"Our ambition...is to be pleasing to Him" (2 Cor. 5:9)
James White, Director
Richard Pierce, President
Sean Hahn, Vice President
Monday - Friday
10:00AM - 5:00PM
Jesus Christ -
Lamb of Revelation
Examination of the Relationship between God and
the Lamb in the Book of Revelation)
By James White
John the Apostle was privileged to see things
far beyond what any man had seen before. The record of his
visions, the book of Revelation, has fascinated man for two
millenia. Uncounted debates have taken place over how to
interpret the book and what it means. Complicated
eschatological speculations have been confidently put forth by
all sides, none of which really answer all the questions.
No matter what a person’s position on the
end-times teaching of the book of Revelation, each person can
come to appreciate the universal message for Christians
presented in its pages. In this paper, John’s presentation of
Jesus Christ as the Lamb is the focal point of inquiry. Why
does the book present Jesus in this way, and how is the Lamb
related to God?
To facilitate an examination of these
questions, it would be best to follow an already prepared
outline of the book itself. Revelation chapter 5
provides us with the majority of information we have about the
Lamb, and His relationship with God. I will simply follow the
chapter, tying in the information found outside chapter 5 as
it relates to the topics at hand.
The Heavenly Scene (Revelation 5:1-4)
We begin in chapter 5 with an awesome
scene. Chapter 4 has introduced us to a glorious picture of
God on His throne. Around him are twenty-four thrones, and 24
elders. Proceeding from His throne are flashes of lightning
and thunderings. There is a sea of glass like crystal, lighted
by the torches burning before Him. We see God being praised by
all things, and we are awed at the sight.
Chapter 5 introduces the fact that
there is a book, sealed with seven seals, in the hand of “Him
who sat on the throne.” A search is made in heaven, and on
earth, and even under the earth, for anyone worthy to open the
book. None is found. It should be noted that even the elders,
those sitting in God’s very presence, are not worthy.
Obviously, just sinless perfection is not enough to grant the
authority to open the book. Here John begins to weep bitterly,
for no one can open the book.
The Lion of the Tribe of Judah (Revelation
John’s weeping is interrupted by one of the
elders who informs him that one has been found who is worthy!
He is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Root of David, who
has overcome. The “Lion of the Tribe of Judah” is an
expression which occurs here only in the Bible.1
It an expression which points to the royalty and power of
Jesus Christ, the true King of Israel.2
We are prepared for a majestic scene of power as we look to
see the Lion of Judah.
The Vision of the Lamb (Revelation 5:6)
But what do we see? A Lamb! What irony John
here presents! A Lamb that is the Lion of Judah? Indeed! What
does all this mean?
First, the very word used here is special. The
term is arnion. It means “sheep, or lamb,”3
or “a little lamb.”4
It is used 28 times here in the book of Revelation,5
each time in reference to Christ.6
It is used only one other time outside of Revelation, that at
John 21:15. Elsewhere when Christ is called a “lamb” it
is the Greek term amnos, not the arnion here found. John
seemingly has coined his own special phrase for describing the
There is a strong irony presented here, and
certainly not by accident. John is presenting the
contradiction of Christ, the Creator, God in human flesh, (the
Lion), having been slain for the sins of the world. The irony
of the Lion being the Lamb is no stranger than God being the
sacrifice for man.
