Part Two of a three part series. To read Part One of The Lamb, please go here.
It is dawn on a quiet Galilean beach. Eight men are gathered around a small fire, sharing a meal of fish and bread. One of them is Jesus Christ, known recently to have died on a Roman cross, yet now alive. He has surprised seven of His disciples by appearing unexpectedly on the beach as they fished not far from the shore, and has invited them to dine around the campfire with Him (Jn. 21:1-11).
Only twice before since His resurrection has Jesus appeared among them, and though each one is excited to see Him again nonetheless they are subdued and nervous in His presence. So much so that it is recorded not one of them was willing to initiate conversation, despite knowing their unexpected campfire host was Jesus:
“Come, have breakfast,” Jesus said. But none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. (Jn. 21:12 NET Bible).
Was there something unfamiliar about their Rabbi’s presence that these disciples were still coming to terms with? These were the men who had travelled dusty roads with Jesus, shared countless meals with Him, slept alongside Him, and witnessed both His joyful and sorrowful moments for roughly three eventful years. They knew Him better than anyone. So what was different?
I believe it was a new, awakening awareness of His absolute, irrefutable authority they were sensing. Another term for it is “the fear of God”. The human spirit tends to go quiet in the manifested presence of holy authority, (not to mention the human mouth).
Throughout their public ministry together, Jesus had always demonstrated an innate, unworldly authority. Despite this, these disciples had previously felt free to question His judgment, express their opinions and even bicker in His Presence (Lk. 9:46; Matt. 16:21-23; 20:21-24). Today they are strangely silent.
This One the Baptist had called the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”, this One who had consented to be slaughtered like a meek, sacrificial lamb just as Isaiah had prophesied, well, let’s just say there was something different about Him now that these disciples couldn’t quite put their fingers on. Instinctively a new and deeper level of respect and awe was awakening in each one of them which would never leave them. The apostle John, present around the campfire that day, would many years later come face to face with Christ the Risen Lamb in the fullness of all His glory, authority and power and would faint at the encounter (see Part One).
The Lamb of God we discover in the pages of Revelation is familiar, yet unfamiliar. We want naturally to cling to our comforting concept of the ‘’gentle Jesus, meek and mild” who suffered and died sinlessly to reconcile us to God. And Jesus will always be that spotless, sacrificial Lamb of God who embraced a cruel death in our place. That truth cannot ever be taken away from those who know and trust Him as Saviour and Lord.
But spiritual growth entails coming to know Christ as the Spirit reveals Him in every aspect of His personality. Remember the foundation we are building upon here:
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John… (Rev. 1:1)
It is Jesus Himself who sent this revelation to His servants, so they might come to know Him perfectly – in all His risen authority and glory. Revelation shows us that the title “Lamb of God” denotes more than meekness and sacrifice. It reveals to His followers the Christ they have adored as the sacrificial Lamb is also the triumphant King over all humankind, ruler of all creation and undisputed conqueror over every source of evil (Rev. 19:11-16).
It was another John, John the Baptist, who first prophetically and publicly recognised Jesus as the Lamb of God. Seeing Jesus approach as He baptised followers at the Jordan River, he cried out “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn. 1:29.) It was not the first time the Baptist had recognised the Lamb. Even in his mother’s womb he had leapt with joy as the embryo Christ approached (Luke 1:41).
On standing close by, one of the Baptist’s own disciples, a young man also named John (later to be the apostle John), beheld the Lamb for the first time, and immediately followed (Jn. 1:35-37). Several decades later we find the apostle John, now old, caught up in the panoramic visions recorded in Revelation.
After John’s initial encounter with the risen Christ, and the messages to the churches, he sees a door standing open in Heaven and hears a Voice commanding “Come up here” (Rev. 4:1). We sometimes forget that the events recorded in Revelation were seen by John from a heavenly, not earthly, perspective.
