Last edited on 24/Dec/2019
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.” (NIV)
Original Part 1
1. The phrase, “the First and the Last,” is a title that is used five times in the Bible, twice in Isaiah of God (44:6; 48:12) and three times in Revelation of the Son (1:17; 2:8; 22:13). Trinitarians sometimes make the assumption that since the same title applies to both the Father and the Son, they must both be God. However, there is no biblical justification on which to base that assumption. When the whole of Scripture is studied, one sees that the same titles are used for God, Christ and men. Examples include “Lord” (see Rom. 10:9) and “Savior” (see Luke 1:47) and “King of kings” (see 1 Tim. 6:14-16). If other titles apply to God, Christ and men without making all of them into “one God,” then there is no reason to assume that this particular title would mean they were one God unless Scripture specifically told us so, which it does not.
Refutation Part 1
The author’s claim here that there is no biblical justification to assume that since God claimed to be the First and the Last, and since Jesus claimed to be the First and the Last, he therefore claimed to be God, is false. It is correct to say, as the author mentioned, that sometimes specific titles are given to God, Christ, and men in general. However, the obvious flaw in this argument is that God is the only one who claimed to be the First and the Last in the entire Old Testament, and in the entire New Testament Jesus alone claimed to be the First and the Last. If God is the First and the Last, and if Jesus claimed to be the First and the Last, then when you put two and two together, Jesus clearly claimed to be God. No one else in the entire Bible made this claim to deity.
Nevertheless, let’s examine the authors’ Bible passages to show the titles that God, Christ, and men in general share. The first quote is Romans 10:9, in which Jesus is called Lord. Elsewhere, God the Father is called Lord (James 3:9), and so are men like Abraham (1 Peter 3:5–6), king Saul (2 Samuel 2:5), and others. The second quote is Luke 1:47, in which God the Father is called Saviour. Elsewhere, Jesus is called Saviour (2 Peter 1:11), and so are the judges of Israel (Nehemiah 9:27). The third quote is 1 Timothy 6:14–16, in which the Father is called King of kings and Lord of lords. Elsewhere, Jesus is called King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 17:14; Revelation 19:16), and king Nebuchadnezzar is called King of kings (Daniel 2:37).
The question, then, is this: if other ordinary men are given titles that God uses, and are still not considered God, then how can Jesus be considered God when he claims these titles, and wouldn’t this also apply to Jesus’ claims to being the First and the Last? Let’s examine each example and see. We’ll start with the title “Lord”. The question we need to ask is this: in what way is God “Lord” in comparison to men being “lords”?
When the Bible calls God Lord, it says that he is the Lord of Heaven and Earth (Matthew 11:25). It is a title signifying universal dominion and sovereignty. It is saying that God is the only master of our lives; he is the one to whom we must all give account. When the Bible calls men lords, it is saying that they have a high rank or status. This could refer to rulers of his subjects (Genesis 45:8), or masters of servants (Genesis 24:14). Therefore, we need to ask ourselves this: When the Bible calls Jesus Lord, is it calling him Lord in the way God is called Lord, or is it calling him lord in the way powerful or high-ranking men are called lords? When we examine the Scriptures, we actually see that Jesus is called Lord in the same way that God is Lord. The Bible says that Jesus is “Lord of all” (Acts 10:36). Note that “all” means everything in this universe, not just most things. This signifies the same universal dominion and sovereignty that God alone has. The Bible also says that Jesus is our “only Master and Lord” (Jude 1:4). This signifies that Jesus is the exclusive master of all of our lives, and that it is to him alone that we must all give account. So, we see that Jesus is not “lord” in the way that men are “lords”, but he is “Lord” in the same way that only God is Lord, hence, it is clearly teaching his deity.
