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In the Letter to the Colossians, we are told:

Colossians 1:15, NASB: "[Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation" (emphasis added).

This question has nothing to do with the distinction between "creature" (KJV) and "creation" (e.g. NASB). Rather, how is Christ "firstborn" at all? Is the implication that upon His resurrection, He was the firstborn among the spiritually dead? Or, does this convey some alternate meaning?

After all, Jesus was clearly not the first human ever born:

Luke 3:23, 38: "[Jesus] as was supposed, the son of Joseph, the son of Eli... 38Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God" (emphasis added).

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    This question has been asked so many times such as: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/27865/… and hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/69798/… etc
    – Dottard
    Nov 5 '21 at 22:55
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    See the word 'tokos' as (twice) used in the NT - 'usury'. The principal concept is a matter of a return on an investment - a 'firstfruit' of a successful venture. (Yes, it may mean 'firstborn' in a certain context, but the NT does not use it that way.) He is the first token of the successful venture of Creation. In his coming into the world and in his resurrection (from among dead). Without paying strict attention to the wording, the concept is missed. Just stabbing at the meaning does not lead anywhere.
    – Nigel J
    Nov 5 '21 at 23:07
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    @Nigel I like the way you've worded that: "He is the first token of the successful venture of Creation.". That is what I've been driving at with my OP.
    – Xeno
    Nov 5 '21 at 23:09
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    The answer to that question is "NO" because Adam is never called the prototokos in the Bible. (This is not to suggest that he was not but he is not given that title.) See the answers referenced above which answers all these questions.
    – Dottard
    Nov 5 '21 at 23:28
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    @Xeno See my book The Only Begotten Son of God. Contains a second section on Prototokos. Free download, no charge, no registration.
    – Nigel J
    Nov 5 '21 at 23:33
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Some people have tried to use this term “firstborn” to argue that Jesus was a created being and not the Creator. That is not true. “Firstborn” is used here in the sense of first in importance (Romans 8:29). This is verified by the context of this verse (see Colossians 1:18) where Paul said Jesus was to have the preeminence in all things.

The Greek term for “first created” is “PROTOKTISIS,” whereas the Greek word for “firstborn,” used here, is “PROTOTOKOS.” These are two entirely different words. It is significant that in this verse, the Apostle Paul deliberately avoided using the Greek term for “first created” and instead chose the Greek word for “firstborn.” Jesus “is before all things, and by him all things consist” (Colossians 1:17).

In Bible days, the Jews understood the term “firstborn” to refer to position and rank. In other words, the firstborn (according to Jewish custom) was his father’s heir. All that his father possessed was his. This term signifies that the Son is the “appointed heir of all things” (Hebrews 1:2). Taken in context, this passage clearly reveals that all things in heaven and earth were created by the Son and for the Son (Colossians 1:16-17). By virtue of this fact, the Son stands as Ruler, Creator, and Firstborn.

The Today’s English Version translated this verse in the following manner: “Christ is the visible likeness of the invisible God. He is the first-born Son, superior to all created things.”

The German Common Language Version translated this verse as “In the Son the invisible God became visible for us.

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  • I like your answer, but wasn't Adam the firstborn of Creation (i.e. human beings)? It seems to me there is much more to this question than we might first realize, especially relative to Rev. 13:8.
    – Xeno
    Nov 5 '21 at 23:19
  • @Xeno You are correct in implying there is ‘much more to this question’ that many realise. I’ll ‘chew over’ your thoughts about Adam …
    – Dave
    Nov 6 '21 at 0:21
  • Thanks for that, Dave.
    – Xeno
    Nov 6 '21 at 2:52
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    @Xeno Adam was never born. He was the first human created by God (directly) but a huge amount of creation had been done before Adam. The entire material universe had been created, and all life forms and creatures in heaven and on Earth. As Christ is "the firstborn of every creature; for by him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in the earth, visible and invisible..." Christ is Adam's creator, which gives him supremacy over all creation. Deep stuff, indeed! But Christ wasn't the first to be resurrected, showing again that 'firstborn' here speaks of unique preeminence.
    – Anne
    Nov 6 '21 at 12:18
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For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. 1 Cor 15:22

Adam was never the full intention of God when He created man. Adam was a beginning, but not an end.

...Adam, who is a type of him (Jesus) who was to come. Rom 5:14

When God created Adam, He was making man in His image - this process would not be complete until all men, who would choose Jesus when their opportunity was provided, were part of the Kingdom of God. The kingdom of this world with it's evil ruler is not what God intended life to be like for eternity.

Jesus is the firstborn of this new Kingdom because he is the first to be raised into spirit life (which he never had before, being put to death in the flesh 1Pet 3:18).

