by Caleb Kim
"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
"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end." Revelation 22:13
In philosophy there is a particular study that focuses on the “nature of being” and existence called ontology. In this study, philosophers attempt to answer questions that are seemingly innate within humanity like: what can be said to exist? Where/when did existence start? Can we know that God exists? Seeking the answer to the last question has led Christian philosophers to develop an argument for the existence of God called “The Ontological Argument.” I always thought that this argument was ironic, because in an attempt to prove the existence of the “Being that brought us into existence,” we formulate an argument.
This being said, God in this passage claims something about Himself that is outside of the spectrum of time as we understand it. As humans we are temporal beings that operate within time and space. And here God claims something about himself that is telling of his ontology. God essentially says, “I AM being;" or in a different way, “I AM that I AM.”
God’s statements about Himself being the “first and the last” are His way of telling us that He is outside of time. It is also God’s way of connecting us to the famous Old Testament passage in Exodus where Moses asks God to tell him His name. God responds saying, “I AM that I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you (3:14).’” Again, this statement exclaims the ontology of God as the one who “IS.” He is the deity which encompasses and creates existence as we know it.
Not only does God encompass and create existence, but so does his Son Jesus. In the book of John there are seven “I AM” statements which describe Jesus’ ontology. The one that is the most telling is in John 14:6 where Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Some people think that Jesus never claimed that He was God; they couldn’t be more wrong. Not only is Jesus’ statement here a claim of deity, but it is a claim that declares that He is the only way to salvation. If this statement was so harmless, then what led the people of the day to pick up stones in an attempt to execute Jesus? Jesus’ claim was an ontological claim about His being.
Now, we need to understand that God/Jesus “encompasses and creates existence” to fully appreciate and understand God’s words in Revelation. The “Alpha and Omega” were a common phrase used to denote the whole of anything. Here, God refers to himself as the beginning and end of all things. He says I AM “who was, and is, and is to come.” This claim of ontology matches perfectly with God’s statement in Exodus. When Moses asks God what His name is he essentially says, “I AM existence” or “I AM the whole of everything.” This is because the statement “I AM that I AM” shows eternality.
God is the starter, the sanctifier, and the finisher of all things for our good and His glory. For unto us, I AM was born in a manger. The creator of existence and being existed in child-like form. I AM, who existed outside of time and space, breached the barrier of time/space to come as a child to save the world. Before anything was, I AM.