Now we’ll deal with the second title, “Saviour”. In what way is God our “Saviour” in comparison to men as “saviours”? When the Bible calls God our Saviour, it is clear that he is our Saviour in the sense that he saves us from our sins and gives us eternal salvation (Isaiah 45:15–17; Isaiah 45:21–22). When the Bible calls men in general saviours, it is calling them saviours in the sense that they save people from trouble or danger, such as foreign nations (Nehemiah 9:27). Therefore, we need to again ask ourselves: is Jesus our Saviour in the same way God is our Saviour, saving us from our sins and giving us eternal life, or is he our Saviour in the same way men like the judges of Israel were, delivering us from our enemies? The Bible makes it clear that Jesus is our Saviour in the same way God is. The angel told Joseph that Jesus will save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). Paul wrote that Jesus is our Saviour who redeems us from all lawlessness (Titus 2:13–14). Jesus said that he gives his sheep (his followers) eternal life (John 10:28). Therefore, Jesus is our “Saviour” in the same way God is, not men in general. Therefore, the Bible attributes Jesus with another divine title.
Now we’ll deal with the third title, “King of kings”. In what way is God the King of kings in comparison to men like Nebuchadnezzar? The obvious answer is that God is the ultimate king over all kings in the universe, while Nebuchadnezzar was only called the King of kings in the sense that he was the ruler of the most powerful nation on Earth at the time. It should be obvious that Jesus is the King of kings in the same way God is; that is to say, he is the King of the universe. So when it calls him the King of kings and Lord of lords, it is identifying him with God, and giving him a divine title.
So, as we have established, it doesn’t matter if God and men share the same titles, because these titles mean one thing for God, and another for men. God is Lord, Saviour, and King of kings and Lord of lords in a different way that men can be these things. If a man were to claim to be Lord in the same way that God is Lord, then that would be blasphemy, because he would be claiming to be God. Jesus Christ claimed to be Lord in the same way God is. The apostles claimed that he is Lord in the same way that God is. The same goes with his titles as Saviour and King of kings. Since true Christians know that these men weren’t lying, we therefore know that Jesus is God.
Therefore, the author’s first argument, that because God and men often share the same titles, without making them one with God in essence, Jesus therefore isn’t God because he is the First and the Last, is invalid. This is further strengthened by the fact that only God claimed this title in the Old Testament, and that only Jesus claimed it in the New Testament.
Original Part 2
2. In the Old Testament, God truly was “the First and the Last.” The meaning of the title is not specifically given, but the key to its meaning is given in Isaiah 41:4, in which God says He has called forth the generations of men, and was with the first of them and is with the last of them. Isaiah 41:4: “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.” Thus, the Bible connects the phrase “the First and the Last” with calling forth the generations. While God was the one who called forth the generations in the Old Testament, He has now conferred that authority on His Son. Thus, it is easy to see why the Lord Jesus is called “the First and the Last” in the book of Revelation. It will be Jesus Christ who will call forth the generations of people from the grave to enter in to everlasting life.
Refutation Part 2
This conclusion is incorrect, because God “calling forth the generations in the beginning” in Isaiah 41:4 is not about God raising the dead, but it is either about: 1. God calling the generations into existence from nothing, pointing to his creative works (compare with Psalm 33:6), or 2. God having all the nations under his sovereign control, pointing to his universal dominion (compare with Acts 17:26).1 Whether it is about God being the Creator, or God being sovereign, both of these are divine attributes which Jesus claimed for himself when he applied this title to himself.
But let’s look at this passage further, and examine what God means when he says “I, the LORD—with the first of them”, or “I am the first”. It is saying that God has no creator. He existed before all other beings were created. He was with the first generation because he made them. When he says “and with the last”, or “and I am the last”, it is saying that God is eternal and unchanging. No creature will outlast God, for the same God who was with the first generation of people in the beginning, is also with every generation right through to the last. God is the same unchanging God of all people, forever and ever.1
There is no biblical justification whatsoever to assert that by claiming God’s divine title of “the First and the Last” he was only claiming to be the one who will raise the dead. What we do see, however, is that Jesus claimed a title which belongs to God alone. We also know that this title is connected to being both eternal, and the Creator/sovereign King of the universe.
