Symbology: The Lamb

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(Rev 5:5-6 NIV) {5} Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” {6} Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.

Here we have the first appearance of one of the great symbols in Revelation – the Lamb. The word Lamb occurs 31 times in Revelation although on one occasion it refers to the beast out of the earth (13:11) a counterfeit lamb.

First the elder explains who the Lamb is and then John sees the Lamb, looking as if it had been slain. The Lion of the tribe of Judah refers to Gen 49:9, Jesus was descended from the tribe of Judah. Jesus is the root as well as descendent of David (Isa 11:1, 10; Mat 22:41 ff).

The ‘Lamb, looking as if it had been slain’ is a clear reference to Jesus, both John and Peter refer to Jesus being the Lamb of God (John 1:29, 36, 1 Pet 1:19), ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29). Paul call Jesus our Passover lamb who has been sacrificed (1 Cor 5:7).

The Lamb looked as if it had been slain, this is a reference to the crucifixion, but he is standing because he rose again. In one brilliant stroke John portrays his central theme of NT revelation–victory through sacrifice (Mounce).

The Lamb of God is alluded to in Genesis 22:7 when Abraham is about to sacrifice Isaac, Isaac asks where the lamb for the burnt offering, and Abraham replies ‘God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering my son’. He is the Paschal lamb of the Passover, Exo 12:3-21, when the destroying angel saw the blood of the Lamb on the lintels of the doors he passed over the Israelites and killed the firstborn of the Egyptians instead. Isa 53:3 ff. is one of many Messianic mentions of the lamb in the OT but it is probably the greatest, he describes the Messiah as ‘like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth’.

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