The Alpha and the Omega

I was reading Isaiah 44:1-6 yesterday…

Hear then, O Jacob, my servant, Israel, whom I have chosen. Thus says the LORD who made you, your help, who formed you from the womb: Fear not, O Jacob, my servant, the darling whom I have chosen. I will pour out water upon the thirsty ground, and streams upon the dry land; I will pour out my spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing upon your descendants. They shall spring up amid the verdure like poplars beside the flowing waters.  One shall say, “I am the LORD’S,” another shall be named after Jacob, And this one shall write on his hand, “The LORD’S,” and Israel shall be his surname.  Thus says the LORD, Israel’s King and redeemer, the LORD of hosts:  I am the first and I am the last; there is no God but me.

This is a messianic – and eschatological – passage that refers to the restoration of Israel after a trial.  The images of water and green pasture are common in prophetic literature as referring to a place of paradise or prosperity.   There is also the metaphor of “a mark” which indicates that a person belongs to God or not.  In Genesis 4:15 Cain is marked for his disobedience.  In Ezekiel 9:4, the righteous inhabitants are marked with a “tav”  “תָּ֜ו” “a mark” in Hebrew.   This is very ironic, and mere coincidence, that the Greek term for the mark is “tau” – “T”  – which looks like a cross.  In Revelation 13:16, those never who never receive the faith are  marked on the head (not the forehead, that is not necessarily the correct translation of “μέτωπον”), while those whose faith does not endure receive the lesser mark on the hand.

I was most interested in the expression in Isaiah 44 that the Lord “is the first and the last.”  Here, God speaks in the first person.  This is an unambiguous statement that “the first and the last” is a title for God.  Interesting then, that the term is used several times in the Book of Revelation:

I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty. Rev 1:18

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. Rev 21:6

“Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.  “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give youthis testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” Rev 22:12-16

My principal comment here is that Jesus equates himself with God, using a title that God used for himself in the Old Testament. Of course, for Christians this would not be surprising.  The more modern scripture scholars tend to overlook statements like this, that reveal, in Scripture, that the early writers presumed Jesus to be God.  All the more surprising, since John the Evangelist presents Jesus as very human in the Gospel of John. for instance, Jesus weeps when he hears of the death of Lazarus.  But here we see John the Evangelist reporting that Jesus calls himself, “the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end” – a title reserved for God alone.

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