Here in verse 8 is one of the rare places in Revelation where God the Father himself actually is speaking. What he does is describe who he is by various names. “I am the Alpha and the Omega, who is, and who was, and who is to come – the Almighty.” This verse is telling us who it is that stands behind the revelation: he is the true and genuine God. He’s eternal and unchanging and sovereign, as the true God must be. That’s an important matter – especially to believers who are going through difficult times.
Is God sovereign? Is God regulating the affairs of this life today? Or are things somehow out of control? When Jesus was speaking of the end times in Matthew 24, he said that it was going to be a period of history marked by wars and rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes, persecutions, apostasy, and false prophets. We might very well ask the question, “Does that sound like God is in control?”
As far as the Book of Revelation is concerned, what we have unfolding here are all kinds of earthly evils: destructions, pain, killings. It speaks of people who are martyred for their faith. Could God actually have willed that? One person looked at the Bible’s teaching and expressed it in a limerick. The limerick goes like this:
God’s plan made a hopeful beginning,
But man spoiled his chances by sinning.
We hope that the story will end in God’s glory,
But at present the other side’s winning.
Well, it makes humorous poetry, but the theology isn’t humorous. If the other side’s winning, we’re in big trouble. What Revelation exists to tell us is that the other side is not winning. God is in control, he always has been, he always will be, and we can trust him for it.
The way this is expressed is by these titles or descriptions of God the Father. There’s a parallel here, at the beginning, to what we found in verse 5. When we looked at verse 5, we found three titles for the Lord Jesus Christ, where he was called “the faithful witness,” “the first-born of the dead,” “the ruler of the kings of the earth.” Now in this verse, God describes himself as “the Alpha and the Omega, the one who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” Let’s just think of those. Sometimes when you begin to think of God or the character of God, you stand in awe. You say to yourself, “What man could possibly speak about God? How could we possibly understand him or know him, or convey that in some meaningful way to other people?” The answer is, of course, none of us would dare to do that if God had not taken pains to reveal himself; and the way he does it is through titles or names like this. So we turn to them, and we say, “What do they mean?”
Well, let’s take them one at a time. “Alpha and Omega” is a figure of speech, like others that take the first and the last item in a series to imply everything in between. We would have the same thing, perhaps, if we said, “I’ve learned it all from A to Z.” So “Alpha and Omega” means that God, in himself, is not only the source of, but he also embraces, all things. The Apostle Paul puts that in words that we study very carefully and I refer to again and again, at the very end of Romans 11, because there he’s talking about God; he writes, “for from him and through him and to him are all things.” So God is the source of and embraces everything. Yet there’s more to the word than this. For one thing, if God is the source of and embraces all things, that includes not only all things physical, but all things. It would include time, for example. In other words, it would be a way of saying that God is eternal. It’s what Moses wrote about in Psalm 90: “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting you are God” (v. 2). It means God always existed. There was never a moment when God was not.