In the triumphant concluding verses of the revelation of Jesus Christ, the glorified Christ promises to return, and proclaims, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Rev 2:13). This is no mere catch-phrase to remind the hearer that Jesus is the “A to Z” of God’s plan. Of course, he is that, Alpha and Omega being the first and last letters of the Greek Alphabet, but the title —and it is a Title — means so much more.
To understand the import of this title, we need to explore Who in the Old Testament and later in the New holds the claim to be first and last, beginning and end.
The beginning of God’s testimony in the Scriptures is that “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” The Hebrew may mean either, “In the beginning God created . . .” or, “When God began to create,” whereas the Septuagint simply says en arche, “in beginning.” Intriguingly, John’s Gospel commences with the same phrase en arche, placing the Word in the context of creation.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1–14)
John says that the Word was with God and was God (the Greek grammar equates the Word with God, with emphasis; “God is what the Word was”) — in the beginning. The creation connection is reinforced by stating that “all things were made through him,” including the world and excluding nothing (v 3, 10); and by reference to light (vv 4, 5, 8, 9), the first creative act. This same Word “became flesh and dwelt among us. We have seen his glory (Isa 6:1–10, cf John 12:39–41), glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:17). The Word is the One who became flesh, through whom grace and truth came, Jesus Christ the Son of God. John reiterates this in his first letter:
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life.’ (1 John 1:1)
So then, the Son was in the beginning with the Father, and was directly involved with creation. This is borne out by a number of other passages.
“He (the Son) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Col 1:15–17)
“(the Son) is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power . . . But of the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever . . .’ And, ‘you, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands.’” (Heb 1:3, 8, 10)
In effect, we see Jesus associated with creation from every direction or perspective; he is its originator and reason for coming into being, and he is the end or purpose for which all was created, and he is the means whereby creation occurred, is sustained, and by which it will be renewed. Jesus says he will make all things new, as he claims to be the Alpha and Omega (Rev 21:5–6).
In the Old Testament, it is Yahweh, the LORD, who holds the title, Alpha and Omega, first and last.
“Who has performed and done this, calling the generations from the beginning? I, the LORD, the first, and with the last; I am he.” (Isa 41:4)
“Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.'” (Isa 44:6)
“Listen to me, O Jacob, and Israel, whom I called! I am he; I am the first, and I am the last.” (Isa 48:12)
Yahweh is the unique Creator, the only deity, the only one who may be called “God” and who alone is worthy of worship. In this section of Isaiah, roughly chapters 40 through 48, the prophet is picking up themes of God’s uniqueness from Deuteronomy and expounding them over and over, denouncing the folly of idolatry. Yahweh is incomparable (Isa 40:18–26; 46:5, 9–10). Beside him there is no god, no saviour (Isa 43:10–11; 45:14).
When we come to the New Testament, we find the same title, and the claim to supremacy over all things, applied to Jesus.
“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Rom 11:36)
“And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” (Col 1:18)
The writer to the Hebrews takes up the theme of Christ’s preeminence in detail. Notice the repeating concepts of “in the beginning,” of creation and of eternity.
“But of the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.'” (Heb 1:8, quoting Psa 45:6–7)
“And, ‘You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.'” (Heb 1:10-12 quoting Psa 102:25–27)
Having demonstrated that Christ is greater than Moses, Joshua, the Levitical priesthood and angels, the writer to the Hebrews then compares Jesus to the enigmatic figure of Melchizedek.
“He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever.” (Heb 7:3 )
“. . . who has become a priest . . . by the power of an indestructible life. For it is witnessed of him, ‘You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.'” (Heb 7:16)
“He holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever.” (Heb 7:24) John encourages his readers, because they “know him who is from the beginning.” (John 2:13, 15)
The practical application of this is that Jesus has an enduring priesthood which provides access to God; he will never leave us or forsake us and our confidence rests in “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb 13:8). Jesus Christ is from the beginning, and “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Heb 7:25)
So when we come to the Revelation of Jesus Christ, the scene is set. John greets the seven churches and relates,
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Rev 1:8)
John then describes the vision of Jesus Christ, “one like a son of man,” (v 13)his appearance and voice reminiscent of the great bronze and fire theophany of Ezekiel 1, (v 15) the Living One who is alive for evermore (v18) from whose mouth comes a sharp sword – the Word of God (Rev 2:12, 16;19:13–15). John’s awestruck reaction and Jesus’ response is:
“When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, ‘Fear not, I am the first and the last,'” (Rev 1:17)
Jesus describes himself again; “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life.'” (Rev 2:8 ESV)
Finally, in the culmination of the Revelation, we see the new heavens and new earth, where God will dwell with humankind (Rev 21:3) and the Lamb reigns forever on the throne of God (Psa 110:1; Rev 3:21, 7:15–17, 22:1, 3). The One on the throne is the Judge (Rev 20:11, 21:12–15) and a loud voice from the throne announces that the dwelling of God is with men (21:3). He who sits on the throne declares that he makes all things new (21:5).
This same Person says, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega . . .” and invites all who thirst to come to him. (21:6; 22:13 specifies that the Alpha and Omega is the one coming soon — Jesus). This same Person promises to be the God of any who overcome (21:7).
The function of the temple, as God’s dwelling amongst his people, has been taken up by “its temple (singular) is the Lord God almighty and the Lamb.” (21:22)
Revelation 4 has already described this throne room scene, in which the four living creatures, again reminiscent of the theophanies of Isaiah 6 and Ezekiel 1, cry “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (v 8) They give thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever (v9) and the twenty-four elders cast their crowns and worship him who is on the throne who lives forever and ever, crying, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” (v10–11).
The one on the throne, the Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ, declares “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.” (Rev 21:6 cf John 4:14)
Finally, in his concluding words to his church, Jesus, the root and offspring of David, the bright and morning star, declares he is coming soon (22: 12, 16) and, so there is absolutely no question of his identity, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” (Rev 22:13)
Christadelphians believe Christ’s divinity was not intrinsically his, but was wholly derived, bestowed on him after his resurrection and that the Son did not exist before his conception and was not involved in creation. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that whilst the Son was involved in creation, he was ultimately a created being who did not exist from all eternity. These theological constructs allow for the Christ to have no end, having now been made immortal, but they simply do not do justice to Christ being with the Father from the beginning, nor his claim to be the Alpha and Omega, an exclusive title for God.
The teaching of Scripture is that Jesus Christ, the same yesterday and today and forever, is the Word made flesh, the one who was with God in the beginning, who is the Lord Almighty, who was and is and is to come. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, one with the Father, who is the one true God and Lord, besides whom there is no other.