“I am the Alpha and the Omega … the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8)
Towards the end of our liturgical year, the book in focus is the last book of the Bible, Revelation. The book of Revelation contains many descriptions of our Lord Jesus Christ. In Revelation 1:8, Christ Himself proclaims: “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty (Gr. pantokratōr).”
This is a very powerful statement that speaks of God’s engagement with His creation. He is not an absentee God; He is not a God who is beyond our reach or disinterested in us. He is the pantokratōr – literally means “the one who has his hand on everything.” As William Loader puts it so well, “In the beginning: God; in the end: God; in the midst of life: God.” (First Thoughts on Year C Epistle Passages from the Lectionary Easter 2)
This is especially meaningful when expressed in the book of Revelations which spoke of the terror of the Empire and the response of believers in their sufferings. John calls believers to see the world in a new way and to realise a reality where God is at the centre of our lives. The Greek term pantokratōr is equivalent to the Old Testament – “Lord of Hosts” and “God Almighty.” Aside from 2 Corinthians 6:18, the term “pantokratōr” is used 9 times in the book of Revelation (see 1:8, 4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 16:14; 19:6; 19:15; 21:22).
The image of “Christ the Pantokratōr” was the most important image in Christianity, and very prominent in Byzantine churches. “Christ the Pantokratōr” was painted in the apse of Byzantine churches, or in the interior of domes (e.g., the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem), depicting Him as the almighty Ruler and sovereign Judge over all His creation.
It is also pertinent to note that the term, the Almighty, is used in the contexts which emphasized Christ’s sovereignty and power. John was emphasizing to the Christians of his time that God has revealed that persecutions and suffering would come through the Empire. However, Christ the Pantokratōr would be present with them in their midst, ruling and reigning. It meant that Christ has absolute authority, power and control over the things happening to their lives. They should not fear but have the boldness and the confidence to meet what was coming, however bad it might be.
Christ the Pantokratōr is still with is today. Just as the early Christians, we ought to live our lives without fear, to have the boldness and the confidence to meet the challenges of our time. So do not let the things of this world weigh you down. Don’t let sickness and suffering weigh you down. This is because we are not a people under His rule. The Scriptures state that we are reigning with Him as co-heirs, we are participants with Him in His reign. We are advancing His kingdom together with Him. May we shine for Him.
Rev. Dr Timothy Chong