So Vine's makes it clear that Christ existed in the form of God both before His Incarnation and after. The clear teaching of the New Testament and orthodox Christianity is that Christ always was and never ceased to be fully God and is not a created being.
Christ had no need to grasp at equality with God, for he already possessed it;
Christ did not seek to be glorified with the Father again prematurely, but was willing to wait till after his suffering.
Understanding that harpagmos can be used passively in the same sense as harpagma to mean "prize," we need to look carefully at the context for the true meaning. That the pre-existent state is in view is clear from the movement of the passage (see also the parallel at 2 Corinthians 8:9 [NASB-U]: 'For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich). Since the verse makes it clear that Christ already existed in "the form of God," the mode of his existence as equal with God could not be referring to something totally future and not yet experienced, but must rather be something he divested himself of. Hence, view 3 above does not fit the context so well as view 1 and view 2, though expressing a truth, does not provide an adequate basis for the statements that follow.
The WBTS insert 'other' into the text (verse 9), albeit in brackets, to try and divert the reader from the clear statement that God exalted Christ Jesus 'to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every name (NOT every [other] name) so that in the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and those on earth and those under the ground'.
Despite the best efforts of the WBTS to disguise the true nature of Christ, true believers accept Jesus as Lord and Creator, and worship Him as the Word of God demands (Philippians 2v9-11), since He is clearly shown to be fully and equally God (Colossians 2v9 [NASB]: 'For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form').
Jesus clearly did 'exist in the form of God', but voluntarily chose not to 'hold onto, or grasp', the position which was His from eternity but came 'in the likeness of men'. He is called the Eternal Father in Isaiah 9v6 because He is Eternal as the Father is Eternal! It was His choice but He became subject and humbled Himself - and we can see in Revelation how Jesus received the reward spoken of in verses 9-11. Further, this context reveals beyond doubt that all reference to Christ's being subject to his Father (John 5v26; 6v57) in no way affects his true Deity or unity with the Father, for Jesus claimed Yahwehistic identity (John 8v58) when He announced himself to the unbelieving Jews as the 'I Am' of Exodus 3v14.
What is the importance of the 'I Am' Claims of the Lord Jesus Christ?
In Exodus 3v13-16 the Lord God introduced Himself to Moses by the title, and He says:
'This is MY name forever, and this is MY memorial name to ALL generations.'
If this is 'Yahweh's' name forever, a Memorial Name to all generations, then how could Jesus claim the same title in John 8v24 and 58 etc. if He is not 'Yahweh'? If, as Jehovah's Witnesses claim, Jesus is only a Mighty god and inferior to the Father, how could He use the Memorial Name of YHWH!?
In John 13v19 Jesus made it perfectly clear that:
'From now on I tell you before it happens, that ye may believe when it happens that I Am (Greek: ego eimi)!'
We read that they came to arrest Jesus (John 18v5-8):
JOHN 18:4 Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, 'Who is it you want?' JOHN 18:5 'Jesus of Nazareth,' they replied. 'I Am He,' Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) 6 When Jesus said, 'I Am He,' they drew back and fell to the ground.
The detachment that came to arrest Him fell backwards because of the power in the Memorial Name ('I Am') which Jesus applied to Himself!
When the Jews disputed with Jesus (John 8) He made this astonishing claim for Himself (in John 8v58):
48 Then the Jews answered and said to Him, 'Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?'49 Jesus answered, 'I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. 50 And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks and judges. 51 Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.'52 Then the Jews said to Him, 'Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and You say, 'If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death.' 53 Are You greater (meizwn - Greek meizon - see earlier explanation of John 14:28) than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Who do You make Yourself out to be?'54 Jesus answered, 'If I honour Myself, My honour is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God. 55 Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I say, 'I do not know Him,' I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.'57 Then the Jews said to Him, 'You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?'58 Jesus said to them, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I Am.'59 Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.
Why did they seek to stone Jesus to death in verse 59? Because they recognised this claim that He was making. In Exodus 3v14, 'Yahweh', spoke to Moses:
EXODUS 3:13 Moses said to God, 'Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, `The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, `What is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?'
EXODUS 3:14 God said to Moses, 'I Am that I Am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: `I Am has sent me to you.' '
EXODUS 3:15 God also said to Moses, 'Say to the Israelites, `The LORD, the God of your fathers--the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob--has sent me to you.' This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.
Thus we see that the name 'I Am,' has long been recognised by scholars familiar with the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint) as unique and synonymous to Almighty God. Jesus effectively said to the Jews: 'I Am Yahweh', and it is clear that they understood Him to mean just that and therefore to consider Him to be guilty of blasphemy and worthy of being stoned to death.
