One of the main thrusts of Scripture is to present God’s redemptive program for mankind. The centerpiece of this monumental program is Jesus the Lamb. From Genesis 3 to Revelation 22, this gentle and submissive Lamb looms large. He is the central figure of the Bible.
Jesus is identified by numerous names and titles and is described in many different and curious ways, but none more amazing than a four footed meek, mild, passive and submissive lamb. After all, is Jesus not deity? Did He not bring everything that exists into being? Is He not the one who sustains the world? Does He not have all the attributes of God? Yet He is described as a lamb and a sacrificial one at that.
It goes without saying, Jesus obviously is not a four footed animal, but is presented as such metaphorically. He has the characteristics of a lamb.
The Lamb Slain in Eternity Past
“Forasmuch as ye know that you were not redeemed with corruptible things… But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb… who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world…” 1 Peter 1:18-20.
“And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him [antichrist], whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” Revelation 13:8
How amazing! Consider the fact that God is indeed just that – God. As such, there is absolutely nothing that escapes His knowledge even before occurrences take place. Knowing beforehand the wretched decision that would be forthcoming from His finest creation, He did not retreat from His master plan, but rather went forward with the creation of man (Genesis 2, 3; Psalm 8).
With the sovereign will of God, along with his infinite abilities, one can be sure, that which He defines or decides will be accomplished. He will provide redemption for mankind through Jesus, the Lamb.
The Lamb Slain in the Old Testament
It is God Himself who immediately introduces the necessity of a blood sacrifice as the plan of redemption unfolds. Most likely the skins of the animal provided for Adam and Eve came from a slain lamb (Genesis 3:21). After all, was that not His declaration before the foundation of the world?
Soon to follow was the storyline of God’s “whosoever will” offer. Cain represents the unrighteous of the world while his brother Abel symbolizes the redeemed of the world. Abel was counted righteous, or accepted by God, not because of His own merits, but due to his embrace of the redemptive plan of God typified in the blood of a slain lamb which satisfied God (Genesis 4:3-5).
How beautiful is the account of Abraham and Isaac’s heart wrenching portrayal of God the Father giving His only Son whom He dearly loved. Embedded in this faithful act of Abraham is the prophetic answer he gave to his son Isaac; “God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering” (Genesis 22:1-12).
One of the clearest foreshadowing events portraying the slain Lamb is found in one of the oldest religious festivals or rituals still being observed to this day. It is the Jewish feast of Passover. The definition of the word passover is “sacrificial victim.” Viewing it in its context of Exodus chapter twelve, it tends to leap off the page in light of God’s compassionate declaration concerning the slain Lamb. Exodus 12:11 states “. . . it (the lamb) is the LORD’S Passover (sacrificial
victim or offering).”
Perhaps the personification of the lamb in Isaiah 53 is the most telling in all the Tenach (Old Testament) in relationship to the slain Lamb.
The prophet Isaiah records “the LORD bath laid on him [God’s servant the Messiah] the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter…” (Isaiah 53:6-7).
The Lamb Slain in the New Testament
“John seeing Jesus coming unto him, saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” John 1:29
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
From the beginning of earth’s history until the entrance of Jesus into humanity, the recognition of who is the Lamb and when would this Lamb fulfill God’s grand redemptive plan remained a mystery. Then, in culmination of all that the Old Testament revealed about the need of the Lamb, the New Testament begins with the statement that Jesus the Christ (Messiah), the son of David, the son of Abraham has arrived on the scene. He was the one who would provide salvation for His people by redeeming them from their sins (Matthew 1:1, 21).
John’s account of Jesus’ crucifixion included this most pertinent statement, “…Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith…It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost” (John 19:28, 30). He thus became the slain Lamb declared by God before the foundation of the world.
Two more scriptural passages confirm and identify the slain Lamb. The first is the account surrounding Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch. While engaging the Eunuch, Philip recognized that he was reading Isaiah 53 which spoke of the slain lamb. In response to the Eunuch’s burning question “of whom speaketh the prophet?”, “Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus” (Acts 8:34-35). Second is the Apostle Paul’s exhortation to the Church in Corinth. In 1 Corinthians 5:7 he seeks to move these early believers in Christ to live a sanctified life. In doing so, he reminds them that “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.” Here again confirming that Jesus is the “slain Lamb” who enables redemption to take place.
