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)
Previously: A mighty angel – Rev. 5:2-4
Rev. 5:5 – Then one of the elders said to me, “Stop crying. Look! The Lion from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has been victorious so that He may open the scroll and its seven seals.” 6Then 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. 7He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of the One seated on the throne (HCSB).
John’s cries of anguish are about to end. Just when he despairs that the hidden plans of God are about to remain hidden, one of the 24 elders – probably representatives of redeemed people throughout the ages – steps forward and simply says, “Stop crying.” Literally, John has described himself as one who “kept on shedding many tears.” Warren Wiersbe writes, “No wonder John wept, for he realized that God’s glorious redemption plan for mankind could never be completed until the scroll was opened. The redeemer had to be near of kin, willing to redeem, and able to redeem. Jesus Christ meets all of the qualifications. He became flesh, so He is our Kinsman. He loves us and is willing to redeem; and He paid the price, so He is able to redeem” (The Bible Exposition Commentary, Re 5:1).
But what tone does the elder take in addressing John? Is he annoyed, as if the apostle is a sniveling crybaby? Is he grieved because John lacks faith that a worthy kinsman will step forward? Or is he an over-excited observer who happens to be the first to catch a glimpse of the glorified Messiah? Probably neither of these explanations will do. It’s more likely that the elder, understanding John’s desperate sorrow, seeks to comfort and encourage him. “The elders in heaven round God’s throne know better than John, still in the flesh, the far-reaching power of Christ” (A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments, Re 5:5).
We might imagine the elder’s voice as firm but gentle. We can almost see him lay a warm and steady hand on John’s convulsing shoulder. His rebuke – if there even is one – is mild, followed quickly by the imperative to “look!” What follows quickly turns John’s sense of foreboding into unspeakable joy. The elder identifies the Redeemer as the lion from the tribe of Judah and the Root of David. John then describes Him as one like a slaughtered lamb. In our next post, we will look more closely at these three descriptive titles for Jesus.
Next: The lion from the tribe of Judah (Rev. 5:5)