SHORT CHRISTIAN READINGS SELECTED FOR FORMER JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES
WHO IS THE ALPHA AND THE OMEGA -- THE FIRST AND THE LAST?
By Stephen E. Jones
"I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty. I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ... . And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last." (Revelation 1: 8, 9, 16, 17)
These particular verses from the book of Revelation constitute one of the major pitfalls to the Christology of Jehovah's Witnesses. The reason for this is the fact that, in Revelation 1:8 and 9, the Alpha and Omega is identified with Jehovah, whereas in verses 16 and 17, the Alpha and the Omega is specifically referred to as the Lord Jesus Christ. At the same time, Jehovah is distinctly meant in the context, as any linkage of the four verses together will quickly reveal to the interested student.
Jehovah's Witnesses themselves translate Revelation 1:8 and 9 using the divine name Jehovah, whereas in Revelation 1:16 and 17, they are particularly silent when the first and the last (Alpha and Omega) is identified as the risen victorious Son of God -- a blow indeed to their Arianism, a theology which would reduce the Son of God to the role of a created being.
In accordance with many passages of the Old Testament it cannot be denied by the [Jehovah's] Witnesses that Jehovah claims to be 'the first and the last,' and asserts Himself that besides Him 'there is no other God' (Isa. 43:10). We therefore see that if Jehovah Himself is the first and the last and the Alpha and Omega of Revelation 1:8 and 9, either there are two firsts and lasts (Rev. 1:16 and 17), or the texts are speaking of the same Being, i.e., the Triune God!
Against such an argument, Jehovah's Witnesses have no defense, for Jesus Christ is clearly in these contexts revealed to be the first and the last, or Jehovah the Son, the second person of the Trinity, our coming King and their judge." (Martin, W.R., 1957, "Jehovah's Witnesses," Bethany House: Minneapolis MN, Reprinted, 1969, pp.40-41. Emphasis & ellipses original).
"The literal translation of Hebrews 13:8 reads, 'Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today and into the everlasting,' which gives added proof to His everlasting heritage and coexistence with the Father. But let us bear in mind that Jehovah's Witnesses reject the doctrine of the triune Deity and condemn it as 'of the devil', so the deity of Christ is not accepted by them.
However, unknowingly, they have affirmed it beyond doubt, for in the NWT ... they refer the reader to Revelation 1:17 in cross reference to Hebrews 13:8, and irrevocably declare that the Christ of Hebrews 13:8 is the 'First and the Last' of Revelation 1:17. If Christ is the First and the Last in Revelation 1:17, He has to be the Alpha and Omega of Revelation 1:8 and by their own rendition, 1:8 reveals 'Jehovah God' (NWT) . Either there are two Firsts and Lasts, which is impossible since Jehovah affirms that He alone is the First and the Last (Is 48:12), or they are identical, and this we know to be true for Jesus claimed to be the 'I AM' (Jn 8:58)." (Martin, W.R. & Klann, N., 1981, "Jehovah of the Watchtower," , Bethany House Publishers: Bloomington MN, Revised, pp.54-55. Emphasis original).
"Rev 1:8, 'I am Alpha and Omega [Greek-First and Last-A to Z] says JEHOVAH GOD, the One who is and who was and who is coming, the Almighty ...'" (NWT).
In the seventh, eighth, seventeenth, and eighteenth verses of the first chapter of Revelation [Rev 1:7,8,17,18], a unique and wonderful truth is again affirmed, namely, that Jesus Christ and Jehovah God are of the same 'substance,' hence coequal, coexistent and coeternal, in short, one nature in its fullest sense. We shall pursue that line of thought at length in substantiating this doctrine of Scripture. Comparing Matthew 24:30 with Revelation 1:7, it is inescapably evident that Jesus Christ is the `One coming with clouds' in both the references mentioned.
"And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory ..."(Mt 24:30, KJV).
"Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen ..." (Rev 1:7, KJV).
Following this train of thought, we find that Jehovah declares, in Isaiah 44:6, that He alone is the First and the Last and the only God, which eliminates forever any confusion as to there being two Firsts and Lasts." (Martin & Klann, 1981, p.57. Emphasis original).
