Rev. 5:12 – They said with a loud voice: The Lamb who was slaughtered is worthy to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing! (HCSB).
The word “worthy” appears four times in the chapter, and each time it is connected with the Lamb who is slaughtered. It is hard to imagine an unworthy Jesus. He existed in eternity past as the perfect second person in the triune Godhead – the uncreated Creator – and He lives today as the exalted and holy Son of God. Even His 33 years on earth were unmarred by the slightest impropriety. So when was He ever unworthy?
There are two truths we need to examine to answer this question. First, Jesus has always been sinless. The fact that He “became sin for us” (see 2 Cor. 5:21) does not mean He became a sinner, any more than a sacrificial lamb becomes a liar, thief or murderer at the time his throat is cut and his blood is spilled as an atonement for a person’s sin. Jesus bore our sins and became guilty of them on our behalf yet retained His sinless perfection. Those who argue that the Son of God became a sinner on the cross misread scripture and denigrate the perfection of the Father’s plan and the Son’s obedience.
Second, while Jesus has always been sinless, being worthy requires something more; it requires identifying that for which someone is worthy. Throughout the New Testament, we see people who are worthy to receive the disciples into their homes (Matt. 10:11); unworthy to be a disciple of Jesus (Matt. 10:37); worthy to have Jesus perform a miracle (Luke 7:4); and worthy of honor (1 Tim. 6:1). The Greek word axios carries with it the idea of something that is weighed to evaluate its fitness or appropriateness. On the cross, Jesus is “weighed” and found uniquely qualified to bear the sin debt of mankind. Now, in heaven, as He approaches the Father, He is the only One who is “worthy” to reclaim the world, which for far too long has been Satan’s domain.
Notice that Jesus is proclaimed worthy of seven-fold tribute. Few on earth ascribe these qualities to Him during His earthly ministry because He has set them aside in His humiliation. Note how the apostle Paul describes Jesus in His incarnation: “Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead he emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross” (Phi. 2:5b-8).
Simply stated, the heavenly host exclaims that Jesus is worthy to receive:
- Power. The Greek word here is not the same as “authority.” Jesus announces after His resurrection and before His ascension that “all authority” in heaven and on earth has been given to Him. But the word used here is dynamis, from which we get the English word “dynamite.” He not only holds authority over all creation; He has the power to vindicate His holiness and punish evil.
- Riches. During His earthly ministry, Jesus shows no interest in building personal wealth (but a great deal of interest in teaching stewardship). He has no place to lay His head, and He must borrow on donkey on which to ride triumphantly into Jerusalem. Today, He still has no need of bank accounts or investment portfolios, for like His Father He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. Heaven is a place where every desire is graciously met, and every desire is toward the King, even to the point where redeemed people cast the very crowns He has given them at His feet.
- Wisdom. Accused of being mad, or even demon-possessed, Jesus endures the slander of those who are wise in their own eyes. Often in scripture we are warned about the wisdom of this world, and of the fools who claim to be wise (Rom. 1:22). But the creatures in heaven around the throne worship “the only wise God, through Jesus Christ” (Rom. 16:27).
- Strength. Unable to carry His own cross up the rocky incline of Golgotha due to the severity of His physical abuse, Jesus today not only saves His own but keeps us by His infinite power (1 Peter 1:5), and we rest in the strength of His promises. The Greek word here is ischys, which may be translated “capability.” As the writer of Hebrews puts it: “He is always able to save those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to intercede for them” (Heb. 7:25).
- Honor. Despised, spat upon, denigrated, Jesus suffers the most painful and humiliating form of death known to the Roman world – crucifixion – yet today He is seated at the Father’s right hand, in the highest place of honor. This is not merely the honor of receiving human accolades or ascending to universal fame; this is the honor of approaching the Ancient of Days, taking from His hand the title deed to earth, and having all creation remember the words uttered long ago from this very throne, “This is My beloved Son, I take delight in Him!” (Matt. 3:17).
- Glory. His humble life, many sorrows and inglorious death are now replaced by the glory of heaven’s throne room. Though Jesus once aside His glory to put on the flesh and live among sinful people, He remembers, in the hours before His sacrifice, His former position next to the Father and prays, “Now Father, glorify Me in Your presence with that glory I had with You before the world existed” (John 17:5). It happens just as Jesus prays, and John sees it in his vision.
- Blessing. As He walks the dusty roads of Galilee, Samaria and Judea, Jesus blesses others while on the cross He becomes a curse for us. Today, as exalted Savior, He is to receive all blessings from the grateful recipients of His grace.