In comparing this with the Septuagint translation of Exodus 3v14 and Isaiah 43v10-13, we find that the translation is identical. Again, the Jehovah's Witnesses try to hide this fact - their Kingdom Bible has a footnote to John 8:58 which reads:
'It is not the same as ha ohn, meaning 'the Being' or 'the I Am' at Ex[odus] 3:14, LXX [the Greek Septuagint]'
But what they don't tell their followers is that 'ha ohn' is the second appearance of 'I Am' in verse 14 of Exodus 3, so the verse reads: 'ego eimi ha ohn' which the King James Bible translators correctly rendered as the Majestic: 'I Am That I Am'. So 'Yahweh' says He is 'I Am' here, in Exodus 3:14, and again in Deuteronomy 32:39 where we read:
'Behold, behold, that I Am, and there is no god beside Me ...'
Here 'Yahweh' also confirms that the claim of the Jehovah's Witnesses - that Jesus is 'a god' ('Mighty god'] while the Father is 'Almighty God' - is refuted by Scripture, for the 'I Am' of the Old Testament has no other 'god' beside Him. If we check these verses in Hebrew translations we find that 'I Am' is ehyeh in both Exodus 3:14 and John 8:58 and, again, explains the Jews reaction to Jesus' words.
Regarding the Jews reaction we find that Hebrew law on this point affirms five cases in which stoning was legal - and bear in mind that the Jews were legalists. Those cases were:
(a) Familiar spirits, Leviticus 20v27;
(b) Cursing (Blasphemy), Leviticus 24v10-23;
(c) False Prophets who lead to idolatry, Deuteronomy 13v5-10;
(d) Stubborn son, Deuteronomy 21v18-21;
(e) Adultery & rape, Deuteronomy 22v21-24 and Leviticus 20v10.
Now any honest Biblical student must admit that the only legal ground the Jews had for stoning Christ (and actually, of course, they had none at all) was the second violation, blasphemy, if He really was not the Son of God and equal in all ways to the Father.
Jehovah's Witnesses try to claim that the Jews were going to stone Him because He called them 'children of the devil' (John 8v44). But this false claim is repudiated by the fact that they did not try to stone Him on other occasions (Matthew 12v34; 23v33 etc.) when He called them the 'sons of vipers'? The true answer is very simple. They could not stone Christ on those grounds because they were bound by the law which gives only the five cases (just stated) and would have condemned them on their own grounds had they used 'insult' as a basis for stoning.
In fact we find that three times they tried to stone Him when they clearly recognised His claims to equality with the Father:
'equal in quality as in quantity, to claim for one's self the Nature, rank, authority which belong to God' (John 5v18).
Dr. Thayer, an acknowledged authority, was a Unitarian who denied the Deity of Christ as the Jehovah's Witnesses do; yet, being honest, he gave the true meaning of the Biblical terms even though they contradicted his personal views.
So the Scriptures themselves specifically testify, that Christ IS EQUAL with God in Essence, Character, and Nature. Jesus shared the Father's prerogatives and attributes. Hence He had no desire to strive for what was His by nature & inheritance.
A third stoning was attempted when He declared, 'I and the Father are one' (John 10v30) - and it is clear from the passage that He claimed the same attributes as the Father, and then reinforced His claim by stating quite clearly: 'the Father is in Me, and I in the Father'. Jesus explained how those who were set up as Judges over Israel were called 'gods' (in the same way that Moses was made 'god' over the people of Israel) - they were only God's representatives and Christ is here speaking metaphorically. The Old Testament evidence is clear that these Judges were sinful men - and Psalm 86 itself makes it clear that they were only men who would die! The Bible records the flaws of God's servants and men such as Moses - who was a faithful servant of God - has his mistakes recorded for all to see. The Jewish judges by virtue of being custodians of God*s law were His representatives and thus referred to as gods (elohim). They were by nature sinful men like all others needing forgiveness and atonement. By contrast, Jesus was separated and sent into the world (from the Father*s presence in heaven). How then could they deny his claims? (v36). He appeals to them to consider his works that they may know that 'the Father is in me and I in the Father.' (v38). The Jews so clearly understood his claims to Deity that they sought to take him (v39).
Jesus never once denied the accusations that He was claiming equality with God and here, in John 10, He again says that the Jews have got it right - 'the Father is in Me, and I in the Father'. The Jews accused him of blasphemy because of His claim to be Son of God - and if, to a Jewish mind, this is blasphemy it is rather hard to understand how any could claim to know better to-day - especially as the Bible never states anywhere that they were mistaken!
More importantly, if this were a case of the Jews being mistaken over Jesus' meaning, then it was extremely careless that the ministry of Jesus should be made doubtful in such a way. He was inviting the Jews to stone Him to death by such statements and was therefore considered by some to be a madman!
There is no evidence from this passage that He claimed to be a separate (created!) 'god' for the passage clearly shows that they understood His claim to do 'whatever the Father [does]' with the result that they again tried to seize Him (v38-39).
Let us be logical then; if the Jews observed the laws of stoning on other occasions when they might have been insulted, why would they violate the law as they would have had to do if the argument of unbelievers was right in John 8v58? Little more need be said.
This kind of argument from the standpoint of unbelief is ridiculous in its context - Scripture clearly shows that there is only one 'I Am' in the Scriptures (Isaiah 48v22; 44v6; Revelation 1v8 and 17), and Jesus laid claim to that Identity for which the Jews set out to stone Him.