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Isaiah 44:6, "Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel And his Redeemer, the Lord of host; I am the first and I am the last, And there is no God besides Me."

But Jesus Christ makes the same claim in Revelation:

Revelation 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.

Revelation 1:17-18: And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as a dead man. And He laid His right hand upon me, saying, "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."

Revelation 21:5-6: And He who sits on the throne said, "Behold I am making all things new." And He said to me, "It is done I am the Alpha and Omega."

The point or the scope of my question has to do with the "eternality" of Jesus Christ. And since He is eternal according to John 1:1-3 He is also the one who will make all things new.

According to Jehovah's Witnesses, how and why does Jesus make these statements, when according to their teaching he is not one being with God the Father?

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Although you specifically ask about the designation ‘First and Last’, there is a clear biblical link to that and the oft-concurrent designation ‘Alpha and Omega’, which is abundantly clear in the book of Revelation, and in JW literature. See https://www.jw.org/en/bible-teachings/questions/alpha-omega/ Who or What Is “the Alpha and the Omega”?

“The Alpha and the Omega” refers to Jehovah God, the Almighty. This term occurs three times in the Bible.—Revelation 1:8; 21:6; 22:13. …Why does God call himself “the Alpha and the Omega”? Alpha and omega are the first and last letters of the alphabet in Greek, the language used to write the part of the Bible commonly called the New Testament, which includes the book of Revelation. The respective positions of these letters in the Greek alphabet are used to illustrate that Jehovah alone is the beginning and the end. (Revelation 21:6) He was Almighty God in the infinite past, and he will continue to be Almighty God forever. He is the only one who is “from everlasting to everlasting.”—Psalm 90:2. Who is “the first and the last”? The Bible applies this term both to Jehovah God and to his Son, Jesus, but with different meanings…”

More on that later.

Here is another official JW link, ‘Highlights From the Book of Revelation’, 15 January 2009 Watchtower - https://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/2009046#h=11:0-12:0 However, I used the 1988 JW publication “Insight on the Scriptures” Vol. 1 which states (in agreement) that only Jehovah God has the title ‘Alpha and Omega’ in Rev. 1:8. This is because the verse goes on to say this one is “the Almighty” (page 81). JW teaching is that only Jehovah is the Almighty God, and Jesus is the Mighty God (Isaiah 9:6) This explains two points in their article on ‘Alpha and Omega’:

(1) “Although the preceding verse [7] speaks of Christ Jesus, it is clear that in verse 8 the application of the title is to ‘the Almighty’ God.” Then the article cites Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament (1974) in support, as it apparently states, “It cannot be absolutely certain that the writer meant to refer to the Lord Jesus specifically here… There is no real incongruity in supposing, also, that the writer here meant to refer to God as such.” Thus, the JWs feel justified in adding the word ‘Jehovah’ before ‘God’ in their New World Translation of Rev. 1:8. citing 7 translations dating from 1599 to 1961. [See their 1969 KIT for that.]

(2) ‘Insight Vol. I’ also acknowledges an “additional occurrence of this phrase in the King James rendering of Rev. 1:11”. But the JW view is that some Greek manuscripts, including the Alexandrine, Sinaitic, and Codex Ephraemi rescriptus, do not have the trumpet sounding “I am the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last”. They therefore omit this, as do many other modern translations, which is possibly why you did not include verse 11 in your question.

The ‘Insight’ book then goes on to deal with Rev. 21:6 where it says “I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end,” dismissing that as applicable to Jesus because verse 7 adds, “and I shall be his God and he will be my son”. JW theology acknowledges Jesus as the Mighty God of Isaiah 9:6, but refuses to have him elevated from what they take to be a secondary level of deity, to a God who is to be worshipped. See Isaiah’s Prophecy Vol. I pp130-131 (published 2000). The ‘Insight’ book, however, does not say that but gives as its reason for applying verse 6 to Jehovah:

“Inasmuch as Jesus referred to those who are joint heirs with him in his Kingdom as ‘brothers’, not ‘sons’, the speaker must be Jesus’ heavenly Father, Jehovah God.” (The JW link above agrees with this.)

You particularly want to know how “the eternality” of Jesus Christ (John 1:1-3) relates to Jesus being the first and the last. It is common knowledge that the NWT renders John 1:1 as ‘the Word was a god’, meaning the Word cannot be of the same Being as God. JWs do not believe in “the eternality” of Jesus Christ and so offer an interpretation of him being ‘the first and the last’ that only refers to his unique, one-of-a-kind resurrection. This is why JW doctrine, that the Word was created by Jehovah and so had a starting point in time, has to be explained as only referring to Jehovah raising Jesus to life in a unique way (as the ‘first fruits’ of those who sleep in death), and that as nobody else will be so resurrected, Jesus is ‘first and last’ in that sense only.

Isaiah 44:6 is dealt with in the JW book “Isaiah’s Prophecy” Vol. II pp64-65 (published 2001). It is not quoted in isolation but includes verses 7 & 8 to give context. Then the paragraph following explains how Jehovah is challenging the [false] gods to present their case, adding,

“Only ‘the first and the last,’ who existed before all the false gods were thought of and will still be there when they are long forgotten, can do such a thing. His people need not fear to bear witness to this truth, since they have the support of Jehovah, who is as firm and stable as a massive rock!”

It does not say a word about Jesus. That would fit in with the JW stance that Jesus being ‘first and last’ is only with respect to his unique resurrection – something that happened TO him, and not due to his BEING the first and the last. As JWs insist that only Jehovah is eternal (with no starting point in time) they agree he is eternal in his un-created being, but that Jesus is a created (hence, different) being: “The Bible applies this term both to Jehovah God and to his Son, Jesus, but with different meanings” as that first JW link says. I give this answer purely to answer your question, without agreeing with the JW stance.

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  • Thank you for this well sourced and well assembled answer. My edit was for format. – KorvinStarmast May 15 at 12:59
  • Good work here! – Kris May 16 at 1:13
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Answer Summary:

I'm not certain this speaks for Jehovah's Witnesses as a whole, but the method of interpreting these references to being "first and last" by some adherents seems to involve considering the phrase to have different meanings based on the context.

Explanation:

A summary of this hermeneutical method is given by this blog:

The answer is, of course, that there can be many who are "first and last." We must discover, from context, in what sense they are "first and last."

He goes on to illustrate by giving Adam as an example of the "first and the last" human created from the dust of the earth.

Therefore: Revelation 1:8 and 1:17-18 use "first and last" in different contexts

From there it is a simple jump to interpreting Revelation 1:8 (which is spoken according to their translation by "Jehovah God") and the Old Testament cross-reference included in their own footnotes, Isaiah 48:12, as referring to the "the only person who is the Most High God." Revelation 1:17-18 on the other hand, provides a different context and so a different meaning for its use in reference to Jesus. There it "clearly refers to the resurrection" meaning that Christ is the first from among those resurrected to life.

Jesus' being called the last is a little more difficult but as in the reference to Adam being the last created from "dust," the context is again used to rescue the interpretation for Jesus is the last, as in the "only one," of those resurrected to life **"directly" by the Father**. This gives him a unique place as the holder of the keys of death.


Again, I'm not certain that this is the 'authoritative' explanation, but it is the explanation given by at least one adherent, and seems to be supported by the footnotes provided by the online study edition of the New World Translation which includes Acts 26:23, Colossians 1:8, and Revelation 1:5, 2:8 to indicate his being first from the dead is what is in view for Revelation 1:17-18.

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