"Recently, the Jehovah's Witnesses made another attempt to explain who the Alpha and Omega is, and accidentally proved that Jesus is Jehovah! In an Awake article (August 22, 1978, p. 28), entitled, 'Who Is Alpha and Omega?', they wrote,
"Finally, at Revelation 22:12, 13, we read: 'Look! I am coming quickly, and the reward I give is with me, to render to each one as his work is. I am Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.' This quotation appears among others that are ascribed to an angel and to Jesus Christ. ... Since the context does not necessitate our attributing the words of Revelation 22:12, 13, either to an angel or Jesus, they could have originated with another speaker. Consistent with the rest of the Book of Revelation, 'the Alpha and the Omega' must be the Almighty God.'"
Six weeks after the article was published in Awake, in which the Jehovah's Witnesses say the speaker of Revelation 22:12-13 is the Almighty God, they gave Jesus credit for being the speaker! They wrote,
"Also, in his final revelation concerning 'the things that must shortly take place,' Jesus again stresses the suddenness with which he comes: ... 'Look! I am coming quickly' ... 'Look! I am coming quickly' (Rev 22:7, 12, 20). In response to these last expressions of our Master, surely each one of us joins with the apostle John in saying: 'Amen! Come, Lord Jesus' " (The Watchtower, October 1, 1978, p.15).
"Obviously, Jesus and the Almighty God are the same, according to The Watchtower!" (Martin & Klann, 1981, pp.59-60. Emphasis original).
"It was while working as receptionist that I first met Mr. Walter R. Martin, author of The Kingdom of the Cults, an aid to anyone involved with the cults. Unknown to Mr. Martin, in spite of our confrontation he had planted seeds of truth that helped me in the understanding of Christian theology. He asked me to read Isaiah 44:6 where Yahweh declares that He alone is the First and Last and the only God, which eliminates forever any confusion as to there being two Firsts and Lasts. Since Yahweh is the only God, then how can the logos be 'a god,' a lesser god than Yahweh, as Jehovah's Witnesses declare?
"Revelation 1:17, 18 and 2:8 add further weight to the deity of Jesus, for they reveal Him as the First and the Last, who died and lives forever. In Revelation 22:13 Jesus said: 'I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.' I had to accept this or deny the authority of the Scriptures. We met twenty years later and he was happy to hear of my coming out of the Society." (Cetnar, W.I., "An Inside View of the Watchtower Society," in Cetnar, W.I. & Cetnar, J., "Questions for Jehovah's Witnesses," , Bill & Joan Cetnar: Kunkletown PA, Reprinted, 2001, pp.69-70. Emphasis original).
"In the New Testament, there are passages in which what is said in the Old Testament concerning Jehovah is applied to Jesus Christ. Compare Numbers 14:2; 21:5, 6; Ps. 95:9, with 1 Cor. 10:9. Here the tempting of Jehovah is the tempting of Christ. ...
"In Heb. 1:10, 11, what is attributed to Jehovah in Ps. 102:26, is attributed to Christ.
"In John 12:40, 41, it is asserted that the language of Isaiah (6:9, 10) concerning Jehovah refers to Jesus Christ. Isa. 45:23, compared with Rom. 14:10, 11 ... shows that the judgment-seat of God is the judgment-seat of Christ. ...
"Joel 2:32 compared with Rom. 10:13, proves that the name of Jehovah is the name of Christ. In Eph. 4:8, 9, Christ gives the gifts that in Ps. 68:18 are given by Jehovah." (Shedd, W.G.T., 1888, "Dogmatic Theology," Zondervan: Grand Rapids MI, Reprinted, 1969, Vol. I, p.315).
"Old Testament descriptions of God are applied to him. This application to Christ of titles and names exclusively appropriated to God is inexplicable, if Christ was not regarded as being himself God. The peculiar awe with which the term 'Jehovah' was set apart by a nation of strenuous monotheists as the sacred and incommunicable name of the one self-existent and covenant-keeping God forbids the belief that the Scripture writers could have used it as the designation of a subordinate and created being. Mat. 3:3 = 'Make ye ready the way of the Lord' -- is a quotation from Is. 40:3 = 'Prepare ye ... the way of Jehovah.' John 12:41 = 'These things said Isaiah, because he saw his glory; and he spake of him' [i. e., Christ] - refers to Is. 6:1 - 'In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne;' So in Eph. 4:7, 8 - 'measure of the gift of Christ ... led captivity captive '-is an application to Christ of what is said of Jehovah in Ps. 68:18. In 1 Pet. 3:15, moreover, we read ... 'sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord'; here the apostle borrows his language from Is. 8:13, where we read: 'Jehovah of hosts, him shall ye sanctify.'
