Why did Jesus refer to himself as “Alpha and Omega?”

“I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending” (Revelation 1:8)

In the Revelation, Jesus speaks for the final time. Four times (Revelation 1:8,11; 21:6; 22:13), he refers to himself as “Alpha and Omega.” Why? What does this phrase mean, and why does he use it?

What does it mean? 

It implies he is all-powerful. There was a beginning of all things, there will be an end of all things. The universe had a beginning because he created it (John 1:3; Colossians 1:17). It will have an ending because he will usher it in (John 5:28-29).

Jesus is the beginning and the ending, the Alpha and Omega.

It implies his infinite knowledge and wisdom. He knows all knowable things. All things come from him, were created by him, for him, and answer to his ultimate authority (Matthew 28:18). In the Revelation, he is the All-seeing eye of the world, and of the church. He calls men and churches for what they are, not what they think they are (Revelation 3:1,17). Both compassion and judgment come from his perfect knowledge of man and all things (Proverbs 2:6).

From side to side, from top to bottom, from within and without – from Alpha to Omega – there is nothing knowable that he does not know.

It implies his fulfillment of biblical prophecy. Jesus was not only the best interpreter of Scripture (Luke 24:25-27,44-46), but he also identified himself as the fulfillment of its prophecies (Luke 4:16-21). Those prophecies include dozens of aspects of his family, birth, life, ministry, death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). However, they also include his identification as Deity.

Three times in Isaiah, Israel’s Deity – Jehovah, the only true God (Isaiah 37:16) – identifies himself with the designation, “the first and the last” (Isaiah 41:4; 44:6; 48:12).

When Jesus called himself “Alpha and Omega, the first and the last,” he identifies himself as the only true God, and the fulfillment of biblical prophecy.

There were plenty of descriptions Jesus could have chosen to convey these things. Why this one? 

It implies his return for judgment. This description of himself in the Revelation is purposely unique and climactic.

  • In the shadows of ancient prophecy, he is the unnamed and far-off king and deliverer yet to come (Gen. 3:15; 49:10; Dan. 7:13,14).
  • In his life and ministry he is called “Jesus” (Matthew 1:21). He calls himself “Son of Man” (Mat. 9:6; Lk. 19:10).
  • In the gospels, his deity and humble humanity are alternatively on display (John 11:34,35; 17:5).

However, in the New Testament letters, his return quickly becomes the focal point to which all things progress (2 Thes. 1:3-10; Rom. 14:10-12).

The Son has become heir of all things (Hebrews 1:2). He sits on his throne at the Father’s side, interceding for his own (Hebrews 7:25). He now awaits his final work: judgment.

In his final words from his seat in heaven, he does not call himself Jesus, or Lamb, or Son of Man, or even Son of God. Rather, he chose terminology that strikes the heart with reverence and fear.

He is the first and the last.

He is the beginning and the end.

He is the Alpha and Omega.

He implores us one final time to heed his thunderous warnings, and accept his merciful invitation.

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