Though John is shown many things recorded in the book of Revelation my focus here is the following passage:
Then I saw in the right hand of the one who was seated on the throne a scroll written on the front and back and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a powerful angel proclaiming in a loud voice: “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to break its seals?” But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or look into it. So I began weeping bitterly because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. Then one of the elders said to me, “Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has conquered; thus he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” (Rev. 5:1-5 Net Bible)
Why did John weep so profusely? I believe his many tears were prompted by the deep realisation that there was no-one in all creation, human or angel, who held the authority necessary to loosen the seven seals of the scroll that needed to be opened and read. Intuitively John knows that the opening of the seven sealed scroll is intrinsically connected to the future of all humankind, and indeed creation. He is utterly distraught because he sees no hope for the fallen world, originally placed under the authority of humanity (Gen. 1:28) but lost to the cruel rule of Satan through the Fall. Was there to be no end to the resultant sin, suffering, injustice and misery of humankind because the seals could not be opened and the scroll unfolded?
It’s worth noting here that the Old Testament Jewish law of the kinsman-redeemer allowed that if a family should lose their land and possessions through misfortune, their property could not be permanently taken from them. The losses and the conditions under which the losses could be reclaimed were recorded on a scroll, written inside and on the back. The scroll was then sealed with seven seals until such time as a worthy redeemer could be found who met all the conditions to open the seals. The property must then legally be returned to the original owners. ¹
It is at this point that the elder tells John that Someone has been found worthy to open the seals, One called the Lion of Judah.
But looking, John does not see a fierce and majestic roaring Lion. Instead he sees a Lamb appearing as though it has been sacrificially slain, yet clearly is alive. The Lion of Judah and the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world are one! Only in the Kingdom of God would a fierce and powerful lion be portrayed as a victorious, overcoming lamb.
And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out in all the earth. And He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. And they sang a new song, saying “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” (Rev. 5:6-9)
The same Lamb who takes away the sin of the world is now revealed as the overcoming, victorious Lamb worthy to open each of the seven seals. There is more to this Lamb than redemption. He is more than Saviour. He is absolute Ruler granted dominion over creation and its fate for all time. He alone has authority to release the events recorded on the scroll.
And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.” (Rev. 5:13)
All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth, Christ had said (Matt. 28:18). This Lamb wearing the bloody scars of sacrificial slaying has seven horns and seven eyes. In scripture the number seven signifies perfection, or completeness, while horns signify authority and power (1 Sam. 2:10; Ps. 92:10; Jer. 48:25; Luke 1:69). Eyes symbolise knowledge and perception (Psalm 11:4; Job 28:24; Mat. 6:6)
The Lamb is referenced twenty-eight times in the book of Revelation. Interestingly, the New Testament uses two different words for the English word “lamb”. When John the Baptist proclaimed ”Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” he used the Greek “amnos” (Jn. 1:29 & 36). In Revelation, however, another Greek word, “arnion”, is used for the Lamb. According to William Vine’s Expository, ‘’amnos” represents a young lamb where “arnion” indicates a mature sheep, or a ram. I believe John chose the word arnion to convey that the Lamb he saw before the throne was certainly the sacrificial Lamb Isaiah had prophesied about, but from a vastly different perspective, with full authority, majesty and power previously unseen and unknown by humanity.
The difference between these two concepts is simply restrained and unrestrained authority. Jesus always held complete authority over humanity and creation, but as the sacrificial Lamb with His face set to the Cross He voluntarily constrained that authority to achieve His Father’s purpose of reconciling fallen human beings to God (Jn. 1:14; Jn. 17:5; Phil. 2:5-11).
In a world where being lamb-like symbolises gentleness, weakness and vulnerability, how will this risen Lamb of God, who bears the scars of sacrifice yet embodies the majesty, power and ferocity of a mighty undefeated Lion, and who comes not to submit but to rule, be welcomed? Some will make war with Him, some will hide from Him in fear, and some will celebrate and worship Him (Rev. 6:16; 7:9-10;17:14).
In the coming third and final part of this study on The Lamb we’ll take a closer look at the nature of true and false authority and how the Bride of Christ should respond to both.
¹ W. A. Crisswell, Expository Sermons on the Revelation.
Part Two of a three part series.
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