (John 1:3).