Sermon: Jesus, the First and the Last: Revelation 1:17-19

Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 44

“‘But now hear, O Jacob my servant, Israel whom I have chosen! Thus says the Lord who made you, who formed you from the womb and will help you: Fear not, O Jacob my servant, Jeshurun whom I have chosen. For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They shall spring up among the grass like willows by flowing streams. This one will say, ‘I am the Lord’s,’ another will call on the name of Jacob, and another will write on his hand, ‘The Lord’s,’ and name himself by the name of Israel.’ Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen. Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.’ All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame. Who fashions a god or casts an idol that is profitable for nothing? Behold, all his companions shall be put to shame, and the craftsmen are only human. Let them all assemble, let them stand forth. They shall be terrified; they shall be put to shame together. The ironsmith takes a cutting tool and works it over the coals. He fashions it with hammers and works it with his strong arm. He becomes hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint. The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, ‘Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!’ And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, ‘Deliver me, for you are my god!’ They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, ‘Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?” He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, ‘Is there not a lie in my right hand?’ Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant; I formed you; you are my servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me. I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you. Sing, O heavens, for the Lord has done it; shout, O depths of the earth; break forth into singing, O mountains, O forest, and every tree in it! For the Lord has redeemed Jacob, and will be glorified in Israel. Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: ‘I am the Lord, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself, who frustrates the signs of liars and makes fools of diviners, who turns wise men back and makes their knowledge foolish, who confirms the word of his servant and fulfills the counsel of his messengers, who says of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be inhabited,’ and of the cities of Judah, ‘They shall be built, and I will raise up their ruins’; who says to the deep, ‘Be dry; I will dry up your rivers’; who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd, and he shall fulfill all my purpose’; saying of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be built,’ and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.’” (Isaiah 44, ESV)

New Testament Reading: Revelation 1:8, 17-19

Let us now read the sermon text for today. The first part is Revelation 1:8. In this verse we are exposed to the words of the Lord God, that is, of God Almighty. “‘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, ESV). In verse 17 we are exposed to the words, not of the Lord God, but of the son of man that John saw. John writes, “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, ‘Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this” (Revelation 1:17–19, ESV).


The Christian faith is more than a collection of a few random and disconnected doctrines. It is, instead, a worldview. Yes, it is right to say that Christians are those who believe upon Christ. It is true that there are some doctrines that we would consider essential – the belief in one true God who is Triune; the belief that he created all things seen and unseen; the belief that man was created upright but sinned; and the belief that God has provided a way for sinners to be saved through faith alone in Jesus the Christ, who is the eternal Son of God coming in the flesh, who has accomplished our redemption by his death, burial and resurrection. These are essential doctrines indeed. Others could be listed.

But it is important to see that God has revealed these truths to us, not by listing them out as a series of propositions – not as a series of factual statements – God did not lower a textbook for us on a rope – but rather God has revealed himself to us in the world. He has revealed himself to us by acting in in human history, and the scriptures are a record of God’s salvific and revelatory acts. Our God is a God who acts. He created, he sustains, he accomplished redemption, he saves, and he is coming soon. He is the God who acts in human history. We live in his world. The Holy Scriptures are not a mere collection of factual statements or moral codes, but are instead a record of God’s acts of creation and redemption.

The end result is that our faith is more than collection of random and disconnected doctrines. It is, instead, a worldview. To have faith means that we believe upon God and the Christ he has sent, but it also means that we have come to see the world as God sees it. To have faith is to view the world as God views it – to agree with his revealed truth concerning who he is, who we are, how we are to relate to him, what he has done and is doing in the world now, and where are things are headed. The Christian faith is more than collection of random propositions – it is instead a way of seeing the world.

May I suggest to you that all of the trouble that we face in this world comes as a result of we humans refusing to see the world as God has revealed it. That might at first seem like an outrages oversimplification of things, but it holds true. God sees the world in a particular way, doesn’t he? His view of the world – his opinion concerning the reality of things – is perfect and pure and true. And he has revealed his perspective to us. We humans cannot naturally know the mind of God. We cannot lift ourselves up to see things from God’s perspective. But God, in his mercy, has determined to reveal himself to us. He has shown us something of who he is, and of what he is doing in the world. He has revealed something of his plans and purposes. God has not revealed himself exhaustively. He has not told us everything. But in his mercy he has revealed something of himself – his nature, his character, his plans and purposed – to us.

