In Revelation, the exaltation of the lamb is based on his past Death and Resurrection, the immovable foundation of his present reign.
The sacrificial death of Jesus and his consequent exaltation are prominent in Revelation, for His death and resurrection form the book’s foundation. God’s plan to redeem humanity and the creation through His messiah is unveiled in its visions, and the death, resurrection, and the enthronement of the “Lamb” put it into action. His exaltation is the result of his faithful obedience and sacrificial death.
In Revelation, Jesus is not the “roaring lion of Judah” or a tyrant who violently subjugates his enemies, but the “Lamb who was slain,” who now is “shepherding the nations,” redeeming men and women from every “tribe and people and tongue” by his own shed blood.
At the outset of the book, he is identified as the “faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the Earth.” To bear “faithful witness” points to his death, by which he bore witness to the world. “Firstborn of the dead” refers to his resurrection – (Revelation 1:5-6).
As the direct consequence of his death and resurrection, Jesus became the “ruler of the kings of the earth.” His “faithful testimony” in death demonstrated his fitness to reign over the earth and its political powers.
In the first vision, John saw him as the glorious figure “like a Son of Man.” The language alludes to the passage from 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 is described 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 his subsequent exaltation – (Daniel 7:13-14, Revelation 1:12-20).
Though he reigns from the Throne of God, he remains the one who died and rose from the dead. Therefore, he has full authority to unveil to the churches “what things must come to pass soon.” In the first vision, it is that Jesus who is presented as the priestly figure who walks among the “seven golden lampstands” in the sanctuary of God, trimming wicks and replenishing the oil of each “lamp.”
The exalted “Lamb” encourages, corrects, and chastises his churches as needed, and assures eternal rewards to every saint who “overcomes.” And saints who do “overcome” participate in his reign, “just as I also overcame and took my seat with my Father in his Throne.” He “overcame” by enduring the Cross. Likewise, believers overcome the Devil “by the blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimony, and because they love not their lives even unto death” – (Revelation 3:20-21, 12:11).
The theme of his “overcoming” through death is central in the vision of the “sealed scroll.” God’s redemptive plan could not be put into effect until the scroll was unsealed and its contents unveiled. After an exhaustive search, the only one in the entire Cosmos found “worthy” to open it was the “Lamb who was standing as slain,” Though he was declared the “Lion from the tribe of Judah,” he fulfilled that messianic role through his sacrificial death – (Revelation 5:6-10).
From that point forward in the book, “Lamb” becomes the dominant title applied to Jesus, a total of twenty-eight times (4 x 7). In contrast, he is called “Christ” seven times, and “Jesus” fourteen times (2 x 7), all multiples of seven. The label “Lamb” stresses the theme of victory through self-sacrificial death. He is never described as the “lion of Judah” again.
The “Lamb” was “slain.” The latter word translates the Greek participle esphagmenon from the verb esphagō, the term used for animals “slain” in religious sacrifices. The participle is in the Greek perfect tense, signifying an action completed in the past with results continuing into the present – “He has been slain.”
Upon arriving before the Throne, the “Lamb” took the “sealed scroll” from the “right hand” of the “One Sitting” on it. Then, the heavenly choir declared him “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 book, it is the “Lamb” who acts in concert with the “One 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 6:16-17, 7:9-17, 14:1, 14:10, 15:3, 21:22-23, 22:1-3).
In the seventh chapter, John saw an innumerable multitude of men from every nation standing before the Throne and the “Lamb,” proclaiming loudly, “Salvation to our God who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb!” They were exiting 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, where 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 were achieved through Jesus, the “Lamb who has been slain.”
In the vision of the “Great Red Dragon,” John saw the Devil poised to destroy the male figure about to be born from the “woman clothed with the sun.” Identified as the “son,” he was the Messiah who was destined “to shepherd all the nations with a scepter of iron.” Before the Dragon could destroy him, the child was “caught away to God and to his Throne,” resulting in “war in heaven.” Consequently, Satan was defeated and expelled from heaven – (Psalm 2:7-10, Revelation 12:1-11).
In the interpretation of the vision, the “Great Red Dragon” is Satan. He was banished to the earth and lost his prosecutorial power. The “son” who was “caught up to the Throne” is “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” – (Revelation 12:9-11).
The vision of the “son caught up to the Throne of God” portrays the same reality as the vision of the “slain Lamb” who was standing before the Throne. In both images, the victory of the saints was proclaimed because of the death of the “Lamb.”
Later, John saw 144,000 thousand males standing victorious with the “Lamb” on “Mount Zion.” Each had the name of the “Lamb” and of 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” were those “who had been redeemed from the earth” and “followed the Lamb wherever he went.” 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” – (Revelation 5:9-12).
The book culminates in the vision of the “holy city, New Jerusalem.” All God’s enemies were defeated, sin and death were no more, and overcoming saints inherited everlasting life. The victory was total. Nevertheless, in the final vision, Jesus is still 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 vision of the Throne is central to the book, especially its focus on the “slain Lamb” who achieved victory and received sovereignty. He is the one who unveils and implements the redemptive purposes of God.
By means of his death, the “Lamb” fulfilled the role of the Davidic Messiah, became the “ruler over the kings of the earth,” and redeemed men and women from every nation, constituting them the promised “priestly kingdom.” Thus, his exaltation over all things is based on his obedient sacrificial death, and on his consequent resurrection.
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