THE ALPHA AND THE OMEGA
THE FIRST AND THE LAST
"I am the Alpha and the Omega,(1) says the Lord God , (2)who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty." (Rev 1:8 RSV)
(1) KJV & NKJV add here, "the beginning and the ending". A margin note in NKJV excludes it.
It is omitted from RSV, NIV, NASB, NEB.
(2) RSV, NIV, NASB, NEB say "Lord God". KJV and NKJV omit "God".
"I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last :" (3) (Rev 1:10-11 KJV)
(3) RSV, NIV, NASB, NEB exclude "Alpha and Omega, the first and the last". It is included by NKJV.
"I saw ..... one like a son of man , ..... saying, ?Fear not, I am the first and the last"
(Rev 1:11-17 RSV)
Who is the "Alpha and Omega" in Rev 1:8? Who is the "first and the last" in Rev 1:17?
Is it the same person speaking in both verses? Do these words "prove" that Jesus is God?
THE MEANING OF THE WORDS
"Alpha and Omega", "the beginning and the end", and "the first and the last", appear to mean essentially the same thing. The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament says that the meaning is simply that God begins and ends all things. All three phrases are used together in Rev 22:13.
However, it is poor logic to suggest that when the same words are spoken in different places, by two different identities, those two MUST therefore be the same person! Nevertheless, that is what some theologians do with the three Bible verses which are the subject of this paper!
THE OLD TESTAMENT SOURCE
We should note at the beginning, that Rev 1:8 is NOT part of John's vision. It is part of his introduction to the vision.
God calls Himself the "First and last" in Isaiah 41:4, 44:6, 48:12. We need to read those verses in their context in Isaiah, to understand who is speaking in Rev 1:8, and why John has included it in his introduction.
In Isaiah, the words are spoken by the LORD. (YAHWEH in the Hebrew) The word "LORD" (in upper case letters) in the Old Testament, ALWAYS refers to the ONE GOD, who is described in what Jesus calls the "first and greatest commandment of all". (Deut 6:4-5, Mark 12:29))
This LORD says of Himself ?There is no God beside me.? (Deut 32:39) Jesus prays to Him as "The only true God". (John 17:3) And Paul says of Him "There is but one God, the Father." (1 Cor 8:6)
We have already discovered (see Bible Digest No 89) that in other parts of the Apocalypse, John has taken care to identify The Lord God Almighty and Jesus, as two separate beings. Further careful study of the Scriptures will provide abundant evidence, in both Old and New Testaments, that Jesus is someone else, quite distinct from the ONE GOD who is called The LORD.
So Rev 1:8 is NOT spoken by Jesus.
Rather it has been included by John, to point us back in time, to the LORD who "calls generations from the beginning". (Isaiah 41:4) whose word stands for ever (Isaiah 40:8) who spoke of the coming of John the Baptist to prepare the way for Jesus (Isaiah 40:3-5, Luke 3:4-6) who declares new things before they come to pass (Isaiah 42:8-9) who announced from of old the things that are to come (Isaiah 44:7) whose counsel has stood the test of time, and who has accomplished His ancient plan and purpose for His Son. (Isaiah 46:9-11)
In Isaiah, God is the author of the prophecies it contains. They all begin with God. He is the "first", the "alpha", the "beginning". And God is the one who will bring them all to pass. When that happens, He is the "last", the "omega", the "end".
By quoting these words, John is reminding us that all prophecy begins and ends with God. And He is claiming that his Apocalypse has the same origin, status, and authority as the Old Testament prophecies. They are from the same God who spoke through Isaiah.
And he later claims that his vision provides the key to understand many of the things they foretold.
NOW THE VISION STARTS
"I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice saying, ?Write what you see in a book.....? Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man." (Rev 1:10-11, 12-13)
Those words "one like a Son of man" point us to Daniel 7:13. John uses them to identify Jesus as the fulfilment of Daniel's prophetic vision. "One like a son of man" (Jesus) came to the "Ancient of Days" (God) and was given everlasting dominion and glory and kingdom. (John tells us more about that in Ch 5:6-14.) Clearly, in Daniel's vision, Jesus is NOT the Ancient of days! Instead, John has identified Him as the "Son of Man", the one who is to inherit the Kingdom ..... the Messiah.
"When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand upon me, saying, ?Fear not, I am the first and the last , and the living one; I died, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades ."(Rev 1:17)
This time it is Jesus speaking. Only He could say "I died and ..... am alive for evermore." Not even the Lord God Almighty can say of Himself that He died!
However, in Rev 5:6-7, John distinguishes between God and Jesus as two separate identities. (see Rev 5:6-7) And in John 17:3, (same author!) Jesus specifically declared His Father to be the ONLY TRUE GOD. We should understand therefore, that in Rev 1:17, Jesus CANNOT be making any claim at all, that He Himself is GOD. Why then does He speak in the first person, to say "I am the first and the last ", using a title which in the OT, is applied only to His Father?
The simple answer is that this is a claim to DELEGATED AUTHORITY from God, to stand in place of God, and speak for God. " All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me ." (Matthew 28:18, Philippians 2:9-11)
It is the same delegated authority by which the angel spoke in the first person to Moses at the burning bush, (Exodus 3:2-6) and by which Moses "became God to Pharoah", (Exodus 7:1) and by which Judges were called "god" in Ex 21:6 (KJV). (4)
(4) See Bible Digest no 88.
GOD SPEAKS AGAIN
The words "ALPHA AND OMEGA" are used again in Rev 21:6.
We are not left in doubt about who is speaking. It is "the one who sits upon the throne",. (Identified as The Lord God Almighty in chapter 4) This identity is confirmed by the quotation of words spoken by the LORD, from 2 Samuel 7:14, "I will be his God and he shall be my son." Jesus is NOT the one who made that promise to David. Rather, He is both the subject , and the fulfilment of the promise. That is Good News for us! We also are invited by Jesus to share the throne with Him. (Rev 3:21)
ONE LAST TIME
The words are used one last time, in the concluding chapter of the book. This time it is Jesus speaking, not in person, but through an angel, who speaks in the first person as agent for Jesus.
"I am coming soon, bringing my recompense, to repay every one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end ." (Revelation 22:12-13)
We remind ourselves again, that in speaking thus Jesus is NOT claiming to be God.
Instead, He is saying that when He does come back to earth, He is coming to fulfil the task to which He is appointed by God. He will stand in place of God, speak for God, and administer Judgement. He is THE MAN by whom, Paul tells us, GOD will judge the world. (See Acts 17:31)
Finally, when that work is completed, Jesus will, Paul says, remain eternally subject to His Father, that God alone may truly be EVERYTHING TO EVERYONE (1 Cor 15:24-28)
LORD GOD ALMIGHTY, the God of Creation,
The Alpha and the Omega ...... the beginning and the end ...... the first and the last!