Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Revelation 22:12-13 and the Deity of Christ

 (originally posted 7/20/15; last revised 8/20/15)

12    "Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done.13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end."- Rev. 22:12-13 ESV

Trinitarians (and others who believe in the full deity of Christ like Sabellians) cite passages like Rev. 1:17 and Rev. 2:8 as evidence for Christ's full deity because in these passages Christ refers to Himself as the "first and the last;" which is something Jehovah/Yahweh in the Old Testament did (Isa. 41:4; 44:6; 48:12). Some even cite Rev. 1:8, 1:11; 21:6 and 22:13 because they include one or more of the following phrases, "first and last," "beginning and end," "alpha and omega." Their assumption being that all three phrases are equivalent because they are just stating the same idea in three different ways.

 However, there are problems with citing the second set of passages as proof for Christ's full deity.

Regarding Rev. 1:8, many dispute whether Christ is the speaker. Non-Trinitarians (and even some Trinitarians) argue that it is the Father who is speaking, not Christ the Son because verses 4-5 distinguish the person referred to as "him who is and who was and who is to come" from "Jesus Christ the faithful witness." Therefore, it wouldn't make sense just three verses later for Jesus to be the same person referred to as him, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty." That's why I'm willing to concede that the speaker in Rev. 1:8 might not be Jesus. However, the case some people make for it being Jesus is the fact that the verse just before it (verse 7) clearly identifies Jesus as also "coming," similar to the speaker in verse 8. I can take it either way. But for the sake of fairness and to make the case for my position more difficult to prove I'll assume it isn't Jesus speaking.

Regarding Rev. 1:11, all modern translations leave out the phrase "I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last" (as the KJV has it) because the phrase is universally recognized as a late textual variant and doesn't belong to the original Greek text.

Regarding Rev. 21:6, this too is considered by many (both non-Trinitarians and Trinitarians) as referring to God the Father and not Christ.

Regarding, Rev. 22:12-13, this too is not universally recognized as referring to Christ.

However, it is interesting that many modern translations that DO NOT SEE Christ as speaking in Rev. 21:6 DO SEE Christ as the speaker in Rev. 22:13. The NKJV, NASB, ESV, KJV, ASV, WEB (and other translations) color the text of Rev. 22:12-13 in RED, indicating the translators believed the evidence was strong enough to indicate the passage is mostly likely referring to Christ. Even the NET Bible states in a footnote on verse 13, "These lines are parenthetical, forming an aside to the narrative. The speaker here is the Lord Jesus Christ himself rather than the narrator." Many commentaries (both old and new) also interpret Rev. 22:12-13 as referring to Christ (i.e. interpreting Christ as the speaker).

 What are some of the reasons for believing that Christ is the speaker in both verse 12 and 13 of Rev. 22? While it's true that in the book of Revelation Almighty God is referred to as "coming" or going to "come," the majority of passages that refer to someone coming refer to Christ.

Most of the passages that refer to the coming of Almighty God in the book of Revelation include Rev. 1:4; 1:8; 4:8.

Most of the passages that refer to the coming of Christ in the book of Revelation include Rev. 1:7; 2:5, 16, 25; 3:3, 11, 20; 22:20

Rev. 16:15 probably refers to Christ because the speaker refers to coming like "a thief" as Christ earlier does in Rev. 3:3.

At first glance it's not clear who is speaking in Rev. 22:7. While chapter divisions aren't in the original text (being a modern invention), in the same chapter (viz. 22nd chapter) Christ is cited as coming (verse 22:20). So, it would be consistent if Christ is the one who is "coming" in all three verses of the same chapter 22. That is, Rev. 22:7, Rev. 22:12 and Rev. 22:20.

It seems to me that the reason why most modern translations conclude Jesus is speaking in Rev. 22:12-13 are the following.

1. In Rev. 22:12-13 there's no indication that two different persons are speaking. There is no break that would even imply it.

2. In this last chapter three times (Rev. 22:7; 22:12-13; 22:20) a speaker says, "I am coming SOON/QUICKLY."

3. In Rev. 22:20 the speaker is specifically identified as Jesus who said He is coming "QUICKLY/SOON." Then the response given is, "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!"

