Sunday, July 12, 2009

Revelation Chapter 5, Part 2 - The Slain Lamb

Today we pick our study of Revelation chapter five with verse six.
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. 7 And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. 8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”
Revelation 5:6-10
We have just been told that the One who is worthy to open the scroll is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and John looks to the throne but what he sees in not a lion, but a lamb, standing as if slain. The Greek word here is arníon (lamb) and this is the first of twenty-nine times this word is used in the book of Revelation, and with the exception of Revelation 13:11 every one of these references is to Jesus. Robert Van Kampen, in his commentary of Revelation tells us that we will see the lamb in Revelation as, standing, worshipped, praised, wrathful, honored, sacrificed, as the provider, leader, husband of the bride, the temple and light, and on His throne. He then adds:
From these references, we can discern that the lamb is John’s title of choice for the Lord in the Revelation. In the common phrase, ‘the Lamb of God,’ a Greek synonym is used. Thus the term arníon is unique to the Revelation and the New Testament as a title for the Lord Jesus.1
By using the picture of the Lamb John has just given us another Old Testament picture of the Messiah. Warren Wiersbe writes:
In the two names Lion and Lamb we have the two-fold emphasis of Old Testament prophecy: as the Lion, Christ conquers and reigns; as the Lamb, He dies for the sins of the world. We cannot separate the suffering and glory, the crown and the cross.
He then adds:
In fact, the whole Bible could be summarized by tracing the theme of ‘the lamb.’ Isaac asked, ‘Where is the lamb?’ and John the Baptist answered, ‘Behold the Lamb of God!’ Now John writes, ‘Worthy is the Lamb!’ 2
So, we know that the Lamb is the Lord Jesus Christ, but we can learn several other important things from this brief passage in verse six: (1) that the lamb was slain is a picture of the redemptive work of Christ; His substitutionary death on our behalf. (2) That He is standing is a picture of His resurrection from the dead. (3) That He is standing also shows us that He is no longer seated, but is moving. Dr McGee writes here:
He is moving to power. He is coming to this earth. The judgment of the tribulation is about to strike the earth.3
(4) That He is standing between the throne is a picture of Him as the Righteous Judge – as the only One worthy to break the seals and to open the scroll He alone is able to Judge the world and everything in it.

Still in verse six, John tells us this Lamb has “seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God, sent out into all the earth.”

Horns in the Bible represent strength or power; Easton’s Bible Dictionary says:
This word [horn] is used metaphorically for strength (Deut. 33:17) and honor (Job 16:15; Lam. 2:3). Horns are emblems of power, dominion, glory, and fierceness, as they are the chief means of attack and defense with the animals endowed with them (Dan. 8:5, 9; 1 Sam. 2:1; 16:1, 13; 1 Kings 1:39; 22:11; Josh. 6:4, 5; Ps. 75:5, 10; 132:17; Luke 1:69, etc.). The expression “horn of salvation,” applied to Christ, means a salvation of strength, or a strong Savior (Luke 1:69). To have the horn ‘exalted’ denotes prosperity and triumph (Ps. 89:17, 24). To ‘lift up’ the horn is to act proudly (Zech. 1:21). Horns are also the symbol of royal dignity and power (Jer. 48:25; Zech. 1:18; Dan. 8:24). 4
Here in verse six we are told that John saw on the Lamb seven horns. As we have already seen numerous times in this book the number seven signifies completion, so what we are seeing here is that Jesus, as the Lamb of God, has complete power, glory, and dominion over all of creation.

The seven eyes, we are told, are the seven Spirits of God. This is a reference back to chapter one where John wrote, “…to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and was and is to come; and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne.” Since we discussed this in detail in chapter one I will not go into this one again here other than to add that the seven eyes sent out into the whole earth indicate:
The ability to see the ‘entire earth’ at the same time [and] indicates absolute sovereignty. Therefore the slain, but alive Lamb is both the absolute power, and sovereign of the earth.5
Verse seven says that He [Jesus – the Lamb] came, and He took it [the scroll] out of the right hand of Him [God the Father] who sat on the throne. Then in verse eight we see the response of those around the throne as the Lamb takes the scroll; once again we see spontaneous worship break out in the throne room of Heaven. This verse says that the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb.

