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In Revelation John describes the four living creatures who say:

And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Revelation 4:8 ESV)

καὶ τὰ τέσσαρα ζῷα ἓν καθ᾽ ἓν αὐτῶν ἔχων ἀνὰ πτέρυγας ἕξ κυκλόθεν καὶ ἔσωθεν γέμουσιν ὀφθαλμῶν καὶ ἀνάπαυσιν οὐκ ἔχουσιν ἡμέρας καὶ νυκτὸς λέγοντες ἅγιος ἅγιος ἅγιος κύριος ὁ θεὸς ὁ παντοκράτωρ ὁ ἦν καὶ ὁ ὢν καὶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος

According to John's Gospel, the "one who was" is The Word (1:1), and "ὁ ὢν" is the μονογενὴς Θεὸς in the bosom of the Father (1:18) and the one ἐρχόμενος, is Christ (1:15, 1:27, 3:31). This seems to clearly state the Lord God Almighty is the Word who was, the μονογενὴς God who is and Christ who is ἐρχόμενος.

Does the Fourth Gospel identify ὁ ἦν καὶ ὁ ὢν καὶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος as the Christ?

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    Up-voted +1. This has the makings of a really outstanding question. I am not yet clear as to the reason you say 'that would exclude him' in your last sentence. This is extremely well researched.
    – Nigel J
    Mar 22 at 19:35
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    I agree - an excellent question. +1.
    – Dottard
    Mar 22 at 20:50
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According to John's Gospel, the "one who was" is The Word (1:1),

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14, ESV)

and "ὁ ὢν" is the μονογενὴς Θεὸς in the bosom of the Father (1:18)

I am [ἐγώ εἰμι NA28] the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6, ESV)

Other "I am" statements in the Gospel of John

 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” (John 20:17, ESV)

and the one ἐρχόμενος, is Christ (1:15, 1:27, 3:31).

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again [πάλιν ἔρχομαι NA28] and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. (John 14:3, ESV)

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Let us tread very carefully here as there are minefields to the left and right. However, I congratulate the OP on noticing a very significant connection between these important titles.

It is true that John ascribes the unusual title, "ὁ ὢν καὶ ὁ ἦν καὶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος" (or a slight variant) as follows:

  • Rev 1:4 - Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come
  • Rev 1:8 - "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty."
  • Rev 4:8 - ... "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come."
  • Rev 11:17 - Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign. [Note the lack of "the one to come because at this point, God as already come.]

However, we have a pretender to and would-be usurper to God's position who is given a similar title - the great red beast, the dragon from the abyss:

  • Rev 17:8 - The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because it once was, now is not, and yet will come.
  • Rev 17:11 - The beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction.

As cleverly pointed out by the OP, these same verbs, "was, is, to come" are used of Jesus in the Gospel of John, although not in the same sentence but spread over the early chapters. Thus, they are never used as a title of Jesus but subtly woven into the narrative.

  • ἦν (was) - John 1:1 "in the beginning was the Word"; John 1:15 "[the Word] was before me"
  • ὢν (is) - John 1:18 "is in the bosom of the Father"
  • ἐρχόμενος (to come) - John 1:15 "[the Word] come after me", John 1:27 "the one coming after me", etc.

Nothing so ruins a good case as when it is over-sated (according to Greek Rhetoricians). While the title, "the one who is and who was and is to come" is definitely a title of the Father as listed above, it is never used as a title of Jesus.

However, the closest we come is John 1:15:

John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, "This is the one I spoke about when I said, 'He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'"

Again, this is not a title but a statement of historical fact that Jesus existed before John the Baptist.

Lastly, the Title of the Father, "the One who was, and is, and is to come" is also a statement of fact that the Father is eternal (as well as a title) - He has always existed, and always will exist. The John goes to some length to assert precisely the same thing about Jesus, the Word, namely that:

  • Jesus has always existed with the Father (John 1:1, 15, 8:58)
  • Jesus does exist (John 1:18)
  • Jesus will always exist (see Rev 11:15 - "he will reign forever")

Thus, while the eternity title, "the one who was and is and is to come" is applied exclusively to the Father and never to the Son, the Bible still asserts the eternal existence of the Son emphatically.