Therefore, it is (more than) reasonable to conclude that in all three passages (Rev. 22:7; 22:12-13; 22:20) Jesus is speaking since in all three passages the speaker says He's coming "QUICKLY/SOON." Just as Jesus previously said He was coming "soon/quickly" in Rev. 3:11 (cf. Rev. 2:16).

Now, if Jesus Christ really is the sole speaker of Rev. 22:12-13, then I think that would be strong evidence of Christ's full deity because in verse 13 Christ [if it is Christ who is speaking] says, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end."

Notice that the speaker refers to himself using all three phrases:

1. the Alpha and Omega
2. the first and last
3. the beginning and end

Why would this be strong evidence for the full deity of Christ if it is Christ who is speaking in Rev. 22:12-13? For the following reasons.

1. "Christ" refers to Himself as "the Alpha and Omega." Most anti-Trinitarians reject the interpretation that Christ is speaking in Rev. 1:8 and 21:6. They believe Almighty God is speaking. In fact, Rev. 1:8 specifically states it is Almighty God who is speaking (while 21:6 doesn't). Yet, in those passages (both Rev. 1:8; 21:6) Almighty God refers to Himself as "the Alpha and Omega." Therefore, if Christ is speaking in Rev. 22:13, then He takes a title of Jehovah, "Alpha and Omega," and applies it to Himself.

2. "Christ" refers to Himself as "the first and the last" like Jehovah refers to Himself in the Old Testament (Isa. 41:4; 44:6; 48:12). Christ indisputably refers to Himself as "first and last" in Rev. 1:17-18 and Rev. 2:8. We know with certainty it is Jesus Christ speaking because the speaker says He died and came back to life. In which case Jesus a second time applies a title of Jehovah to Himself.

3. "Christ" refers to Himself as "the beginning and the end" just as the speaker in Rev. 21:6 does. Even though many anti-Trinitarians deny Christ is the speaker in Rev. 21:6 and rather insist that it is Almighty God who is speaking. Which makes sense since from the context both before and after the verse it appears Almighty God is the subject. So, if Rev. 21:6 is Almighty God who is described as "the beginning and the end" and Jesus is the one speaking in Rev. 22:12-13, then Jesus again applies a title of Almighty God to Himself a third time in that passage. The point being that in Rev. 22:12-13 Jesus apparently applies three similar titles of Almighty God to Himself. The only natural reading then would be that the author of Revelation is trying to tell us that Jesus is fully divine just as His Father is. Interestingly, the speaker of Rev. 21:6 goes on to say in the SAME verse, "To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment." This sounds very much like Jesus statement in John 7:37-38; 4:10, 13.

37    On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'"- John 7:37-38
John 7:37-38 itself harkens back to many Old Testament passages where Jehovah offers spiritual water (cf. Isa. 55:1; Jer. 2:13 etc.)

"Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.- Isa. 55:1

for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.- Jer. 2:13

 To repeat; if Jesus is the sole speaker of Rev. 22:12-13, then it's logical (some might say logically necessary) for Jesus to be Almighty God since BOTH Jesus and Almighty God SHARE in common the three highly exalted titles of 1. "the Alpha and the Omega," 2. "the first and the last," 3. "the beginning and the end." In which case, something like Trinitarianism or Modalism/Sabellianism must be true.

A final indication that the book of Revelation is teaching or hinting at Jesus' full deity in this last chapter is when we compare Rev. 22:16 with Rev. 1:1 and back to Rev. 22:6.

Rev. 22:16 has Jesus saying, "I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches."

Rev. 1:1 states, "The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,"

Rev. 22:6 states, "And he said to me, "These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place."

Examining these three verses there seem to be three possibilities.

1. The Father and Son sent two different angels. Each sending "His [own]" angel.
2. Both the Father and Son sent the same angel. The same angel being "his" to both the Father and Son.
3. The Son is the one who sent his angel.

