The True Lamb

Jesus is the sacrificial Lamb who redeems men, but both the Beast and the False Prophet mimic him to deceive humanity

In Revelation, several names are applied to Jesus, but by far the most frequent and important is the designation “Lamb.” And in his war against him, the “Dragon” employs two entities that imitate the “Lamb,” namely, the beasts from the sea and the earth.

In chapter 13, one of the Beast’s “seven heads” receives a “death stroke” that is “healed.” This causes the “inhabitants of the earth” to marvel at the “Beast” and render homage to the “Dragon.” Its apparent “death” and restoration mimic the death and resurrection of Jesus, the true “Lamb.”

Similarly, the “False Prophet” has “two horns,” a parody of the “seven horns” of the “Lamb.” And like the “Two Witnesses” in chapter 11, the “False Prophet” calls fire down from heaven and performs “great signs” that coax the “inhabitants of the earth” to worship the “Beast.” Thus, he also impersonates the witnesses of Jesus.

These creatures attempt to copy the “Lamb” in order to deceive the “inhabitants of the earth,” and if possible, also the “saints.”

All raises the question. How do followers of Jesus distinguish between the true “Lamb” and his counterfeiters? The answer begins with understanding how the book portrays Jesus.

FAITHFUL WITNESS

And we must start with salutations from God at the beginning of the book, and from  the “seven spirits” and Jesus Christ, the one who is the “faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.” The three appellations present his messianic “credentials,” and they stress how he obtained his sovereignty over the nations of the earth.

The term “faithful witness” refers to his sacrificial death, and “firstborn of the dead” highlights his resurrection. It was by his death that he “loosed us from our sins” and made us a “kingdom of priests” - (Revelation 1:4-6).

At the end of his “seven letters” to the churches of Asia, Jesus promises those saints who “overcome” sovereignty with him on his throne - “just as I overcame and took my seat on my Father’s throne.” And he “overcame” by his self-sacrificial death, and therefore, he summons his saints to do likewise - (Revelation 3:21).

THE SLAIN LAMB

This sets the stage for the next vision. After describing the “throne,” John sees a “scroll sealed shut with seven seals” in the right hand of the “one who sits on the throne.” When no one is found “worthy” to open it, he begins to weep bitterly.

Then, one of the “twenty-four elders” orders him to cease weeping since “the lion from the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has overcome to open the scroll and its seven seals.” THIS is what John HEARS. But instead of a lion, he “sees” the “Lamb standing as though slain.”

Thus, Jesus is the Messiah, the “lion of Judah” destined to rule the nations, but he fulfills that role as the “slain Lamb” - (Revelation 5:5-5).

In doing this, Revelation subverts popular expectations about a militaristic Messiah. The Greek term rendered “overcome” can also mean “conquer,” but Jesus “conquered” and qualified to reign from the Davidic throne by sacrificing his own life rather than taking the lives of his enemies.

Upon his arrival on the “throne,” the “Lamb” takes the scroll and begins to “open its seven seals.” His exaltation is based on his death, and this is confirmed when the “four living creatures” and the “twenty-four elders” declare him “worthy” to open the scroll because “you were slain and purchased for God with your blood men from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation” - (Revelation 5:11-14).

HIS REIGN

As his reign commences, Jesus does not cease being the “Lamb” or transform himself into a violent tyrant. In chapter 6, it is the “Lamb” who breaks open the first six “seals,” not the roaring “lion of the tribe of Judah.”

When John sees the innumerable multitude exiting the “great tribulation,” the interpreting angel informs him that it consists of men who have been redeemed from every nation, “having washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb.”

These men are seen standing before the “Lamb” in the city of New Jerusalem where the “Lamb…shepherds them to fountains of living water”- (Revelation 7:9-17).

Later, this same group is found “standing with the Lamb on Mount Zion” singing a “new song before the throne.” No one can learn the song except the men who have been “redeemed from humanity” as the “first fruit for God and the Lamb” - (Revelation 14:1-5).

