God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son call Themselves the Alpha and the Omega in the book of Revelation. What does this mean for us?
The statement “I am the Alpha and the Omega” occurs four times in the New King James Version of the Bible, all in the book of Revelation (1:8, 11; 21:6; 22:13). This self-description is used by both God the Father and by Jesus Christ.
What does Alpha and Omega mean?
Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet, and omega is the last letter. Thus the phrase the Alpha and the Omega means the beginning and the end.
Since God is eternal and has no beginning or end, the spiritual meaning of the phrase is that He is the Beginner (the First) and also Ender (the Last). He will complete everything that will be completed, but He will never end.
The Complete Word Study Dictionary, New Testament, defines Alpha and Omega this way:
“The meaning of the expression ‘alpha and omega’ is explained by the accompanying words: ‘the beginning [arche (746)] and the end [telos (5056)], the first [protos (4413)] and the last [eschatos (2078)].’ The ‘first’ does not mean ‘the first created,’ but rather the one who brought everything into existence . . .
“Thus in Revelation, alpha indicates that He is the one who brought all things into existence, and omega that He is the one who will bring them to their determined end (2 Pet 3:10-13; Rev 21:1). The expression means that the whole of existence from beginning to end is attributable to God the Father or Jesus Christ (John 1:3; Rom 11:36; Eph 1:10; Rev 3:14)” (Spiros Zodhiates, 1992, p. 57).
Another definition of Alpha and Omega
The New Bible Dictionary, Second Edition, gives further information about alpha and omega:
“The juxtaposition of the first and last letters of the Gk. alphabet, corresponding to the Heb. alep and taw, is used in Rev. alone as a self-designation of both God (Rev. 1:8; 21:6, where ‘the Alpha and the Omega’ is explained by the parallel ‘the beginning and the end’) and Christ (22:13, with the same parallel, and the additional phrase ‘the first and the last’). In Rev. 22:13 the Son’s divinity is confirmed by applying to him what is said of the Father. In each of these cases the term refers to eternal, dynamic and comprehensive activity of God or Christ in creation and salvation; that is, the origin, preservation and goal of all things are to be found in the Godhead (cf. Rom. 11:36)” (1982, p. 26).
Alpha and Omega in the Bible used by both the Father and the Son
In Revelation 21 John hears “He who sat on the throne” (referring to God the Father) say: “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts” (Revelation 21:6).
To know that God is Almighty, literally “the one who has his hand on everything” from beginning to end, reminds us that He can see us through the present trials and tribulations. In the end, God wins.He also says, “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son” (verse 7)—clearly a reference to the Father.
However, in Revelation 22 Jesus says He is coming quickly (verse 12), then adds, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last” (Revelation 22:13).
“The fact that the expression ‘the alpha and omega’ is applied to Christ is another proof of the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ and His coeternity with the Father” (Zodhiates, p. 57).
Other ways of expressing eternity
The Bible explains that God lives in eternity, beyond the bounds of time and space that He created. Humans can’t fully understand eternity, and our languages are ill-equipped to express what we can’t understand.
So the Bible uses various expressions to try to help us comprehend it. For example, besides those defined above, God also describes Himself as One “who is and who was and who is to come” (Revelation 1:4, 8).
This “is generally understood as a paraphrase for the divine name represented throughout the [Old Testament] by the Hebrew tetragrammaton YHWH” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, note on Revelation 1:4). This name is generally used of the One who became Jesus Christ, but it is also used of the Father (for example, Psalm 110:1). (Read more about this Hebrew word represented by LORD in the New King James Version in our article “Jesus in the Old Testament?” and our blog post “Names Have Meanings—Especially God’s.”)
“The tenses indicate that the same God is eternally present to his covenant people to sustain and encourage them through all the experiences of their lives” ibid.).
YHWH conveys the idea that God is eternal. This was also conveyed when God told Moses, “‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you”’” (Exodus 3:14).
Alpha and Omega used to give encouragement
As John faithfully recorded in the book of Revelation the vision he received, he also sought to encourage the Church. He said he was their “companion in the tribulation” (Revelation 1:9), and he described many of the persecutions members of God’s Church have experienced (see our article “Seven Churches of Revelation” and the related articles).
To know that God is Almighty, literally “the one who has his hand on everything” (Expositor’s, note on Revelation 1:8) from beginning to end, reminds us that He can see us through the present trials and tribulations. In the end, God wins.
Read more about the names and power of God in our article “Names of God.”