If the third option is true, then Jesus is "the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets" (per Rev. 22:6). That would seem to imply Jesus' full deity. The following are some reasons why this third option is plausible to me. We know that Rev. 22:16 has Jesus sending His angel. Regarding Rev. 1:1 I'm aware of at least one scholarly source that sides with Jesus being the one who sent His angel rather than the Father. The NET Bible states in a footnote on Rev. 1:1, "In 1:1 and 22:16 it is clear that Jesus has sent his angel to proclaim the message to John; thus the message is from Christ..." Options 1 & 2 seem implausible to me. Finally, it wouldn't be surprising to me that just as Rev. 22:20 was intended to indicate the identity of the speaker in Rev. 22:12-13 and so teach the full deity of Christ; so Rev. 22:16 was intended to indicate the identity of sender of an angel in Rev. 22:6 and so also teach the full deity of Christ.

How can we make sense of all the foregoing data?

The Trinitarian position can make sense of all this data. Data that suggests there are at least two persons who are Jehovah and possess the attributes of Jehovah. This is the case EVEN IF we reject the notion that Christ ever refers to Himself as the Almighty in the book of Revelation. Though, as I said, some would argue that Christ does refer to Himself as Almighty God in Rev. 1:8.

Those who reject Christ's full deity have to argue that there are two firsts and lasts, God the Father and the Son who isn't truly or fully God. They may also argue that while Christ is called "first and last," he is not referred to as "the alpha and omega" or "the beginning and end." But is that really reasonable? Didn't I undermine that objection by my analysis of Rev. 22:12-13 in light of other similar verses in the same book? Isn't it more reasonable to conclude that all three phrases are three different ways to refer to the same thing? That is, the omnipotent and omniscient Sovereign source of the origin and meaning of all of creation. It's not inconsistent with the rest of the New Testament to see Christ as the co-source/co-creator/co-sustainer/co-purposer of the universe with the Father (John 1:1-3;1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:2-3,10-13).

Also, doesn't it make more sense that if Almighty God wanted to avoid giving the impression that Jesus is fully God, then He would not have inspired the book of Revelation to refer to Jesus as "the first and last"? Nor inspire it to seemingly imply Jesus is also "the Alpha and Omega" along with being "the beginning and the end"?

[For Biblical evidence for the full deity of the Holy Spirit see THIS BLOG HERE]

This blogpost should be read in light of the the very Hebraic character of the book of Revelation. For more on this, see THIS BLOGPOST. Clearly the writer of the book of Revelation was well versed in the Old Testament and expected his readers to be familiar with it to (or at least go back and brush up on the Old Testament in order to understand the book/epistle of Revelation). Given such familiarity with the Old Testament, what other conclusion can one come to but that Jesus is full God?

Reproduced below is the blogpost showing the Hebraic character of the book of Revelation.

E.W. Bullinger wrote in his Commentary on Revelation:

The Hebrew character of the book is shown in its use of idioms, expressions, words and phrases, which cannot be called Greek; and indeed is called by many "bad Greek."
Professor Godet in his Studies on the New Testament, says, p. 331: "The only serious objection that can be urged against the authenticity of the Apocalypse, lies in the difference which is observable between its style, and that of the fourth Gospel. The latter is free from Aramaic expressions, the former is saturated with them." And again (p. 351), "the Apocalypse bears, from one end of it to the other, the character of a Hebrew prophecy."................Though the language is Greek, the thoughts and idioms are Hebrew; and this links it on, not to the Pauline epistles, but to the Old Testament,...............It is not only Hebrew in character as to its linguistic peculiarities, but especially in its use of the Old Testament. Only those who have most intimate acquaintance with the Old Testament can properly understand the Apocalypse. But all who know anything of old Testament history cannot fail to detect the almost constant reference to it.................But it is when we come to look at the literary connection between the Old Testament and the Apocalypse that we find evidences of the most striking kind.
If we count up the number of Old Testament passages quoted or alluded to in the New Testament,* we find that the gospel of Matthew has a very large number, amounting in all to 92. The Epistle to the Hebrews comes higher still with 102. Now both these books are connected in a special manner with Israel. Matthew, it is universally admitted, stands out among the four Gospels as being specially Jewish in its character. And the Epistle to the Hebrews was specially written to Hebrews, and they are addressed as such.................Now, when we turn to the Apocalypse, what do we find? The result which to our mind is overwhelming. No less than 285 references to the Old Testament. More than three times as many as Matthew, and nearly three times as many as the Epistle to the Hebrews.

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