- What does “Only Begotten” mean? - The term “only begotten” is translated from the compound Greek word monogenes (G3439). The first part of the word, mono, is not a problem because it means “only” and Jesus Christ is the only Son of God. The second part of the word “begotten”, genes, which means “to come into being”, “to beget” or “to be born”. It is a word that has to do with a beginning, and that makes it a very problematical word when applied to the Lord Jesus. After all, He is Jehovah God (Isa 9:6), Who is from everlasting to everlasting – that is, He has no beginning and no end. Wonderfully, the Bible is its own dictionary and commentary; and God has given us sufficient information so that we can know why Jesus is repeatedly called God’s “only begotten Son”. We will see how God defines the spiritual meaning of monogenes by using the three elements of an “only begotten” - only child, the child has died, and the child was raised from the dead (Col 1:15,18). Spiritually, it points to the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, who would come as the Lamb of God. Therefore, when God uses the special term “only begotten” (monogenes) in reference to the Lord Jesus Christ, we know for certain that it has nothing to do with His taking on a human nature and being born of Mary. Instead, it has everything to do with the fact that Christ is the Only Son within the Godhead and the fact that He endured the most horrible second death – the eternal death in hell – and was resurrected unto eternal life.
Isa 9:6 “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”
Rev 22:13 “I [Lord Jesus Christ] am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.”
Col 1:14-18 “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: 15Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: 16For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. 18And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.”
- The “Only Begotten Son” of the Father - In the Genesis 22 account we find the following three verses with the phrase “thy son, thine only” that relates to Isaac, whom Abraham “offered up” as a sacrifice to God. God’s testing of Abraham’s faith by commanding him to sacrifice his son, Isaac, as a burnt offering on Mount Moriah in this beautiful historical parable is to emphasize the point that God’s love is an important aspect of His salvation program. We can clearly see from the account in Genesis 22 how Abraham and Isaac are figures or types of God the Father and His “beloved Son”, in the Atonement at the Cross. God does not require Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac – and yet God willingly offered up His beloved Son – the Lord Jesus – to suffer the punishment of eternal damnation. This fact is vividly highlighted in 2 Cor 5:21, “For he [God the Father] hath made him [God the Son] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him”. Is it any wonder that Rom 8:32 asks this vital question, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”
Gen 22:2,12,16 “And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. 12And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. 16And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son:”
John 1:14,18 “And the Word [Jesus Christ] was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. 18No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”
John 3:18 “He that believeth on him [Jesus Christ] is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
1 John 4:9 “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.”
Mat 3:16-17 “And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: 17And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
- God Gave His “Only Begotten Son” as a “Sacrifice” - In Genesis 22, in the historical setting and from a human perspective, this seems to be such an unemotional, matter-of-fact conversation between Abraham and Isaac. After all, God had instructed Abraham to kill his son and offer him as a burnt offering, and they have been carrying wood for the fire on a three-day journey at this time. Finally, Isaac asks his father, “Where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”. Then Abraham’s answer “God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering” indicates his great faith in God’s promise to establish an everlasting covenant with Isaac and his seed, as we read in Gen 17:19. We know from Gal 3:16 that the “Seed” in view is physically the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The sacrifice of His “only begotten Son”, is the centerpiece of God’s salvation plan. Lord Jesus Christ was “lifted up” (hupsoo:G5312) on the Cross (John 3:14) to indicate that He was made a curse for us. The “seed” of Abraham through Isaac also refers spiritually to the eternal body of believers, who will be as “the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore” (Gen 22:17).
Gen 17:19 “And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.”
Gal 3:16 “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.”
Gen 22:7-8 “And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? 8And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.”
Heb 10:8-9 “Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; 9Then said he [Lord Jesus Christ], Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second."
John 3:14-16 “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
John 12:32-34 “And I, if I [Lord Jesus Christ] be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. 33This he said, signifying what death he should die. 34The people answered him, We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man?”
