FaithI AM Series

I AM: The Alpha & Omega

The beginning and the end

In the previous installment of this series, we examined John’s description of Jesus as The Word of God through Whom all things were created and contrasted it with Paul’s description of Jesus as the creator of all things.  For this installment, I promised to explore Jesus’ declaration, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” so let’s get into it.

In the book of Revelation, Jesus makes the Alpha and Omega declaration three times (1:8, 21:6, and 22:13), and although we’re going to cover all three, I want to start by highlighting key points from the first and last declarations (no pun intended) since they go together.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” … 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, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.  (Revelation 1:8, 17-18 ESV – emphasis mine)

“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” … “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”  (Revelation 22:12-16 ESV – emphasis mine)

In Revelation 1:8, Jesus described Himself as the Almighty.  If you read the second installment of this series, you may recognize that title as the way Jehovah introduced Himself to Abraham, שַׁדַּי אֵל (El Shaddai – God Almighty).  In fact, it is because of Jehovah’s introduction to – and initial covenant with – Abraham that Jesus’ third Alpha and Omega declaration is so interesting.

Before I connect the dots, please reread Jehovah’s covenant with Abraham.

When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.”  Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations.  No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.  I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you.  And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.  And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”  (Genesis 17:1-8 ESV)

Did you see it?  In Revelation 22, Jesus said, “I am the root and the descendant of David.”  What is a root?  Once a seed germinates, a plant begins to grow by establishing roots.  The roots provide the structural foundation to support the full-grown plant, but they also feed the plant by siphoning water and minerals from the ground.  The roots both support and sustain the plant.

Pertaining to Jesus being both the root and descendant of David, let’s focus on David.  David was the king of Israel.  Israel was the nation formed by the descendants of Jacob, who was renamed Israel.  Now, read two specific prophesies concerning (1) Jacob’s son Judah, and (2) David’s royal lineage.

The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.  (Genesis 49:10 ESV – emphasis mine)

“When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.  He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.  I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you.  And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.”  (2 Samuel 7:12-16 ESV – emphasis mine)

Where did David, Judah, and Jacob’s roots begin?  Right, Abraham, but more specifically Jehovah’s covenant with Abraham.  There is no doubt Jesus was definitively stating, “I was God in the beginning (the Word was with God and the Word was God) and I will be God in the end, but we can now connect Jesus directly to the initial promise Jehovah made to Abraham.  By saying, “I am the root,” Jesus is declaring, “I am Jehovah, the very foundation of those initial promises.”

Let’s see what Paul has to say about the acceptance of Gentiles into the promises of Abraham.

So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous.  Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean! … For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?  If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.  But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.  Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.”  That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith.  So do not become proud, but fear.  For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you.  Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.  And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again.  For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.  (Romans 11:11-24 ESV – emphasis mine)

In this letter to the church in Rome, Paul is highlighting the importance of the holy, nourishing root supporting Gentile believers.  The Jews were not the root.  They were branches attached to the root yet broken off for their disbelief.  The Gentiles were grafted into the root, and yet the Jews can be grafted back in, as well.  The Jews will not be grafted into a new root.  They will be grafted back into the original root from which they were broken off.

Jesus is Jehovah…that holy, nourishing root…into Whom Jews and Gentiles must be grafted!

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.  Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. … Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.  If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.  (John 15:1-11 ESV – emphasis mine)

For further confirmation, just look at what the writer of Hebrews has to say about Jesus after detailing the Old Testament Hall of Faith (Hebrews 11).

And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.   Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  (Hebrews 11:39-40; 12:1-2 ESV – emphasis mine)

Faith in Jesus is not faith in some new system of religion.  Faith in Jesus is built upon the foundations established in the Old Testament.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.  (Matthew 5:17-18 ESV)

Jesus is the founder and perfecter of a faith that started with the promises of Abraham but perfected by Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection, which established a new covenant.

…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  (Hebrews 12:2 ESV)

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD.  For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. … Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when the city shall be rebuilt for the LORD…and…shall be sacred to the LORD. It shall not be plucked up or overthrown anymore forever.”  (Jeremiah 31:31-40 ESV – emphasis mine)

And, that takes us back to Jesus’ second Alpha and Omega declaration.

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new… 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.  The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.  But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”  (Revelation 21:5-8 ESV – emphasis mine)

Just prior to Jesus’ second Alpha and Omega declaration, John wrote this:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”  (Revelation 21:1-4 ESV – emphasis mine)

Important note:  In Revelation 21:5, Jesus clearly claims, “I am making all things new.”  He is the one establishing the new heaven and a new earth over which He will be God and father to the faithful conquerors (see Revelation 2-3).  It is Jesus who will wipe away every tear, and we know from His declaration in Revelation 1:18 that He is the One Who is victorious over death.

Now, let’s compare John’s vision and Jesus’ words from the book of Revelation to prophecies Jehovah declared in the Old Testament.

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.  But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness.  I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress.”  (Isaiah 65:17-19 ESV – emphasis mine)

“For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the LORD, so shall your offspring and your name remain.  From new moon to new moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, declares the LORD.  And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”  (Isaiah 66:22-24 ESV)

There is no way to confuse the message Jesus was sending to the 1st Century church who were predominantly Jewish and knew the Old Testament and all its traditions and commands.  And, it’s the reason the writer of Hebrews made this definitive statement.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Hebrews 13:8 (ESV)

Jesus (Jehovah, the Word of God) has not changed since creation or the promises He made to Abraham!

Despite the clarity of Jesus’ declarations found in these passages, there is still so much more.  Please stay tuned for the next installment as we explore the description of Jesus as the light of men, along with the importance of the passages concerning John the Baptist.

You can also watch the entire video for this installment (below) or listen to the podcast on SoundCloud.

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