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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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  • Besides other interpretations, it could possibly also mean that there is a direct link between Jesus' first and last miracle. If so, William Booth was on the right track. Jun 26, 2023 at 11:13

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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, 2021 at 10:21
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    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, 2021 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, 2021 at 21:17
  • @SolaGratia - fully agree. Thanks for this.
    – Dottard
    May 29, 2021 at 21:43
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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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  • +1 Overall, however, I think the GW translation of Col 1:18 is not good. Jesus was not the first to come back to life as the Bible records others who have done the same. He is, as is more accurately rendered, the firstborn out from the dead. To be born is to be created. Jesus is the first to be recreated after being dead. Jesus is the very first of the new creation.
    – Austin
    Apr 17, 2022 at 10:11
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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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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, 2021 at 10:23
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What did Jesus mean by saying "I am the first and the last" in Revelation 1:17?

It is clear that Jesus is talking about himself here (cf. Rev, 1:8, where the Almighty is referring to Himself being the "Alpha and the Omega", which simply speaking means the "First and the Last"). Unlike Rev, 1:8 however, where God is referring to Himself as being the first true and totally relevant God and that there will be no other like Him, and therefore He must also be the last, Rev, 1:17, is talking about Jesus, but in a totally different context. Indeed, if we also include Rev, 1:18, the context, albeit in brief, explains what is being meant by the phrase: "First and the Last", as it pertains to Jesus.

Revelation 1:18

...and the living one; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore , and I have the keys of death and of Hades.

Jesus we see is the first to be resurrected from the dead. He also says, "... and I have the keys to death and Hades". Meaning that after his resurrection and ascension to the right hand of God - two spiritual personages here - he, alone, is responsible for all subsequent resurrections, from the beginning (after himself), to the end (as with all others). All kingly jurisprudence, having been handed down to him (the son) from the Father, at least until the end of the Millennium, when all resurrections will have been completed - see Rev, 20:5.

Addendum

In regard to Rev, 20:5, and the last sentence - This is the first resurrection. - one should note the following:

The rest of the dead. The wicked dead will be raised and judged after the millennium. The first resurrection. Refers back to the end of v.4. This resurrection includes all the righteous (the resurrection of life, John 5:29, and the resurrection of the righteous, Luke 14:14), who will be raised before the millennium begins.

The above "block quote" comes in the "Notes section", of the Ryrie Study [NASB] Bible, 1978 Ed. Jesus, of course, being the very "first" of The first resurrection. The rest of the dead, specifically the wicked, will be part of The second resurrection.

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Is it true that Jesus is claiming to be YHWH with these verses. Let us examine. Do we assume that Jesus claimed to be YHWH as others already have because YHWH claimed to be the Alpha and Omega in Isaiah 44;6?

Do we assume that Jesus, by using this title is claiming that this was also thus - He is eternally Jehovah from the first to last?.

Do we assume that 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!

It is doubtful if Jesus really claimed to be YHWH of the OT because then that would mean that he is the Father. If one believes that Jesus is not the Father and the Father is not Jesus but assumes that Jesus is the YHWH of the OT, how is it that the prophets and apostles of God do not believe and teach that Jesus is the God of the OT. On the contrary, Jesus never claimed to be the God of the OT as Mark 12:26-27 show. Jesus could have said "have ye not read in the book of Moses in the place concerning the burning bush, how I spake to him saying.." and Acts 3:13 show that Jesus was not the God of the patriarchs.

Mark 12:26-27 ASV

But as touching the dead, that they are raised; have ye not read in the book of Moses, in the place concerning the Bush, how God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living: ye do greatly err.

Acts 3-13-15 ASV

The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Servant Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied before the face of Pilate, when he had determined to release him. But ye denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted unto you, and killed the Prince of life; whom God raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses.

Studying Isaiah 44: one will find that the speaker Isaiah 44: is not Jesus. Isaiah 44:24 will show that it is YHWH. If Jesus is God from the beginning, how is it that he was not involved or mentioned by the prophets and patriarchs in the Old Testament in their dealings with their God in the Old Testament.

Examining the verse in question the word "first" here was translated from the word "protos' and not "alpha" as shown on Bible hub. The context also reveals that Jesus died. This makes it clear that this verse cannot be used as a reference to God because God has never died. Acts 3:13-15 further reinforces that Jesus was never God from the beginning as the apostles and their forefathers taught. On the contrary, Jesus was God's servant and it was his God who resurrected him.

