When the Lamb Steps Forward – (Part 1) – by Gary Stearman – www.prophecyinthenews.com
One day, all the created beings in the heavens will watch as the Lamb of God steps forward to open a seven-sealed scroll. When He does, He will be acting as the Divine Judge, who takes in His hands a sealed indictment — that sealed scroll. What is written upon it no man knows. But it must certainly include a list of charges accrued across the millennia by a depraved humanity. In the opening of its seals, the Lamb will right the wrongs of six millennia and establish peace and justice.
But why does Jesus appear in heaven as a lamb? In his work as Judge of the world, He would seem to be more accurately acting the part of the lion. And indeed, at His appearance, He is recognized by that title:
"And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof" (Rev. 5:5).
But when He actually receives the scroll, He appears as a Lamb, not a lion:
"And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth" (Rev. 5:6).
The Lion of the tribe of Judah is one of the most ancient of all biblical figures, going all the way back to Jacob’s prophetic blessing of his sons. He said, "Judah is a lion’s whelp …" (Gen. 49:9). Why did the Lion become the Lamb? The Bible provides an answer to this question, in the process, giving us an inside look, not only at the true meaning of sacrifice, but at God’s very nature.
The Lamb is not a mere figurehead … a stiff and lifeless symbol. He loves, feels pain, longs for relationship and expresses Himself in emotional language. What must He be thinking as He comes forward to take that fateful scroll? Surprisingly, His motives and goals are not concealed. He has, in fact, gone out of His way to make sure that humanity knows the thoughts of His very heart in detail. A bit later, we shall examine some of them. First, however, let’s look at the historical figure of the Lamb.
The symbol of the sacrificial lamb goes back to the very beginning of humanity, in the recounting of the acceptable sacrifice. Apparently, after Adam’s fall, the Lord had instructed him about what constituted an acceptable sacrifice for sin. We know this because his son Abel brought the proper sacrifice, prepared in a specific way, as described in the following Scripture:
"And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD.
"And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.
"And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD.
"And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering"
"But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell" (Gen. 4:1-5).
The rest of the story is well known, as Cain’s jealousy grew to violent anger that led to the murder of Abel. This event might well be described as the first war in history, with Abel being recorded as the first casualty. From that time to the present, mankind has been engaged in an unending war for supremacy, or for acceptance in the sphere of power. War is man’s primary institution.
Almost forgotten in the conflict between Cain and Abel is the lamb. Its role as the atoning sacrifice is central to humanity’s survival, is a prophetic archetype that runs through the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. Scripture progressively reveals the submissive lamb as the way to victory over sin and evil. In fact, the lamb represents the absolute opposite of taking power and possessions by force. It is the very emblem of selfless sacrifice.
At key points in biblical history, the lamb emerges again and again as the key to the Lord’s plan of redemption. The "sacrificial lamb" has become a universal cliché. But biblically, the lamb appears at historically significant moments, to certify the relationship between God and man.
It is next seen, for example, in the covenantal transaction between Abraham and the Lord on Mount Moriah:
"And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?
"And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together" (Gen. 22:7,8).
In the heart of Abraham, the sacrifice had already been accomplished. Never did Abraham tell Isaac that he was to be the sacrifice. Rather, he told his beloved son that God would provide "a lamb."
All this happened on the mountain known as "Moriah," which means, "appearing of Jehovah." Thus, the Bible recognizes this as the mountain where Jehovah appeared to Abraham, and would appear again in the days of David and Solomon. This is where the Temple was built.
The sacrifice provided by the Lord was not merely a lamb, it was a ram, trapped by its horns in thick underbrush. Abraham took it and laid it upon the altar. To him, it must have seemed a greater and fuller sacrifice than a mere lamb. In fact, it was only a foreshadowing of the greater sacrifice to come.From this scene on Mount Moriah, we leap forward half a millennium to about 1450 B.C., and the period of the Exodus. This wonderful event centers about the blood of the lamb, which is painted upon every Israelite doorpost. This crucial identification spared Israel from the visiting angel of death, called the "destroyer" in Exodus 12:23. He passed over their houses, instead, inflicting death upon Egyptian homes.
