And His Name Shall Be Called: Alpha and Omega
Saturday December 24, 2022
I love beginnings: the beginnings of books and movies, concerts and sports games, holidays and trips - the beginnings of new studies, new jobs, new relationships. There is so much, well, precisely “newness” and freshness, expectancy and curiosity, hope and delight in things that are about to start.
And I pretty much hate endings: the end of a good book or concert or trip often leaves me feeling somewhat deflated and longing for more - the end of a relationship leaves me sad and nostalgic.
Everything in life, as we know it, has a beginning and an end. Nothing has always been - and nothing will always be. There is the “beginning” of birth… there is the “end” of death. And everything in between, at least here on earth, starts at some point in time, and concludes at another point in time.
Only God, the eternal and everlasting One, is without beginning and without end.
The very first words of the Bible read: “In the beginning, God… “. That is to say, when all things began, before all of creation was even created, God already existed - because in the beginning of all things, He was already there.
So the words of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, in Revelation 22:13 are so very significant:
“I AM THE ALPHA AND THE OMEGA,
the First and the Last,
the Beginning and the End.”
In fact, they are the same words attributed to “the Lord God” in Revelation 1:8:
“I AM THE ALPHA AND THE OMEGA,
says the Lord God,
who is, and who was, and who is to come,
And they are repeated again in Revelation 21:6:
“… I AM THE ALPHA AND THE OMEGA,
the Beginning and the End.”
So, what is “Alpha” and what is “Omega”? Why these references to an expression obviously in another language?
Remembering that the New Testament was originally written in Greek (whereas the Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew and Aramaic) “Alpha” and “Omega” are two Greek words. They are actually the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, respectively.
And, most simply - and as two of the above references already explain - they mean the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
Let’s be honest: we finite human beings cannot truly grasp eternity. We can try to wrap our minds around Someone who is everlasting - that is, Someone who lasts forever and ever, who has no beginning and no end. But since all we know in our own finite existence are “beginnings” and “ends” to people and things, it’s not easy to understand a “never-beginning” and “never-ending” Someone.
But that is who Jesus says He is: that Someone who is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End - in the most absolute sense of the meaning of those words.
Jesus is not the Beginning as we understand beginnings, when something or someone originates and first exists. He has always been - He has always existed. He is the absolute Beginning - because everything that is, originates in and comes from Him. He has and He is the First Word, in the universe and in history.
And Jesus is not going to have an end as we understand endings, when something or someone ceases to be or to exist. He is eternal, and will therefore exist forever without end. He does not have an end, but He is the absolute End - that is, everything will somehow finish in Him. He has and He is the Last and final Word, in the universe and in history.
When Jesus states that He is the Alpha and the Omega, the greek letter “A” and the greek letter “Z”, He is also trying to communicate that He Himself is everything from A to Z. He is not just A and Z, but everything in between as well, because everything from A to Z meets together in Him. Jesus encompasses all things - that is, He incorporates and includes all things. As Colossians 1:17 reads: “He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.” And Ephesians 1:10 says that one day, when the times will have reached their fulfillment, all things in heaven and on earth will be brought together under one head, even Christ.
Interestingly enough, in my researching this topic, I discovered some of the most helpful and fascinating information about this “I am” of Christ from a Catholic webpage: https://catholicexchange.com/christ-alpha-and-the-omega. Here is what I learned…
“I AM THE ALPHA AND THE OMEGA” signifies:
The identification of Christ with the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet does more than merely reinforce or repeat what follows in the rest of the verse [First and Last, Beginning and End]. As one commentator notes, Hebrew rabbis used the first and last letters of their own alphabet (aleph and tav) to signify wholeness: “Among the Jewish rabbis it was common to use the first and the last letters of the Hebrew alphabet to denote the whole of anything, from beginning to end. Thus, it is said, ‘Adam transgressed the whole law, from ‘Aleph to Taw’’. [And] ‘Abraham kept the whole law, from ‘Aleph to Taw’’.
It is particularly fitting that Christ uses letters [Alpha and Omega] to speak of Himself, because He is precisely the Word of God, the fulness and the wholeness of God’s revelation to mankind.
