Hebrews 1:5 reports the following words of the Father to Jesus: “ ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You.’ ” (NKJV). What does it mean that Jesus was “begotten,” and when did this happen? Doesn’t this show that Jesus was somehow created by God sometime way in the past, as many believe?
Jesus was begotten in the sense that He was appointed by God as the promised ruler, the son of David.
God promised to David that his Son would be the true legitimate ruler of the nations. Through Him God would defeat His enemies and give Him the nations as His inheritance (Pss. 89:27; Ps. 2:7, 8).
As we read in Romans 1:3, 4 and Acts 13:32, 33, Jesus was publicly revealed as God’s Son. Jesus’ baptism and transfiguration were moments when God identified and announced Jesus as His Son (Matt. 3:17; 17:5).
Yet, according to the New Testament, Jesus became the “Son of God with power” (Rom. 1:4) when He was resurrected and seated at the right hand of God. It was at that moment that God’s promise to David that his son would rule over the nations as eternally guaranteed (2 Sam. 7:12–14).
Thus, Caesar (symbol of Rome) was not the legitimate “son of god,” ruler of the nations. Instead, Jesus Christ was. The “begetting” of Jesus refers to His victorious incarnation and consequent appointment of ruler over the nations, and not to the beginning of His existence, because Jesus had always existed. There was never a time when Jesus did not exist, because He is God.
In fact, Hebrews 7:3 says that Jesus does not have “beginning of days nor end of life” (cf. Heb. 13:8) because He is eternal. Thus, the idea of Jesus as God’s “only begotten son” is not dealing with the nature of Christ as deity but with His role in the plan of salvation, as Christ fulfilled all the covenant promises.
The coming of Jesus to this earth as the Son of God fulfilled several functions at the same time. In the first place, as the Divine Son of God, Jesus came to reveal the Father to us. Through His actions and words, Jesus showed us what the Father really is like and why we can trust and obey Him.
Jesus also came as the promised Son of David, Abraham, and Adam, through whom God had promised He would defeat the enemy and rule the world. Thus, Jesus came to take the place of Adam at the head of humanity and fulfill the original purpose God had for people (Gen. 1:26–28; Ps. 8:3–8). Jesus came to be the righteous ruler God always wanted this world to have.