Previously only the Father was immortal 1Tim 6:16, but now Jesus is also - having life as the Father does John 5:26, because God gave it to him at his resurrection (never to die again Rom 6:9).

Making man in God's image would not include a creation of death! But when all are given life as Jesus now has - this is what God intended all along.

because those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His son, for him to be firstborn among many brothers. Rom 8:29

How is Christ "firstborn of all creation" ?

Colossians 1:15 "[Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation"

Paul plainly expresses how CHRIST is God's image. We are in God's image IN Christ because only in Jesus is death resolved. Only by grace are we renewed to the status of having Kingdom potential. No man has this potential outside of Jesus.

So yes, Jesus is only the firstborn when he was raised from the dead and 'born' into eternal life with God.

Jesus himself spoke of being 'born from above' John3. This echoes the birth of a person in a physical sense, of the flesh, with the second 'birth' of the spirit. Adam did not have a birth, so being called the firstborn seems rather silly, but he will (probably) be born from above at some time yet future with the 'all who ever lived'/'rest of the dead' Rev 20. ('born again' is not a biblical term and it does seem odd when speaking of Adam who was never born a first time.)

Obviously, others were raised from the dead, but none to spirit life. No man has ascended to heaven except Jesus John 3:13.

Colossians goes on to put his 'firstborn' into very unequivocal context. There is no need to make assumptions here.

15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation, 16because in him were created all things in the heavens and upon the earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or lordships or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and unto him. 17And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18And he is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, firstborn out from the dead.

As the firstborn of creation, Jesus cannot be the Creator! "Christ is Adam's creator", as one comment purports. This is profoundly unbiblical. Any alleged scriptural support is purely suppositional and requires us to read-in a traditional belief system which no NT author teaches.

Jesus said, '...(I am) a man who has told you the truth - that I heard f r o m God! John 8:40. God is the Creator not Jesus or the Christ, God raised Jesus, not Jesus, God is the only immortal being, Christ died. Jesus is the firstborn of creation - not because he is THE Creator, but because he is the triumph of God over evil, sin and death which allows humanity to have a future past this age - "in Christ all will be made alive".

The relationship between firstborn of creation and of the dead is explained here

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  • In Him it (all in heaven and earth, visible or invisible) has jointly stood (Col 1:17) "The word συνεστηκεν is the 3rd person single form of the verb marked similar below. Its tense is perfect (which indicates a present-tense report of an action that has been completed but has effects in the now; like: "he has done"), its voice is active (which indicates that the subject (Him) performs the action, instead of receives it), and its mood is indicative (which describes a situation that actually is — as opposed to a situation that might be, is wished for, or is commanded to be). Nov 7 '21 at 16:52
  • Would you say that all in heaven and earth, visible or invisible have jointly stood before Jesus' birth? Would you say Colossians really means "In (the notional idea of) Him...? Nov 7 '21 at 16:55
  • @MikeBorden, where does the "jointly stood" translation come from? Nov 12 '21 at 13:52
  • @RayButterworth abarim-publications.com/DictionaryG/i/i-s-t-et-m-i.html It's a long entry on the verb in all it's permutations. The specific verb form is treated at the end but the whole entry is good. Nov 13 '21 at 2:02
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    @MikeBorden, I've just been reading some of the non-language pages, and my first impression is that Abarim Publications is a very strange site. Not necessarily bad, but strange. I don't want this to sound insulting to anyone, but it reminds me of when I talk to street people that are otherwise intelligent but have significant mental problems. They seem to never get to the point of what they are saying, because to them, every sentence they say is the point. Or maybe it's just me and I'm staying up too late tonight and should go to bed. Nov 13 '21 at 4:50
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Christ is "firstborn" because, He is the first to ever come in to creation. God is Invisible and Christ became his image,

15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation,

John 1:18 No one has ever seen God,

Gods image is the first of creation, Something that can be seen.

The beginning of the creation of God;

These things says the Amen, the Witness—the Faithful and True—the Chief of the creation of God Revelation3:14

"'This makes him first born of God.

"The term firstborn therefore has two main meanings. The first is more literal, referring to the fact that this son is the first son to be born of his father. The second meaning refers to the rights and authority of a person, because they are the firstborn. Our Lord is the “firstborn” in several ways, as one of the attached articles indicates. But most of all He is the One who has been appointed by God to be in authority over all things." Quoted from bible.org

He is also firstborn of a brand new creation.

In His resurrection He is “firstborn from the dead” (Col 1:18) or “of the dead” That mean he is the beginning of the new creation.

He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, firstborn out from the dead, so that He might be holding preeminence in all things, Colossians 1:18

He is its head and everything again it's under him. Being the first born again comes with all the privileges of being its head, the first.

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