When Satan is expelled from heaven, a great voice declares victory. The “accuser of the brethren” is cast out of heaven when the messianic “son” is caught up to the “throne,” and this points to the same reality as the image of the “slain Lamb” who approached the “throne.”

As for his “brethren,” they overcome the Devil “by the blood of the Lamb and because they loved not their lives unto death,” not through violence or revolution – (Revelation 12:1-11).

SHEPHERDING THE NATIONS

The “slain Lamb” is certainly the Davidic Messiah. As the Psalmist predicted and Revelation confirms, he is destined to “shepherd all the nations with a scepter of iron.”

And in Revelation, John follows the Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible, and it changes the original Hebrew verb for “rule” to the Greek one for “shepherd.” Jesus does not tyrannize the nations by shattering them with his iron “scepter.” Instead, he uses it to “shepherd” them.

And that reality begins to explain how the “nations” and the “kings of the earth” are found later in the city of “New Jerusalem.”

The “shepherding” work of the “Lamb” is seen again in the vision of the “rider on the white horse.” He rides across the heavens with his army, “judging and making war.” His “soldiers” are clothed in priestly robes made from “fine linen, white and pure,” which identify them as the “saints” redeemed by the “blood of the Lamb,” and members of the “kingdom of priests”- (Revelation 5:5-14, 19:11-21).

The rider’s only “weapon” is the “sword” that flashes from his mouth, the “word of God.” With it, he “shepherds” the nations. Rather than a sword hanging on his thigh, John sees written on it the words “King of kings and Lord of lords.”

Most remarkable is that the rider’s robe is stained with blood BEFORE he engages in “combat” with the “Beast” and his armies. The blood cannot belong to any of the enemies he is poised to slay with his “sharp sword.” Yes, he will “tread the winepress of the wrath of God,” but he has not yet done so. So, whose blood is it, and how did it get there?

KING OF KINGS

The appellation “king of kings” is applied to the “Lamb.” The “kings of the earth” ally themselves with the “Beast” in its war against Jesus, but it is the “Lamb” who conquers these “kings… because he is Lord of lords and King of kings.” But he conquers them with the “word of God,” not through violence, and by “shepherding” them. And this is borne out by the presence of the “kings of the earth” in “New Jerusalem.”

And in the vision of “New Jerusalem,” he is never called “lion,” “Messiah,” or even “Jesus.” The city is first represented as the “bride of the Lamb.” It is built on twelve foundation stones that bear the names of the “twelve apostles of the Lamb.”

In the city, there is no temple since the “Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.” Neither is there any need for outside illumination for the “lamp of the city is the Lamb.” The “nations” and the “kings of the earth” are there, everyone whose name is “written in the Lamb's book of life.”

And the “river of water of life” flows from the “throne” and from the “Lamb,” and the “tree of life” brings “healing to the nations.” The “curse” caused by Adam’s sin is no more, and the “throne of God and of the Lamb” is in it.

Not surprisingly, the term “Lamb” occurs seven times in the vision of “New Jerusalem.” Thus, Jesus never ceases to be the “Lamb,” not even in the “new heavens and new earth.” It is in that role that he governs the nations and redeems men.

By transforming the traditional image of the Messiah into the “slain Lamb,” Revelation undermines every notion of him as a militaristic hero who coerces the nations into submission and slaughters his enemies.

In fact, force, violence, and deceit are the modus operandi of the “Beast from the sea,” not that of the “Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world.” Jesus does NOT imitate the “Beast” or the “False Prophet.” They quite deceitfully attempt to imitate him.

Jesus is the Great Shepherd who uses his “iron scepter” to redeem the nations, not to grind them into powder. By his sacrificial death, he redeems men and women from every nation, inscribes their names in his “book of life,” and guides them to the holy city, “New Jerusalem.” And it is through his death and by the proclamation of the “word of God” that the “Lamb” conquers the world.


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