Revelation 21:1-8 – God as Alpha and Omega

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POSTED 11 FEBRUARY, 2018

reproduced from Salvation on the Line, Volume II

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.’ And He who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ And He said, ‘Write, for these words are faithful and true.’ Then He said to me, ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.’”

As the Book of Revelation begins to close, readers encounter the New Jerusalem, the bride (Revelation 21:1-2). With the inauguration of the Eternal State, it is witnessed how “the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them” (Revelation 21:3, NRSV). Those who enter into this condition of dwelling or tabernacling with God, will be spared suffering (Revelation 21:4). There is no ambiguity how “God” here is a reference to the Father, who then prepares to issue dialogue (Revelation 21:5).

In Revelation 21:6, God declares, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will freely give from the spring of the water of life” (TLV). In the source text, the egō eimi formula derived from the Septuagint version of Exodus 3:14, the burning bush theophany, is notably encountered: egō [eimi] to alpha kai to ō. The CJSB offers the rendering, “I am the… (Alef) and the… (Tav).” (The preceding CJB actually has, “I am the ‘A’ and the ‘Z.’”) A range of commentators generally conclude that God declaring that He is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, is to be taken as an affirmation of His supreme sovereignty:

  • Leon Morris: “He is in command and in the end all things work out just as he wills. I am the Alpha and the Omega (the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet) followed by the Beginning and the End ( 1:8; 22:13) reveals God as the Originator and Completer of all things.”[1]
  • G.R. Beasley-Murray: “As the Alpha and the Omega, the Lord God Almighty is the initiator of creation and its end, and in his hands lies the whole intermediary process, which he guides to its desired conclusion (see note on 1:8). So truly as God is Alpha and Omega, so certain is his affirmation that he will make all things new.”[2]
  • George Eldon Ladd: “He is the beginning and the end. The eternal one, who brought all things into existence, will make all things new in the eternal order.”[3]
  • G.K. Beale: “These divine titles are figures of speech (merisms) in which the figurative point is to mention the opposite poles of something in order to emphasize the totality of all that lies between. The use of the first and last letters of the alphabet was typical of the ancients in expressing merisms. So Jews could say that the law should be kept ‘from alelph to tau.’ That God is the beginning and the end of history means that he rules over all events in between.”[4]
  • Grant R. Osborne: “The title is built on Isa. 44:6 and 48:12, ‘I am the first and I am the last’ (cf. 41:4), which meant that Yahweh was sovereign at the beginning of the nation and would be in charge at the end as well. In keeping with this title, God began history at creation and ends it at the eschaton. But the title means he controls not only the beginning and the end but also everything in between; in other words, he is sovereign over history. For the readers, this means that they can know God is in charge now because the Bible recorded his sovereignty over past history, and the prophecies in this book have demonstrated his control over future history. Therefore, they can be assured he is also sovereign in the present time of trouble.”[5]

God proper declaring “I am the Alpha and the Omega” in Revelation 21:6 is not an issue for those who hold to either a high or low Christology. In the immediate context, God as the Beginning and the End affects those who are either redeemed or condemned (Revelation 21:7-8). Further on in Revelation 22:13, however, Yeshua the Messiah Himself says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Would a supernatural, yet ultimately created being or entity, be permitted to speak such words? Aune addresses how the Messiah speaking this undoubtedly serves to indicate how the power and sovereignty of the Father and Son are interconnected:

“In 1:8a and 21:6 it is used of God, while in 22:13…it is used of Christ. In each context the title is not used alone but is juxtaposed with other titles, each of which emphasizes the absolute power and sovereignty of God (in 1:8 and 21:6) or of Christ (in 22:13), and each of which also serves to define and expand the others.”[6]


NOTES

[1] Morris, Revelation, 239.

[2] Beasley-Murray, Revelation, 312.

[3] Ladd, 278.

[4] Beale, 1055.

[5] Osborne, Revelation, 738.

[6] Aune, 52c:1126.