The Lamb Slain During the Tribulation
“…Weep not: behold, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Root of David, bath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. And I beheld, and lo, in the midst of the throne… stood a Lamb as it had been slain…And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne…And they sung a new song, saying. Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof for thou wast slain, and has redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people and nation;” Revelation 5:5-9
What would normally be spoken of as an oxymoron actually explains the age long controversy the Jewish people have regarding the God ordained ministry of the Messiah. They have refused to embrace Jesus as their Messiah because their Messiah is to be a victorious king; one who will establish the Messianic Kingdom promised to Israel. Since Jesus came as a suffering lamb and was far from overtaking the Roman Empire, he could not be the Messiah. So goes their thought pattern. In fact this passage as well as that which follows in chapters 6:1-12 and 8:1 unite the suffering Messiah (slain Lamb) and the work of the reigning, kingly Messiah. The seven sealed scroll (book) referred to here unleashes God and the Lamb’s wrath upon the earth. Note that each of the seven seals are opened by the Lamb and therefore initiate the entire fall out of the seven year Tribulation that follows (Revelation 5:5-13; 6:1,3,5,7,9,12 & 8:1).
At the same time, we must not lose sight of the fact that the ministry of the “slain Lamb” will be in high gear during the tribulation. Revelation 7:9-17 speaks of a great multitude which stands before the throne of God and the Lamb. They are identified as those who will come out of the great tribulation and is based upon the fact that they have been washed in the blood of the Lamb. It is possible, and in this author’s mind, probable, that they are the fruit of the ministry of the 144,000 young Jewish men from each of the 12 tribes of Israel (Revelation 7:1-8).
The Lamb in the Future
And these shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is the Lord of lords, and King of kings: …” Revelation 17:14
“And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron:…And he bath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING of KINGS, and LORD of LORDS.” Revelation 19:15-16
The Lamb shall overcome the last world power, led by the beast/Antichrist, the dictator of the fourth and final Gentile World Empire (compare Revelation 17:10-13; 16:14; 19:16 & Daniel 7:13-14). Add to this that the Tenach (Old Testament) unambiguously prophecies that the Messiah will set up His Kingdom on the earth and sustain it (Isaiah 9:6-7; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Psalm 2:7-9; Psalm 110:1-3).
Even though the eternal future with God and the Lamb is currently beyond our full comprehension, it still provides a sense of unlimited confident hope. Believers will experience the sheer joy and jubilation of living with the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb as the center of their existence. God and the Lamb is the true Temple and their glory will provide a source of light that will be so splendid and bright that there will no longer be a need for the light of the sun and the moon. All of our needs will be supplied beyond what we could ever desire. The curse of sin that the earth and its inhabitants experienced will be gone forever. Instead, the throne of God and the Lamb will be present and exalted. The believer will see His face and His name shall be in their foreheads (Revelation 21:22-23; 22:1-5).
The Lamb’s Book of Life
The only way to be permanently exempted from the eternal wrath and judgment of the Lord God Almighty is to be inscribed indelibly in the Lamb’s book of Life. Without this assurance, one is left to defend his indefensible position before God at the “White Throne Judgment.” This calls for a judgment based upon one’s works and merits. The major problem at this point, is that according to God it is impossible to achieve this goal (Revelation 20:11-15; 2127; cf. Ephesians 2:8-10).
This was the precise reason why God’s mercy and love was necessary to enter into the picture. And it did so through the redemptive program of Jesus, the “slain Lamb.” Ever since the fall of Adam and Eve and running through to the end of the Messianic Age (Millennial Kingdom), every human being will be confronted with a choice. Some will embrace the Lamb who was sacrificed for their sins and thus be entered into the Lamb’s book of life. The remaining will inherit eternal damnation in the Lake of Fire, because they have failed to embrace the only means of satisfying God’s holiness, righteousness and justice (John 3:16-18).
The above article, “Messiah as the Lamb: Eternity Past to Eternity Future” was written by Stan Rosenthal. The article was excerpted from Israel’s Messenger magazine. Winter 2010.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”