The Alpha and the Omega
Don’t you love a good story? I sure do. While we all have our differences when it comes to the types of stories we most enjoy, every good story has a compelling beginning and end. The start hooks us into the plot and the end brings resolution. Without those two components, no amount of suspense in the middle can hold the reader’s interest.
The Book of Revelation certainly meets that criterion, and it does so in a person—the risen Jesus. The book begins with an explanation of what John, the author, has seen while exiled on Patmos for his faith. As you read through Revelation, notice the parallels between this work and John’s previous works—the Gospel of John and the three epistles of John—and the emphasis on witness and testimony. It’s important as well to note that the Greek word for witness is martyr. Hence a Bible-based witness is one that is faithful to speak to one’s experience regardless of the costs.
The opening chapter also contains a word of blessing (Revelation 1:3). There are seven such blessings in Revelation, which is the first hint of the importance of the number seven and how each instance of that number conveys God’s divine plan for the redemption of the world. The nature of this first blessing also shows how such texts were nearly always read aloud in their ancient settings.
The book is directed to seven representative churches in Asia Minor, or modern Turkey. As we will see, these churches have much to commend in terms of their witness; but for the most part, the challenging times in which these churches find themselves will require even more faithfulness in how they stand for Jesus.
Lastly, these opening verses focus the reader’s attention on the source of the revelation, the crucified and risen Jesus, Who is Himself the model witness. In His death, He fulfilled Old Testament promises, and His imminent return will unleash the events that will make the kingdoms of this world His Kingdom (Revelation 11:15).
The point of these opening verses is to assure us that God is in firm control of world events. Everything began with Him at Creation, and everything will be consummated in the return of Jesus, the Incarnation of the Almighty. Far from being an esoteric theological point, this truth gives us confidence in the face of our everyday challenges that nothing is too difficult for God to address, and certainly nothing takes Him by surprise. For those who are concerned that life seems to be spinning out of control, they can be confident that everything is going according to God’s plan, and it will be as good in the end as it was in the beginning.
Revelation 1:1-8 (ESV):
1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.
4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia:
Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7 Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.
8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”