The Alpha and Omega

God’s Eternality in the Epistles

5 min

The Book of Revelation has variously intrigued, baffled, alarmed, and comforted millions of Christians over the centuries since it was written by John the Apostle on the Isle of Patmos. It has been interpreted in many different ways from many different perspectives. For some, the prophecy is disturbing, containing terrifying visions of armed horsemen, winged scorpions, a dragon, and beasts. For others, the words are comforting, for they assure us of Christ’s final victory, His presence with His people, and the day when God Himself will wipe the tears from every eye.

The Greek word revelation means “unveiling” and, thus, the Book of Revelation is well-named. The message presented is of a victorious and triumphant Lord Jesus Christ Who is Master of time, from eternity past to eternity future. The LORD Jesus reveals Himself in these words, “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” (Revelation 1:8).

Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet. Omega is the final letter. Jesus Christ, the Alpha, was present and active at the dawn of human history. And He, the Omega, will be present and active at the close of human history when the declaration is made that there shall be “time no longer” (Revelation 10:6).

Various commentaries, novels, and even movies have been produced in an attempt to unravel and explain the mysteries of Revelation. There are four basic approaches which have been held by conservative Bible scholars as ways to explain and interpret John’s record of God’s revelation:

The Preterist View, which sees the book as describing events that took place in the first century;

The Historicist View, which sees the book as tracing all of church history in symbolic language;

The Futurist View, which sees the book as predicting literal events that have not yet happened; and

The Idealist View, which sees the book as revealing spiritual principles that are always true.

Each of these viewpoints has strengths as well as weaknesses. An entirely preterist view considers the book of primary importance only to the Christians of the first century and of little value today. A wholly futurist view renders the book of little value to the Christians of the Apostle John’s day, to whom it was written. An entirely idealist view erodes the literal interpretation of Scripture and slights the detailed specific numbers and images that are presented. Finally, the historicist view makes the interpreter the master of the book by allowing wide freedom to interpret symbols on a whim. Perhaps the humblest and best approach to studying the Book of Revelation is to appreciate the strengths of each interpretive viewpoint and to admit with the Apostle John that we cannot fully understand, but we can fully believe!

Whatever view of Revelation you personally favor, the Lord Jesus Christ, must be the center and focus of your interpretation. The Apostle John described his Master in wonderful, glorious detail in the opening chapter of the prophecy. John noted that Jesus was “clothed with a garment down to the foot” and girded with gold (Revelation 1:13). “His head and hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire” (Revelation 1:14). John continued, stating that Jesus’ feet shone like molten brass, “and his voice as the sound of many waters. . . . and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and His countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength” (Revelation 1:15–16).

When John fell at the feet of the Almighty, Jesus placed His hand upon His apostle and spoke to him with words of comfort: “Fear not; I am the first and the last” (Revelation 1:17). Apart from the Lord Jesus Christ, there is no past, no present, and no future. He is and was, and He is to come. He is the Almighty.

In the following three statements about the Almighty, we can sum up all of human history.

  1. He IS: Jesus is Lord of the present. 

    The fact that Jesus starts here with the present is significant! He does not begin, as we might have if we were writing the account, with the past. Jesus is the Master of the present. Very distinctly, John remembered Jesus Christ of Galilee. But Jesus is “alive for evermore” (Revelation 1:18). He stood before the Apostle John on the Isle of Patmos as a living reality! He Who ruled the winds and the waves is still the Master of the storm. He is faithful to His promise that “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20). Are you worried about your present circumstances? Jesus says “Fear not!” and “I am alive forevermore.” He knows and He cares. Assuredly, Jesus is just as aware of your current situation as He was aware of John’s difficulties as a prisoner on the Isle of Patmos. If you will look to Him with the eye of faith, you will see that the Lord Jesus is at your side.
  2. He WAS: Jesus is Lord of the past. 

    The Christ Who stood before John the Apostle is the Lord of time and history. Everything that has ever happened on the planet has happened under His watchful eye. John, as a Jewish believer, would certainly have been deeply concerned about the judgment and destruction of Jerusalem that took place under Titus in A.D. 70. He would have been grieved that the Temple was destroyed, that the Ark of the Covenant was gone, and that thousands of the people of the Holy City were slaughtered. But Jesus had foretold of these events in the Olivet Discourse. (See Matthew 24–25.) Everything that has ever happened in human history has been under Christ’s control. Have you ever been puzzled by the tragic events of world history? Have you ever pondered the desolations of war, the harsh effects of famine and pestilence, the rise and fall of empires, and the weighty question as to why evil men sometimes appear to prosper while tragedies occur to seemingly innocent people? Fear not! Jesus is the Lord of the past. He has an eternal purpose in every historical event. Although we cannot always understand, we should always believe.
  3. He IS TO COME: Jesus is Lord of the future.

    The Book of Revelation exists to comfort the people of God with the fact that the Lord Jesus is the Lord of the future. The purpose of the prophecy is explained in the opening verse: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John” (Revelation 1:1). We might not understand every timeline or every prophecy, but we can know for a fact that God knows every detail. He is startled by nothing. He has never been caught off guard by human events, and He who wrote history past has also written history future. Are you troubled about the future? Have you ever lain awake at night, worried about what your children will one day face in their generation? Do concerns about nuclear war, economic depression, global persecution, or societal collapse fill your heart and mind? Fear not! Jesus is the Lord of the future. Keep your eyes on Him and be faithful to His command to be watching and waiting. The closing of the Book of Revelation gives us a glorious promise from our Lord: “Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me” (Revelation 22:12). May we respond as did the Apostle John in Revelation 22:20, with resounding words of hopeful confidence: “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”

This article is from our Matters of Life & Death teaching series.

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