Bible Study Commentary on Jesus the Great I AM
I AM the First and the Last - Seeing the risen Lord
by I Gordon
We are still in the series exploring the I AM statements of Jesus... It's been going for a while now and the question on your mind is this - which will come first... the end of this series of the return of the Lord? It is a valid question and one I can't answer. There are signs that both may be at hand so we'll just have to wait and see! But just so you know, including this one there are two remaining messages in the I AM series...I think... at this stage! Last time we looked at the statement 'I AM the Alpha and the Omega'. We saw that that phrase, or the equivalent statement 'I AM the first and the last', is repeated five times in the book of Revelation alone so it is an important title for these last days. Jesus is coming soon - not as a carpenter from Nazareth, nor as a suffering servant to take our sin... He is coming as the eternal Almighty God. So we looked last time at how He is the Alpha and Omega of God's revelation. We saw that the whole Bible, from the first book to the last, is about Him.
So what about this study? I want to do one more message on Jesus as the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, so we will look at two remaining passages in the book of Revelation that speak of Jesus this way. But as I was pondering what direction to take with it, the thought that came to me was 'why did you do the I AM series to begin with'? Which is a valid question... hopefully there was a point! The reason I chose the I AM statements of Jesus relates to the series I did prior to this one. That unforgettable (ok, you've forgotten it!) series on... God's hall of faith in Hebrews 11. The importance of faith in the Christian life can't be overstated but as I came to the end of that series I kept thinking that faith is only as good as its object.1 We can talk about faith, faith, faith, yet faith is utterly reliant upon its source. So that is why I decided to do this follow-up series, after faith, on the 'I AM's of Jesus' - because they focus on the object of our faith, Jesus Christ, who He is, and it helps faith to rise.
You may not know this but I'm trying to help you. And I'm trying to help me. I believe that we need a greater vision of Jesus - we all do. We know who He is in our heads, but we are quick to forget when trouble strikes. So as we look at two remaining passages in Revelation concerning this One who is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, I believe we can be helped by:
1. Getting a glimpse again as to who He is
2. By peering, as far as our eyes of faith can take us, into the future and what is to come.
Let's start with: A glimpse of who He truly is
The first of the two remaining I AM's I want to look at comes straight after John sees Jesus in Rev 1:17:
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One.
The Apostle John wrote the book of Revelation as well as his gospel. You will no doubt remember that in his gospel he speaks of himself as 'the disciple that Jesus loved'. He was the one who reclined on Jesus' bosom at the last supper (John 13:23). It could be said that of all the disciples, John was arguably the closest to Jesus. And yet he was in for a shock when received this revelation of a glorified Jesus! John was not ready for what he saw and ends up face down, not moving a muscle, like a dead man. It is very important that we have a true image of who Jesus is. As the famous quote says:
'Man was created in the image of God and we have tried to repay the compliment ever since.'
It is important that we have the right image of Jesus and especially one as He is now. So let's have a look!
Revelation 1:12-18 I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, (13) and among the lampstands was someone "like a son of man," dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. (14) His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. (15) His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. (16) In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double- edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.
This is the Lord Jesus, the Alpha and Omega, The One who is before all things, created all things, and upholds all things. Jesus prayed in John 17:4-5
"I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was."
2 Corinthians 5:16 '...even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer.'
It is so important that we view Him as He is now, as the Word shows us. It is so important that we don't create our own false view of the Lord.2 So how is Jesus presented here? Each verse draws upon other references in the Bible. That's why there is a specific special blessing given to those who read the book of Revelation... because it ties in the whole testimony of the scriptures.3
|Verse||Key thought / imagery|
|(Rev 1:12) I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands||One standing amongst the seven lampstands Rev 1:20 tells us that the seven lampstands are the seven churches of Revelation. The imagery comes from the Menorah, the seven branched lampstand in the Tabernacle and Jewish temple. Now the light is to come through the church. (Exo 25:37; Zec 4:2)|
|(Rev 1:13) and among the lampstands was someone "like a son of man," dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest.||One like a son of man, robe reaching his feet and a golden sash around His chest There is One who walks amongst the churches. One like a son of man... but different! The robe with the golden sash is a pointer to the High Priest in the Old Testament. (Exod 28:4-6) The High Priest's sash had threads or thin strips of gold in it (Ex 39:1-5) yet this One has a sash of complete gold (gold speaks of divinity - the Old Testament High Priests were imperfect types of the real High Priest, Jesus) This helps us understand why He walks among the lampstands (churches) - He is performing His role as the High Priest. It was the High Priests task alone to ensure that the lampstand was burning and producing good light. So they would have to inspect it daily, ensuring there was a ready supply of oil, removing soot, trimming the wicks. This is how Jesus is seen here as the High Priest inspecting the churches for the light they give.|
|(Rev 1:14) His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire.||Head and hair like white wool - This pictures His age, wisdom and holiness. Daniel received a vision of the 'Ancient of days' that spoke of the same - "I kept looking Until thrones were set up, And the Ancient of Days took His seat; His vesture was like white snow And the hair of His head like pure wool.' (Dan 7:9)
His eyes were like a flame of fire - Now those are eyes that look right into the depths of your being! Reminds us of His penetrating insight of all of us and His refining purity. Later in Revelation it mentions those eyes again (Rev 19:12) for they are focused on the battle as He comes as King of kings and Lord of Lords.
