Worthy is the Lamb

OVERVIEW - The central figure of Revelation is the slain Lamb, who alone is worthy to open the sealed scroll – Revelation 5:5-14

Lamb Photo by Bill Fairs on Unsplash
In the preceding paragraph, John saw a scroll sealed with seven seals being held tightly in the right hand of the “
One Who Sits on the Throne.” A search was made throughout the Cosmos to find someone “worthy” to break the seals and open the scroll, but no one could be found, whether in heaven, on the earth, or under the earth. This caused John to weep profusely. If the scroll remained sealed, its contents could not be implemented. - [Photo by Bill Fairs on Unsplash].
  • (Revelation 5:5-7) – “And one of the elders said to me, Do not weep! Behold, the lion that from the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has overcome to open the scroll and its seven seals. And I saw in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders a Lamb, standing, showing that it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. And he came and took it out of the right hand of him that was sitting upon the throne.
One of the twenty-four “elders,” told John not to weep - “The lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David overcame” - And because he “overcame,” he was “worthy” to take and open the sealed scroll. But the “lion of Judah” was none other than the “slain Lamb.”

He “overcame.” This translates the Greek verb nikaō, the same verb rendered “overcome” numerous times in the letters to the seven churches - (“to the one who overcomes”). Especially relevant is the final promise made by Jesus at the end of all seven letters:
  • (Revelation 3:21) - “He that overcomes, I will give to him to take his seat with me in my throne, as I also overcame and took my seat with my Father in his throne.
Jesus “overcame” by his Death and Resurrection, the victory that qualified him to sit on His Father’s Throne. And he calls his saints to “overcome” in the very same manner - (Revelation 1:4-6).

The “Lion of Judah” and the “Root of David” are messianic designations that identify the “Lamb” as the promised Messiah of Israel. In the book of Genesis, the tribe of Judah was called “a lion's whelp” that held the scepter until the arrival of the one to whom it belongs - “To him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” Likewise, Isaiah prophesied of a time when “the root of Jesse will stand as an ensign to the peoples” – (Genesis 49:9-10, Isaiah 11:1-10).

John “heard” the “elder” proclaim “Lion of the tribe of Judah,” however, when he looked, he “saw” a lamb rather than a lion. Moreover, the “Lamb” had been “slain.” What John saw interpreted what he first heard. The “Lamb” is the Messiah, but he fulfills that role in a paradoxical manner - Not as a royal figure, but as a sacrificial victim.
The image of the “slain Lamb” anchors the vision in the historical event of the Crucifixion - Jesus is the “Lion of Judah” and the “Root of David,” and most importantly, the sacrificial “Lamb.”
Lamb” translates the Greek word arnion, a diminutive form of the more common term arnén or “lamb.” It refers to a juvenile lamb, and it becomes the primary designation for Jesus for the remainder of the book. It is applied to him a total of twenty-eight times (4 x 7). In contrast, ‘Jesus’ occurs fourteen and ‘Christ’ seven times.

Slain” translates the Greek verb sphazō (Strong’s - #G4969), used often in the Septuagint version of the Old Testament for the Hebrew verb shachat for the “slaying” of sacrificial animals. The usage in Revelation reflects a passage from Isaiah when the Suffering Servant was compared to “a lamb led to the slaughter” (sphagé, from sphazō).
  • (Isaiah 53:7) – “We all like sheep had gone astray, Every man to his way had we burned. And Yahweh caused to light upon him the guilt of us all! Hard pressed, yet he humbled himself nor opened his mouth, as a lamb to the slaughter is led, And as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, nor opened his mouth.
The Lamb had “seven horns and seven eyes.” Horns symbolize power. The “seven eyes” are identified as “the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth,” an allusion to the vision in the book of Zechariah where a stone with “seven eyes” was set before Joshua to achieve the removal of sin from the land - “In one day.” The “seven lamps” were the “eyes of Yahweh that run to and fro through the whole earth.” The eyes symbolize Yahweh’s spirit (“Not by might but by My Spirit, says Yahweh”). Thus, the “Lamb” sits on the Throne and possesses all the authority of God, and sees all things that transpire in heaven and on the earth – Nothing is hidden from his “seven eyes” - (Zechariah 3:9, 4:10).

The “seven horns and seven eyes” have become the possessions of the “Lamb.” Previously, the “seven spirits” were observed before the Throne, but now, they serve Jesus throughout the whole earth.