It is also worthy to note that the Lamb is
capable of wrath. In Revelation 6:16 men will cry out for
deliverance from the wrath of this gentle creature. John
presents it as a terrible thing to be exposed to the Lamb’s
Another motif used by John in describing the
Lamb is that He is a Shepherd (Revelation 7:17). Again we are
somewhat startled at the idea of the one who is normally being
shepherded doing the shepherding. “The verb...is normally
associated with a shepherd, and is a striking word to use of a
Lamb. It marks a complete reversal of roles. So does John make
his point that Christ in His sacrifice of Himself makes
provision for the needs of His people."8
Finally, John also describes the Lamb as the
Husband of the Church (Revelation 19:7-10). We read of the
marriage supper of the Lamb, a great picture of the coming day
when the Church, adorned as a bride for her husband, is joined
to Him in majestic splendor. Again in this description, John
emphasizes the aspect of the sacrifice of Jesus that makes the
Church’s redemption possible.9
Returning to the scene of Rev. 5:6, we
should not also the position of the Lamb here described. He is
“between the throne and the elders” (New American Standard
Bible). The Greek could be translated “in the midst of the
throne and the elders.” Here “the Lamb is intimately
associated with God, for it stands close to his throne.”10
Remember that none were found worthy in heaven or earth to
occupy this privileged place. It will soon become evident how
closely linked in the mind of the Revelator the Lamb and God
John sees the Lamb “as if slain.” The tense of
the verb is the perfect, which “indicates the lasting effects.
The lamb has been offered, yet it stands erect and alive in
the sight of heaven.”11 “The
Greek perfect tense here signifies that the Lamb was not only
slain at a point in time, but that the efficacy of His death
is still present in all its power.”12
The picture would show the mark of the slaughter on the Lamb’s
neck. This view fits in consistently with John’s desire to
point out the pre-eminence of Christ; in His power, and in His
sacrifice. In just a short while the elders will sing a song
of praise to the Lamb for his having purchased for God men
with His own blood. (c.f. Acts 20:28) It is the completely
efficacious sacrifice of Christ that undergirds all the
actions of the Revelation. God’s anger and wrath are fully
justified in that He has offered full and free salvation
through Jesus Christ, the Lamb, and mankind has rejected that
offer. Only wrath, God’s terrible wrath, can be the result of
such an action. Everything John sees, he sees in the light of
the Cross, and the shed blood of calvary.
“The levitical system knew of lambs which
were slain in sacrifice. But the idea that the Lord of life
himself should be the sacrifice, that the Lion of the tribe
of Judah should himself be the Lamb that was slain, was
almost beyond the imagination of man. In fact it was beyond
the imagination of man, but it was not beyond the outreach
of the love of God.”13
John also describes the Lamb’s power in this
verse. He is described having “seven horns.” This would be a
symbol of the fullness of power, or omnipotence. He has
overcome, and is therefore invested with all power and
authority (Matthew 28:18). Considering the fact that Jesus
Himself said that He would be the one before whom men stand
for judgment (Matthew 25/c.f. Psalm 96:13 for another instance
of Jesus=YHWH, this very well provides ample evidence of His
worthiness and strength for such a mighty task.14
Finally, verse 6 tells us of the Lamb’s
omniscience. The seven eyes, we are told, are the seven
Spirits of God, sent out into the earth. We have seen this
metaphor for the Holy Spirit in 1:4. It should not seem
strange to the reader that John should indifferently ascribe
the Holy Spirit as being Christ’s or God’s. Not only does John
scarcely make a distinction between them in Revelation, but
Paul himself taught that the Spirit of God and the Spirit of
Christ are one in the same (Romans 8:9). Peter, too,
understood this in 1 Peter 1:11 when he said that it was the
Spirit of Christ that spoke through the ancient prophets. “As
is his regular practice, John has freely adapted this passage
so that Christ shares the omniscience of God as well as his
With no timidity or hesitance, the Lamb comes
and takes the book from the hand of Him on the throne. He has
been judged worthy, and the Lamb now becomes the center of
attention. “And so we learn that he is the Trustee, the
Depository, the alone Revealer of the Divine will. All truth
is in his keeping.”16
The Praise of the Lamb (Revelation 5:8-12)
Immediately upon taking the book, the four
living creatures, and the twenty four elders, fall down before
the Lamb and begin to praise Him. Here all thoughts of the
Lamb’s being a creation of God, or a fellow creature of God’s
creation, are permanently banished. The most exalted beings
John can picture are found prostrating themselves before the
Lamb and worshiping Him. Worship is meant for God alone, as
Jesus Himself said (Luke 4:8). But here we see that Christ, as
the worthy Lamb, as God incarnate, is worthy of worship. “Each
act is meaningful in its own right, but together the show the
Christian belief that Christ is deserving the same kind of
worship given to God.”17
The elders’ song begins, “Worthy art Thou...”
