Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Alpha and Omega, The First and the Last

The claim is made that the book of Revelation shows that not only is Jehovah the Alpha and Omega, but that Jesus is also. If this were true (we don’t believe it is) all this would prove is that in some way the title Alpha and Omega is applied both to Jehovah and to Jesus; it does not prove that Jesus is his God. In Isaiah 41:4; 44:6; 48:12 we find the expression “first and last” used of Yahweh. From Isaiah 44:6,7 this expression, “first and last” appears to mean “first and last” in might (godship), being the source of all might, something which the false gods of the heathen cannot claim. However, most of our trinitarian and oneness neighbors appear to often read into this expression ‘eternal’, although there is nothing in the scriptures to warrant this meaning.

In the last book of the Bible, we again find this expression “the first and the last”.  At least twice Jesus applies this phrase to himself as recorded in Revelation 1:17 and Revelation 2:8. The King James Version has Jesus applying this to himself also as given in Revelation 1:11, although most scholars agree that it is an interpolation in that verse. Nevertheless, our trinitarian and oneness neighbors would have us accept Revelation 1:17 and 2:8 as proof that Jesus is Jehovah, since the phrase is applied to both Jehovah and Jesus. The phrase appears also in Revelation 22:13, where Jehovah applies it to himself.

Another phrase found in Revelation 1:8; 21:6; 22:13 is “beginning and the end”. Additionally, we find the phrase — Alpha and Omega — in Revelation 1:8; 21:6; 22:13 — all three of which refer to Jehovah. Thus, neither of these phrases are used of Jesus.

Looking at Revelation 1:1, we note that the Revelation is from God who gave it to Jesus. (This should be enough to prove that Jesus is not his God.) The message is delivered through an angel to John. In Revelation 1:4 John says the message is from the Father, Yahweh, who is and who was and who is to come. Then in verse 5, John says: “and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood.” Many translations make a distinction between Jesus and “his God” in Revelation 1:6, as, for instance, The World English Bible translation: “he made us to be a kingdom, priests to his God and Father.” Thus John identifies two individuals which the messages are from, the Father, Jehovah (Isaiah 61:1; John 17:1,3), and Jesus, God’s Son.
Then in verse 8 we find the quote

"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End," says the Lord God, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty." -- World English

“The Lord” in this verse is Jehovah, not Jesus, as shown from Revelation 1:4. The phrase “Lord God” is based on the Jewish practice of changing the Holy Name to either the Hebrew word often transliterated as Adonai [Lord] or to Elohim [God]. Christian scribes began to this practice by changing Jehovah to forms of the Greek word transliterated as Kurios,  which means "Lord," or to Theos, which means "God." The Hebrew phrase is transliterated as Jehovah Elohim. When Christians scribes later edited the Septuagint, they changed the Holy Name to Kurios [Lord]  or  Theos [God]. They likewise did this with the New Testament Scriptures. This can be seen by comparing Acts 3:22; 7:37 with the Hebrew of Deuteronomy 18:15. In all instances where the phrase occurs in the NT, it is in reference to Yahweh, the Father of our Lord Jesus. — Luke 1:32; 1 Peter 3:10-15; Revelation 11:17,19; 15:3; 16:7; 18:8; 21:11; 22:6.
Likewise, with the phrases “the Lord our God” and “the Lord your God”. These phrases are always used in reference to Jehovah the God and Father of our Lord Jesus. — Matthew 4:7 (Deuteronomy 6:16); Matthew 4:10 (Deuteronomy 6:13; 10:20); Matthew 22:37 (Deuteronomy 6:5); Mark 12:29 (Deuteronomy 6:4); etc.
Some Christian translators in the past, in translating the Greek to Hebrew, have inserted a Hebrew form of the holy name, often rendered as "Yahweh" or "Jehovah," into Revelation 1:8. The following are some Hebrew translations that contain a Hebrew form of the Holy Name in Revelation 1:8: NT, by W. Robertson, 1661; NT, by J. C. Reichardt, 1846; NT, by J. C. Reichardt & J. H. R. Biesenthal, 1866; NT, by F. Delitzsch, 1981 edition; NT, by I. Salkinson & C. D. Ginsburg, 1891.

See also our studies on Revelation 1:8.

The fact that in the NT Greek manuscripts God's Holy Name has been changed to other words does not take away the fact that it is Jehovah, not his Son Jesus, who is speaking in Revelation 1:8.

