Day 6: ‘I saw a Lamb, standing, as though it had been slain’
And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne.
What is it that makes Jesus able to open these scrolls? “Well,” we might reply “the fact he has overcome, he has conquered the powers of sin and darkness.” “Ah yes,” the response comes, “but what is it that makes Jesus a conqueror? How did he defeat the powers of sin and darkness?” I’m sure you’ve sat in job interviews and heard the phrase, “What makes you think you can do this job?” Let us therefore ask what qualifies Jesus to do this job of opening the scroll?
We find the answer in these two verses, which is worth narrowing the camera lens of our attention upon, if we are truly to grasp something of the meaning and significance of John’s vision for our lives. John turns expecting to see a mighty conquering Lion, but what he sees between the throne and the creatures and elders, approaching to be enthroned (3:21) is a Lamb, standing, as though it has been slain. The contrast couldn’t be any greater!
Jesus approaches the throne, living and standing, the resurrected One. He has ‘seven horns’, symbolising perfect and complete strength. He has ‘seven eyes which are the seven spirits of God’, symbolising Jesus’ perfect endowing with the all-knowing Spirit. Yet He combines the utmost power with the utmost self-giving. He is the Lamb, the first of 27 mentions by that name in the book of Revelation. The mention of Lamb clearly links Jesus with the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53, led like a ‘lamb to the slaughter’ (Isaiah 53:7), and with the slaughtered Passover Lamb of Exodus 12, slaughtered to redeem the firstborn son from the plague of death.
We must not miss the significance of this, even if we are familiar with these things. It is the cross that makes Jesus worthy to redeem a people, to bring God’s final judgement, and to usher in a new creation! It is his sacrificial, atoning death. Yes, Jesus conquered through the resurrection, praise God, and the resurrection is central to his victory. But don’t overlook the fact that the cross is a victory, it is the death of Christ that is at the centre of the heavenly drama in this passage. Notice, it is a past and secure event, Jesus is a lamb who was slain, yet the implications are continually before the throne of God. It is the Christ who laid his life down on the cross that is the centre of heaven’s attention and praise (9-10). And so, incredibly, the risen and ascended Lamb approaches the throne representing his people and takes the scroll from the right hand of the Father (vs. 7). Oh, that you and I would esteem the Christ of the cross the way heaven does!
To know why Jesus Christ is so precious, and why he is so glorious and good, and why all of history revolves around him, we need to look at that word: Lamb. As BB Warfield says, “It is not until we see in him a slaughtered Lamb with the smoke rising of an acceptable offering to God for sin, that we can see anything of the glory of Jesus Christ, or make any kind of application of him to our lives.”
You see,the cross is how Jesus redeems people. We stood under the fearful judgement of God and deserved the just punishment of our sins. We don’t deserve the blessing of God to be made a kingdom of priests, but the eternal Son of God took human flesh and took our place. He lovingly and willingly submitted to the punishment of the cross, in the perfect plan of the Father. There was no other way. How much the cross needs to be at the centre of our praises and thankfulness! What a place to start if you are dry and discouraged. The one who ‘loves us and frees us from our sins with his blood’ (1:5), died for us and loves us now.
Also, the cross is how heavens purposes are achieved. Notice that the One who sits on the throne and who has a purpose to display his glory and excellence to all creation, does so through a meek and dying Lamb – through the cross of Jesus. There is no other way, and if Christ has died and has approached the throne as the risen and ascended Lamb, we can be confident that God’s purposes will be worked out. Do you see how vital it is that the cross needs to be at the centre of our hopes and future plans as churches?
Lastly, the cross is how God’s people conquer. This would have been a great blessing to the persecuted and side-lined Christians who read John’s words at the time. If Jesus triumphed and overcame by suffering, so would they (3:21), and so will we! Those who ultimately triumph in the ravages of this dark age are those who conquer Satan by the ‘blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony’ (12:11). Christians are those who ‘follow the Lamb wherever he leads’ (14:4). Christians’ hearts are magnetized by the cross, they recognize Jesus as the one who suffered for them so lovingly, and they walk the way of the cross to future glory. We should never despair when we suffer, for Jesus suffered for us.
Come and praise Jesus as the slaughtered Lamb, and esteem him the way heaven esteems him. You are never closer to God the Father than when you are simply and humbly feeding your soul on the love of Jesus Christ on the cross. You are never more experiencing the work of the Holy Spirit than when you are humbly depending on Christ crucified and praising him. When we praise Jesus as the worthy and crucified Lamb, we and heaven are agreed on the same thing!
I will not boast in anything,
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ,
His death and resurrection.
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot given an answer,
But this I know with all my heart:
His wounds have paid my ransom.
Pray: Father, thank you that the Crucified and Risen Lord Jesus stands at the centre of heaven, the centre of eternity. May his loving sacrifice on the cross ever be at the centre of thoughts and affections. Amen.
Pete Campbell, Capel Fron, Penrhyndeudraeth