We have in the Book of the Revelation three distinct occasions in which God deigns to place Himself before us as the Alpha and Omega - as being, therefore, both at the start and the finish of all things; and striking it is to notice that each occasion is marked by an increase of expression and a growing fulness.
First we read in chap. 1:8, "I am Alpha and Omega." These are, as it is well known, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, and, as that language was in much usage at the time when our New Testament was written, the letters themselves would be well known. The Lord" God declares in this passage that He is the Alpha and Omega.
Our version adds, "The beginning and the ending"; but these words are omitted in the Revised Version, having been borrowed, without doubt, from our second passage, to which reference will presently be made.
The wording here is simply "Alpha and Omega," without any addition or explanation. It is a grand and lofty announcement of God's being. Our verse gives us the first utterance of God's lips in this wonderful Revelation. The seven previous verses are prefatory - an inspired communication through the Apostle John; but verse 8 bursts upon us, in deep and divine solemnity, as the veritable accents of the Lord God, the Almighty. He is the Alpha - the grand source and originator of all things; and He, too, the Omega, by whom all shall be wound up and completed. Hence we read not such words as "I am Alpha and Beta" (the second letter) as though it were His design to present to us the commencement and continuance of His work. That may be true; but if Alpha gives the beginning, Omega would indicate not only a perfect continuance, but the seal being placed on the end of all. It implies the finish of the road, and the completion of the work. And how becoming an intimation, in view of all the fearful course of judgment, detailed in the book that follows!, how solemn a declaration of His ability to begin and carry to a conclusion each of its dread, but certain, events! He proclaims Himself the Omega as much as the Alpha.
Second, in chap. 21:6 we read, "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end." Here there is no redundancy; the last sentence is correctly rendered, and is supplementary to what we had in chap. 1:8. Why then have we this addition here? It is because we have reached the end of the long prediction of judgment - the end, one may say, of the book of the Revelation.
No doubt more than a chapter follows, but this consists largely of a detailed description of certain facts already stated; and, in point of fact, our verse begins, "And He said unto me, 'It is done,' words which seem to announce the dropping of the curtain when the grandly awful panorama has passed before the eye - then follows the declaration, "I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end," for the end has arrived - "it is done!" The last seal had been broken, the last trumpet blown, and the last vial poured out! The power of Satan had been crushed, the folly of man awarded, the kingdoms of this world had become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, the false prophet and the beast had received their doom, Satan had been cast into the Lake of fire and brimstone, the Great White Throne had pronounced its irrevocable sentence on the wicked dead, and Death and Hades were cast into the Lake of fire.
God then makes His tabernacle with men, redeemed and delivered from sin and all its many ills - He makes all things new.
"It is done!" He is seen to be the Omega as the Alpha - the end as the beginning. The mighty Hand that began the task is the Hand that gave the finishing stroke. Its power survived every shock and overcame all opposition. Today that Hand is one of patient grace - stretched out all day long in mercy. Then how different! Its grace, all so winsome, may be spurned; but its retribution who can withstand? Happy the soul who through grace anticipates the necessary judgment of sin, and flees from the wrath to come. "Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him." (Ps. 2:12.)
Third, and lastly, in chapter 22:13, we have "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last." This is the fullest of all - "the first and the last" is added.
It has been well said that "God is the last of everything." He remains when man - proud, boastful, yet short-lived man - has closed his little day. God dwells in His own eternity, in which time is but a moment; and, as time to eternity, so is the life of man to that of God.
Still, as our horizon is circumscribed, and the range of our vision limited to things beneath the sun, it is but natural that we should feel the prevalency of evil, and think at times that its final triumph is sure. Today sin is in the ascendant, and truth and righteousness are at a discount. We realize the terrible power of Satan, and we discern the innumerable workings of sin. Each department of life - national, social, commercial, domestic and ecclesiastical - is permeated by sin, whilst the witness borne to truth and holiness is admittedly disproportionate and feeble. All this is seen, felt and realized, and the heart may tremble.
Nevertheless, God is the last as He is the first; and this earth - so long the haunt of sin, and the playground of Satan, the theatre of human and diabolical enmity against God, the place too where His blessed Son was crucified and slain - shall yet become the fair and glorious platform for the display of abiding righteousness, as of the vindication, of our Lord Jesus. The action of Calvary shall yet be reversed, and the lips that said, "Away with Him; crucify Him!" shall yet own Him Lord of all.
Is patience needed meanwhile? Well, read the verse preceding - "And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be." What encouragement! Ours is but a moment of trial and testing, but our glorified Lord and Saviour is well aware of His people's sorrows, and He it is who says, "I come quickly." He promises many a bright reward, and cheers us with the gladsome hope of His coming in person to take us hence to be with Himself for ever. May we learn to take the side of God in a day when the current sets all the other way, and may our hearts be directed into His love, and into the patience of Christ. (The words in chap. 1:11 - "I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last," are omitted in the R.V.) J. W. S.