True Lamb

In Revelation, Jesus is the “slain Lamb” who redeems men, but both the “Beast” and the “False Prophet” mimic him in order to deceive humanity

Lamb Appears - by Hetty Stellingwerf on Unsplash
One of the beast’s “
heads” received the “death-stroke” that was then “healed.” It “was, and is not, and is going to ascend from the Abyss,” which causes the “inhabitants of the earth” to marvel at the “Beast” and to render homage to the “Dragon.” The “death” and restoration of the “Beast” is the counterfeit of the death and resurrection of Jesus, the true “Lamb.” - [Lamb photo by Hetty Stellingwerf on Unsplash].

Similarly, the “false prophet” has “two horns” that mimic the “seven horns” of the “Lamb,” and like the “two witnesses” from chapter 11, the “false prophet” calls fire down from heaven and performs other “great signs” to coax the “inhabitants of the earth” to worship the “beast.” Nevertheless, though he imitates the “Lamb,” he “speaks like the Dragon.”

The purpose of mimicking Jesus is to deceive the “inhabitants of the earth,” and if possible, the “saints.” The resort to coercion using economic sanctions comes only after efforts at deception fail.

All this raises the question:  How do followers of Jesus distinguish between the true “Lamb” and the counterfeit offered by the “Dragon”? The answer begins by understanding how Revelation portrays Jesus.

The book begins with salutations from God, the “seven spirits,” and Jesus Christ, the “faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.” The three appellations provide his royal “credentials” and stress how he obtained sovereignty over the earth.

Faithful witness” refers to his sacrificial death and the “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 the “seven letters,” Jesus promised that saints who “overcame” will reign with him on his throne “just as I overcame and took my seat on my Father’s throne.” He “overcame” through his death, and he summons his saints to do likewise - (Revelation 3:21).

This sets the stage for the next vision, arguably, the most pivotal one in the book. After describing the “throne,” John saw a “scroll sealed shut with seven seals” in the right hand of the “one who sits on the throne.” When no one was found who was “worthy” to open it, he began to weep bitterly. Then, one of the “twenty-four elders” ordered him to cease weeping “for the lion from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome to open the scroll and its seven seals.” THAT is what John HEARD. But instead of a lion, what he “saw” was the “Lamb standing as though slain.” Jesus is the Messiah destined to rule the nations but 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 has “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 at the “throne,” the “Lamb” took the scroll and began to “open its seven seals.” His exaltation was based on his death, and this was confirmed when the “four living creatures” and the “twenty-four elders” declared 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).

As he began to reign, Jesus did not cease to be the “slain Lamb” or transform himself into a 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 saw the vast innumerable multitude exiting the “great tribulation,” the interpreting angel informed him that it was comprised of men who had been redeemed from every nation, “having washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb.” They were standing before the “Lamb” in New Jerusalem, and the “Lamb…was shepherding them to fountains of living water”- (Revelation 7:9-17).

Later, this same group is seen “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 was expelled from heaven, a great voice declared victory. The “accuser of the brethren” was cast out of heaven when the messianic “son” was caught up to the “throne,” which points to the same reality as the image of the “slain Lamb” who approached the “throne.” And his “brethren” overcame the Devil “by the blood of the Lamb and because they loved not their lives unto death,” and not through violence or revolution – (Revelation 12:1-11).

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.” Only, John follows the Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible which changed the original verb for “rule” to the Greek term for “shepherd.” Jesus does not tyrannize the nations by shattering them with his great iron “scepter.”

Instead, the “Lamb” uses his "rod" to “shepherd” them. And this begins to explain how the “nations” and the “kings of the earth” are found at the end of the book in “New Jerusalem.”

The “shepherding” work of the “Lamb” is seen again in the vision of the “rider on the white horse.” He rode across the heavens with his army, “judging and making war.” The members of his army were all clothed in priestly robes made from “fine linen, white and pure,” identifying them as the “saints” who were redeemed by the “blood of the Lamb” - (Revelation 19:11-21).

The rider’s only “weapon” was the “sword” that flashed from his mouth, the “word of God.” And with it, he was “shepherding” the nations. Rather than a sword hanging over his thigh, John saw written on it the “King of kings and Lord of lords.”

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

The appellation “king of kings” was applied previously to the “Lamb.” He is the one who qualifies for this supreme rank. The “kings of the earth” allied themselves with the “Beast” to wage war with Jesus, but it was the “Lamb” who conquered them “because he is Lord of lords, and King of kings.”

Finally, 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 was built on twelve foundation stones that bore the names of the “twelve apostles of the Lamb.” There was no temple in it for the “Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb were its temple.” Neither was there any need for outside illumination for the “lamp of the city was the Lamb.” The “nations” and the “kings of the earth” were there, everyone whose name was “written in the Lamb's book of life.”

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

Not surprisingly, “Lamb” occurs seven times in the book’s final vision. Thus, Jesus never ceases to be the “Lamb.” It is in that role that he governs the nations and redeems men from every nation.

By transforming the traditional image of the Messiah into that of the “slain Lamb,” Revelation undermines every concept of him as a militaristic hero who coerces the nations into submission and slaughters his enemies. In fact, that is the modus operandi of the “Beast from the sea,” not that of the “Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world.”

Jesus is the Great Shepherd who uses his “iron scepter” to redeem the nations, not to grind them into dust. 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.”

In contrast, the “Beast” and the “False Prophet” deceive the “inhabitants of the earth” to render homage to the “Beast,” worship the “Dragon,” and lead them to the great city, “Babylon,” rather than to “New Jerusalem.” The true “Lamb” shepherds the nations, while the “Dragon” through his vassals tyrannizes them and leads their “inhabitants” to destruction in the “lake of fire.”



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