Last edited 22/Jan/2021
The Bible’s answer to this question is no; the premortality of humans is not biblical. It is actually a foreign concept. Contrary to the Bible’s teachings, the Christian-based cult known as Mormonism believes this. The Mormon Church has misinterpreted several Bible passages under the influence of modern-day revelations of Mormon prophets, thinking that they teach the pre-existence of humans before life on earth. To see refutations to several of these arguments, please see: “Mormonism, Pre-Mortal Existence, and Bible Passages”. So, according to the Bible, when does human existence begin?
The Very First Human Life: Created From Dust
The Bible teaches that the very first human life began on the sixth day of creation, when God formed the first man, Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45), from “the dust of the ground”, and then breathed into him “the breath of life”:
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, KJV)
After a period of time, the Lord put Adam to sleep and made the first woman, Eve, the mother of all living (Genesis 3:20), from one of the ribs that God had taken from him:
And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; 22 And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. (Genesis 2:21–22)
All Subsequent Human Lives: Created in the Womb
Subsequently, whenever the Bible talks about human existence, it always begins in the mother’s womb. It never talks of human life beginning anywhere else, or at any other time. David wrote in one of his Psalms:
For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. (Psalm 139:13)
Reins are “the innermost parts of man; or the kidneys, the supposed seat of the desires and affections; used metaphorically for “heart”.¹ They refer to the most hidden and secretive parts of a human being. This passage is important, because it tells us that God has possessed the most important and secretive parts of us while in our mothers’ wombs—not before we were in them, but the moment we were in them. Conception was the time that the Lord had creative possession over us. It also tells us that while in the wombs, we were under the control and guardianship of God, because he covered (defended, protected) us.²,³ David also wrote:
Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:16)
The Hebrew word for substance here means “embryo”,⁴ and the word for “fashioned” is the same as the word for “formed” in Genesis 2:7, when it says that God “formed man of the dust of the ground”.⁵ This tells us that while in our mothers’ wombs, even as embryos, all the members of our bodies were already written in God’s grand design book, and were appointed of God long before they had existence. The moment we were helpless embryos, he began fashioning us, gradually completing his grand plan for our body to grow into its proper form.⁶ What we have learned so far is that while the Bible does not mention anywhere about humans existing before their births, it does mention God taking possession of us the moment we were embryos, and that ever since we were embryos, God gradually fashioned us based on what he wrote about us even before any of our members existed.
The Natural Body Comes Before the Spiritual
Paul makes an important comment regarding natural and spiritual bodies:
“It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. 45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. 46 Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. 47 The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven. 48 As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. 49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” (1 Corinthians 15:44–49)
Here he makes it clear that we are given natural bodies before spiritual, heavenly bodies. And as we have already established, our natural bodies are first formed in our mothers’ wombs. Therefore, according to the Bible, this was the moment God created us. Christians are subsequently given heavenly bodies to enjoy in Heaven after they have died, having believed in Jesus Christ, which will differ from their earthly, natural bodies.
The Consequences of Believing in the Premortality of Humans
In the history of humanity there is only one exception to this truth. The only man to have ever come down to earth from Heaven is Jesus Christ:
For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. (John 6:38)
There are far more serious consequences for teaching the pre-existence of humans other than the fact that it’s unbiblical. This teaching actually diminishes the power and glory of Jesus Christ:
He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all. (John 3:31)
The truth is that the fact that Jesus alone came down from Heaven means that he is above all; he is greater than all rule, authority, and creatures; he is sovereign over all, the eternal master of everything that lives and breathes, who always existed and was never made (John 1:1–3). He is superior over everything that he created, and everything else is inferior.
If we came down from Heaven as well from some kind of pre-existent state, then Jesus is not uniquely above all. All of a sudden, we have become sovereign masters just like him. All of a sudden, we have become the most superior beings in the universe just like him. All of a sudden, we have become above all rule, authority, and creatures, just like him. This teaching robs Jesus of his rightful position as the one above everything that he made. Jesus is above all by virtue of the fact that he (as the eternal creator) uniquely came down from Heaven. If Jesus coming down from Heaven is not unique to him alone, then this passage is meaningless, Christ is not above all, and we have robbed him of his glory.
John the Baptist emphasised this vital teaching when he first saw Jesus coming to him, saying:
This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. (John 1:30)
John said that because Jesus was before him, he was preferred before him. Even though John was born before Jesus, he confessed that Jesus actually existed before him, and that this testified to his superiority. John realised that while he was a created, sinful being, Jesus was an uncreated, holy being. Jesus, being pre-eminent over all creation, and because of his position as the eternal Son of God (John 1:34) and King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 17:14), must increase, said John the Baptist gladly, while he himself must decrease (John 3:29–30).
Because of all of the above reasons, the teaching that humans pre-existed before dwelling on the earth is a false doctrine. The Bible does not teach anywhere that humans had an abode before earth, but instead teaches that God knew all about us in his mind even before he created us. The Bible teaches that first we are given a natural body, then a spiritual body, and that our natural bodies were formed, protected, and possessed by God in our mothers’ wombs—not before or after. The only man who is an exception to this is Jesus Christ, who is the eternal and divine creator of all things, and who proved to be above all by virtue of him coming down to earth from Heaven. This is his unique position alone and no one else shares this with him. Therefore, no one could have pre-existed before their births, because otherwise it would violate all of the above biblical teachings. Mormonism is in error.
1. Quick Reference Dictionary, Reins, Bible Study Tools, accessed on 22 September 2017, <http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/reins/>
2. KJV Lexicon, Psalm 139:13, Bible Hub, accessed on 22 September 2017, <http://biblehub.com/lexicon/psalms/139-13.htm>
3. Commentaries, The Treasury of David, Psalm 139:13, Bible Study Tools, accessed on 22 September 2017, <http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/treasury-of-david/psalms-139-13.html>
4. Carson, D A, France, R T, Motyer, J A, Wenham, G J (eds) 1953, New Bible Commentary, Inter-Varsity Press, Nottingham, p. 1419, p. 578
5. Coleman, S 2015, Did We Pre-exist In Heaven?, South Valley Baptist Church, accessed on 22 September 2017, <http://www.southvalleybaptist.com/pastors-blog/did-we-pre-exist-in-heaven>
6. Commentaries, The Treasury of David, Psalm 139:16, Bible Study Tools, accessed on 22 September 2017, <http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/treasury-of-david/psalms-139-16.html>
All scripture quotations are from the King James Version unless specified otherwise.