THE THREE STAGES OF CHRIST
From Eternity Past into Time
We all know that the Lord Jesus as the eternal God is from eternity to eternity, yet with Him there is an aspect of three stages. The first of the three stages is from eternity past to the time of creation. He created the heavens, the earth, and man. The entire universe was created by Him. In His creation He made man the center. In eternity past, He was merely the only begotten Son of God, who is the same as God and is the Second in the Divine Trinity. At the time of creation, He came out of eternity and entered into time.
Coming with Divinity and Entering into Humanity, Living on Earth for Thirty-three and a Half Years, and Dying on the Cross for the Accomplishment of the Judicial Aspect of God’s Salvation
Although He had come out of eternity, He had not yet come with His divinity into humanity. He came out of eternity to enter into time, but He did not come with His divinity to enter into humanity. In His creation, He created man in His image and after His likeness (Gen. 1:26) that He might attain His purpose. However, man fell, and Jehovah came to judge the fallen man. In His judgment, He spoke a prophecy with a promise, that is, that the seed of woman would bruise the serpent’s head (3:15). At that time Adam and Eve could not do anything, even though they hated the serpent. Suddenly they heard that the seed of woman would come and would bruise the head of the serpent, so they were very excited. However, while the bruising of the serpent’s head by the seed of woman was to deal with Satan, man still had the problem of sin before God. For this reason, God killed a sacrifice and made coats with the skin of the sacrifice for Adam and Eve to put on (v. 21). Before they put on the skin, both of them were naked (v. 7), without any covering before God. After God provided them with the coats of skin, they were redeemed and covered. Furthermore, God would come personally to become the seed of woman to destroy Satan.
Hence, four thousand years after that prophecy with a promise was spoken, God came personally. After four thousand years, that is, two thousand years ago, He came not only from eternity into time but also with divinity into humanity. Now He is not only in time but also in humanity. He as God in eternity was incarnated. John 1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.…the Word became flesh” (vv. 1, 14). At that time, the God-created man was fallen and had become flesh already. Genesis 6:3 says, “And Jehovah said, My Spirit shall not strive with man for ever, for that he also is flesh…” (ASV). Since man had become flesh and God would have nothing to do with the flesh, the Holy Spirit would no longer have any contact with man.
This God is the Word becoming flesh, but having only its form, without its reality. Romans 8:3 says that He had “the likeness of the flesh of sin.” He had only the likeness, like the bronze serpent which was lifted up on the pole having only the serpent’s form but without the serpent’s poison (Num. 21:4-9; John 3:14). This was the eternal God entering into the flesh. He was in the flesh for thirty-three and a half years. This is His second stage. The first stage is in eternity, and the second stage is in the flesh until He was on the cross, saying, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). On the cross He flowed forth blood and water (v. 34). Blood is for the accomplishment of God’s redemption in the judicial aspect; water is for the fulfillment of God’s salvation in the organic aspect.
The Lord Jesus was on the earth for thirty-three and a half years to accomplish the judicial aspect of God’s salvation, fulfilling all that God had required according to His righteousness. What He did in His living of thirty-three and a half years was to accomplish the judicial aspect of God’s salvation. He did nothing according to His own will; everything He did was in subjection to the Father (John 5:19, 30; 8:28) through the end when He went to die on the cross. At that time, He knew that it would be a great suffering, so in Gethsemane He prayed and conferred with God, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will” (Matt. 26:39). This is altogether on the judicial side. Eventually, He went to the cross, and there He cried out with a loud voice, saying, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (27:46). We must remember that in John 8:29 the Lord said, “He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone.” The Father was always with the Son and had not left the Son to be by Himself alone. However, for a short period of time on the cross He asked God why He forsook Him. God forsook Christ on the cross because He took the place of sinners (1 Pet. 3:18)—He bore our sins (1 Pet. 2:24; Isa. 53:6) and was made sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21). Christ accomplished all of this in the flesh. This is the second stage.
(The Organic Aspect of God's Salvation, Chapter 4, by Witness Lee)