The Lamb Who Was Slain.

And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll
    and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
    from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
    and they shall reign on the earth.”

11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice,

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”

13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped. Revelation 5:6-14 ESV

angus-dei-francisco_de_zurbarc3a1n_006As John’s vision of the heavenly throne room continues, he mentions seeing someone else in the midst of the scene whose appearance gets his attention. John describes this individual as “a Lamb standing.” But what makes this detail significant is that he adds, “as though it had been slain.” This Lamb somehow has the appearance of having at one time been dead, but is now standing before the throne of God, fully alive. Perhaps the Lamb bore the marks of death, his fleece covered in blood. John does not provide us with the details. But from the rest of the passage, it is clear that this Lamb is a representation of Jesus Christ Himself. The designation “Lamb of God” is a reference to Jesus in His first advent, when He came to earth as the meek and mild, sacrificial offering for the sins of mankind. This title would have been familiar to John, because he recorded in his gospel the words of John the Baptist when Jesus appeared at the Jordan River: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 ESV). It was the apostle Peter who provided us with even greater detail concerning Jesus’ role as the sacrificial Lamb.

18 …you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you 21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. – 1 Peter 1:18-21 ESV

In the book of Exodus, we have recorded the institution of Passover, the God-ordained event that led to the release of the people of Israel from their 400-year captivity in Egypt. God had instructed each Hebrew household to select an unblemished one-year-old male lamb and then to sacrifice it, placing a portion of its blood on the doorpost and lintel of their home. And God told them, “The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:13 ESV). The blood of the lamb was the sign of their belief. By obediently placing the blood on their doorways, the people were expressing their trust in God and His promise to exempt them from the coming destruction of the first-borns. And Moses records:

“It is the sacrifice of the Lord‘s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses. – Exodus 12:27 ESV

It is Jesus’ role as the sacrificial Lamb of God that makes Him worthy to take the scroll and open its seals. And this fact is supported by the way in which the other individuals gathered around the throne of God react as He takes the scroll from His Father’s right hand. John describes them as falling down before the Lamb and shouting in unison:

“Worthy are you to take the scroll
    and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
    from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
    and they shall reign on the earth.” – Revelation 5:9-10 ESV

It was the death of Jesus, requiring the shedding of His blood, that made possible the salvation of mankind. There was no other way. As the author of the book of Hebrews points out, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22 ESV). The death of Jesus made Him worthy to open the scroll. The resurrection of Jesus made it possible. It was His resurrection, His restoration to life, that gave proof that the righteous wrath of God had been totally satisfied by His Son’s sacrifice. And the apostle Paul explains that it was God the Father who offered up His own Son as the payment for mankind’s sin debt.

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. – Romans 3:23-25 ESV

But notice the words of the song sung by those gathered around the throne of God. They speak of Jesus’ death as a ransom, a payment that impacted the lives of people from every tribe, language, people and nation. And the words of their song are in the past tense. His death has made them a kingdom and priests to God. And, as a result, they shall reign. It is a done deal. The sacrifice of Jesus was efficacious or, in other words, effective. His blood was not wasted. Mark records in his gospel that “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45 ESV). There was no doubt that His death would result in the salvation of many. It had not been a wishful shot-in-the-dark on God’s part. God had already planned for the salvation of those who would eventually be ransomed by the blood of Jesus. And His Son’s death is what made it all possible.

One of the more fascinating things about John’s vision of Jesus is his description of Him having “seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth” (Revelation 5:6 ESV). This imagery conveys some significant details about Jesus and His role as not only the sacrificial Lamb, but as the Messiah. The horn is often used in Scripture as a representation of power, and as we have noted before, the number seven represents completeness or perfection. Jesus is the embodiment of divine power. His very presence in the throne room of God, having once been dead, but now alive, is due to the fact that He had been raised back to life by the power of God. And Jesus has seven eyes, which John explains to be the seven spirits of God. We have seen this phrase before. Back in chapter one, John described seeing the seven spirits of God standing before the throne. They are mentioned along with God the Father and Jesus, the Son of God, which seems to indicate that they are a reference to the Spirit of God, thus presenting the unified presence of the Trinity in the heavenly scene. Once again, the number seven speaks of the Spirit’s perfection and completeness. In this case, the seven spirits are presented as being the eyes of the Lamb, which conveys the idea of vision or awareness. Jesus is not only all-powerful, but all-knowing. He has unparalleled strength and unwavering knowledge of all that is going on, both in heaven and on earth. And John indicates that a countless number of angels join in the singing, proclaiming the worthiness of the Lamb.

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!” – Revelation 5:12 ESV

He has power, wealth, wisdom, and might and all honor, glory and blessing are rightfully His. And in keeping with this fact, the four beasts, the 24 elders and the heavenly host are joined by “every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them” (Revelation 5:13 ESV), as they all sing together:

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” – Revelation 5:13 ESV

Jesus, the Lamb of God, now holds the scroll in His hands. He stands ready to take the next step and begin opening the seals and revealing the long-hidden judgments of God. The transfer of the scroll into the hands of Jesus sets the stage for all that it is to come in the rest of the book. It is Jesus who will open the scroll and reveal its content. He alone is worthy to do so. He has earned the right to stand in judgment against all those who have rejected His sacrificial death. But Jesus is also going to fulfill each and every promise made to the people of God. John described seeing the 24 elders falling down before Jesus, and each of then holding a golden bowl full of incense, which he described as the prayers of the saints. We are not told the content of these prayers, but it is likely a reference to the countless prayers prayed by God’s people over the centuries as they faced persecution, pain and suffering as a result of their faith. It is reminiscent of God’s words spoken to Moses regarding the captivity of the people of Israel in Egypt.

“I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey.” – Exodus 3:7-8 ESV

Jesus was about to begin the process of making all things as they should be. As He opens the seals and reveals the content of the scroll, He will begin to make right every wrong and to restore the fallen condition of God’s creation to its rightful order. But it begins with judgment. All the prayers of the saints prayed over the centuries will be answered once-and-for-all. The prophet Isaiah provides us with a foretaste of what is to come. He let’s us know that while the scroll contains terrible judgments, the outcome of it all will be the restoration of righteousness and the redemption of God’s creative order.

10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord;
    my soul shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
    he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress,
    and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,
    and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
    to sprout up before all the nations. – Isaiah 61:10-11 ESV

 

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

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