|(Rev 1:15) His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters.||Feet like burnished bronze Bronze speaks of judgement and reminds us of the brazen altar in the outer court of the tabernacle. This One pictured fulfilled the sacrifice of the brazen altar and had to go through the judgment of God for your sin and mine. And now all judgement has been committed into His hands. (John 5:22)|
|(Rev 1:16) In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double- edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.||The two edged sword is His word. Oh the power of His word - both His written and spoken word! Psalms 33:6, 9-11. Also see Heb 1:3, Isa 48:1-2. Isaiah 11:4 He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
His face was like the sun shining in all its strength - This reminds us of Moses having to be hid in the cleft of the rock from the glory of God for no man can see my face and live.' (Ex 33:20) Reminds us also of the prophecy of Isaiah that the day will come when: 'The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. (20) Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end.' (Isaiah 60:19-20)
Daniel also saw Jesus in glory!
Now John isn't the first to see Jesus with as He truly is. Daniel was granted a vision that is almost identical:
I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, there was a certain man dressed in linen, whose waist was girded with a belt of pure gold of Uphaz. His body also was like beryl, his face had the appearance of lightning, his eyes were like flaming torches, his arms and feet like the gleam of polished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a tumult. Now I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, while the men who were with me did not see the vision; nevertheless, a great dread fell on them, and they ran away to hide themselves. So I was left alone and saw this great vision; yet no strength was left in me, for my natural color turned to a deathly pallor, and I retained no strength. (Dan 10:5-8)
What was John's reaction to seeing the Jesus like this?
Rev 1:17 When I saw him, I ran up and wrapped my arms around Him and we reminisced about the good ol' days fishing and eating and fun times by the sea of Galilee!4
Um, maybe not! Parts of the church today get a bit too 'familiar' with Jesus like He's their best buddy. People say "oh when i see Him I'm going to run up and wrap my arms around Him..." When John saw Him he did what Daniel did when He saw the glory of Jesus. He fell at His feet as though dead, not moving one muscle. It was the right reaction - one of humility and worship. It was the right position.
"It matters not what aileth us if we lie at Jesus' feet. Better be dead there than alive anywhere else."
So if that was John's reaction to seeing Jesus like this, what was Jesus' reaction to seeing John like this?
What was Jesus' reaction to seeing John like this?
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. (Rev 1:17-18)
This to me is the most beautiful part of this. Imagine what it would have been like if Jesus said nothing but just looked with those eyes of fire! Or worse still if He had simply walked away. Gulp! That would be frightening. But what did Jesus do? He started by doing something that He has been doing for a long, long, time... for many, many people once they take this position of humility before Him!
He touched: He reached out and placed His hand on John. And you can be sure that with that touch came the quickening power and life for John's body and Spirit. Jesus was always touching people. Then and now. He would even touch the lepers. Under the Law of Moses, if you touch a leper, the leper would make you unclean. Jesus touched them and He didn't become unclean... they became clean!
He spoke: And we all need to hear from the Lord for His words come with power and life. It is not religion, His words come with direction, they come with encouragement, they come with the very life to do the things He asks of us. We all need to take ourselves away from the hustle and bustle and hear from the Lord.
He commanded: It is actually the most common command found in the Bible. It is not 'do not lie or steal or the like...' He reached out, touched John and said 'Do not be afraid'. Someone has said that 'do not fear' is written 365 times in the Bible - one for each day of the year!
