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13 March 2021

Exaltation of the Lamb

 SYNOPSIS – In Revelation, the exaltation of the lamb is based on his past Death and Resurrection - The immovable foundation of his present reign

Open Grave - Photo by Bruno van der Kraan on Unsplash
The sacrificial death of the “
Lamb” and his consequent exaltation figure prominently in the book of Revelation. The death of Jesus on the cross is the foundation on which the book builds its message. In the book, the plan of God to redeem humanity and the Creation itself through His Messiah is unveiled through a series of visions - The death and enthronement of the “Lamb” put this redemptive plan into action. And consistently, his exaltation is the result of his faithfulness, “even unto death” – Faithful witness, suffering, death, and resurrection all precede exaltation. - [Photo by Bruno van der Kraan on Unsplash].

At the outset, Jesus is identified as--:
  • The faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the Earth. Unto him who loves us and loosed us out of our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests unto his God and Father” - (Revelation 1:5-6).
To bear “faithful witness” means, above all, in martyrdom. For example, the “witnesses” of the “Lamb” – overcoming saints - present their “testimony” before the “inhabitants of the earth” and the representatives of the “Dragon” by suffering unjust deaths for his sake. In this way, they bear the same “testimony” as did Jesus and qualify to reign with him “on my Father’s throne”:
  • (Revelation 3:20-21) – “He that overcomes, I will give to him to sit down with me in my throne, as I also overcame, and sat down with my Father in his throne. He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.”
  • (Revelation 12:10-11) – “And I heard a great voice in heaven, saying, Now is come the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, who accuses them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and because they loved not their life even unto death.”
The “firstborn of the dead” refers to the resurrection of Jesus. His death not only liberated men from enslavement to sins, but also made his saints into a “kingdom of priests.” Originally, the role of mediating the light of God to the nations was assigned to Israel. However, this mission is now being actualized through the “churches” because of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus - (Exodus 19:5-6Revelation 5:6-10, 20:6).

Already, Jesus is the “ruler of the kings of the earth” - Again, because of his faithfulness in death and subsequent resurrection. His “faithful testimony” demonstrated his fitness to reign over the earth and its political powers; indeed, over the entire Cosmos.

In the very first vision, John saw Jesus portrayed as a glorious heavenly figure, one “like a Son of Man.” The language alludes to the passage in the book of Daniel where the prophet saw “one like a son of man” who received the “kingdom and dominion” from the “Ancient of Days.” Now, in Revelation, this figure identified himself as the “Living One, and I became dead and, behold, living am I unto the ages of ages,” clear references to his Death and Resurrection, and again, his resultant exaltation - (Revelation 1:17-182:8):
  • (Daniel 7:13-14) – “I saw in the night-visions, and, behold, there came with the clouds of heaven one like unto a son of man, and he came even to the ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.”
Though he now reigns from the Throne of God, he remains forever the one who died and rose from the dead. He possesses overwhelming authority because of his past Death and Resurrection, not because of any inherent might or glory. Therefore, he has full authority to unveil to the churches in Asia “what things that must come to pass soon.” This same Jesus tends to his “churches,” a priestly figure who walks continually among the “seven golden lampstands” in the sanctuary of God trim the wicks and replenish the oil of each lamp.

The same “one who became dead and is living” encourages, corrects, and chastises his churches as needed, and assures every saint who “overcomes” of his or her eternal rewards. Christians who “overcome” participate in his reign, “just as I also overcame and took my seat with my Father in his Throne.” He “overcame” and gave a faithful testimony by enduring the Cross. Likewise, believers “overcome by the blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimony, and because they love not their lives even unto death.”

Cross in Sun - Photo by Nicolas Peyrol on Unsplash
Photo by Nicolas Peyrol on Unsplash

The theme of the Messiah “
overcoming” through his death is prominent in the vision of the “sealed scroll.”  God’s redemptive plan could not be put into effect until the scroll was unsealed, opened, and its contents unveiled. After an exhaustive search, the only one in the entire Cosmos found “worthy” to open the “sealed scroll” was the figure described as “a Lamb standing as slain,” declared the “Lion from the tribe of Judah.” Thus, the “Lamb” fulfills this messianic role through his sacrificial death - (Revelation 5:6-10).

From this point, “Lamb” becomes the dominant title applied to Jesus in the book. It is applied to him twenty-eight times (4 x 7). In contrast, he is called “Christ” seven times, and “Jesus” only fourteen times (2 x 7), all multiples of seven. The label “Lamb” stresses the theme of victory through his self-sacrificial death.

The “Lamb” is described as “slain.” This word translates the Greek participle esphagmenon, which is from the verb esphagō, the term used commonly for animals “slain” in religious sacrifices. The participle is in the perfect tense, signifying an action completed in the past with results continuing into the present – “He has been slain” - (Revelation 5:6).