“Aleph” and “tav” are also the first and last letters of the Hebrew word for “truth”, that is “emeth”. The Catholic Encyclopedia explains: “The Aleph or the first letter of “emeth” (truth) denotes that God is the first of all things. There was no one before Him of whom he could have received the fullness of truth. The Thaw, or last letter, in like manner signifies that God is the last of all things. There will be no one after Him to whom He could bequeath it. Thus “emeth” is a sacred word expressing that in God truth dwells absolutely and in all plenitude.”
“I AM… THE FIRST AND THE LAST” signifies:
The title of “the First and the Last” further indicates that Christ is one with God. In Isaiah 44:6 similar language had been used exclusively of God: “Thus says the Lord, Israel’s king, its redeemer, the LORD of hosts: I am the first, I am the last; there is no God but me.” Nearly identical language occurs in Isaiah 48:12: “Listen to me, O Jacob; Israel, whom I have called: I am He; I am the first and I am the last.”
2) THE FIRST AND LAST IN HISTORY
Certainly the middle phrase [I am… the First and the Last] does indicate that Christ encompasses all of history. As the one through whom all things were created, He was there in the beginning. And He will bring history to its end in His second coming. In Greek, the word for ‘last’ is eschatos. And this is the word that signifies the end times, the last things, so to speak—from it we derive our word ‘eschatology’ which is that branch of theology devoted to the study of what will happen at the ‘end of history.’ History began with Christ, He stands in its middle, and history will end in Christ.
3) THE FIRST AND LAST MAN
Christ is certainly the “last man” in the sense that He is the “last Adam” as He is called in 1 Corinthians 15:45. As the “first Adam” brought sin and death into the world, so the “last Adam” brings forgiveness and life. Of course, His role as “last Adam” also makes Him the “first man” of the new creation: the first to be resurrected, the first to receive a fully glorified body. He is the “firstborn from among the dead” as Colossians 1:18 puts it. In Christ, history has been turned on its head. Rather than the inevitable decline that seems to be one of the immutable laws of history, Christ offers us redemption and restoration. The first has become last and the last has become first (Matthew 20:16).
4) THE FIRST AND LAST RANKED
The Greek words for “first” and “last” have a double meaning. They can also mean “first” in the sense of the highest ranked person and “last” in terms of the lowest ranked. Christ is both “first” and “last” in these senses of the words as well. As Philippians 2 puts it, He emptied Himself taking the “the very nature of a servant” only to become “greatly exalted” by God.
“I AM… THE BEGINNING AND THE END” signifies:
1) THE BEGINNING
The last phrase [I am… the Beginning and the End] does not merely repeat the middle. In Greek, the word for “beginning” is “arche”. This is a tremendously loaded term from ancient Greek philosophy, as theologian Robert Wilken explains: “In Greek “arche” does not simply mean “beginning”, that is, “when”; it can also signify the principle that gives coherence to the whole.” (Source: The Spirit of Early Christian Thought) Christ is indeed the “principle” of our being—the one who orders and orchestrates all things both for us as individual persons, as collective members of His Church, and as members of the human race.
2) THE END
The word for “end” here is also a potent term in ancient Greek. It is “telos”. It signifies the end in the sense of the purpose of things… God is the end for which we were made: [He is] our destiny. The reason for which we were created, is to be with Him and to contemplate His glory and beauty forever.
I conclude with John Piper’s words from one of his Desiring God messages:
“I can't urge you too often to meditate on the staggering truth that God is the absolute Alpha. Find some serene moment of your life and let the truth take hold of you that God is the First—the Beginning. Before Him there was nothing. There was no "before Him." Just think of it! For millions and billions and trillions of unending years God existed and never had a beginning! He is the beginning… There never was a time when He was not.” (https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/i-am-alpha-and-omega)
And I personally would urge you to meditate on the almost incomprehensible truth that God is the absolute Omega as well: that God is the End, but has no End - that just as there was never anything before Him, there will also never be anything after Him - that for millions and billions and trillions of unending years God will exist without end!
“Before the mountains were born
or You brought forth the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting You are God.”
(Psalm 90:2)+ REFLECTIONS