The Certainty of the Second Coming
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (1:8)
In this verse the Lord God puts His signature on the prophecy of the Second Coming recorded in the previous verse. Three of His divine attributes guarantee the certainty of the pledge of Christ’s return.
Alpha and the Omega emphasizes God’s omniscience. Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet, and Omega is the last. All knowledge is conveyed through the letters of the alphabet; thus God’s designation of Himself as the Alpha and the Omega affirms that He has all knowledge. He knows, therefore, the certainty of this promise.
As the one who is and who was and who is to come, God’s transcendent, eternal presence is not confined by time or space or any feature or event in them. There is no possible contingency of which He is unaware regarding the Second Coming. Thus, His promise that the Lord Jesus Christ will return settles the issue.
The designation of God as the Almighty (cf. 4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 16:7, 14; 19:6, 15; 21:22) affirms His omnipotence. Since He is all powerful, nothing can hinder Him from carrying out His sovereign will. No one or no thing can possibly prevent Christ from returning in glory as described in verse 7.
Jesus came the first time in humiliation; He will return in exaltation. He came the first time to be killed; He will return to kill His enemies. He came the first time to serve; He will return to be served. He came the first time as the suffering servant; He will return as the conquering king. The challenge the book of Revelation makes to every person is to be ready for His return.
John Phillips writes,
One of the most stirring pages in English history tells of the conquests and crusades of Richard I, the Lionhearted. While Richard was away trouncing Saladin, his kingdom fell on bad times. His sly and graceless brother, John, usurped all the prerogatives of the king and misruled the realm. The people of England suffered, longing for the return of the king, and praying that it might be soon. Then one day Richard came. He landed in England and marched straight for his throne. Around that glittering coming, many tales are told, woven into the legends of England. (One of them is the story of Robin Hood.) John’s castles tumbled like ninepins. Great Richard laid claim to his throne, and none dared stand in his path. The people shouted their delight. They rang peal after peal on the bells. The Lion was back! Long live the king!
One day a King greater than Richard will lay claim to a realm greater than England. Those who have abused the earth in His absence, seized His domains, and mismanaged His world will all be swept aside. (Exploring Revelation, rev. ed. [Chicago: Moody, 1987; reprint, Neptune, N.J.: Loizeaux, 1991], 22–23)
Only those “who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8), who love Him and acknowledge Him as the rightful king, will enjoy the blessings of His kingdom.
8 Such a stupendous promise requires more than the prophet’s own signature or even Christ’s “Amen.” God himself speaks and, with his own signature, vouches for the truthfulness of the coming of Christ. Of the many names of God that reveal his character and memorialize his deeds, there are four strong ones in this verse: “Alpha and Omega”; “Lord God”; “who is, and who was, and who is to come”; and “the Almighty” (cf. v. 4 for comments on the second title). Alpha and omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Their mention here is similar to the “First” and “Last” in v. 17 and is further heightened by the “Beginning” and the “End” in 21:6 and 22:13. Only the book of Revelation refers to God as the “Alpha and the Omega.” God is the absolute source of all creation and history; nothing lies outside of him. Therefore, he is the “Lord God” of all and is continually present to his people as the “Almighty” (pantokratōr, lit., “the one who has his hand on everything”; GK 4120; cf. 4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 16:7, 14; 19:6, 15; 21:22; 2 Co 6:18).
1:8 / John concludes his initial salutation to the seven churches with an oracle from God that repeats his earlier confession about God’s eternality: God is who is, and who was, and who is to come (1:4b). Yet, in light of his confession about Jesus’ messianic love, John can also add that God is the Alpha and Omega, the Lord God … the Almighty. Alpha is the first and Omega the last letter of the Greek alphabet. Used together they symbolize entirety or wholeness. When used as a divine title, they refer to God’s sovereign rule over the history of creation. John couples this title with the ot name for a powerful God, Lord … Almighty, which signifies the rightful exercise of rulership over all people. When understood by the revelation of Christ’s love for his people (cf. 22:13), the power of God over all creation clearly intends that all people enter into the grace and peace now enjoyed only by the faithful church.
