To say this is not to draw God downward into the stream of time and involve Him in the flux and flow of the world. He stands above His own creation and outside of time; but for the convenience of His creatures, who are children of time, He makes free use of time words when referring to Himself. So He says that He is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, the first and the last. Man in the plan of God has been granted considerable say; but never is he permitted to utter the first word nor the last. That is the prerogative of the Deity, and one which He will never surrender to His creatures.
Man has no say about the time or the place of his birth; God determines that without consulting the man himself. One day the little man finds himself in consciousness and accepts the fact that he is. There his volitional life begins. Before that he had nothing to say about anything. After that he struts and boasts and utters his defiant proclamations of individual freedom, and encouraged by the sound of his own voice he may declare his independence of God and call himself an “atheist” or an “agnostic.” Have your fun, little man; you are only chattering in the interim between first and last; you had no voice at the first and you will have none at the last. God reserves the right to take up at the last where He began at the first, and you are in the hands of God whether you will or not.
This knowledge should humble us and encourage us, too. It should humble us when we remember how frail we are, how utterly dependent upon God; and it should encourage us to know that when everything else has passed we may still have God no less surely than before.
Adam became a living soul, but that becoming was not of his own volition. It was God who willed it and who executed His will in making Adam a living man. God was there first. And when Adam sinned and wrecked his whole life God was there still. Adam did not know it perhaps, but his whole future peace lay in this – that God was there after he had sinned. The God who was there at Adam’s beginning remained there at his ending. God was there last.
It would be great wisdom for us to begin to live in the light of this wonderful and terrible truth: God is the first and the last.
The remembrance of this could save nations from many tragic and bloody decisions. Were notes written by statesmen against the background of such knowledge they might be less inflammatory, less arrogant; and were kings and dictators to think soberly of this great truth they might walk more softly and speak less like gods. For after all they are not really important and the sphere of their freedom is constricted more than they dream.
Shelley tells of the traveler who saw in the desert two vast and trunkless legs of stone, and near them half-buried in the sand lay a shattered face with a “wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command.” On the pedestal where once the proud image had stood were engraven these words: “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.” And, says the poet, “Nothing else remains. Round the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare the lone and level sands stretch far away.” Shelley was right except for one thing: Something else did remain. It was God. He had been there first to look in gentle pity upon the mad king who could boast so shamelessly in the shadow of the tomb; and He was there when the winds of heaven blew down the statue and by the swirling sands covered with a mantle of pity the evidence of human decay.
God was there last.
from The Root of the Righteous by A. W. Tozer