In verses 9 and 10 John refers to himself when he heard a loud voice, as of a trumpet, (verse 11) saying, “Write what you see….” This quote is from Jesus, not Jehovah, as described in the following verses. In verse 18 Jesus says: “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore.” He who is, was and is to come never dies. However, Jesus was actually dead and not alive anywhere, if this is to make any sense at all, for he contrasts his being dead with being alive forevermore. Now we know that God cannot die, so Jesus is thus by this verse proved to not be God Almighty.

Many translations have the words added in Revelation 1:11, before the word “Write”: “I am the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last.” However, this sentence does not appear in the oldest Greek manuscripts and therefore does not appear in many Bible translations, and thus we do not include them as part of our discussion.

Let us now examine Revelation 21:6 in its context.
Revelation 21:5 He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”
Revelation 21:6 He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give freely to him who is thirsty from the spring of the water of life.
Revelation 21:7 He who overcomes, I will give him these things. I will be his God, and he will be my son.
If these are the words of Jesus, then they could only be applied to him in a manner similar to general usages of the words for God as mightiness. — Matthew 19:28; Romans 8:19-21.

Nevertheless, he who sits on the throne in the book of Revelation is spoken of as the God of Jesus (Revelation 2:7; 3:2,12, World English), and is distinguished from the Lamb. (Revelation 5:1-7; 5:13, 6:16, 7:10,15) Applying this to the One sitting on the throne in Revelation 21:5 would mean that these words are the words of the God of Jesus, not Jesus himself, although they were delivered by Jesus to the angel who delivered them to John. (Revelation 1:1,2) Many, if not most, trinitarian Bible scholars acknowledge that the words of Revelation 1:5 are spoken by God the Father as distinguished from the Lamb, but some vaguely, and often without any reason for doing so, will claim that the one being quoted in verses 6 and/or 7 is Jesus. It should be apparent that the one being quoted verses 5-7 are all the “one who sits on the throne”.

These words of Revelation 21:7 are not directed to the believers of this age, but to the world in the age to come, in the day of judgment and regeneration of the world, although indirectly they are applicable, since the believers in this age are reckoned, counted, imputed (Strong’s #3049) with the blessings and powers of the age to come, having received the spirit as a token, earnest, as first fruits, of that which is to come. –Romans 4; 6:11; 1 Corinthians 1:21,22; 5:17; 2 Corinthians 5:5; Ephesians 1:3-14; Hebrews 6:5; 12:23; James 1:18.
Now we come to Revelation 22:13. Many feel sure that this is Jesus speaking, since the one speaking tells of his “coming”, and in Revelation 22:20, Jesus says: “I come quickly.” And John exclaims: “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus.” This overlooks the fact that the scriptures speak of Jehovah coming, and also of Jesus coming, and that the two are closely associated. This does not mean that Jesus is Jehovah. God, the Diety, in Acts 17 is only one person and that one person is not Jesus, but Jehovah, the God and Father of Jesus, who comes to judge the world, not only with and by means of Jesus, but also the saints. God is distinguished from Jesus in Acts 17:31. — Malachi 3:1-6; Psalm 96:13; 98:9; Daniel 7:18,22; Isaiah 40:10,11; Micah 1:3; Zechariah 14:5; 2 Peter 3:7,8; 1 Corinthians 6:2; Psalm 90:4; Jude 1:14,15; Revelation 1:1; 20:4,11-13; 22:6.

Below we quote Revelation 22:6-21 with our comments in brackets [].

Revelation 22:6 He [The angel mentioned in Revelation 21:9] said to me, “These words are faithful and true. The Lord [Jehovah], the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angels to show to his servants the things which must happen soon.” [This agrees with Revelation 1:1-5, that the revelation is from God through Jesus, and delivered by an angel.]

Revelation 22:7 [Note the abrupt change; the angel suddenly quotes someone unnamed as coming:] “Behold, I come quickly. Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” [This is probably quoting Jesus as coming; however, it could be that the angel starting quoting Jehovah of Revelation 22:6. Jehovah, the God of the spirits of the prophets, does come to judge by means of the one whom he has ordained. -- Psalm 96:13; 98:9; Isaiah 40:10; 62:11; Luke 1:32,35; John 5:22,23; Acts 10:42; 17:31; Romans 2:16; 1 Corinthians 4:5; Revelation 22:12.]

