The description of Jesus as the Lamb is probably the most important description of Jesus in
the Book of Revelation. It makes a strong statement of the deity of Christ as well as powerfully
describing the totality his work, particularly his dual role as both redeemer and judge. The word
'lamb' joins together the seemingly contradictory truths of Christ’s suffering and his victorious
power. Jesus, who is lord of all, and is worthy of our worship, is also the Christ who was crucified to
redeem his people. The word for lamb is used twenty-eight times in the Book of Revelation. It was
originally a diminutive form, meaning ‘little lamb’, which suggests the vulnerability of the
defenceless lamb on the altar of sacrifice. It describes the Jesus who was the sacrifice to attain the
redemption of his people, who still bears the marks of his suffering, but who is also the risen and
victorious Messiah who will come again in judgement.
Old Testament background
A sheep was the animal most frequently sacrificed under the Levitical system. Every year,
over a thousand lambs were sacrificed in the regular offerings (Num 28-29). The lamb, like all
regular offerings, had to be without blemish (Lev 1:10, 22:17-25), and was acceptable as atonement
(Lev 1:4). At the first Passover, an unblemished lamb was sacrificed and its blood placed on the
doorpost of the houses so the angel of death would ‘pass over’ the houses with the blood of the lamb
(Ex 12:23). The Passover became the most important festival in Israel, as they remembered God
rescuing his people from bondage in Egypt. In the NT, Jesus is described as the Passover lamb (1
Cor 5:7), thus making this connection with the original Passover. The most significant passage about
a lamb was Isaiah’s description of God’s righteous servant (Is 53), where he was described as a lamb
being led to the slaughter, who took the penalty for our sins as a substitutionary sacrifice (Is 53:7,11). In his gospel, John clearly identified Jesus as the suffering servant of God by quoting from Is 53:1 (Jn 12:38).
The initial appearance of the Lamb in the throne-room scene (ch 4-5)
The Lamb is first introduced in chapter five, during the second part of the magnificent
throne-room scene (ch 4-5) which forms the setting for the opening of the seven seals (ch 6-7). This
passage is probably the most significant description of the Lamb in the whole book, and brings a
powerful message of the deity of Christ, both to John’s original readers and to readers today.
In chapter five, John sees God holding a scroll with seven seals in his right hand, and a
mighty angel asks the question, “Who is worthy to open the scroll?” (5:2). The scroll probably
contains God’s plans for the destiny of the world. Only the Lamb is worthy to execute the will of
God, as he is the centre of God’s plans for the world. No one is found worthy to open the scroll,
except the lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David (5:5). These are a combination of two
Messianic titles, describing the totality of the Messianic hope in the OT. The lion of Judah comes
from Jacob’s final blessing of each of his twelve sons, where he describes Judah as a lion’s whelp,
and promising that the sceptre shall not depart from Judah (Gen 49:9-10). This established Judah as
the kingly tribe, from whom the Messiah would come, pictured as a powerful ruling king. The root of
David comes from Isaiah’s prediction of a shoot coming out from the stump of Jesse (the father of
David), who will be empowered by God’s Spirit (Is 11:1-2,10). Isaiah was predicting that from the
fallen royal family of David a new king will rise up. He looked forward to an ideal Messianic king
who will be the son of David and will defeat evil, rule with righteousness and establish peace in the
world (Is 11:3-9). Paul quoted this as a Messianic description (Rom 15:12). The elder proclaims that
this ruling lion of Judah and root of David has conquered (5:5), and because of this he is has the
authority to open the sealed scroll.
Evidently expecting to see a lion, John then saw a lamb that had been slaughtered (5:6).
Instead of the strongest animal, the king of the beasts, he saw the what could be considered the
weakest and most pathetic animal, a slain lamb with its throat cut as in a sacrifice. This verse gives a
profound revelation of the paradoxical heart of Christian theology. This image takes the Jewish hopes
and expectation of their Messiah as king and son of David, and sees their fulfilment in the sacrifice of
Jesus as the Lamb of God. This represents the central theme of the NT, the revelation that victory
comes through sacrifice. The picture of the lion and the lamb shows that power comes from
weakness, and ruling comes through suffering (2 Cor 12:9). The lion of Judah conquered because the
Lamb was slaughtered (5:5,6,9). His conquering comes through a sacrificial death. This would have
been a powerful message to the original readers, that they too will conquer the forces of darkness
even if they give their lives sacrificially in martyrdom, maintaining their faithful witness to Jesus.