Matthew Henry remarks, “He is worthy of that office and that authority which require the greatest power and wisdom, the greatest fund, all excellency, to discharge them aright; and, He is worthy of all honour, and glory, and blessing, because he is sufficient for the office and faithful in it” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, Re 5:6–14).
Next: I heard every creature (Rev. 5:13-14)
Rev. 5:6 – Then I saw one like a slaughtered lamb standing between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent into all the earth (HCSB).
John sees Jesus as “one like a slaughtered lamb” (v. 6). He stands near the throne and amidst the four living creatures and the elders. He has seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God. Is this really how the exalted Son of God looks – like a baby sheep with multiple horns and eyes? Of course not. John is using apocalyptic language to describe the same person he earlier depicted as having white hair, eyes like blazing fire, feet like fine bronze, and a mouth giving way to a two-edged sword (Rev. 1:14-16). So, what’s the significance of these new traits?
Let’s look first at the lamb. Jesus is called “the Lamb” nearly 30 times in the Book of Revelation. The Greek word literally means “a little pet lamb,” and the meaning becomes clear as we follow the lamb through scripture. Jesus identifies Himself to John as “the Living One” who was dead but now is “alive forever and ever” (Rev. 1:18). This is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The Lord’s Servant, as Isaiah depicts Him, is like a lamb led to the slaughter (Isa. 53:7), bearing the iniquities of all mankind:
He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities, punishment for peace was upon Him, and we are healed by His wounds. We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and the Lord has punished Him for the iniquity of us all (Isa. 53:5-6).
The apostle Peter writes:
For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from the fathers, not with perishable things, like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the times for you …” (1 Peter 1:18-20).
John’s view of Jesus as a slaughtered lamb is not to be taken literally but conveys to his first-century readers – and to us – the key truth that Jesus’ suffering and death is both a great sacrifice and a great victory. God became flesh and died for us, defeating Satan and his works and reclaiming all that was lost in Adam’s fall. How vulnerable, how defenseless Jesus made Himself for us – just like a sacrificial lamb. Yet God the Father was “pleased to crush Him” (Isa. 53:10). Jesus, in His humanity, “learned obedience through what He suffered” (Heb. 5:8). And, “for the joy that lay before Him,” Jesus “endured a cross and despised the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne” (Heb. 12:2).
One other note: It is significant that the resurrected and glorified Jesus bears the marks of His crucifixion. John’s description of Him as “a slaughtered lamb” (v. 6) is consistent with Zechariah’s prophecy of the glorious appearance of the Messiah, who has been “pierced” (Zech. 14:10). It’s also in tune with Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances, in which He invites followers like Thomas to both examine and touch His wounds (John 20:27). But why does Jesus retain earthly scars when we are assured perfect bodies in the future? Two reasons seem clear. First, Jesus’ scars are an everlasting testimony of His sacrifice for us. Second, we are cautioned that many false Messiahs will arise; when Jesus returns, His crucifixion scars will identify Him as the true Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8). Surely John’s description of Jesus as a slaughtered lamb resonates with believers of all ages.
But what about the seven horns? In scripture, horns symbolize great power. David pens these words after the Lord rescues him from his enemies: “The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my mountain where I seek refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation” (Ps. 18:2). In Daniel’s vision of the four beasts (Dan. 7), the 10 horns on the fourth beast symbolize 10 kings. And in Zechariah’s night visions, he sees four horns, symbolizing the power of Israel’s enemies (Zech. 1:18-21). No doubt, the seven horns on the slaughtered lamb in John’s vision portray the full power of deity that resides in Jesus.
Finally, we read that the Lamb has seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent into all the earth. As we learned earlier, the phrase “seven spirits” ties back to Rev. 1:4 and may be translated “the seven-fold Spirit,” likely a reference to the Holy Spirit. Christ has “received the Holy Spirit without measure, in all perfection of light, and life, and power, by which he is able to teach and rule all parts of the earth” (Matthew Henry, Re 5:6-14). The emphasis here seems to be on Christ’s place in the Godhead and His authority as the One who has all the fullness of the Spirit (see Isa. 11:2-5). The number seven represents fullness or completeness; it is the number of God. No doubt the Lamb’s knowledge and authority extends through all the earth.
Warren Wiersbe summarizes well the portrayal of Jesus as the Lamb: “The description of the Lamb (Rev. 5:6), if produced literally by an artist, would provide a grotesque picture; but when understood symbolically, conveys spiritual truth. Since seven is the number of perfection, we have here perfect power (seven horns), perfect wisdom (seven eyes), and perfect presence (seven Spirits in all the earth). The theologians would call these qualities omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence; and all three are attributes of God. The Lamb is God the Son, Christ Jesus!” (Re 5:1).
Next: Worthy is the Lamb (Rev. 5:8-10)