Revelation 22:8 [John again changes and speaks of himself:] Now I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. When I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who had shown me these things.

Revelation 22:9 He [the angel] said to me, “See you don’t do it! I am a fellow bondservant with you and with your brothers, the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.”

Revelation 22:10 He [The angel] said to me, “Don’t seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand.

Revelation 22:11 He who acts unjustly, let him act unjustly still. He who is filthy, let him be filthy still. He who is righteous, let him do righteousness still. He who is holy, let him be holy still.”

Revelation 22:12 [Very abrupty the angel begins to quote someone else again:] “Behold, I come quickly. My reward is with me, to repay to each man according to his work. [The God of Jesus judges the world through Jesus, and each man will get his praise from God. -- Acts 17:31; Romans 2:16; 1 Corinthians 4:5; 2 Timothy 4:1. Isaiah 40:10 gives support that this is Jehovah speaking, not Jesus. Jesus never speaks of the "reward" as being his, although one could possibly reason that it is "his" to give, since Jehovah has given all judgment to the Son.]

Revelation 22:13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”
Revelation 22:14 [This is obviously the angel speaking:] “Blessed are those who do his [God's] commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter in by the gates into the city.
Revelation 22:15 Outside are the dogs, the sorcerers, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.”
Revelation 22:16 [Now the angel quotes Jesus:] “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify these things to you for the assemblies. I am the root and the offspring of David; the Bright and Morning Star.”
Revelation 22:17 [This is obviously the angel again speaking:] “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ He who hears, let him say, ‘Come!’ He who is thirsty, let him come. He who desires, let him take the water of life freely.”
Revelation 22:18 [The angel evidently quotes Jesus, as shown from verse 20:] “I testify to every man who hears the words of the prophecy of this book, if anyone adds to them, may God add to him the plagues which are written in this book.
Revelation 22:19 If anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, may God take away his part from the tree of life, and out of the holy city, which are written in this book.”
Revelation 22:20 [John writes] He [Jesus] who testifies these things says, “Yes, I come quickly.” [John responds:] Amen! Come, Lord Jesus.
Revelation 22:21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen. — World English Bible translation, with quotation marks slightly adjusted from that used in the World English.

Nevertheless, even if one assumes that it is Jesus who is the one speaking in Revelation 22:12,13, all this would mean is that these titles or phrases applied to Jehovah are also applied to Jesus. Does this mean that Jesus is Jehovah, the God who is identified also as the Father and God of Jesus? Absolutely not!
First we note that none of the passages say that the Father is the Son, or even that the Son equals the Father. There is nothing in any of the scriptures that declare that God is more than one person (trinity), or that God presents Himself in different modes, etc. None of the scriptures say that Jesus IS the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Nor do any of these passages directly say anything about the non-creation of either the Father or the Son.

One must admit that just because the same title is applied to individuals, this does not make these two individuals one individual. Else every ruler who has ever used the title “king” would have to be the same individual as every other ruler to whom the title "king" is applied. Each ruler who uses this title, however, uses it with respect to his peculiar realm of domain and time. Thus just because the same titles are given to both the Father and the Son does not mean they are the same being. There are many Bible Students that do apply the term Alpha and Omega to Jesus, but do not see this as having any meaning that Jesus is Jehovah. Some links are provided below that present this argument (We do not necessarily agree with all conclusions given by the authors).
Revelation for the End of the Gospel Age
http://tinyurl.com/8ggll (PDF FILE)
Notes on the Book of Revelation, By Ludlow Loomis
http://tinyurl.com/b5nsf (PDF FILE)
Revelation - A Notebook of the Study Records of the New Albany Ecclesia
http://tinyurl.com/dh7gt (PDF FILE)
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, by R. E. Streeter

While Jehovah has existed from eternity past, the expression, Alpha and Omega applied to him, does not in itself designate that Jehovah is from everlasting to everlasting, nor do the expressions, “the beginning and the end”, or “the first and the last”. Such an application can be made in that it could be stated that Jehovah is the beginning and end, the first and that last, of all who have existed from eternity past. As discussed in our study on “Beginnings”, the word “beginning” does not mean eternity, either past or future, but rather it usually denotes a point in time when something begins, or it is used of a person or thing at the start of something. Additionally, the word “first” does not mean eternity but a person or thing at the start of something. Similarly, it can be said concerning the words “last” and “end”; neither of these denote eternity, but rather, just as it says, the last or end of something. The Alpha and Omega symbolism only emphasizes the same thing, since Alpha is the first or start of the Greek alphabet, and Omega is the last or end of the Greek alphabet. Thus, although we do not believe that any scripture applies Alpha and Omega to Jesus, they could be applied to Jesus, but not with the same application as they are applied to only Most High. Nevertheless, the term "first" and "last" is applied to Jesus in Revelation 1:17,18 and also in Revelation 2:8.