Immediately upon his arrival before the Throne, the “Lamb” approached and took the “sealed scroll” from the “right hand” of the “One Sitting” on it. Next,aheavenly choir sang a new song and declared the “Lamb worthy to take the Scroll and to open its seals,” precisely because:
  • “You were slain and thereby redeemed unto God by your blood men from every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation, and made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they are reigning on the earth” - (Revelation 5:9-10).
Throughout the remainder of the book, it is the “Lamb” who acts in concert with the “One Who sits on the Throne.” Together, they reign over the Cosmos, judge the impenitent, destroy their enemies, inaugurate the New Creation, and grant rewards and everlasting life to the righteous - (Revelation 6:16-177:9-1714:114:1015:321:22-2322:1-3).

In the seventh chapter, John saw an innumerable multitude of men and women from every nation standing before the Throne and the “Lamb.” They were arrayed in white robes and proclaimed loudly - “Salvation to our God who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb!” These are the men and women who came out of the “Great Tribulation, having washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” - (Revelation 7:9-17).

The company of the redeemed will stand forevermore before the Throne.  They will never know hunger, thirst, or pain - “Because the Lamb that is in the midst of the Throne will shepherd them and lead them to life’s fountains of waters.”  Redemption, victory, and everlasting life are achieved through the past death and resurrection of Jesus Christ - The “Lamb.”

In the vision of the “Great Red Dragon,” John saw the Devil poised to destroy the male figure about to be birthed by the “woman clothed with the sun.” This figure is identified as the “son,” the promised Messiah who was destined “to shepherd all the nations with a scepter of iron.” Before the Dragon could destroy the child, he was “caught away to God and to his Throne,” resulting in “war in heaven.” The Dragon was defeated and expelled from heaven - (Psalm 2:7-10, Revelation 12:1-11).
  • (Psalm 2:7-9) – “I will tell of the decree: Yahweh said to me, You are my son; This day have I begotten you. Ask of me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for your possession. You will break them with a rod of iron; You will dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
In the interpretation of this vision, the “Great Red Dragon” is identified as Satan. He was banished to the earth and lost his prosecutorial power. The “son” who was “caught up to the Throne” is identified as “Christ.” A loud voice proclaimed, “Now has come salvation and power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ…and they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb!”  Thus, the “brethren” were declared victorious over Satan because of the death of the “Lamb.”

The vision of the Woman’s “son caught up to the Throne of God” portrays the same reality as the vision of the “slain Lamb” standing before the Throne.  In both visions, the victory and redemption of the saints was proclaimed because of the sacrificial death of the “Lamb.”

Later, John saw a vision of the redeemed pictured as one hundred and forty-four thousand males standing victorious with the “Lamb” on “Mount Zion.” Each had the name of the Lamb and his Father “written upon their foreheads.” Together, they “sang a new song” that no one outside their company could learn. Only those who belonged to the “Lamb” could sing the song of redemption - (Revelation 14:1-5).

The 144,000 “males” are identified as those “who have been redeemed from the earth,” and they “follow the Lamb wherever he goes.” Once again, this is the same group seen previously in the vision of the Throne. Note the parallels:
  • They sing a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the Scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain and by your blood redeemed unto God men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.”
The book culminates in a vision of the “holy city, New Jerusalem.” All God’s enemies were defeated, and sin and death were no more. The overcoming saints inherited everlasting life. Victory was total. Nevertheless, in this final vision, Jesus continues to be identified as the “Lamb.”

New Jerusalem” is the “wife of the Lamb.” The apostles are the “Twelve Apostles of the Lamb.” In the city, the “Lord God, the Almighty, is its temple, and the Lamb.” The city is illuminated by “the glory of God, and the lamp thereof is the Lamb.” Only those whose names “are written in the Lamb’s book of life” gain access to the city. The “river of water of life” flows out from the “Throne of God and the Lamb.” And at the center of the Universe is the “throne of God and of the Lamb” - (Revelation 21:9-22:5).
The portrait of the heavenly Throne is the central vision of the book, and its central figure is Jesus, the “slain Lamb” who “overcame” through his death to achieve victory over the “Dragon,” and to inherit sovereignty over the entire creation. The “Lamb” is the one who began and continues to unveil and implement the redemptive plans of God.
By means of his death, the “Lamb” fulfilled the role of the Davidic Messiah and became Sovereign over the Cosmos. By his sacrificial death, he attained the full authority to open the “sealed scroll” and execute its contents. By his blood, he redeemed men and women from every nation and made them a priestly kingdom that participates in his messianic reign.

In the Book of Revelation, the exaltation, reign, and victory of Jesus, the “slain Lamb,” are all based on his past Death and Resurrection.

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