How reminiscent of 4:11 where they sang to God, “Worthy art
Thou...” Why is He worthy? “...for Thou wast slain, and didst
purchase for God with Thy blood men from every tribe and
tongue and people and nation.” The Lamb proved Himself worthy
by suffering the voluntary humiliation of the Cross, and by
redeeming all of creation with His blood. “It is through his
blood that the Lamb is empowered to ransom and save his
people.”18 This theme of the
blood of the Lamb will be repeated later in 12:11, where it
empowers the followers of the Lamb to be victorious. Through
His sacrifice, men have access to His book of life (13:8,
“This unique and remarkable passage in early
Christian literature marks the growing sense and value
attaching to Jesus as being far more than a mere national
messiah, in fact as the one assurance of God possessed by men,
as their pledge of bliss and privilege and pardon.”19
Passages such as this point out the fact that
in the Revelation, we see God as the Creator
- He is behind everything that happens, and we never quite get
away from the description of Him in chapter 4. But we also
see, in perfect compliment, the Lamb as Redeemer. As Redeemer,
He is worthy of all worship, and He receives just that.
“...this is the overwhelming thought which
prostrates the souls of all his redeemed ones in an agony of
insolvent gratitude; that he, the Son of God, who was with
God and was God, that he should have been content to come
hither to this thorn-strewn earth of ours, and to live here
the life of a poor, meek man, and then to die upon the cross
for us - “herein is love;” ~d herein is also his supreme
qualification to reveal and administer the will of God.”20
But creation is not satisfied with only the
praise of the elders and the living creatures! No! In verses
11 and 12 we see that “myriads of myriads” of angels join in
the praise. This simply is the best way John could say that an
uncountable number of angels were involved.21
“The angels use se yen expressions (the perfect number is
probably significant) to indicate the wonder of the Lam b.”22
Again our minds are taken back to the picture at 4:11. Such
instances on John’s part are not, of course, incidental.
Morris notes that almost all of these qualities are used of
Christ elsewhere in the New Testament, except for blessing.
The verb form of that word is used in conjunction with Christ
at Mark 11:9.23
Universal Worship of the Lamb (Revelation
But even this does not complete the picture.
In verse 13 we see the universal worship of the Lamb. Note
especially how careful John is to make sure that we understand
that this is universal worship. There is nothing in heaven, or
on earth, or under the earth (all the places that were
searched for someone worthy to take the book in 5:3)
that does not join in in one huge ascription of blessing,
honor and glory and dominion forever and ever to both God and
the Lamb for the mighty works They have done. What a glorious
scene! Every created thing
worships at this time. Obviously, the Lamb is not included,
and hence is not a creature nor a creation of God, but stands
worthy to receive such worship as God Himself. Robertson notes
that “No created thing is left out” by John.
24 What a comfort this would be to
those Christians to whom John was writing! Suffering under the
Roman persecution, they would be thrilled to know that
someday, everything in existence would join them in worshiping
their Lord! The scene closes not with a fanfare, but with
humble and reverent worship. One can almost feel the expectant
hush, and holy worship of God and the Lamb. “The worship
itself is directed toward Christ the Redeemer as well as
toward God the Creator The Lamb that was slain shares equally
with God himself in the adoration of the worshipers.”25
Other Designations of the Lamb In
the fifth chapter
provides a clear view of the Lamb, and how He stands in close
relation to God, there are a few ideas that should be examined
that fall outside the fifth chapter’s realm. For example, the
Lamb is identified as the “King of Kings and the Lord of
Lords” at 17:14 and 19:16. It is because He is King of Kings
and Lord of Lords that the Lamb overcomes the beast and all
those with him in 17:14.26 In
19:11-16 we have another thrilling sight of Christ’s majesty.