This verse also tells us that the twenty-four elders each had something in their hands; here we are told that they each had a golden harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

Throughout the Old Testament we see harps associated with praise:
Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre; make melody to him with the harp of ten strings! 3 Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.
Psalm 33:2-3

I will sing a new song to you, O God; upon a ten-stringed harp I will play to you,
Psalm 144:9

Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp!
Psalm 150:3

This is actually the verse from which many have gotten the idea that we will all have harps in heaven. While this verse does not teach that it does let us know that the worship in heaven will be accompanied by music.

Next, harps are also representative of something else in the Old Testament – Prophecy. We can see an example of this in 1 Samuel and 1 Chronicles:
After that you shall come to Gibeath-elohim, where there is a garrison of the Philistines. And there, as soon as you come to the city, you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place with harp, tambourine, flute, and lyre before them, prophesying.
1 Samuel 10:5

David and the chiefs of the service also set apart for the service the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who prophesied with lyres, with harps, and with cymbals. The list of those who did the work and of their duties was:
1 Chronicles 25:1
Based upon these references (and many more) it is quite possible that what John was witnessing here is a worship service that was directed toward the Lamb who has just taken the scroll, praising Him for all of the prophecy throughout the ages that is now about to be fulfilled as He opens the scroll and take His rightful place as the Lord and Redeemer of all creation.

We also see from this verse that in addition to harps the elders also held golden bowls full of incense, which we are told, are the prayers of the saints. Again, if we look to the Old Testament we will learn that the use of incense was commonly associated with prayer. John MacArthur writes:
Incense was a normal part of the Old Testament ritual. Priests stood twice daily before the inner veil of the temple and burned incense so that the smoke would carry into the Holy of Holies and be swept into the nostrils of God. That symbolized the people’s prayers rising to Him.6

The following verse from Psalm 141 is a good example of this:
Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!
Psalm 141:2
We see another mention of the prayers of the saints in chapter eight where we read:
And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne,
Revelation 8:3
So what are these prayers that the elders are holding in the golden bowels? Robert Van Kampen writes that these prayers are prayers for vengeance because:
The only prayers of all the saints unanswered and contextually appropriate at this point are the prayers for vengeance.”7
Jesus has just taken the scroll ad He is about to break its seals. As the scroll is unrolled judgment will be poured out upon the earth and all of the suffering endured by the people of God since the beginning of time will finally be avenged.

Now as we move into verses nine and ten we are told that the four living creatures, and the twenty-four elders sang a new song to the Lamb; they sang:
And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”
Revelation 5:9-10
Notice that the verse says that this is a “new song.” Prior to this the only song sang was the song of creation, but now the song is the song of redemption. J Vernon McGee writes:
Praise is directed to the Lamb with the book. He is praised now as the Redeemer of men in all ages and races.8
And MacDonald and Farstad add:
In their new song, they acclaimed the Lamb as worthy to execute judgment because of His redemptive work on the cross.9
The song itself is an expression of worship; notice that it begins with the words, Worthy are You. Worthy here is the Greek word áxios, which means, “to weigh.” Dr. Zodhiates writes that this word is used of something with “inherent value as contrasted to… attributed value.10 This is a word of worship; to worship means to ascribe worth, and that is exactly what is happening here – they are ascribing worth to the Lamb of God.

They not only say that He is worthy they say what He is worthy to do, and in this case it is to take the book and break its seals. To break the seals is to open the scroll and enact the judgments within. Then they continue by stating why He is worthy to take the scroll and to break its seals. They say, “for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.”

The Greek word translated slain here is spházō, which means, to slaughter or butcher and it most frequently used of “victims for sacrifice.”11 So the song is indicating that the death, or slaughter, of the lamb was a sacrificial death. This verse also tells us for what purpose this sacrificial death occurred; this sacrifice was for the redemption of mankind. Notice that the song says “and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.”

