First or last

“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying, ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last'” (Revelation 1:10-11 NKJV).

There are many ways to categorize people. One that I sometimes use has to do with how we schedule our pleasures. Some like to do the best (most enjoyable) things first. That may be eating dessert before the meal, or taking one’s leisure breaks as early as possible. Others prefer saving the best till last. I am among the latter group. I always keep the best piece of chocolate in the box for the final treat.

Reserving special pleasures for later offers several benefits. For example, there is the extended pleasure of anticipation. After all, once a particular dessert is eaten it is finished and cannot be enjoyed again. But while we look forward to it we savor the coming pleasure many times before finally consuming it.

Saving the best also produces a kind of climactic experience of life. There is always something more to look forward to, better things that are coming. Boredom and disappointment are foes of happiness. Too many people face the future with hopelessness and dread. One who chooses to believe that the best has not yet come has a great advantage over depression and despair.

This attitude also develops perseverance. When one knows that there is something to wait upon, he finds it much easier to wait. When there is a goal worth striving for, our efforts do not seem so difficult to perform.

But there are also advantages to starting with the best. The obvious one is that it ensures success, at least in the area of enjoying the better things. The danger of waiting is that opportunities may be lost. A friend always ate dessert first, just in case the Lord should come during dinner. When one has opportunity to do or have the best, he must give consideration to how long that opportunity might last.

As most have learned, there is no certainly right answer to the question, “is it better to enjoy the best first or to save it for last?” Both can be correct. However, either choice might leave one disappointed in particular instances.

When it comes to the most important area of life – the Spiritual – we do not have to choose. Jesus is both first and last, beginning and end, Alpha and Omega. This is no mere theological terminology. It is basic fact regarding his essential nature. This dual role applies in several ways.

First, it is a statement of his immortality and eternity. He was before the beginning (John 1:1-4). He will remain forever (Revelation 1:18). Jesus always has been and always will be, the eternal unchanging God.

Secondly it is a statement of his priority and importance. He is “the first-born over all creation” (Colossians 1:15). First-born here has the sense of primogeniture, the eldest child having the birthright of heritage. Because he is “first-born” he is “over all creation.”

Thirdly, since Jesus is first and last, he is by definition continuous. He is eternally present with no absence. That means that those who follow and depend on him will never be disappointed; he will not desert them.

The writer of Hebrews states this characteristic of Jesus slightly differently, calling him “the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). As author, Jesus began our faith. When he returns to the earth in judgement he will provide the final touches to God’s eternal purpose (1 Corinthians 15:20-28; Hebrews 2:14).

Those who trust in Jesus have it both ways. He comes first, but he also remains to the end. They are never without him and his help. Obedience to his Gospel provides a wonderful beginning to a great life. Rising to meet him when he returns will be an experience unmatched by anything in creation. Thankfully we don’t have to choose one or the other. They are both part of the life of faith in God.

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