PREMORTAL LIFE – Is Mormon Preexistence Taught in the Bible?

1 Corinthians 15:46: “Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.”

MORMON POSITION:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church) teaches that humans were first born as spirits to a Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother in a spirit world called, “premortal” life, prior to coming down to earth to receive earthly bodies in what they call “mortal probation.”

Regarding this, Mormon Apostle James E. Faust explained:

“Life is not like a one-act play. It has three acts. We had a past act, when we were in the premortal existence; and now we have a present act, which is mortality; and we will have a future act, when we return to God. …We were sent into mortality to be tested and tried. As the Lord explained to Abraham, “ ‘We will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.’ (fn. Abr. 3:25) ” — James E. Faust, Where Do I Make My Stand?, LDS General Conference October 2004

As can be seen in this citation from a Mormon leader, there is no real support for the Mormon belief in mankind’s preexistence except in the Book of Abraham which Joseph Smith claimed he translated from Egyptian Hieroglyphics found in a burial manuscript. His translation was later proved to be completely false with the Mormon Church finally admitting on their website at LDS.org:

None of the characters on the papyrus fragments mentioned Abraham’s name or any of the events recorded in the book of Abraham.” —Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham, Gospel Topics Essay, published July 2014 on LDS.org

Yet, the Mormon Church continues to publish the Book of Abraham as Scripture and endorse the teachings of premortal existence that come from this book.   While support for this doctrine is lacking in the Bible, this doesn’t stop the Mormon Church from attempting to find verses in the Bible to support it. The following is a review of some of the key verses Mormons cite:

BIBLICAL RESPONSE:

JOHN 17:5 – The Preexistence of Jesus as seen in His prayer: “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.”[1]

It is true that Jesus preexisted in heaven, but He is the only human person who could claim prior existence because He has always existed as God, and therefore, in His Divine Being, He has “neither beginning of days, nor end of life” as the Bible explains at Hebrews 7:3. Philippians 2:5-9 also states:

“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name…. ” (New International Version)

Because God, in His nature, cannot die, Jesus added the additional human nature to His Divine Person so that His human nature could die to atone for the sins of the world. Thus, His human nature died, but His Divine nature as God continued to live on beyond death and that is how Jesus was able to resurrect His own human body as He said He would at John 2:18-22 (see also John 10:17-18). So, when Jesus told the Pharisees at John 8:58, “Before Abraham was, I Am,” they understood His claims to be blasphemy because only God has existed “before Abraham” right up to the present day. He likewise proved that no other human person could claim preexistence in heaven when he drew a distinction between His preexistence “from above” (in heaven) and their origin “from beneath” in (this world) at John 8:23:

Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world.”

Thus, Jesus effectively disproved the Mormon Church’s claims concerning preexistence for humanity as He said that we are “not” from above. Likewise 1 Corinthians 15:46 supports Jesus claim that humans are not “first” born in heaven when it says:

“Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven.” (Note: The New Living Translation of verse 46 reads: “What comes first is the natural body, then the spiritual body comes later.” )

Note verse that 47, likewise affirms the statement of Jesus being the only person from heaven when it says that the “first man” Adam is of the earth, whereas the “second man” Jesus, is the Lord from heaven.

Other Biblical Scriptures that contradict the Mormon concept of Preexistence are these verses below where Jesus tells us that no man has ever seen God, nor heard His voice, nor seen His face like He has:

No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” —John 1:18

“…the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape.” —John 5:37

If we all preexisted in Heaven as spirit-children of God before we were born on earth, Jesus would not be able to say that no one has seen the Father’s face or heard His voice.  Obviously, Mormon preexistence is clearly an unbiblical teaching that is disputed by both Jesus and the Apostle Paul. In contrast, Biblical Scripture teaches that our spirits were formed within our body at the time of our creation:

“And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”—Genesis 2:7

“…the LORD, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him.”—Zechariah 12:1

 

JEREMIAH 1:5: “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.”

In this passage, God tells Jeremiah that He “knew” him before he was formed in the womb. Does this mean that Jeremiah preexisted in heaven? A significant principle of Biblical interpretation is that Scripture interprets Scripture. So when we run across a passage that appears to contradict a clear teaching of the Bible, we must look for other ways to interpret the obscure passage in light of the clear passages of Scripture. Is the Bible teaching that God “knew” Jeremiah in some sort of premortal life prior to coming to earth or is it simply saying that because God had foreknowledge, He can know (or foreordain) people prior to their existence? The later interpretation fits the context as we read in Romans 4:17 that because of God’s foreknowledge, He “calleth those things which be not as though they were.”

JOHN 9:2: “And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” Regarding this passage, the Mormon Church states:

“Note that their question was not simply whether the man’s parents had sinned before he was born but whether the man himself had sinned before he was born. Their query plainly shows that they believed that the man had been both alive and capable of sinning before he was born.” —New Era, February 1972 Q & A: “Can you clarify what is in the Bible about the pre-existence?”