We humans tend to ignore what God has said taking another view of things, leading us to go another way. Was this not true of the first sin? Did not God reveal himself to the first man and women? Did he not show them who he was, who they were, what the world was for, how they were to live in it, enjoying communion with one another and with him? Did he not reveal where things would go should they take this way or that? They decided to adopt the evil one’s view of things instead of God’s. And is this not true of every sin that we commit to this present day? Do we not bring trouble upon ourselves by ignoring God’s revelation, choosing to see things another way? Even Christians, I fear, find themselves in trouble because they do not see the world as God has revealed it, but have instead constructed for themselves a worldview that is in some way distorted or lacking. This is what I mean when I say that all of the trouble we face in this world comes as a result of we humans refusing to see the world as God has revealed it.

We make for ourselves a worldview of our own. We carve out for ourselves opinions concerning God and man and our purpose in the world. And we bow down to our little idolatrous worldview – we live by it. Everyone lives – makes their choices – based upon the way that they view the world. Our emotions are effected by our worldview. Our thoughts are effected – our wills are shaped by our worldview. The question is, do we have God view of the world, or one that we have crafted on our own?

A worldview is a very powerful thing, that is the point I am making. Everyone has one. And God’s desire is that we would adopt his.

If I were to hone in upon the most important aspects of one’s worldview it would be these: one’s view of God; one’s view of man; and one’s view of the purpose and trajectory of human history. Who is God, what is man, and what is God doing in the world, if anything?

The scriptures certainly provide answers to these questions, don’t they? And may I suggest to you that the book of Revelation is primarily concerned to answer these questions. In the book of Revelation a visionary and symbolic world is set before our eyes. The visions do not necessarily describe to us how things actually look, but rather how they really are. The book gives the gift of a worldview to it’s readers. Christians are made to see how things really are. Who is God? Where is he? Who are we in relation to him? What is our purpose? Where is human history heading? These are the questions that book of Revelation answers.

The book contains prophesy too. The book speaks of things that will happen in the future (from the time of it’s writing). Some of the prophesies have been and will be fulfilled generally and progressively. There will always be beasts, harlots, and false prophets in the world, just as there will always be antichrists, to use language from 1 and 2 John. But other prophesies pertain to specific historical events yet future even to us. The Christ will come again. There will be a final judgment. The new heavens and new earth will be established. These are specific events yet in our future. The book certainly contains prophesy – predictions as to how things will go in the world generally and specifically from the time the book was written on to the end.

But here I am emphasizing the apocalyptic message of the book which reveals how things really are in the world. Revelation is a worldview book. It shows us how we are to think about God, ourselves, and God’s work in this world. And what a gift it is! How powerful it is! How transformative it is to see the world as God sees it.

Two foundational questions are settled in the text that we are considering this morning. One, how are we to think of God? Two, how are we to think of Jesus Christ?

How are We to View God?

In 1:8 God speaks. And what he says about himself is incredibly important. His description of himself sets the stage for much of the rest of the book of Revelation. “‘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, ESV)

Notice three things:

He is the Alpha and Omega

One, the Lord God is the Alpha and the Omega.

Alpha is the first letter in the Greek alphabet, omega is the last. In English we would say “I am the A and the Z. The meaning is this: The Lord God is the first and the last, the beginning and the end. All things come from him and return to him. He is the source of all things, and he is the end of all things. All things flow from him and all things will return to him, bringing glory to him.

It is interesting that only twice in the book of Revelation do we hear specific words coming from the Lord God. He speaks here in 1:8 and then again in 21:5-8 where he says, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end…” (Revelation 21:6, ESV).

Notice how these declarations serve as bookends to the book of Revelation. At the beginning and end of the book we are reminded that God is the beginning and end of all things Everything that is comes from him and will return to him.

He is the One Who is and Who Was and is to Come

Two, the Lord God describes himself as the one who is and who was and is to come.

God is. Certainly we are to think of the Divine name here. When God revealed himself to Moses in the burning bush he revealed himself as the “I am”, the one who is, the one who owes his existence to no one. He is the self existent one. God simply is. No one made him. No one adds to his existence. No one sustains him. He is in need of no one and no thing outside of himself. He is.

And the Lord God is also the one who was. He has always been. He is eternal, uncreated, without beginning or end.

And he is the one who is to come. Though God is transcendent. Though he stands outside of time – outside of history – he is the God who works within human history. Really the book of Revelation is all about the coming of God, his Christ, and his kingdom. He is the one who is to come. 