- Jesus Christ, the “First Begotten” of the Dead - In Gen 22:9-12 we see that Abraham proceeded to sacrifice Isaac in principle. God stopped Abraham from killing his son in actuality at the last second; but why would Abraham do such a terrible thing? Well, we read the reason in Heb 11:19: “Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead”. This New Testament verse explains that Abraham was confident that God would raise his son from the dead in order to keep His promise to “establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him” (Gen 17:19). Obviously, God knew in advance that Abraham would not fail the test. Abraham could not possibly have known God’s ultimate purpose at the time; but he obeyed God’s command solely “by faith” as we read in Heb 11:17. Then, in Gen 22:16-18 God is speaking directly to Abraham about his unwavering obedience. Heb 11:19 is also superb example of the faith that true believers have in God’s many promises in the Bible to raise them from the dead unto eternal life. We saw that Isaac, who typified Christ in the Atonement, did not actually die there. Nevertheless, God insists that he died and was resurrected in principle in verse Heb 11:19. We can clearly see from the account in Genesis 22 how Abraham and Isaac are figures of God the Father and God the Son in the Atonement at the Cross. Significantly, Jesus Christ is also called the “firstborn” based on the Greek word prototokos (G4416). He is spoken of as the “firstborn son” of Mary in Mat 1:25 and in Luke 2:7. However, prototokos in the following verses (Col 1, Rom 8, Rev 1, 1 Cor 15) about the Lord Jesus Christ spiritually conveys the idea of His being preeminently “brought forth” from Hell. Since the actual Atonement for sin had never happened before, He is called the “firstborn from the dead” in Col 1:18 and God clearly defines the usage of the Greek word for “firstborn” (prototokos) as it relates to Jesus in His death and resurrection. Notice the phrase “the firstborn from the dead” harmonizes perfectly with our conclusion that the Greek word for “only begotten” (monogenes) identifies with Jesus’ resurrection from the second death, the eternal wrath of God. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the pinnacle, the keystone, and the centerpiece of Gospel. It is the most critical factor of God’s whole salvation program, as is emphasized in 1 Cor 15:16-18. The unique title assigned to the Savior in Rev 1:5, “the first begotten of the dead”, is His alone in perpetuity. It is the fulfillment of the promise given to Him by His Father in Psa 16:10: “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption”.
Gen 22:9-12 “And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. 10And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. 11And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. 12And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only [begotten] son from me.”
1 Cor 15:16-18 “For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: 17And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. 18Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.”
Gen 22:16-18 “And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only [begotten] son: 17That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed [typifying elect of God] as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed [Christ according to Gal 3:16] shall possess the gate of his enemies; 18And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.”
John 10:17-18 “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. 18No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.”
Heb 11:17-19 “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: 19Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead from whence also he [Abraham as a figure of God] received him [that is, Isaac, as a figure of Christ] in a figure [parabole:G3850].”
Rev 1:5 “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,”
Col 1:14,18 “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: 15Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: 18And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.”
Rom 8:29 “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he [Christ] might be the firstborn [prototokos] among many brethren.”
1 Pet 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,”
- Jesus Christ, the “First of the Firstfruits” of Them that Slept - We have seen a very close relationship between the two Greek words for “only begotten” (monogenes) and for “firstborn” (prototokos), which identify with Jesus’ resurrection from the second death, the eternal wrath of God. Now we will look at another related Greek word that is translated as “firstfruits” (aparche:G536) in 1 Cor 15:20. The Old Testament has much to say about “firstfruits” with reference to the first “fruit”, or produce, from a crop harvest. The “feast of harvest” that featured the firstfruits was also called the “feast of weeks”. It was one of the three main feasts that God commanded Israel to keep annually. It followed the “feast of unleavened bread” (or Passover) in the spring of the year, and it corresponded to Pentecost in the New Testament. The three feasts are described in Exo 23:14-16. Each of those feast periods has much symbolism and spiritual significance related to specific events in the timeline of God’s salvation program during the New Testament period, but time will not permit us to describe this subject in detail. There was an important distinction between the “first of the firstfruits” and the remaining portion of the “firstfruits” as we read in in Exo 34:26. We can understand that the “first of the firstfruits” spiritually pointed to Jesus Christ, Who was saved from eternal damnation at the Cross and returned to “the house of LORD”. In fact, His resurrection from the spiritual second death is essential for the salvation of all of God’s elect, who are the remaining portion of the “firstfruits”, as we can see from 1 Cor 15:20-24. Jam 1:18 further explains that believers, like their Master, are also “a kind of firstfruits”, since they, too, have been raised from the dead spiritually and are assured of eternal life. God saves His people through the truth of His Word; and the word “begat” in this verse Jam 1:18 means to be “brought forth”, or to be spiritually “born from above”.
Exo 23:14-16 “Three times thou shalt keep a feast unto me in the year. 15Thou shalt keep the feast of unleavened bread: (thou shalt eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded thee, in the time appointed of the month Abib; for in it thou camest out from Egypt: and none shall appear before me empty:) 16And the feast of harvest, the firstfruits of thy labours, which thou hast sown in the field: and the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when thou hast gathered in thy labours out of the field.”
Exo 34:26 “The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring unto the house of the LORD thy God…”
1 Cor 15:20-24 “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept [those who have died physically]. 21For since by man came death, by man [Christ] came also the resurrection of the dead. 22For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 23But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. 24Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.”
Jam 1:18 “Of his own will begat [brought forth or born from above] he us [true believers] with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”