Jesus has always existed.  He is God.  He did not make His debut in Bethlehem.  He has always been.  He was not created; He is the Creator!  “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16).  “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being” (John 1:3).
Before I continue, let me define the word “incarnate.”  It simply means “in the flesh.”  Bethlehem’s Baby was God incarnate.
But note, Jesus was also the pre-incarnate Son of God Who made several appearances on earth BEFORE Bethlehem.  Let me recall a popular example.  Do you remember Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, the three Hebrew men who refused to kneel before King Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian idol?  The story is found in Daniel 3. 
These three Jews refused to bow down to a false god, and the king became outraged and commanded them to be thrown into a fiery furnace. “Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with wrath…he commanded certain valiant warriors who were in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in order to cast them into the furnace of blazing fire” (3:19a-20).
Then something or Someone wonderful happened! “Nebuchadnezzar the king was astounded and stood up in haste; he said to his high officials, ‘Was it not three men we cast bound into the midst of the fire?’  They replied to the king, ‘Certainly, O king.’  He said, ‘Look!  I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!’” (verses 24-25).
The book of Daniel was written 600 years before Jesus was born as a babe in Bethlehem.  The story of the three Hebrew children features the pre-incarnate Christ, when Jesus made one of several appearances on the earth. Jesus showed up in Nebuchadnezzar’s incinerator to protect Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. 
This story is probably the most renown regarding the pre-incarnate Christ.  Usually in the Old Testament, the description, “Angel of the Lord” also refers to Jesus. Actually, Gideon, one of Israel’s judges, met Him (pre-incarnate Jesus) face to face.  His story is recorded in Judges 6-8.
So, we understand that Jesus made pre-incarnate appearances and subsequently the incarnate Christ was born of Mary in approximately 29 B.C.  In just a few days, our attention will again focus on the Christmas story, the incarnation, when the cries of the God-Man could be heard in a Bethlehem manger.  “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman…” (Galatians 4:4).  Birthday celebrations will honor Bethlehem’s Baby, but our worship will be directed toward the glorified, risen Christ!
Okay, we’ve discussed two terms:  pre-incarnate and incarnate.  Now, let’s move on to “post-incarnate.”  By post-incarnate, we mean those times when Jesus periodically reveals Himself on earth, either in the form of visions, dreams or even theophanies, which are visible manifestations of God in human form.
Does Jesus make appearances on the earth today? I believe He does.  I understand this discussion requires a subjective viewpoint; however, if He came pre-incarnate, then incarnate, why would He not appear in a post-incarnate fashion?  Just asking!
At any rate, we hear stories of many Muslims in the Middle East coming to Christ after He appears to them in dreams and visions.  The stories are both fascinating and emotionally charged.
My dad, who for the most part hardened his heart toward the Gospel all of his life, experienced a post-incarnate visitation of Jesus just two days before he passed away.  Lori and I were visiting him at the VA Medical Center in Erie, Pennsylvania.  Dad said, “Rog, guess who visited me last night?”  I of course thought he was referring to one of my siblings.
However, after family roll call dad said, “No, Jesus did.”  Ironically, I asked, “Jesus who?” 
He then told us something that shook us to our core: “Jesus came to me last night.  He stood over in that corner.”  I said, “How did you know it was Jesus?”  To which he answered, “Because He had nail prints right here” (pointing to his wrists).  We were flabbergasted, but overjoyed!
My dad was entirely convinced that it was Jesus in his hospital room, and he came to faith in the nail-scarred Savior!  He was a changed man!  Was it the post-incarnate Jesus?  Dad thought so, and I do too!  It matters not whether it was a dream or a vision.  It worked!  Two days later dad met his night visitor face to face!
I thank God for the pre-incarnate Jesus.  I marvel over His incarnation, which we soon will celebrate joyously.  And I have no problem believing that the risen Christ still shows up on the earth to bring His Kingdom into hard-hearted hearts.  He “the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, Who is and Who was, and Who is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8).    
I hope you have a wonderful, Merry Christmas.  May the Christ of Christmas –the God-Man, the incarnate God – have entrance into your heart like never before.



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