1:8. Before describing his first vision, John records the sovereign words of the Lord God who is able to bring it all to pass. Since one theme in Revelation is the conflict between the powers of good and evil, readers are reminded of who really has the power. First, he is the Alpha and Omega, the A and Z, the one in control from before the beginning of time until after the end. His eternity is further noted in the phrase, who is, and who was, and who is to come (v. 4). Finally, his power is seen in the title the Almighty (Gr. pantokrator), the one whom none can resist. Nine of the ten times this term appears in the New Testament are in Revelation (also 4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 16:7, 14; 19:6, 15; 21:22). The other is in 2 Corinthians 6:18. The term may well go back to the Old Testament Shaddai, used forty times. Romans 9:29 and James 5:4 refer to “the Lord of Sabaoth,” transliterating the last Hebrew term in “Lord of Hosts,” sometimes translated as “Lord Almighty.” The Greek translation of the Old Testament often rendered “Lord of Hosts” as “Lord of pantokrator”, that is “Almighty Lord.” Revelation’s language thus reflects the Old Testament’s triple designation, Lord God … Almighty. It is the full Old Testament name of God, traditionally translated “Lord God of Hosts.”
8. I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.
Here is the first self-designation of God, which John repeats with an addition in 21:6, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.” The question, however, is whether these words refer to God or to Christ. For one thing, the I am was spoken by God when he called Moses at the burning bush, “I am who I am” (Exod. 3:14). But in the Gospel of John, Jesus identifies himself repeatedly with the I am formula, for example, “Before Abraham was born, I am” (John 8:58). Both God and Jesus identify themselves as “I am the Alpha and the Omega.” Notice these parallels:
God: I am the Alpha and the Omega (1:8).
Christ: I am the First and the Last (1:17).
God: I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End (21:6).
Christ: I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End (22:13).
The parallels are identical, yet not Jesus but God is called Almighty (1:8; 4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 16:7, 14; 19:6, 15; 21:22; and 2 Cor. 6:18). Nonetheless, Christ is eternal and can say that he is the first and the last, the originator and the one who completes the work of creation and redemption. He is the first and the last letter of the Greek alphabet (i.e., everything from A to Z); he is fully the Word of God. Thus we see “Christ as the divine agent both in God’s creation in all things and in God’s eschatological fulfillment of all things.”30 Jesus is the one who was sent by God the Father to deliver the words of God (John 3:34).
This verse summarizes the first segment of chapter 1 by emphasizing the divinity of Jesus Christ as one with God the Father. The Lord Jesus Christ has been from eternity with the Father, has come to earth to pay the penalty of our sin through his death and resurrection, and is giving us the promise of his return. Jesus himself is uttering the words of this text, as is evident from a succeeding segment (vv. 17–18) where he identifies himself as first and last, the living one who was dead, but who lives eternally, holding the keys of Death and Hades. Jesus takes center stage in the first eight verses of this chapter:
- in the opening verses as God’s agent of revelation (vv. 1–2);
- in the greeting as the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth (v. 5a);
- in the doxology as the redeemer and king (vv. 5b–6);
- in the prophetic announcement of his return (v. 7);
- and in his declaration of his eternity, divinity, and power (v. 8).
John F. Walvoord rightly concludes, “If no more had been written than that contained in this introductory portion of chapter 1, it would have constituted a tremendous restatement of the person and work of Christ such as is found in no comparable section of Scripture.”
1:8 There is a change of speaker. The Lord Jesus introduces Himself as the Alpha and the Omega (the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet), the Beginning and the End. He spans time and eternity, and exhausts the vocabulary of excellence. He is the source and goal of creation, and it is He who began and will end the divine program in the world. He is and was and is to come, eternal in His being and the Almighty in power.
1:8 The Lord God’s self-description as the Alpha and the Omega, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, means He is Almighty from the Beginning to the End of all creation. This knowledge can be a great comfort to a person who is suffering (v. 9). The Lord is sovereignly guiding history toward its consummation, the victory of Christ over all (1 Cor. 15:24–28).
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1999). Revelation 1–11 (pp. 34–35). Chicago: Moody Press.
 Johnson, A. F. (2006). Revelation. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, p. 601). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 Wall, R. W. (2011). Revelation (pp. 59–60). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
 Easley, K. H. (1998). Revelation (Vol. 12, p. 16). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
 Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Book of Revelation (Vol. 20, pp. 87–88). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2353). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1734). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.