Upon his arrival, the “Lamb” approached the Throne and took the “sealed scroll” from the “right hand of the One Who was sitting on it. This parallels the vision from the book of Daniel when one “like a son of man” approached the Throne of the “Ancient of Days” and received the authorization to reign, over “all peoples, races and tongues”:
  • (Daniel 7:13-14) - “I continued looking in the visions of the night, when lo! with the clouds of the heavens, one like a son of man was coming, and unto the Ancient of days he approached, and before him they brought him near; and to him were given dominion and dignity and kingship, that all peoples, races and tongues to him should do service, his dominion was an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom that which should not be destroyed.
The authority of the “Lamb” was proclaimed, and his sovereignty was the result of his sacrificial death. It is his submission to an unjust death that made him “worthy” to take and open the scroll, thereby assuming his reign over History and the Cosmos.

Each of the twenty-four “elders” held a bowl of “incense” symbolizing the “prayers of saints.” Thus, the “elders” were performing priestly functions – They represented the redeemed people of God ministering before the Throne.

The understanding that the sovereignty of the Lamb was the result of his death was confirmed when the four “living creatures” and the “twenty-four elders” sang a “new song”:
  • (Revelation 5:9-12) - “And they sing a new song, saying, Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals; because you were slain and redeemed for God by your blood men from every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation, And made them for our God a kingdom and priests, and they reign on the earth.  And I saw and heard a voice of many angels, round about the throne and the living creatures and the elders, and the number of them was myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive the power, and riches, and wisdom, and might, and honor, and glory, and blessing.
The enthronement of the “Lamb” was accomplished in the historical events his Death and Resurrection. The victorious scene before the reader portrays a victory already achieved. The reign of Jesus and the formation of his kingdom are declared with past tense verbs – As accomplished facts.

Calvary - Photo by Adrian Dascal on Unsplash
Calvary - Photo by Adrian Dascal on Unsplash

The myriad of heavenly voices sang a “new song.” In chapter 4, all creatures throughout the created order sang praises to the “One Who Sits on the Throne” for His creative acts. Now, a “new song” rings out in praise of the “Lamb” for his sacrificial act. The song is “new” because his death inaugurated the long-awaited redemption that will culminate in the New Creation - (“And he that was sitting upon the throne said— Lo! I make all things new” - 
Revelation 4:8-11, 21:1-5).

The Lamb is the true Messiah of Israel, but his victory has achieved the redemption of men and women from “every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” Traditional social and ethnic boundaries that divided peoples in the past have no place in the New Creation. Note well the verbal parallel to the passage from Daniel - (7:13-14 - “That all peoples, races and tongues to him should do service).

By his death, the “Lamb” constituted men from every nation a “kingdom of priests.” Collectively, they are a kingdom; individually, they perform priestly acts. The calling given to Israel is fulfilled by the people from every nation purchased by the lifeblood of the “Lamb” - (Exodus 19:5-6, Revelation 1:6, 20:6).

The redeemed participate in the reign of the Lamb in their priestly capacities. Jesus promised believers that overcame would have authority over nations. But this reign is implemented through priestly acts of witness, martyrdom, prayer, and worship.

There is a textual variant in verse 10. Some ancient Greek manuscripts read - “They will reign on the earth” (future tense); others have - “They are reigning on the earth” (present tense). The manuscript evidence is divided evenly. Whichever reading was the original, the message remains the same. If the redeemed reign now, it is because of the death of the Lamb. If they begin to reign in the future, again, it is due to the death of Jesus - (Revelation 5:10).

Previously, John presented the participation of the saints in the priestly kingdom as a present reality; already, Jesus is the “ruler of the kings of the earth”; already, his disciples are a “priestly kingdom.” The larger context of the book favors indicates that the original verb in verse 10 was in the present tense - (Revelation 1:5-9).

This same company of redeemed men and women is seen later standing before the Throne and the Lamb, an innumerable multitude in the process of exiting the “Great Tribulation” - (Revelation 7:9-17).

Next, the entire heavenly choir began to adore the “Lamb” for his act of redemption, proclaiming him “worthy” to receive “power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” This was followed by praise for God and the “Lamb” from “every created thing that is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea.” The redemptive act of Jesus included the entire creation, not just humanity. How that redemption is brought to completion is unfolded as the “Lamb” breaks the “seven seals” and opens the scroll.

By his willing submission to death, Jesus fulfilled the role of the Messiah and qualified to reign over the Cosmos. As the “Lamb” with “seven horns,” he has full authority. As the one who possesses the “seven eyes” of Yahweh, he has the wisdom and knowledge necessary to reign. The extent of his authority is universal - Nothing is hidden from his sight.

All that follows in the remainder of the book of Revelation is the result of the past sacrificial death of the “Lamb.” In the interim between his death and the New Creation, he reigns firmly over events on the earth, especially the ones that impact his churches.


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