How could this term, first and last,apply to both the Father and the Son within the domain of each? Some have noted that Jesus is the first human to be raised to life without end by Jehovah his Father, thus he is called the “firstborn of the dead”. (Colossians 1:18) There can only be one firstborn from the dead, thus Jesus is definitely the first and the last of the firstborn from the dead. He is also the last to be so resurrected directly by God since all others who eventually receive such a resurrection will be through Jesus, not by Yahweh directly. (John 5:21,22; 6:39,44; 11:25) Regardless, there appears to be a connection between his statements that he became dead was now alive forever and ever. In both instances where the terms “first” and “last” are used of Jesus, his death and eternal life is also mentioned in the context. (Revelation 1:17,18; 2:8) Jesus’ holding the keys of death and Hades (Revelation 1:18) shows the authority given to him by his God of releasing all who are in death and hades. — John 5:27-29 (New American Standard); Revelation 20:11-13.

Each — both Jesus and Jehovah — is the first and the last of his peculiar kind: Jehovah is the first and the last of his peculiar kind, in that he is the first and the last one to be increate, that is, never to have been created. No one was before Jehovah in this sense and no one will be after him in this sense. Jehovah is also unique in that He is the source of all. (1 Corinthians 8:6) The Son is the first and the last of his peculiar kind, in that he is the first and the last to have been directly created by God, all other creatures having been indirectly created by God, that is, through the agency of the Logos. (John 1:1-3; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:15,16) More than likely, however, the expression "the first and the last" as Jesus used it of himself has something to do with his death and resurrection. In this sense, Jesus is the first and last, being the only one, who is firstborn from the dead. There will never be another firstborn from the dead. Thus the Father and the Son are both unique — which is the meaning of these three expressions — but each of them is unique in a different sense: The Father is unique in that he is the only — the first and the last — being never created; the Son is unique in that he is the only — the first and the last — firstborn from the dead, as well as having the only being ever directly created by Jehovah without the assistance of an agent, which creative assistance by the Logos occurred in the case of all the rest of creation — the Logos himself being excepted. (John 1:3; 1 Corinthians 15:27; See our studies related to John 1:1) Thus Jehovah is the first and the last, the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end of increation — the only being who never was created. The Logos is the first and the last, the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end of God’s direct creation. These terms used with reference to the Son are equivalent to his being called: “the only begotten of the Father.” (John 1:14,18; 3:16,18; 1 John 4:9) Their use with reference to the Father implies that he is from eternity, though not directly teaching it, the direct teaching being his uniqueness in that he never was created or begotten, as was the Son.

Answers to Objections

Some have replied that there can only be one first and last, although their reasons for saying this are vague, to say the least. It seems they wish to demand a restricted application, usually that this expression means eternal, so that it could only apply to God Almighty. It is true that there can only be on who is first and last as God Almighty, and likewise that there is only one who was never created, who has always been. But we have no reason to restrict the term in application to God Almighty, except to satisfy the whims of those who wish to use it thus to prove that Jesus is Jehovah, which, in effect, would make the whole argument circular, that is, ‘we believe that Jesus is Jehovah, thus we believe that the expression first and last must be used in application to God Almighty only, and thus this proves that Jesus is Yahweh.’

We have already shown above that there can be more than one first and last, depending on what is being spoken of and its application. Each created person is first and last in his unique existence, since each person is unique in some way. There will never be another person who is uniquely you, thus you are the first and last person who is definitely you. Additionally, your father, as a sentient being, is unique in who he is. There will be never be another person who the same sentient being as your father, and your father is first and last in being who he is. Furthermore, if only one student shows up for class on a particular day, he is the first and last student that showed up for the class on that day. Likewise, both Jehovah and Jesus are first and last in their respective applications of that term. Regardless, our trinitarian neighbors will have to agree that there are two persons who are referred to as ‘first and last’ in Revelation, both God the Father and His Son.

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