I like “red-letter” Bibles, where Jesus’ words are in red. I also like Bibles where “He” is used for God, not just “he.” But I know these are not in the original text of the Bible. They appear in ours as a result of decisions by editors and translators; however, occasionally such decisions are not right.
For example, in the Bible’s last book we read, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8). Some Bible versions have the words in red, some have them in black. Take a look at yours. Are they in red or black? So, who is speaking?
Advent draws our attention to the One who was to come, the promised One, who was to be the Savior of Israel and of all nations. Advent prepares us by reminding us that the entire Old Testament spoke of that One’s coming. Advent prepares the heirs of the promise, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to see with their eyes and, especially, to hear with their ears the One in whom their fathers trusted, but never saw in the flesh.
To be sure, Abraham was visited by three angels, one of whom turned out to be much more than just an angel. Isaac was spoken to directly by the LORD. And Jacob wrestled with One of whom he afterwards said, “I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered” (Genesis 32:30). Gradually, God was revealing Himself to His people. He was showing them that He is one, and yet three; that He is far from them because of their sins, and yet so near; that they could not come to Him, but He could come to them.
Many years later, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob came to Moses and told him how to continue teaching Israel about Him, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you’” (Exodus 3:14). I AM is not, of course, really a name. God does not have a name as we have names. We need names to differentiate ourselves one from another, because we are many. But He is one, as Moses taught Israel to believe and confess (Deuteronomy 6:4). There is no other true God. There is no other. He is one; and yet, He is three.
To return to our question about “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty,” who exactly is speaking? The red or black print in your Bible won’t tell you. Only God’s Word itself can, for Scripture interprets Scripture.
The last book of the Bible begins, The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants (Revelation 1:1). Now look and see how John’s initial greeting to the churches of the Roman province of Asia reflects this first verse exactly: 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, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth (Revelation 1:4–5). Grace to you… from whom? Well, to follow John’s order, from Him who is God the Father and God the Spirit and God the Son, and yet who alone declares, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8).
You may say, this is easy. God is triune, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Son is begotten of the Father from eternity, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. I would say, it is easy for you now, because God more and more fully made Himself known to His people of the Old Testament and then still more fully to His people of the New. He is today the same God who walked with Adam, who preserved Noah, who called Abraham friend. In these last days, He has made Himself known to you in the person of His eternal Son, who, because He became man, was, like us, given a name. “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). And He did!
“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9–11).
Reverend Steven Sparley
Our Savior Lutheran Church
Grants Pass, OR