Root of David: The Alpha and Omega of History
We are told in Revelation 5:5 that Jesus is “the Root of David” which seems to us to be a rather strange expression. We can easily understand Isaiah’s prophetic reference to Jesus as “a shoot from the stem of Jesse” (Isa. 11:1). Likewise, as a descendent of Jesse and David, Jesus could be called a “branch” (Jer. 23:5; Zech. 3:8). But how could He be called the Root?
Our problem lies in our non-Biblical understanding of how history works. We are accustomed to thinking of history as if it merely a cosmic chain of events. History is often viewed as one event leading to a string of other events. This is very much like a board game we played when I was a child called “Mousetrap,” based on a fictional Rube Goldberg machine. Trip a lever at one end, and a series of domino-like “whatchamacallits” and “thingamajigs” bang into each resulting eventual in the mousetrap coming down on the mouse. By pure cause and effect, each event causes other events, in direct chronological succession.
While this is true – it’s not the whole truth. History is not simply a matter of the past causing the future; it is also true that the future causes the past.
Allow me to illustrate it this way. Let’s say someone walks into your home on a Saturday afternoon and finds you packing clothes in a suitcase. Since “inquiring minds want to know,” they ask for the reason you are engaged in this activity. You reply, “Because I am going out of town tomorrow.” What has happened? In a sense, the future – the planned trip – has determined the past. Because you have planned a trip, you packed your clothes. Logically, the trip preceded, and caused, the packing of the clothes, even though it followed it chronologically. In the same way, God desired to glorify Himself in Jesus Christ; therefore He created Jesse and David, in addition to all the other ancestors of Christ’s human nature, in order to bring His Son into the world. The Son of David, the Lord Jesus Christ, was the Root of David. The “effect” determined the “cause.”
The Lord Jesus Christ is thus presented in the most radical way, as the center of all history, the divine Root as well as the Branch, the Beginning and the End, Alpha and Omega. The Bible is clear in its emphasis of Christ being the beginning and the end of history. For example, we are told that Christ is the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev.13:8 KJV). The end was already established from the beginning. History is not an “open book” that is in the process of being written, based upon the actions of men and the effect they have on the course of future events. Rather, history is “closed,” in that it has been determined by the Creator at the beginning.
We, as human beings, do have a will of our own. We make things happen. Yet the power of choice we exercise is only secondary. God’s sovereign providential power stands over and above our actions. He works out His will through the actions of human wills, without violating the freedom of those human wills. As the Westminster Confession of Faith states:
“God, the great Creator of all things, doth uphold, direct, dispose and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by his most wise and holy providence, according to his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will, to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.”
Benjamin Warfield expressed the same concept this way: “In the infinite wisdom of the Lord of all the earth, each event falls with exact precision into its proper place in the unfolding of His eternal plan, nothing, however small, however strange, occurs without His ordering, or without its peculiar fitness in the working out of His purpose; and the end of all shall be the manifestation of His glory, and the accumulation of His praise.”
Our understanding of history must not originate from history itself, but from the fact that Christ is the Creator and Redeemer of the world. We must understand that all of history, created and controlled by God’s personal and total government, is moving inexorably toward the universal dominion of the Lord Jesus Christ. All of history will be summed in the Alpha and Omega of history.