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 7, 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 become 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 12, 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.”
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 highlighted 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 12, they substituted the phrase “I WILL BE” with “I am He WHO IS” and they changed the phrase “He WILL BE” to Lord.
But God corrected their error in the First Chapter of Revelation,
“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, God was the LORD over all the earth. The prophets called Him, “Adonai YHVH.” After Christ endured the cross, God made Christ the Lord over all the earth. In the end, when all things are brought in subjection to Christ, then Christ will submit to God, and God will be all in all. He will be the LORD again.
God is the First and the Last, He is the Alpha and Omega.
The Expression LORD in our Bibles
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.
The prophets seem to have differentiated the Father as “the LORD” in the Old Testament through the expression “Adonai YHVH.”
This expression occurs about 300 times in the Old Testament, and usually appears in our Bibles as “Lord GOD,” to avoid the translation, “Lord LORD.”
There is no place in the Bible that we can specifically identify this expression as referring to Christ, but it clearly refers to the Father in Judges 6:22; Isaiah 28:16; 48:16; and 61:1.
The LORD’s Day
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.”
The First and the Last in Isaiah
In the Old Testament, the expression, “I am the First and the Last,” appears in Isaiah 44:6, and Isaiah 48:12.
In Isaiah 44:6, Christ speaking as the Word says, “I am the First and the Last, besides Me, there is no ELOHIM.” In theory, Christ could be speaking for God in the first statement, saying “I am the First and the Last,” and He could be speaking of Himself saying, “besides Me there is no ELOHIM.” Because Christ and God, come together as one, “ECHAD,” there is no real way to say who is calling Himself, “ELOHIM.”
But here, the Aramaic Targum translates “I am First, and the Last” as “I am He אֲנָא הוּא who was from the beginning, eternities of eternities are Mine.” The expression, “I am He” certainly refers to God, as we saw above. The Aramaic expression אֲנָא הוּא is equivalent to the Hebrew אני הוא, Ani Hu.
In Isaiah 48:12-13, we read, “I am the First and the I am also the Last, indeed My hand has laid the foundation of the earth, and My right hand has stretched out the heavens.”
Here, the Targum translates “I am the First” as “I am He, I am He, אֲנָא הוּא אֲנָא הוּא who was of Old.” As in Isaiah 44:24, the Targum translates, “My right hand” as “by My Word.” The “Word,” Christ, is the “physical” hand of God.
It is not possible to say, “I AM,” in Hebrew. The verb “to be” only allows the past or future. The Hebrew, “I am He” is the closest equivalent to “I AM.” It defines God as “the LORD” in the Old Testament, and Christ as “the Lord” in the New Testament.
The First and the Last in Revelation
Because we understand that the expressions, “First and the Last,” and “Alpha and Omega” refer to God, we know that Christ is speaking for God in Revelation 1:8, 1:17, 21:6, and 22:13. In the Book of Revelation, Christ speaks from a different “identity” from sentence to sentence, even phrase to phrase, just as He does from the first appearance of the Angel in Genesis 16:7-12.
The most difficult verse to understand is Revelation 2:8, because of its translation into English.
It really says,
“Thus says Τάδε λέγει , the First and the Last (the Father), ὃς He who became dead and came to life (Christ), ‘I know your tribulations…’”
Revelation 2:8 is an imitation of Isaiah 44:24,
“Thus says, He WILL BE your Redeemer (Christ), and He who formed you in the womb (the Father), ‘I am He WILL BE who makes all things…’”
The lack of “and” in Revelation 2:8 has no impact on the meaning in Greek.
What has fooled us is the word “who.” We think that “who became dead…” refers back to “the First and the Last.” But the Greek says, “He who.” It is only putting in the third person, the same two phrases that followed each other in Revelation 1:17-18.
By contrast, the “who” in verse 1, uses the Greek word ὁ and does refer back to the previous “person,”
“Thus says, He that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, ὁ who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks.” We can also see this in Revelation 3:7, “Thus says, He who is holy and true, ὁ who holds the key of David…” If the Spirit of Christ wanted to identify Himself as God in Revelation 2:8, He would have used the Greek word ὁ, “ho.”
The expression Τάδε λέγει, “Thus says,” only appears in Revelation 2, 3 and Acts 21:11.
What is the real message of Revelation 2:8? In the Lord’s Day, Christ and God will be ECHAD, one, just as they were in the Old Testament, as explained in Isaiah 44:24.
- 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.” ↩