God used a number of comparative expressions to differentiate Himself from Christ. These actually become a kind of a riddle for us throughout the Bible. When we’ve unraveled the whole story, we will understand all of the riddles.
He WILL BE (YHVH) and I AM
In Chapter 8, we showed how the invisible God, as YHVH (He WILL BE) contrasted Himself from Christ, by saying, “This is My name forever.”
“He WILL BE ELOHIM” would one day became the man Christ Jesus “I AM,” but the invisible God will always be “He WILL BE.”
WHO IS and WHO WAS and WHO IS TO COME
As we mentioned in Chapter 11, the Jewish people dropped the name He WILL BE, when they translated the Hebrew text in the Greek Septuagint, in about 200 BC.
Justin Martyr paraphrased the Greek Septuagint, when he wrote, “I am HE WHO IS, εγω ειμι ο ων the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, the God of your fathers; go down into Egypt, and bring forth My people.”
Justin Martyr was a Gentile believer in 150 A.D., who did not know Hebrew, and like other Gentiles of His day, he gained his understanding of the Old Testament from the Greek Septuagint.
If Justin Martyr knew Hebrew, or had the online interlinear Bible, he could have understood a lot more than he did.
Here is the Greek Septuagint of Exodus 3:14: και ειπεν ο θεος προς μωυσην εγω ειμι ο ων και ειπεν ουτως ερεις τοις υιοις ισραηλ ο ων απεσταλκεν με προς υμας
The expression we have enlarged is “I am He WHO IS.”
Exodus 3:14 of the Greek Septuagint reads, “And God spoke to Moses, saying, ‘I am He WHO IS; and He said, ‘Thus shall you likewise say to the children of Israel, I have sent you.’”
As mentioned in Chapter 11, they substituted the phrase “I WILL BE” with “I am He WHO IS” and they changed the phrase “He WILL BE” to Lord.
Why? Because this obviously spoke of two “Gods,” I WILL BE and He WILL BE.
The Apostle John began the Book of Revelation with:
Grace to you and peace from Him who is (ο ων) and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. (Revelation 1:4-5)
Then we heard from heaven:
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,”
says the Lord God,
WHO IS (ο ων) and WHO WAS and WHO IS TO COME, the Almighty.”
We see the same description of the Father in the fourth chapter of Revelation:
Holy, holy, holy, (WHO WAS)
Holy, holy, holy, (WHO IS)
Holy, holy, holy, (WHO IS TO COME)
Lord God Almighty,
WHO WAS and WHO IS and WHO IS TO COME!
The word “holy” is repeated nine times for God in the majority text, and in at least one early version.
Let us compare this to the appearance of the Messiah in Isaiah Chapter 6.
Holy, holy, holy (WHO IS)
is the LORD of hosts;
The whole earth is full of His glory!
Here the word “holy” was repeated only three times for Christ.
I am He – I am God
The name of Christ and God in the Old Testament was “He WILL BE.”
However, the invisible God made the statement “I am HE,” in the Old Testament, to express His position as the one true God. This also differentiated Himself from Christ, “He WILL BE.”1
The most striking case is in Deuteronomy 32:39: “Now see that I, even I, am He, And there is no God besides Me;”
In English, this is a beautiful rhyme.
The Hebrew syntax is also interesting, “See now that אֲנִ֤י אֲנִי֙ ה֔וּא (ani ani hu), I, I am He.”
God used the same expression “ani hu,” I am He, in Isaiah 43:10, which reads:
“You are My witnesses,” says the Lord,
“And My servant whom I have chosen,
That you may know and believe Me,
And understand that I am He.
Before Me there was no God formed,
Nor shall there be after Me.”
Through Isaiah, God promised the Israelites that they would understand who was really speaking to them in the Old Testament:
“Therefore, My people shall know My name;
Therefore they shall know in that day
That I AM He who speaks:
‘Behold, it is I.’”
God was both the Lord and God in the Old Testament as “I AM He,” and Christ became the Lord in the New Testament as “I AM.”
The First and the Last
Perhaps the most perplexing of God’s riddles is “the First and the Last.”
In the Old Testament, Christ was “the Lord and God” of Israel, whom Moses, Gideon, David, and Isaiah called “Adonai,”(Exodus 4:10; Judges 6:13; Psalms 110:1; Matthew 22:44; Isaiah 6:1) meaning “Lord.” However, the expression “Adonai” was also used for God, such as in Isaiah 61:1.
In the Old Testament, Christ was the Lord of Israel, and God was the LORD over all the earth. But after Christ endured the cross, God made Christ the Lord over all the earth.
The expression “LORD” has become difficult for us to understand in the Old Testament, because it replaced all uses of the expression YHVH in our Bibles, regardless of whether YHVH referred to Christ or God. In theory, we could use the expression “Lord” for Christ, and “LORD” for God, because God was the LORD of all the earth in the Old Testament. Although it is very often hard to tell which YHVH is referred to, which is why the Israelites began to believe there was only one God.
The expression “LORD” in the Old Testament can be quoted in the New Testament, referring to either Christ or God. For example, Luke quoted Isaiah, saying, “Clear the way for the Lord (YHVH) in the wilderness, make a straight path for our ELOHIM” (Isaiah 40:3; Luke 3:4).
“Our ELOHIM” in this verse referred to the Spirit of Christ, who was the ELOHIM of Israel, and their Lord. When the Jewish people called Christ “Lord” in the Gospels, they spoke correctly.
After the LORD’s Day, when Christ takes His chosen ones home, there will be a new heaven and a new earth, and God will be the LORD of all the earth, once again, as Zechariah said, “in that Day, the LORD shall be king over all the earth” (Zechariah 14:9).
As Paul wrote, “when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28).
God was the first LORD, and He will be the last LORD. The First and the Last.
After Christ’s resurrection, and before the Lord’s Day, there is no passage that calls God “the Lord,” except when referencing the LORD in the Old Testament, or referring to God as the “Lord of creation.” The Bible tells us we only have one Lord at a time (Ephesians 4:5; 1 Corinthians 8:6).
In the Book of Revelation, all uses of the expression “Lord” using the Greek expression “Kurios” in the Lord’s Day and beyond are applied only to the Lord God (see Revelation 1:8, 10; 4:8, 11; 11:15, 17; 15:3, 4; 16:7; 18:8; 22:5, 6). On all other occasions, Christ is referred to as the Lord (see Revelation 11:8; 14:13; 17:14; 19:16; 22:20 and 21).
The naming of God as our Lord is especially highlighted in the last Trumpet, recorded in Revelation 11:15: “the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and His Christ.”
In the Old Testament, and after the Lord’s Day, Christ is the direct speaker for God, so in these two time periods, He speaks as “the First and the Last.” He speaks for the invisible God directly, saying, “I am the First and the Last (apart from Me there is no God: implied).”
- Some New Testament translators have translated Christ’s expression “I AM” as “I am He,” adding the word “He,” which does not appear in the original text. Christ’s expression “I AM” relates only to the fulfillment of His role as “He WILL BE.” ↩