He is the Almighty

Three, the Lord God describes himself as the Almighty.

The Lord God is all mighty. He is all powerful. Nothing can frustrate his purposes. Nothing can stand in his way to resist him. When we think of him we are to think of him as ultimate and supreme.

The book of Revelation uses the phrase “the Lord God Almighty” seven times. It appears here in 1,8, and also in 4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 16:7; 19:6; and 21:22. I think Revelation is bent on convincing us that the Lord God is indeed perfect in power.

How are We to View the Christ?

Notice that in 1:17 it is not the Lord God who speaks, but the “one like a son of man”, who is Jesus the Christ. John has already described the appearance of this “one like a son of man”, now he tells us about his reaction and the words that the Christ spoke.

“When I saw him [John says], I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, ‘Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this” (Revelation 1:17–19, ESV).

Notice three things concerning the Christ:

He is the First and the Last

One, Christ introduces himself as the first and the last.

This is a different way of saying the same thing that the Lord God said concerning himself.  In 1:8. The Lord God referred to himself as “the Alpha and Omega”. Here in 1:17 the Christ refers to himself as “the first and the last”. The words are different but the meaning is the same.

God is the beginning and the end, and so is Jesus Christ. All things come from them. They are the source of all things. And all things are to them. All things were created for the glory of the Father through the Son. The Christ was and is the eternal Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, come in the flesh. All that is true of God is true of him then, for he is God.

I’m sure that you remember how John began his Gospel. John 1:1-3 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:1–3, ESV) The same principle communicated John 1:1-3 – that Christ was in the beginning and that all things were made through him – is communicated here in Revelation 1:17 through the words of the “one like a son of man.”He, like the Lord God, is “the first and the last.”

Paul speaks of Christ this way, saying, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16–17, ESV).

What is true of the Lord God is also true of the Christ, for he is God with us – God come in the flesh.

He is the Living One

Two, he is the living one.

John 1:4 speaks of Jesus saying, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4, ESV). In Revelation Jesus introduces himself to John saying, I am “the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore” (Revelation 1:18, ESV).

Here is a reference to Christ’s resurrection. Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God come in the flesh, was born into this world, he lived, he died, and rose again, never to die again. He is now alive, but not as we are. For the life that he possesses is eternal. He is alive “forevermore.” He is “the living one.”

He is the One with the Keys of Death and Hades

Three, Christ is the one who has the keys of death and hades.

Christ is “the living one.” He himself is alive “forevermore.” But more than that he has the keys to death and to the grave. The implication is that he has the keys and will unlock the gates of death and of hades for others – for all who believe upon him.


You know these things, but do you know them?

Do you see how significant these truths are to the formation of a distinctly Christian worldview? Transcendent God. Creator God. Compare contrast with the idolators of of Isaiah 42.

I’ve met a lot of professing Christians who do not believe these things. They have made themselves to be the Alpha and Omega. They think of God as ever changing, being moved by the decisions of man. They see God as being often frustrated.

In short they failed to maintain the distinction between Creator and creature. They have carved for themselves a little idol in their heart to bow down to. But the little god resembles the stuff of this earth more than the one who made the heavens and the earth.

The book of Revelation is going to paint picture of God for us and of the Christ He will be pictured as the Creator of all things, the sovereign one who is over all things. He is glorious, deserving of all praise. He is source and the end of all things. He is the Almighty. God and transcends this creation. He stand outside of it both in regard to time and space. He is not not bound our contained by either. But God is also near. He is involved with the world, bringing about his purposes in it. He is the one who was and is and is to come. 

This is a worldview, folks. It’s more than doctrine – it’s a worldview. Go outside today look at the world. Look at the mountains and the sky. Look at the clouds. Look at our city and the people in it. And then think about the book of Revelation and the picture that it paints for us. Your cannot see what Revelation described with the natural eye. You must see it with the eye of faith. But how important it is that we see it. We must learn to look at the world as God sees it and as he has revealed it. We must learn to interpret all that happens in the earthly physical realm in light of what we know about the spiritual and invisible realm. This is what it means to walk by faith and not by sight.

Friends, if we hope to walk as God has called us  to walk in this world be had better begin to see the world as God sees it and has revealed it. May the Lord help us. Amen

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"Him we proclaim,
warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom,
that we may present everyone mature in Christ."
(Colossians 1:28, ESV)

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