Alpha and Omega, First and Last
In John’s Apocalypse, we read a much disputed text, but I will still prefer the Byzantine text form and will thus quote it here.
I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty. (Rev 1.8)
It should be noted that the the Alexandrian copy, the Complutensian edition, and the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Arabic versions read, ‘the Lord God’ while the Coptic version has only ‘God’. Origen reads, ‘And that you may understand that the omnipotence of Father and Son is one and the same, as God and the Lord are one and the same with the Father, listen to the manner in which John speaks in the Apocalypse: “Thus saith the Lord God, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty,” while Tertullian, writing against Praxeas, quotes it as this, ‘Meanwhile, let this be my immediate answer to the argument which they adduce from the Revelation of John: “I am the Lord which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.’ So, the tradition varies, however, I believe that no matter what, the truth is still the same. It is indeed the Lord who is God who is speaking.
Alpha and Omega is the Greek rendering of the Hebrew phrase, ‘aleph and the tau’, which the Jews used to express God as the first and the last. He is from eternity to eternity. Clarke says, ‘With the rabbis מא ועד ת meeleph vead tau, “from aleph to tau,” expressed the whole of a matter, from the beginning to the end. So in Yalcut Rubeni, fol. 17, 4: Adam transgressed the whole law from aleph to tau; i.e., from the beginning to the end’.
Further, John hears a voice like a trumpet, saying,
“Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.” And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. – Rev 1:11-18
The phrase ‘I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last ’are left out in the Alexandrian copy, the Complutensian edition, the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Coptic versions; ‘but are very fitly retained, to point out the person that speaks; to express his dignity, deity, and eternity; to excite the attention of John, and to give weight to what he said. (Gill)’ The phrase ‘the first and the last’ is used to describe the God of the Jews in Isaiah 41:4, 44:6, and 48:12 and four times in this book of Christ Himself (Revelation 1:11, 17, 2:8 and 22:13). Richard of St. Victor comments thus: “I am the first and the last; first through creation, last through retribution. First, because before me a God was not formed; last, because after me there shall not be another. First, because all things are from me; last, because all things are to me; from me the beginning, to me the end. First, because I am the cause of origin; last, because I am the judge and the end” (cited by Trench and Vincent).
In Revelation 21:5-7, John writes,
‘And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.’
If we have already established that Christ is the Alpha and Omega, then we know that it is Christ, our Lord and God, who is sitting on the thrown. Throughout John’s book, only one sits on the thrown, and only one is the Alpha and Omega (which is logical and theological). Can one rightly split the speakers of the phrase into distinct person?
Of course, the question is begged: If there is only one First and one Last, One Alpha and one Omega, then how can two (or three if the Spirit is counted) both claim this things?
God, Christ, and the Rock
2 Sam. 22:32, “Who else is God but the LORD; Who else is a Rock but our God?”
1 Sam. 2:2, “There is none Holy as the LORD, for there is none beside Thee, neither is there any Rock like our God.”
The apostle Paul, the well educated former Pharisee, plainly speaks that Christ was that Rock of Israel. In 1st Corinthians 10:1-4, Paul writes,
“Moreover, brethren, I would not that you should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the Cloud and all passed through the sea, and were all baptized unto Moses in the Cloud and in the sea, and did all eat the same spiritual meat and did all drink the spiritual Drink, for they drank of that spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ”
Further, in the ninth verse, Paul says, “Neither let us tempt Christ as some of them did, and were destroyed by serpents”.
This has to call into question the idea of the preexistent son. Here, Paul used the name of Christ as the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. (This verse as a textual variant, but most scholars except Christ instead of Lord.) How can that be? Remember the prayer in John 17, where Christ reveals that He came to manifest the name of the Father? Paul is not speaking about the Son, but about God.