Original Part 3
God gave Jesus authority to raise the dead (John 5:25-27). His voice will raise all dead Christians (1 Thess. 4:16 and 17), and he will change our bodies into new glorious bodies (Phil. 3:20 and 21). However, even when Jesus said he had the authority to raise the dead, he never claimed he had that authority inherently because he was God. He always said that his Father had given authority to him. While teaching about his authority, Jesus Christ was very clear about who was the ultimate authority: “The Son can do nothing by himself…the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son…For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in himself. And He has given him authority to judge” (John 5:19, 22, 26 and 27). If Jesus had the authority to raise the dead because he was in some way God, he never said so. He said he had his authority because his Father gave it to him. With the authority to raise the generations came the title associated with the existence of the generations, and thus after his resurrection Jesus Christ is called “the First and the Last.”
Refutation Part 3
In this paragraph, the author has added not much more to their argument, nor have they refuted any of the above facts that we have established. The fact that the Father has entrusted authority to the Son while on Earth does nothing to “prove” that Jesus somehow has a lesser nature than the Father. To the contrary, Jesus’ relationship with the Father portrays a perfect Father to Son relationship, where the Father loves Jesus perfectly (John 3:35; John 17:24), and where Jesus responds in perfect love by obeying the Father in all things (John 14:31; John 15:9–10). The Father and Son’s love for one another is so perfect that they have never been apart from one another (John 8:29) and in fact cannot be apart, because they share an inseparable union (John 5:19, 30; John 10:30; John 14:9–10). The fact that Jesus obeys his Father, in no way makes him inferior to God in nature; it is simply a reflection of what a perfect family relationship is like. As God the “Father”, he is naturally in a position where he exercises authority over the “Son”, but it doesn’t make the Son of God any less God than his Father, any more than a human son isn’t less human than his father, just because his father exercises authority over him.
In addition, the author’s claim at the end that Jesus is only the First and the Last in the sense that he raises the dead, is completely unsubstantiated. Not one shred of evidence has been provided to support such an assertion. If Revelation 1:17, or the other two passages in Revelation, were about raising the dead on the final day, then they would clearly say so, but they don’t. What the Bible does say, is that God is the First and the Last according to Isaiah 44:6 and Isaiah 48:12), and that Jesus claimed to be the First and the Last in Revelation 1:17, and is called such in Revelation 2:8 and Revelation 22:12–13. Therefore, if we just read the passages as they are, they tell us that Jesus is God (in the sense that he is one with the Father in essence). To water down Jesus’ use of the title by saying it just means that he raises the dead on the final day, is adding to the Word of God. It is also mishandling the text, because God “calling forth the generations” was not about resurrection, but rather about either God’s sovereign providence over all generations or his creative works.
Throughout this article we have established three important things. Firstly, we have established that no one but God claimed for himself the title of “the First and the Last” in the Old Testament, and that no one but Jesus claimed for himself that same title in the New Testament. Secondly, we have established that even though God, Christ, and men can share the same titles, they don’t share them in the same way. Whenever the Bible calls men lords, saviours, or kings of kings, it is a different sense in which God is Lord, Saviour, and King of kings, however, whenever Jesus is called these, it is always in the same sense as God is called them. Thirdly, we have established that the “calling forth of the generations” in Isaiah 41:4 is about creation/sovereignty, not resurrection, and that the title “The First and the Last” is connected to never being created, and having an eternal, unchanging nature. Because of all of the above facts, it is clear that by claiming to be the First and the Last, Jesus was claiming to be God.
Rebuttal to the Following Biblical Unitarian Article
Revelation 1:17 – A Verse Used to Support the Trinity, BiblicalUnitarian.com, accessed on 15 February 2018, <http://www.biblicalunitarian.com/verses/revelation-1-17>
1. StudyLight.org, accessed on 16 February 2018, <https://www.studylight.org/commentary/isaiah/41-4.html>