Revelation 1:8: Who is the “Lord God” in Revelation?

Alpha and Omega

Commonly Misunderstood Verses

Revelation 1:8

Who is the “Lord God” in Revelation?

We all know that there are difficult words, phrases, illusions, characters, and descriptions in the last book of the New Testament. Whether we call it Revelation (what which has been “revealed”) or whether we call it the “Apocalypse” (based on the Greek), every reader and expositor will find plenty of mysteries in this enigmatic book of the Bible.

Sometimes in a reader’s zeal to prove the deity of Jesus Christ, he will cite Revelation 1:8 and make a statement such as the following: “We have here a clear statement that Jesus our Christ is God!  The text says that He is the ‘Alpha and the Omega,’ which is a reference to Yahweh God in Isaiah 41:4: ‘I, the LORD [Yahweh], am the first, and with the last. I am He.’”

Such a reader may then make the point that the speaker in Revelation 1:8 says that He is “the Lord God,” thus Jesus is called by the revelator to be God Himself!

Finally, the speaker says the He is the one “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Isn’t it true that only God could say this!  And here we see that Jesus is called the “Almighty” which certainly must be a reference to the God of the Old Testament!

Although we wouldn’t want to doubt that Jesus is God (theos), we must point out that the case for this truth must not be proven or bolstered by a reference to dubious passages. Revelation 1:8 would be one of these. In fact, the verse clearly refers to God the Father and not Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father. How do we know this?

First, the verse refers to the speaker as “the Alpha and the Omega.” Is this always a reference to Jesus?  No, here it is applied to “the Lord God” (Revelation 1:8). These would be the first and the last letters of the Greek alphabet. It is true that Jesus is referred to as “the first and the last” (1:17; 2:8) as well as “the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (22:13). On the other hand, the term can be a reference to God, who sits on the throne: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end” (21:6). How do we know whether 1:8 is a reference to the Lord Jesus or to God the Father? The speaker is called “the Lord God” which is invariably a reference to God the Father rather than Jesus Christ.

Second, the speaker in Revelation 1:8 identifies Himself as the one “who is and who was and who is to come.” Of course, this could appropriately refer to Jesus Christ, but to whom does it refer in this verse? In 1:4, God the Father is referred to as “Him who is and who was and who is to come.” Why would it be referring to someone different four verses later? In 4:8, the praise of the four living creatures has: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.” Again, we see that the Lord God, the Almighty (God the Father) is referred to as the one who was, who is, and is to come (see also 16:5).

If God the Father has this description applied to Him in other places of the Revelation, why would we insist that it is used of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in 1:8? Yet, certain reference books and commentaries insist that this is referring to Jesus Christ rather than God the Father. It seems that the note in the ESV Study Bible makes this point. On the other hand, the note in the NIV Study Bible (see the NASB Study Bible also) correctly identifies the speaker as Jesus Christ.

One further thought, there are nine references to the “Almighty” in the book of Revelation (here, 4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 16:7, 14; 19:6, 15; 21:22). There are three additional ones in the New Testament (see Romans 9:28; 2 Corinthians 6:18 and James 5:4). If these are references to God the Father, what basis do we have to say that Revelation 1:8 is an exception and should be applied to Jesus Christ?

We suggest that it is better to refer to clear passages that support the deity of Jesus (e.g., John 1:1; 1:8 [NASB]; 20:28; Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1). We need not use a passage that apparently refers to God the Father.

–Richard Hollerman

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