Likewise when we begin a new year in light of our walk with the Lord, our thoughts often turn to spiritual habits. This year I found myself drawn to getting to know the Lord better through the many names which are ascribed to Him in the Bible. So I have assembled a list and will spend time each week contemplating on the significance of those names in their Scriptural context and to me as a believer; and as per Covey’s second habit, what better place to start than with “the end in view”?
Revelation is perhaps the most grand and glorious book of the Bible (perhaps rivaled only by Daniel’s visions (Dan. 7-12), Isaiah’s awe-inspiring visit to God’s throne room (Is. 6) or Ezekiel’s spectacular description of the Heavenly (Eze. 40) temple. Right from the start we are transported with John into the Presence of God Himself who is introduced as “The Alpha and Omega” (Rev. 1:8). As the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet alpha and omega paint a grammatical picture of the start and finish of something. This convention of using letters to describe deity is not new to John but his style is different from his pagan contemporaries. While the Greeks sometimes used symbolic letters to describe their deities, John is using actual letters. John’s descriptive is similar to those of Jewish scholars who also used aleph and tav, the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet when they wrote or spoke about the Lord. Nor is this method limited to extra-Biblical writing. The Lord is described this way in several passages in Isaiah (Is. 41:4, 44:6, 48:12). In these passages it is particularly important to note that like the Revelation passage, it is how God describes Himself.
What does it mean to describe something this way, especially the Lord? When the Jewish historian Josephus used this term concerning God he went a step further and called Him “the first, the last and the middle” (Apion 2. 190) making the description even stronger. One commentator wrote, “The Lord’s name of Alpha and Omega is part of a passage which affirms that all of history is in God’s hands and because of that His people do not need to be afraid that something will happen to them that is not a part of God’s plan. This name encapsulates God’s eternality.” Simply put all of history, from the beginning to the end is the same to God. While we are prone to distinguish a point in time where something starts and a separate point where it ends, God sees time in a distinctly different manner. I think it could be put it in this way: humankind plots life in a straight line; God draws a circle.
Craig S. Keener wrote, “Remembering that God is the Lord of history puts our lives in perspective. No situation we encounter takes God by surprise.” Pagan deities being that they are man-made are just as human as the rest of us. Reading Greek or Roman myths will easily prove that. False gods are mocked in the Bible because they are weak, inept and totally fabricated (Dt. 4:28; 1 Ki. 18:25-29; Ps. 115:1-8; Is. 2:7-8, 44:10-20; Jer. 10:1-5; Ac. 19:26; 1 Cor. 8:4). The Biblical perspective of God as Alpha and Omega points our attention to the fact that everything is completely in His hands and that He works all things for good (Rom. 8:28). But it is not just God the Father Who is described this way. Rev. 21:6 uses this name to describe Jesus as well. Tightly connected with Rev. 1:4, Jesus is also the One Who Is, Who Was, and Who is Coming. He is the definitive explanation and literal visage of God the Father (Jn. 1:18; Col. 1:15). God’s goal in history has come to its conclusion in Him. By reiterating the name Alpha and Omega in regards to Christ, we who read John’s words are reminded that God has accomplished all He set out to do (i.e. restore His creation to its original state of communion with Him- Gen. 3:15) through His Son.
Begin this year with the end in view. Keep in mind the glorious completion of God’s plan for history as it is set forth in the Book of Revelation. And remember that the Alpha and Omega has you in His hands today, tomorrow and always.
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
Week of 1/3/2016