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Revelation 1:17-18 (NRSV):

17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he placed his right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I was dead, and see, I am alive forever and ever; and I have the keys of Death and of Hades.

What did Jesus mean by saying that he is "the first and the last"?

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"First and Last is one of Jesus' titles that He gives Himself in three places in Revelation:

  • Rev 1:17, 18 - When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. But He placed His right hand on me and said, “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last, the Living One. I was dead, and behold, now I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of Death and of Hades.
  • Rev 2:8 - To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of the First and the Last, who died and returned to life.
  • Rev 22:13 - I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”

These titles are direct allusions to several places where the LORD, YHWH is called the precise same title, again in three places in Isaiah, as follows:

  • Isa 41:4 - Who has performed this and carried it out, calling forth the generations from the beginning? I, the LORD—the first and the last—I am He.” ["I AM" in LXX]
  • Isa 44:6 - Thus says the LORD, the King and Redeemer of Israel, the LORD of Hosts: “I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God but Me.
  • Isa 48:12 - Listen to Me, O Jacob, and Israel, whom I have called: I am He; I am the first, and I am the last.

The obvious conclusion is difficult to escape - three times the LORD YHWH calls Himself "First and Last" as a unique title: Three times in Revelation, Jesus calls Himself the "First and Last" - the conclusions are rather simple:

  1. Jesus is claiming to be the Great Jehovah, YHWH, of the OT
  2. Jesus is claiming pre-existence as Jehovah of the OT
  3. Jesus, by using this title is claiming that this was also thus - He is eternally Jehovah from the first to last.
  4. In Rev 22:13, there is an expanded meaning, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End." - lest there be any doubt!

APPENDIX

Note the connection between the title of "First and Last" and "I AM" in Isa 41:4 and the comfort given in Rev 1:17, "fear not". This reminiscent of the incident in John 6:20 – “But then [Jesus] said to them, ‘I am. Fear not.’” [To the frightened disciples in the boat.]

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  • +1 from me ... Nice answer.
    – Adam
    Feb 23 at 10:21
  • 2
    When the context of being the first and the last is linked with death and resurrection it refers to christ. Christ is the one who died God cannot die. When context is not referencing death and resurrection it is safe to conclude Yhwh is the subject.
    – Kris
    Feb 25 at 1:42
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    God can only die in the sense that He can be born — such is said of His flesh, not His divnity. No one thinks the Divinity ceased or was destroyed or died on the Cross. Also, it's not just this title that means Jesus is God. Compare Rev 2:21-23; Jer 17:10; 1 Ki 6:14, 30. For example. May 29 at 21:17
  • @SolaGratia - fully agree. Thanks for this.
    – Dottard
    May 29 at 21:43
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It alludes to Isaiah 41:4 Berean Study Bible

Who has performed this and carried it out, calling forth the generations from the beginning? I, the LORD—the first and the last—I am He.”

In Revelation 1:17 Jesus points to himself as the LORD. It is a title of divine glory.

Jesus is the first because he existed before the creation. He is the first cause of all things. He is the first word of all things.

Colossians 1:16

For in him [Jesus] all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.

He is the final judge. Matthew 16:27

For the Son of Man will come in His Father's glory with His angels, and then He will repay each one according to what he has done.

He is the last because he has the last word of all things. He is the teleological final cause.

Romans 11:36

For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen.

What did Jesus mean by saying that he is "the first and the last"?

He is the first cause and last cause of all things.

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Isaiah 44:6 God said here that he is The First and The Last. Jesus said in Revelation 1:17 , the same thing that God said in the Old Testament.

Answer: Jesus is God.

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  • Short and to the point. Not as extensive as it could be, however, why best around the bush...+1 from me.
    – Adam
    Feb 23 at 10:23
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    Do you make angels, judges and Moses "God" for being called "god"? Feb 23 at 23:12
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In Isaiah 41:4, God is calling forth 'the first and the last' of generations ("Who has done this and carried it through, calling forth the generations from the beginning? I, the LORD - with the first of them and with the last - I am he." NIV)

That authority is now conferred to Jesus, God's representative. Jesus will now come in judgment of the first and the last of generations (Matthew 24:30-31 "They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And He will send out His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other." or Matthew 25:31-2 "When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another").

So 'first and last' in Revelation 1:17 refers to Jesus' role in 'calling forth' and judging the first and last of generations in the events described in Matthew 24-25.

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In what context is Jesus the first and the last? (Rev. 1:5 & 17-18 NKJV)

"and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood,"

"And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, 'Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death."

In what context is Jesus the first and the last? Jesus clarified, "I am He who lives, and was dead". What else is Jesus called? John said, "the firstborn from the dead." Hence, this is with regards to the resurrection.

Because, what began with Jesus? (Col. 1:18(b) GW)

"He is the beginning, the first to come back to life so that he would have first place in everything."

What began with Jesus? Paul said, "He is the beginning, the first to come back to life". Hence why Jesus was called the Beginning or the First.

And what would Jesus bring about after the resurrection? (Col. 15:22-24)

"For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power."

What would Jesus bring about after the resurrection? Paul said, "the end". Hence why Jesus is called the Beginning and the End, or the First and the Last.

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