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"?

  • 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 at 11:13

6 Answers 6


"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!


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.]

  • +1 from me ... Nice answer.
    – Adam
    Feb 23, 2021 at 10:21
  • 4
    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
  • 2
    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

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.

  • +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

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.


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.


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.

  • 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

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.


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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