He comes riding on a white horse as the victorious Conqueror.
He has a name which no one knows. “He is supreme. His name is
known only to Himself.”27
Certainly one can hardly find a more fitting title for Deity.
He is the light of heaven, in conjunction with God (21:22-2k.
Again, “...the Lamb is put on a level with God as the source
of light for the heavenly city.”28
In Revelation 22:3 we see that “the throne
(singular) of God and the Lamb shall be in it, (the New
Jerusalem), and His (singular) bond-servants shall serve (latreuo,
divine or sacred worship or service) Him;” (singular again).
How fitting! Here John uses singulars to describe the
incredible closeness and indeed interpenetration (John
14:9-10) of Father and Son, God and Lamb. Here the Lamb is
rendered what only God can ever receive: latreuo. What a
glorious message John proclaimed to those first century
Christians in their need!
We have seen that John pictures the Lamb in
the closest possible union and relationship with God. The Lamb
is worshiped like God, is described as God, is shown working
the works of God, He has the names of God, and He is served
like God. Certainly one can not think of God in the Revelation
without at the same time thinking of the Lamb. John began by
saying the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1).
He closes with the picture of the Lamb who is with God, and is
1. Leon Morris, The Revelation of St. John, (Grand
Rapids: Win. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1983), p.
edition edited by F. W. Gingrich and Frederick Danker,
(Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1979), p. 108.
2. Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Revelation, (Chicago: Moody
Press, 1983), p. 40.
3. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New
Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 2
4. J. H. Thayer, The New flayer’s Greek-English Lexicon,
(Indiana: Book Publisher’s Press, 1981), p. 74.
5. W. F. Moulton, A. S. Geden, H. K. Moulton, Concordance
to the Greek Testament, 5th edition (Edinburgh: T&T Clark,
6. Gerhard Kittel, and Gerhard Friedrich, Theological
Dictionary of the New Testament, 10 vols., (Grand Rapids: Win.
B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982), volume 1, p. 341.
7. See William Barclay, Jesus as They Saw Him, (Grand Rapids: Win. B.
Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1980), pp. 308-310.
8. Morris, The Revelation of St. John, p. 118.
9. See an interesting discussion of what the “deeds of
righteousness” are in Rev. 19:8 in Morris, p. 227 and Ryrie,
10. George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible, 12
vols., (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1957), vol. 12, p. 407.
11. Fritz Reinecker, and Clean Rogers, Linguistic Key to
the Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing
House, 1982), p. 824.
12. Morris, The Revelation of St. John, p. 97.
13. Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 12, p. 407.
14. Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New
Testament, volume 3, pages 670-671.
15. Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 12, p. 408.
16. H. D. M. Spence, The Pulpit Commentary, 23 vols. (Grand
Rapids: Win. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1978), vol. 22,
17. Morris Ashcroft, “Revelation” in The Broadman Bible
Commentary, 12 vols. (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1972), vol.
12, p. 282.
18. Buttrick, Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 12, p. 409.
19. W. Robertson Nicoll, ed., The Expositor’s Greek
Testament, 5 vols, (Grand Rapids: Win. B. Eerdmans publishing
Company, 1983), vol. 5, p. 386.
20. Spence, ed., The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 22, pp.
21. Ashcroft, Broadman Bible Commentary, vol. 12, p. 283.
22. Morris, The Revelation of St. John, p. 101.
24. A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the Greek New
Testament, 6 vols, (Grand Rapids: Win. B. Eerdmans Publishing
Company, 1932), vol. 6, p. 337.
25. Buttnck, Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 12, p. 410.
26. Ryrie, Revelation, p. 103.
27. Morris, The Revelation of St. John, p. 230. See also on
meaning of onoma here, Reinecker and Rogers, Linguistic Key to
the Greek New Testament, pp. 855-856.
28. Morris, The Revelation of St. John, p. 254.