"When we remember that, with the Jews, God's covenant-title was so sacred that for ... Jehovah there was always substituted ...Adonai, in order to avoid pronunciation of the great Name, it seems the more remarkable that the Greek equivalent of 'Jehovah' should have been so constantly used of Christ. Cf. Rom. 10:9 = 'confess ... Jesus as Lord'; 1 Cor. 12:3 = 'no man can say, Jesus is Lord, but in the Holy Spirit' We must remember also the indignation of the Jews at Christ's assertion of his equality and oneness with the Father. [Jn 10:31-33] ...
"Yet James, the strongest of Hebrews, in his Epistle uses the word 'Lord' freely and alternately of God the Father [Jas 1:7; 3:9; 4:10,15; 5:4,10-11,14-15] and of Christ the Son [Jas 1:1; 2:1; 5:7-8]. This would have been impossible if James had not believed in the community of essence between the Son and the Father." (Strong, A.H., 1907, "Systematic Theology," Judson Press: Valley Forge PA, Twenty-fifth printing, 1967, p.309).
"The doctrine of the deity of Christ is crucial to the Christian faith. 'What think you of Christ?' is the paramount question of life (cf. Matt. 16:15; 22:42). Surely Jesus Christ is the greatest of all men, but he is infinitely more than mere man. It can be demonstrated that he is God in several ways.... His identification with the Old Testament Jehovah. Things that are in the Old Testament said of Jehovah are in the New Testament said of Christ. He was the creator (Ps. 102:24-27; Heb. 1:10-12), was seen by Isaiah (Isa. 6:1-4; John 12:41), was to be preceded by a forerunner (Isa. 40:3; Matt. 3:3), disciplines his people (Num. 21:6f.; 1 Cor. 10:9), is to be regarded as holy (Isa. 8:13; 1 Pet. 3:15), is to lead captivity captive (Ps. 68:18; Eph. 4:8), and is to be the object of faith (Joel 2:32; Rom. 10:9, 13)." (Thiessen, H.C. & Doerksen, V.D., 1979, "Lectures in Systematic Theology," , Eerdmans: Grand Rapids MI, Revised, pp.92-93. My emphasis).
JESUS' IDENTITY WITH YAHWEH/JEHOVAH. The NT attributes to Jesus many of the perfections of Yahweh (or, Jehovah), the creator/redeemer God of the OT. There are seven main points of identity. God's name When the OT was translated into Greek in the 2nd and 3rd centuries BC (the Septuagint), the sacred name of God, YHWH, usually rendered Yahweh or Jehovah, was translated by the Greek word Kyrios (Lord); there are approaching 7,000 instances of this. This sacred and exalted title was attributed directly to Jesus (Rom. 10:9; 1 Cor. 12:3; Phil. 2:11; etc., cf. also Lord of lords, 1 Tim. 6:15; Rev. 17:14; 19:16).
"Indeed the confession Jesus is Lord is probably the earliest confession of faith (Rom. 10:9; 1 Cor. 12:3; 2 Cor. 4:5). On several occasions NT writers apply OT passages concerning Yahweh directly to Jesus (Acts 2:34f.; Rom. 8:34; Heb. 10:12f.; 1 Pet. 3:22 apply Ps. 110:1. Rom. 10:13 applies Joel 2:32. Phil. 2:9-11 applies Is. 45:23. Jn. 12:41 applies Is. 6:10. Eph. 4:8 applies Ps. 68:18).
"These passages clearly identify Jesus with Yahweh. Another link is provided by self-designations of God appropriated by Jesus or referred to him. Supremely significant is the I AM (Ex. 3:14; cf. Jn. 8:58; 6:35; 8:12,24; 11:25; 14:6; 18:5f.; Mk. 14:62). Others are _bridegroom_ (Is. 62:5; Je. 2:2; Ezk. 16:8; cf. Mk. 2:19f.; Jn. 3:29; 2 Cor. 11:2; Rev. 19:7); shepherd (Pss. 23:1; 80:1; Is. 40:11; Ezk. 34:15; cf. Jn. 10:11-16; Heb. 13:10; 1 Pet. 2:25; 5:4); the first and the last (Is. 44:6; 48:12; cf. Rev. 2:8; 22:13)." (Milne, B., 1982, "Know the Truth: A Handbook of Christian Belief," Inter-Varsity Press: Leicester UK, Fifth printing, 1988, pp.129-130. Emphasis original).