APPENDIX - Other Scripture on the same topic

In the Old Testament, Jehovah’s self-proclaimed title of “I AM” is given special prominence in Ex 3:13-15. It appears to suggest the eternal, self-existent one as a title of YHWH. The unpredicated phrase, “ego eimi” (= I am), occurs in the LXX in a number places (Deut 32:39, Isa 41:4, 43:10, 13, 25, 45:19, 46:4, 48:12, 51:12, 52:6) and always refers the One and Only Great Jehovah God Almighty.

John uses this unpredicated "I AM" in his Gospel as follows:

  • John 4:26 – “Then Jesus said, ‘I am.’” [To the Samaritan woman at the well. There is a reasonable case for this being identification, but that is a matter of taste.]
  • John 6:20 – “But then [Jesus] said to them, ‘I am. Fear not.’” [To the frightened disciples in the boat.]
  • John 8:24 – “If you do not trust/believe that I am, you will die in your sins.”
  • John 8:28 – “When you will lift up the Son of Man, then you will trust/know that I am.”
  • John 8:58 – “Truly, truly, I say to you; before Abraham existed, I am.” [The Jews then tried to stone Him for blasphemy.] Note that this and the previous two mean that Jesus, in the space of this chapter of John 8 uses the unpredicated “I am” idea in the present (v24), future (v28) and past sense (v58). V24 & 28 appears to be tied to believers’ salvation as well.
  • John 13:19 – “From now [on] I tell you before the occurrence, that you may believe when it occurs that, I am.”
  • John 18: 5, 6, 8 – “He said to them, ‘I am.’ …Therefore, when He told them, ‘I am’, they fell backward to the ground.” [This occurred when the Jews tried to arrest Jesus in the garden. It could be reasonably argued that this is a case of identification. However, the fact that the arresting mob fell backward suggests that much more is intended here.]
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    Up-voted +1. I think this is the correct and balanced view that while the eternity title, "the one who was and is and is to come" is applied exclusively to the Father and never to the Son, the Bible still asserts the eternal existence of the Son emphatically. Yes, indeed. And herein can be seen something of that Divine relationship between the Father and the Son, that One takes the title, yet the Other also shares the attribute. Much appreciated.
    – Nigel J
    Mar 23 at 0:20
  • - 1 1) you say "the eternity title, 'the one who was and is and is to come' is applied exclusively to the Father." That is a belief which you have not supported. The exact title is unique to Revelation and so cannot arbitrarily applied to the Father. Moreover, since it is prefaced with "Lord..." a title which in the NT is exclusive to Christ, the opinion is even more untenable. 2) The usurper is οὐκ ἔστιν not ὁ ὢν 3) The claim the title is not given elsewhere in the NT ignores the very reason Revelation was given: ἀποκάλυψις Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. There will new things about Jesus revealed. Mar 23 at 15:19
  • 3) The belief that ὁ ἐρχόμενος applies exclusively or even in part to the Father is a huge leap of faith which denies one of the most prevalent and important beliefs about Jesus when Revelation was written: He is coming back. So your statement not only requires assigning that attribute to the Father, it requires ignoring or, treating as inconsequential, one of the most basic tenets of Christianity, the Second Coming. I believe you can do better. Mar 23 at 16:38
  • @RevelationLad - wow! " ... applied exclusively to the Father." That is a belief which you have not supported." I supplied an exhaustive list of the occurrences of the title. Did I miss some? If not, then the assertion is supported.
    – Dottard
    Mar 23 at 19:09
  • Perhaps I'm not reading correctly. How about citing one Scripture where the Father is specifically called ὁ ἦν and one where He is specifically called ὁ ὢν and one where He is specifically called.ὁ ἐρχόμενος and one other than Revelation 4:8 where He is called ὁ ὢν καὶ ὁ ἦν καὶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος (or even 2 of the three listed together). Mar 23 at 20:06

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