He reassured: He gave three amazing reasons why we don't have to fear:
He says 'I AM the first and the last' - I AM Yahweh, (Isa 44:6) There were none before me. No God was after Me. I alone are God. And, He would say to John and to us, 'I AM your I AM'. When you read the description of Jesus as we have seen, how fortunate are we who have come to know Him? And what a miracle that is! I was lost but Jesus came and found me. And He who began a good work in you will carry in on to the day of Christ Jesus! He is the first and last in salvation as well you know!
He also says 'I AM the living One.' - I was dead but I am alive, forevermore! We can trust our tomorrows into His hand! This One that has the eyes of fire and the two edged sword, is for us. And if God is for us who can be against us? He is the man with a sword in his hand from Joshua 5:13-15. That's Jesus!
He reminds us that He holds the keys of hell and death - We've mentioned the past, the present and now the future. He holds the keys of hell and death... And what a difference this makes! Last week I had another funeral to go to. When I came back to work after going to the funeral, I had some workmates ask how was it? I said 'Yeah, it was really good.' And that took them by surprise. They were expecting 'it was sad', 'somber'... But I had to tell them that a Christian funeral is different. I said she was a Christian, we know whom she trusted in, we know where she is now, and it is all filled with hope. I for one am pleased I am known by the One who holds these keys of death and hell!
Where am I going with this?
That's a good question and one we'd all like to know! If you work it out please let me know! The bottom line is this: We need a greater vision of our Saviour. We need God's enabling to see this One who is the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last. A lot of our problems stem from having a view of God that is too small. I was reading Ephesians the other days and one thing that stood out to me, probably because I have been thinking of this message, were the three prayers Paul prayed for those at Ephesus. He said:
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.
I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.
I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
All of these prayers are saying you have a BIG BIG God and it is going to take prayer to be able to comprehend even a fraction of this. According to the Apostle Paul, One who had been transported and seen heaven, we all need prayer for revelation to know Him better. We need prayer to see the hope that we have and the great power for believers and His all surpassing love for us. That is pretty awesome!
And where is God going with all this?
Where is God, the Alpha and Omega, going with all of this you ask? He is preparing us for the day when faith will turn to sight... a day when all things are put right. Let's just close with one peek into the wonderful future that God gives us. It is the other passage about the Alpha and Omega that I mentioned at the start. It deserves a message all on its own but for now let's just end with the truth of this passage and coming day:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away." And He who sits on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." And He *said, "Write, for these words are faithful and true." Then He said to me, "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. (Rev 21:1-6)
This is an awesome passage in Revelation 21 and several messages could be made from it. All I want to very briefly focus on are the two 'beholds' in this passage. When you see a 'behold' it is like a 'Selah' in the Psalms... Stop, look and think! Firstly, it says:
'Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men and He will dwell among them.'
Can you imagine it? This One that has the fiery eyes and a face shining like the sun in all its strength, is going to dwell with mankind once again. This was the plan right from the start. God's desire has always to be with His people, not separated. Sin has separated but He put a plan together to deal with that! What a day this will be when we are with Him! The second 'behold is this:
'Behold, I am making all things new'
He will make all things new. All things. Here is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. He is the beginning of creation. He will also end it. But thankfully this Alpha and Omega is the really the Alpha, Omega and Alpha once again for after bringing this fallen world to an end He will start something new! These words, scripture tells us, are 'faithful and true'.
Are you ready? Is that your desire to be with your Creator, Father, Lord and Life? He is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last. May He have that position is our lives as well!
To illustrate this, even up until 2015 lobbyists for Monsanto said that Roundup was so save for humans you can drink it. Well, believe that it all you will, it won't change the damage it would do if you did drink it! In fact I watched a video online where the Roundup spokesperson made this claim and the reporter there said 'well I've got some Roundup here, I'll pour you a glass right now and you can drink it!' And guess, what? The Monsanto spokesperson wouldn't touch it and stormed out of the interview! So faith and belief are entirely reliant upon its source and object. ↩
J.B Philips once wrote a book called 'Your God is too small'. He argued that our view of God is often based on human ideas and experiences and is more often than not far beneath this One that we follow. ↩
Arnold Fructenbaum in 'Footsteps of the Messiah' has an appendix in the book where he links the verses in the book of Revelation to over 500 references in the Old Testament. ↩
Um, I'm quoting here from the COF version - The Contemporary overly familiar version! Alright... you got me. There is no such version. Thankfully! But the sentiment does exist! ↩