Were the disciples of Jesus asking whether this blind man sinned in some type of spirit world? Or were they referring to the concept of original sin that is passed down to humans in the womb?

“Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” —Psalm 51:5

As the Psalmist explains, from the very moment of conception, humans are “shapen in iniquity.” We come out of the womb as selfish babies, wanting everything in life to revolve around us. No one has to train a toddler how to fight for what he wants, even when it hurts someone else. If his toy is taken away, he will scream. If you make food he doesn’t like, he will spit it out and pout. If you tell him not to touch something, that is the very thing he wants to grab. It’s in our sin nature to disobey authority, and as a result, the Bible says:

“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.” —Romans 3:10-11

So God sent His Son Jesus to die for our sins so that if we accept Him as our Savior, we can be forgiven and receive everlasting life (see Romans 6:23). Thus, it is the original sin nature, is imparted at conception, that the disciples of Jesus were referring to when they asked Jesus about this man’s sin in the womb. It was not a reference to some sort of premortal life in a so-called spirit-world.

JOB 38:4,7: “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. …When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”   Regarding this passage, the Mormon Church states:

“Now although the Lord didn’t tell Job where he was before the foundations of the earth were laid, the very question implies that Job was in existence somewhere—and not only Job but “all the sons of God.” And when we recall that the Bible teaches that we are the sons of God (“the offspring of God” is the way the apostle Paul phrases it in Acts 17:29), we can’t help but conclude that we were in existence with Job (and Jeremiah and the Lord Jesus Christ) before the earth was created.” —New Era, February 1972 Q & A: “Can you clarify what is in the Bible about the pre-existence?”

This is a classic example of Scripture twisting by the Mormon Church. In the context of this chapter of Job, God is asking him a number of rhetorical questions in which the answers were simply NO, Job was NOT in existence when these things took place. See for example these questions God asked Job in the very context that the Mormon Church took this Biblical citation from:

“Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb? And said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed? Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days; and caused the dayspring to know his place; That it might take hold of the ends of the earth, that the wicked might be shaken out of it?” —Job 38:4-8, 11-13

Obviously, the context of Job 38 argues against the Mormon Church’s claims when all the answers to these questions God was asking Job are “No!” Job did not know who did these acts of creation, nor did he himself command the morning to take hold of the ends of the earth because Job wasn’t even in existence at the creation of the angels or the earth! To come to any other conclusion that God was somehow telling Job that he was in existence when God created the earth and the angelic “sons of God,” is a clear misrepresentation of the Biblical text.

ARE ANGELS DISEMBODIED HUMAN SPIRITS?

Mormonism makes no distinction between human spirits and angelic beings. For example, in Mormonism the Angel Moroni is supposedly a resurrected human from the Book of Mormon. Yet, the Bible teaches that humans cannot become angels because we are a completely separate creation.

Hebrews 2:9, 16-17: “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. … For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in thing pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.”

In this passage, we read that by becoming a human, Jesus “was made like unto his brethren …a little lower than the angels.” Now, if angels are disembodied human spirits, how could Jesus be “made…lower than the angels” by becoming a human?   These Biblical statements wouldn’t make any sense if angels and human spirits are the same type of beings.

Again, a clear distinction is made between angels and humans when we read in this passage that Jesus did not take upon Himself the “the nature of angels,” but instead He took upon Himself the “the seed of Abraham,” (i.e., human nature) in order to pay for our sins.  So, unlike Mormonism which views human spirits and angelic beings as the same type of creature, the Bible articulates a clear difference between the two types of beings.

There is another way in which the Bible calls created beings “sons of…” something or someone else, other than in the sense of physical fathership, and that would be in verses like Ephesians 2:2 where “Sons of disobedience” means “having a disobedient nature” or John 8:44, where the devil is called the “father” of the Pharisees because they were following Satan, the father of lies. So, Scripture does not teach that humans or angels are literal sons of God anymore than it teaches that the Pharisees were literal sons of Satan. Rather, when the Bible says that God is the “father of spirits” (Hebrews 12:9) and that we are the “the offspring of God” (Acts 17:29), it is speaking only in the sense of God being our Creator, just as angels are called “sons of God” at Job 38:7, only in the sense that they too are creations from God.

Nowhere does the Bible ever teach that God created angels or humans by an intimate act of celestial marriage to a heavenly wife, or so-called “Heavenly Mother” as Mormons call her.[2] Again, the Mormon Church’s teachings are completely unsupported by the Biblical text.

Finally, because of the fall of mankind into sin, the Bible explains that all of us are “by nature the children of wrath” (Ephesians 3:2). Yet, if we accept Jesus as our Savior, we are given the authority to “become the sons of God” by “adoption” into God’s family (John 1:12, Galatians 4:5, Ephesians 1:5).   It is in this sense of spiritual adoption, that Jesus is called the “firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29).

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[1] Unless otherwise stated, all Biblical Scripture references are quoted from the King James Bible Version.

[2] See LDS Gospel Topic Essay at LDS.org called “Mother in Heaven” published October 2015

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