First πρῶτος (prōtos) Adjective - Nominative Masculine Singular Strong's 4413: First, before, principal, most important. Contracted superlative of pro; foremost.

Going by the title confusion trick used by some, if the first and the last is YHWH, then Revelation 1:18 show YHWH was dead. However, this is impossible according to the scriptures. Habakkuk 1:12; 1 Timothy 6:16. When the title Alpha and Omega refers to God. He is where creation begins and ends. Isaiah 48:12-13. Isaiah 41:4

Habakkuk 1:12 ASV

Art not thou from everlasting, O Jehovah my God, my Holy One? we shall not die. O Jehovah, thou hast ordained him for judgment; and thou, O Rock, hast established him for correction

1 Timothy 6:16 ASV

who only hath immortality, dwelling in light unapproachable; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and power eternal. Amen.

Isaiah 48:12-13 ASV Hearken unto me, O Jacob, and Israel my called: I am he; I am the first, I also am the last Yea, my hand hath laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand hath spread out the heavens: when I call unto them, they stand up together

So, was it the eternal, immortal and Almighty God who declared "and the Living one; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades" or was it someone who is not the immortal, eternal and Almighty God?

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  • 1
    + 1. Nicely done. Hard to argue against and yet it will be, although maybe not out in the open. My shorter answer here, while not quite as explicit, at least agrees with yours in respect of the fact that both the Almighty and Jesus were able to lay claim to the "First and Last" moniker, over time, in their separate and distinctive spiritual personages. Mar 28 at 1:36
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Jesus said this in the Gospels

First mention: In good hermeneutics, especially from Jewish authors, it is vital that we look to previous times that terms and phrases were used, especially by the same character or author. (This does not encompass the full meaning, but it certainly sets the foundation on which later meanings are built.)

Remember, Jesus himself indeed uses identical words like this on two occasions before: in a parable and in a leadership lesson.

Parable of the harvesters and master

From the parable of Matthew 20:1-16 (NASB, emphasis added)

...13 But he answered and said to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?’ 16 So the last shall be first, and the first last.

Here, Jesus speaks as the landowner who has the authority to give whatever reward he deems appropriate. It introduces the idea of laborers who started working at different times in the day, both early and late.

In context, Jesus statement in Revelation 1 likely means that he was laboring both early in the day and late in the day. And, in that story, only the landowner was there all day long; Jesus is that landowner according to Revelation 1.

We should also cross-reference this with other sowing-harvesting speech from Jesus, albeit John the same author of Revelation...

John 4:37 (NASB)

For in this case the saying is true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’

With first and last in the context of harvesting, Jesus is claiming to do both. (Harvesting is also a theme seen in Revelation 14:14-20.)

Servant leadership

Mark 9:33-35 (NASB, emphasis added)

33 They came to Capernaum; and when He was in the house, He began to question them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest. 35 Sitting down, He called the twelve and *said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.”

In that context, Jesus declares himself to be the ultimate first-last kind of leader. This is comparable to Jesus's lesson about the seat of honor...

Luke 14:7-11 (NASB)

7 And He began speaking a parable to the invited guests when He noticed how they had been picking out the places of honor at the table, saying to them, 8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, 9 and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place. 10 But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

...That was at a wedding feast, which there also is in Revelation 20:4-6, named in 19:9...

Revelation 19:9 (NASB)

Then he said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” And he said to me, “These are true words of God.”

So, that kind of honor is mentioned many times in the context of being honored at a wedding feast. Jesus offered himself as the Lamb and is now the most honored person at the wedding since he is the bridegroom.

Summary

Jesus was working from the beginning and reaping the harvest at the end. He is servant of all, seated last to be honored first at the banquet, and leader of all—putting himself last and therefore being placed first above all kings.

Does this relate to time? Absolutely! Review John 1, same author...

John 1:1-3 (NASB)

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.

Now, bearing in mind the other occasions when Jesus spoke these words, reading about these things in Revelation will not only be easier to understand, but looking at Revelation as Jesus's own elaboration we can understand those previous passages better also ('first and last' language from Isaiah 41:4; 44:6, 48:12 notwithstanding).

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