The word translated purchased here is the Greek word agorázō. This word means to buy in its most literal form, but in speaking of this words use here John MacArthur writes that this word is:
[A] rich New Testament word for redemption that pictures slaves purchased in the marketplace and then set free.”12
This is the same thing that Peter wrote in his first epistle:
And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.
1 Peter 1:17-19
Notice also that it says the men He purchased with His blood are from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. These four terms (tribe, tongue, people, and nation) appear together four other times in the book of Revelation (7:9, 11:9, 13:7, 14:6) and let us know that these terms used together indicate a complete picture of humanity. Jamieson, Fausset, Fausset, Brown, and Brown point out in their commentary on Revelation that there is significance here also in the number four; they write:
The number four marks world-wide extension: the four quarters of the world. For “kindred,” translate as Greek, “tribe.” This term and “people” are usually restricted to Israel: “tongue and nation” to the Gentiles. Thus there is here marked the election-Church gathered from Jews and Gentiles.13
So from this we can know that Jesus has purchased a people for God from every part of humanity. The apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 3:28 “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” And we know from this passage in Revelation that we are all one in Christ Jesus because He purchased us with His blood.

Verse ten then tells us that He made those He purchased to be a kingdom and priests to God, and that they will reign on the earth. This is a repeat of what was said in verse six of chapter one, and as was noted there, a kingdom in its most basic sense is a group of people ruled by a king. What this verse here is telling us is that the redeemed are a kingdom because Jesus, the Lamb, purchased them and made them a kingdom. But it doesn’t stop there; the verse says He also made the redeemed to be priests to God. A priest is one who offers service to God; by saying that those He purchased are priests He is saying that they now have complete access to God. John MacArthur adds:

The present priesthood of believers (1 Pet. 2:5, 9) foreshadows that future day when we will have total access to and perfect communion with God.14

And lastly this song says that the redeemed will reign upon the earth. This is a reference to the millennial kingdom when Jesus will rule the earth for a thousand years. This verse is telling us that the Redeemed will not only be a part of His kingdom on earth, but will actually reign with Him.

Before we move on it must also be pointed out that there is a bit a disagreement among scholars when it comes to the interpretation of verse ten. The disagreement arises due to the way this verse was translated in the King James Version of the Bible. In the KJV the verse reads:

And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.
Revelation 5:10 (KJV)

Notice that the words “us” and “we” have replaced the words “them” and “they” in this verse. So the question arises: are the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders including themselves in the group of those who have been redeemed by the Lamb? Or are they sings praise to the Lamb for the redemption He purchased for us? If, as was pointed out in the previous chapter, these twenty-four elders are angelic beings, then the correct translation would be “them” and “they”; however, if these twenty-four elders are representative of either Old Testament saints, or New Testament believers then “us” and “we” would be appropriate. The problem that arises here is that the twenty-four elders are not the only ones singing; according to verse eight the four living creatures are also part of this choir, and we know for sure that they are angelic beings. We also know from Scripture that angels are not part of the redeemed, so I tend to agree with the translation in the NASB, but I will let you decide.

1 Van Kampen, Robert. Revelation Commentary Ch5 Pg3 (© Orlando Fl.: Sola Scriptura
2 Wiersbe, W.W. (1997, c1992). Wiersbe's expository outlines on the New Testament (810). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.
3 McGee J. Vernon (c 1983). Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee Vol.5 1 Corinthians-Revelation Pg.936 Nashville TN.: Thomas Nelson.
4 Easton, M. (1996, c1897). Easton's Bible dictionary. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
5 Van Kampen, Robert. Revelation Commentary Ch5 Pg4 (© Orlando Fl.: Sola Scriptura
6 MacArthur, J. J. (1997, c1997). The MacArthur Study Bible (electronic ed.) (Re 5:8). Nashville: Word Pub.
7 Van Kampen, Robert. Revelation Commentary Ch8 Pg2 (© Orlando Fl.: Sola Scriptura
8 McGee J. Vernon (c 1983). Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee Vol.5 1 Corinthians-Revelation Pg.936 Nashville TN.: Thomas Nelson.
9 MacDonald, W., & Farstad, A. (1997, c1995). Believer's Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments (Re 5:9). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
10 Zodhiates, S. (2000, c1992, c1993). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.) (G514). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.
11 Vine, W. E., Unger, M. F., & White, W. (1996). Vine's complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words (2:342). Nashville: T. Nelson.
12 MacArthur, J. (1999). Revelation 1-11 (172). Chicago: Moody Press.
13 Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., Fausset, A. R., Brown, D., & Brown, D. (1997). A commentary, critical and explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments. On spine: Critical and explanatory commentary. (Re 5:9). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
14 MacArthur, J. (1999). Revelation 1-11 (172). Chicago: Moody Press.

Next time we will pick up with verse eleven as we look at the Shouting Hosts.
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