Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What you see, write in a book…
I am Alpha and ... Last. The vision St. John had just seen showed him indisputably that all the low and inadequate ideas which, during his Lord's life on earth, and during the times of trial, he and others had cherished concerning his Person were altogether wrong. And, though we cannot but believe that in the apostles' mind there must have been a great advance in their thoughts concerning their Lord, even yet it was needful, and now and in the terrible times before them it was more than ever needful, that they should rightly regard him. They would lose much, as we ever do, by wrong thoughts about Christ, and all thoughts that fell short of his true dignity and nature were wrong thoughts. Now, to bring the Church generally to true knowledge and understanding on this great matter, not only was the vision vouchsafed which St. John had then before him, but also the trumpet-like voice of the Lord himself was heard declaring who and what he was. And the importance of this declaration is seen by the prominence that is given to it, and its frequent repetition in more or less full form. We meet with it again and again. Its meaning and teaching are similar to that word in Hebrews 13:8, "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday," etc. It asserts -
I. THE ETERNITY OF THE SON OF GOD. In the eighth verse it is spoken of the Almighty God himself. Here, and continually in other places, it is asserted of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the face of Scriptures like these, and they are very many, how can the honest believer in their authority assent to the popular modern hypothesis which would place and keep our Lord on the level of humanity, even though it be humanity at its highest level? If he were no more than man, how could words such as these be spoken and written concerning him? Now, if it had been desired to show that he was God incarnate, could language more clearly asserting it have been devised? Reject the Scriptures, the testimony of the Church from the beginning, the experience of believers, and the confirmation of the truth which we find in religions outside our own, and then we may reject the Church's faith; but assuredly it cannot else be done. But the text teaches also -
II. THE UNCHANGEABLENESS OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. It was needful that the former truth should be deeply impressed on the minds of the persecuted Church. It was the remembrance of the Eternal One that had steadied the minds and encouraged the hearts of their fathers in the days of old. On the plains of Dura, in the courts of Nebuchadnezzar and of Darius, that blest memory and faith had given invincible courage in the face of the fiery furnace and the fangs of fiercest beasts. And therefore it was reasserted here when like perils would have to be met and endured and overcome. But this further truth of the unchangeableness of Christ was no less needed to abide in memory and heart if they were to be found faithful even unto death. For:
1. There would be great temptation to tamper with his commands. Might not their stringency be relaxed? would not many of them admit of compromise, or of delay, or of some other departure from their literal and strict import? Under the pressure of fear, or worldly conformity, or the lurking love of sin, would there not be, is there not now, this temptation perpetually assailing? And therefore was it and is it ever well to remember that such setting aside of the Lord's commands cannot be suffered. They change not any more than himself. They were not lowered or relaxed for the tried and troubled ones of former ages, even when they had far less of sustaining truth to cheer them than had the apostolic Church, and still less than we have now. The Lord has cancelled no command, nor does he claim from us any less than he demanded at the first. He accepts half-hearted service no more now than when he said, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart." But there were not a few to whom St. John wrote, and there are as many and more now, who from various motives would try to explain away this command and that which the Lord had laid upon them. For them the reminder of his unchangeableness, which is given in this his Name, was indeed necessary.
2. And their fidelity would be helped by the remembrance that he was the same in his love. What had he done for the most faithful of his servants that he had not done for them? Did he die for the martyrs more than for them? Were they not included when it was said, "He loved us, and gave himself for us"? Were not the unsearchable riches of Christ as open to them as to any believers? Did they owe less to Christ? or were they under less obligation to him than others? He had come from heaven to earth; he had lived, and suffered, and died, and risen again for them as for those whose hearts had most truly responded to all this love. Yes; as unchanged in his love toward them as in what he asked for from them, in what he deserved as in what he demanded. How well for them to remember this!
3. And in the grace he would bestow. They were not and could not be straitened in him. The treasury of his grace was not exhausted. He would supply all their need, as he had supplied that of all his servants. No good thing would he withhold from them more than from the saints and martyrs who by his grace had obtained so good report. "I am the Lord, I change not;" such was one chief meaning of his word, "I am Alpha," etc. And that immutability concerned his nature and his character, and there was no class amongst them in these days of trial but would find help in this sure truth. And let us remember it likewise. - S. C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.
WEB: saying, "What you see, write in a book and send to the seven assemblies: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and to Laodicea."