But on this night – the first Passover – the lamb is more than mere sacrifice. It becomes the symbol of relationship, the common experience of the Israelites, and remains so to this day. The flesh of the lamb was roasted and quickly eaten on the night of the fourteenth day of the first month:
"Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats:
"And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.
"And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it.
"And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it" (Ex. 12:5-8).
From the first, Passover was a family institution, intended to bring Israel together around the promise of freedom in the Messianic Kingdom. To this day, its customs are annually repeated, but only the shankbone of the lamb is present on the Seder table. After the Romans razed the Temple, the sacrifice of the lamb abruptly came to a halt.
John Sees the Lamb
And of course, the reason for this is well known. The Lamb had offered Himself on that last Passover, taken with His disciples on the night of His arrest and trial. This act instituted the Lord’s Supper, in which the Lamb became the actual leader of the ancient tradition. But it must also be remembered that Jesus appeared at the beginning of His public ministry as the Lamb without blemish, just as He ended it as the Lamb sacrificed for sin.
His role is publicly announced by John the Baptist:
"John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not;
"He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.
"These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.
"The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (Jn. 1:26-29).
Acting in the spirit of Elijah, John announced the appearance of the long-awaited Messiah. His public statement might have invoked many promises and historic references. But he didn’t. He simply introduced the Lamb. Priests and Levites had crossed the Jordan to question John. He denied being the great prophet promised by Moses. He also denied being either the Messiah or Elijah. But truly, John was a prophet, who now prophesied the coming of the Messiah. He didn’t announce Jesus as King or prophet. Nor did he mention Jesus’ link to the royal tribe of Judah, dating back to the House of David. Instead he simply called Him "the Lamb of God."
Israel’s leaders had no way of mentally linking the Passover lamb to the Messiah. Even though the Old Testament symbol of the Lamb foreshadows Jesus’ finished work, the prophets had never referred to the coming Messiah as a lamb. The blood of the Lamb as a Messianic idea is clearly developed only in the New Testament.
Certainly, Isaiah referred to Him in this way, but never actually connected Him with the Passover or atonement:
"He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth" (Is. 53:7).
So, John’s announcement of the Lamb brings a new dimension to the mission of the Messiah. He comes as the personification of the atoning sacrifice, as the remedy for the sin which has crippled the world. From the very beginning, the Bible recognizes Him in this role. Now, John announces it publicly. But of course, no one understands what he is saying.
John’s prophecy at the Jordan River continues, adding a further note about the identity of the Messiah. John was born six months before Jesus, a fact probably known to Jerusalem authorities, and certainly to a number of faithful Jews. Yet he declares that Jesus came before him, adding that the Lamb is confirmed by the Holy Spirit of God, and is the very Son of God:
"This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me.
"And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.
"And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.
"And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.
"And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God" (John 1:30-34).
Jesus’ first disciples were drawn by John’s repeated statement that this was the Lamb of God. They were spiritually drawn to a great new idea, which they had no way of understanding:
"Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples;
"And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!
"And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.
"Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou?
"He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour.
"One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother" (John 1:35-40).
What must these two have thought as they heard John’s ecstatic words. Was this really the Messiah? But John didn’t call Him that. He didn’t say, "Behold your Messiah!" In fact, he withheld the full truth. Instead of the office of the Messiah, he emphasized the role of the Messiah in redemption. John prophesied the mission that Jesus would perform, and the way that He would perform it, as the Passover sacrifice.
The two disciples mentioned here are identified in the context of John’s declaration. It is most interesting to see that they had no difficulty in connecting the concept of the Lamb with that of the Messiah:
"One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.
"He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ" (John 1:40,41).
Doubtless, they didn’t fully understand the connection. In fact, Scripture tells us that when Jesus later told them that He must die and depart from them, they refused to accept the idea. He openly told them that He must "… be killed, and be raised again the third day" (Matt. 16:21). He sternly rebuked Peter, who resisted the simple truth that the Lamb must die to complete the sacrifice for sin. But it must be remembered that for those alive at the time, Jesus’ mission was fraught with riddles.