Have you ever heard someone say, “We’re going to cover everything from A to Z?” The phrase might be more biblical than you think. If you replace the first and last letters of the English alphabet with the Greek, what do you get? Alpha and Omega.
The Alpha and the Omega might sound familiar. These two Greek letters are sometimes found on priestly vestments or written on an icon; even Easter candles have these two letters. But do you know the biblical background and what they signify?
As I implied, “the Alpha and the Omega” is a Greek way of saying “A to Z.” It means essentially “from the beginning to the end” of something, as when someone says, “I followed the directions from A to Z.” It means every step from the first step to the last.
The Old Testament expresses the same idea using the phrase “first and last.” It is most commonly used to describe the contents of an account of someone. For example, 1 Chronicles 29:29 says, “Now the deeds of King David, first and last, can be found written in the history of Samuel …” The same expression is used to describe the acts of Solomon (2 Chronicles 9:29), Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 12:15), Asa (2 Chronicles 16:11), Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20:23), Amaziah (2 Chronicles 25:26), and Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:22). In this context, “first and last” denotes the fullness or completeness of the account.
The phrase, however, takes on a few new nuances in Isaiah. For example, God says of Himself in Isaiah 41:4, “Who has performed these deeds? He who has called forth the generations since the beginning. I, the LORD, am the first, and with the last I will also be.” He likewise says in Isaiah 48:12–13, “Listen to me, Jacob, Israel, whom I named! I, it is I who am the first, and also the last am I. Yes, my hand laid the foundations of the earth; my right hand spread out the heavens. When I call them, they stand forth at once.”
In both instances, the “first and last” signifies that God is beyond the totality of all things. Because there is nothing before Him (being the first) and nothing after Him (since He is the last), there can be nothing that supersedes Him. He is Almighty. It also shows that God is both the origin and the destiny of all things.
Isaiah 44:6 adds yet one more shade of meaning when God says, “I am the first and I am the last; there is no God but me.” Being the first and the last, God is utterly unique. There can be no other like Him.
The Book of Revelation also applies “first and last” and “the Alpha and Omega” to Jesus. Jesus says in Revelation 1:8, “’I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘the one who is and who was and who is to come, the almighty.’” Being the Alpha and the Omega, first and last, Jesus is the Almighty.
In Revelation 1:17, Jesus tells John, “Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last…” John later introduces Jesus’ words to the church in Smyrna as, “The first and the last, who once died but came to life, says this….’” (Revelation 2:8). Finally, Jesus says in Revelation 22:12-13, “Behold, I am coming soon … I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
What’s curious is that God speaks only once in the entire book of Revelation. What did He say? “I (am) the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end … “ (Revelation 21:6-7). If God the Father is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and end, and Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and end, it suggests that two persons, the Father and the Son, are the one unique Alpha and the Omega, the origin and destiny of all things, the Almighty. These verses might not be an “A to Z” description of the Trinity (since we haven’t mentioned the Holy Spirit), but they are a good start.
Gary Michuta is an apologist, author and speaker and a member of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Livonia. Visit his website at www.handsonapologetics.com.