The Lord Almighty told us through Isaiah that he is “the First and the Last”. “Listen to me, O Jacob, Israel, whom I have called: I am he; I am the first and I am the last. My own hand laid the foundations of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens.” [Isaiah 44.6 and 48.12]
But in the Book of Revelation, Jesus repeatedly calls himself by this title: “I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever.” [Rev. 1.17-18] “These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again.” [Rev. 2.8] “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” [Rev. 22.13]
This last verse adds another piece to the puzzle. Jesus not only calls himself the First and the Last, but also the Alpha and Omega (which is really saying the same thing, only in Greek!). But in Revelation 1.8, there is a very definite statement made: “I am the Alpha and the Omega”, says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty”.
Now all Christian Bibles recognize that this last verse is Jesus speaking to John. But, just in case such a clear claim to deity is misread as coming from the Father, Jesus again repeats in chapter 22 that he is the Alpha and the Omega, the one called the Lord God, and the Almighty, in chapter 1. There is no way around the fact that in the Book of Revelation Jesus is quoted as calling himself the Lord God, the Almighty. By taking to himself the title of First and Last, he has already made claims that have to be taken seriously.
We have seen that both Paul and John have recognised the deity of Jesus in their writings, and John records Jesus claiming such a position for himself in the Revelation. Paul says of him that:
“For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things in earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” [Col. 1.19- 20]
Those who deny his divinity believe that many of these Scriptures were changed in later years to conform to the Trinity doctrine. They believe that Jesus never considered himself God, merely the “Son of God”, which they take to mean something less than God. Did Jesus ever make such a claim when he was alive? And what did he mean by the term “Son of God”?
During his ministry on earth, Jesus was constantly running foul of the religious leaders of the day. The Pharisees and Teachers of the Law finally put him on trial, convicted him, and had him executed at the hands of the Roman authorities. Jesus lived a perfect life and taught with love and authority, so why did they find him so offensive? It is important to realize that the charge they brought against him at his trial was blasphemy. They accused him of claiming to be God himself!
This was not something they dreamed up on their own. On a number of occasions during his ministry, the people had taken up stones to stone him for that very offense. In the Gospels we find a record of the on-going debate between Jesus and the priests on this issue.
In Luke 5.20, we read of the paralysed man who was brought to Jesus for healing. Jesus said to him: “Friend, your sins are forgiven”. Immediately, the Pharisees were offended. They knew that only God could forgive sins, so this statement was blasphemy. To prove that he did have authority to forgive sins, Jesus healed the man. When he spoke of his Father, the Pharisees recognised that he was claiming a special relationship with God. Although they could claim that God was their Father [John 8.41], they knew Jesus was saying something different. In John 5, it is recorded that they began to look for ways to kill him because: “…not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” [Jn. 5.18]
In John 10, when Jesus said: “I and the Father are one”, they took up stones to kill him. Why? “…for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God”. [Jn. 10.30-33] Throughout the Gospel of John, there is an increasing tension between Jesus and the Pharisees on this point. In John 5, they object because he claims equality with God. In John 10, they accuse him of claiming to be God. The discussions they had with Jesus left them with no doubt at all of what he was saying. In John 8, Jesus stated what was to them the supreme blasphemy. He had told them that Abraham had seen his day. The Pharisees laughed at him.
“’You are not yet fifty years old’, the Jews said to him, ‘and you have seen Abraham!’ ‘I tell you the truth’, Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was born, I am!’ At this, they picked up stones to stone him.” [Jn. 8.57-59]
What bothered them so much about this statement? It was that phrase, “I AM”. The greatest revelation that the Israelites had received from God was given through Moses in Exodus 3.14. Moses had asked God what he should call him before his people. God had answered:
“I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you….This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.”
This name, “I AM”, expressed the unchanging, immortal nature of God, and was held in the highest reverence by the Israelites ever afterwards. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the phrase is translated EGO EIMI, which is the very phrase Jesus uses when he says, “Before Abraham was born, I AM”. No wonder the Pharisees wanted to kill him, he was calling himself by God’s own name.