The Lamb is described as having seven horns and seven eyes (5:6b). Horns are often used as
a symbol of strength and power in Revelation, and the number seven denotes perfection or
completeness. So for the Lamb to have seven horns shows that Jesus is all-powerful. The seven eyes
are defined as being the seven spirits of God (5:6). Earlier in the throne-room scene, they are also
depicted as seven flaming torches before the throne of God (4:5, 1:4). This is almost certainly
symbolises the Holy Spirit, implying that through the Holy Spirit, Jesus is all-seeing and all-knowing.
After the Lamb took the scroll, the living creatures and elders fell in worship before the
Lamb, singing that he is worthy to take the scroll (5:8-9). The Lamb is worthy of worship because it
was slaughtered (v9), and by his blood he ransomed saints from every tribe, language, people and
nation. The word 'worthy' is a key word in this throne-room scene: God is worthy of worship
because he created the world (4:11), the Lamb is worthy to open the seals (5:9), and worthy of
worship because he was sacrificed (5:12). Through the next chapters, it is the Lamb who opens each
one of the seven seals on the scroll (6:1,3,5,7,9,12, 8:1).
The blood of the Lamb
The Lamb is first introduced as one that had been sacrificially slaughtered (5:6), showing that
victory has come through his death. His sacrificial death for our sins is also described twice in the
book by the phrase “the blood of the lamb”. The great multitude before the throne are described as
those who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (5:14). This
paradoxical concept of making robes white by washing them in blood is a vivid pictorial description
of the forgiveness of sin and cleansing made available to all who believe. It uses the Greek aorist
tense which shows that this cleansing is a single action which took place in the past, but which has
continuing effects. The dragon (Satan) is conquered by the blood of Lamb and word of their
testimony (12:11). The death of Christ on the cross defeated Satan and caused him to be expelled
from heaven, as well as giving victory to the believers who maintain their faithful witness to him
even in the face of martyrdom. The lifting up of Christ on the cross brought judgement to the world,
the overthrow of Satan and the inauguration of the kingdom of God (Jn 12:31-32).
The victory of the Lamb
The victory song sung by the believers who conquered the beast by not worshipping its image
is called the Song of Moses and the Song of the Lamb (15:3). This is a song of deliverance and
victory, praising God for his righteous acts of redemption. There are many parallels between this
song and the original song of Moses following the crossing of the Red Sea (Ex 15), which was
regularly sung on Sabbath evenings during the synagogue service, so would be very familiar to Jews.
The deliverance celebrated by Moses and the Israelites foreshadowed the greater deliverance
achieved by the Lamb. Through his sacrifice, Jesus the Lamb of God conquered the world (Jn 16:33),
and his followers can celebrate with him.
The deity of the Lamb
The Book of Revelation makes many profound statements about the deity of Jesus. It
proclaims that the Lamb is equal with God by using the same titles, names and descriptions of the
Lamb as it does for God the Father. Both God the Father and the Lamb are described as being on the
throne. The great multitude stand before the throne (where God sits) and before the Lamb (7:9). The
Lamb is given an equal position with the Father. He is with God and is God (Jn 1:1). The river of the
water of life flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb in the heavenly city Jerusalem (22:1,3).
Both God and the Lamb are on the throne as the rulers of the universe. The Lamb first appeared
between the throne and the four living creatures (5:6) and the Lamb is described as being at the centre
of the throne (7:17) where God sits. The great multitude cry out that salvation belongs to God who is
seated on the throne, and to the Lamb (7:10).
Both God the Father and the Lamb are seen as those who brought salvation, which was
achieved through the sacrifice of the Lamb, followed by his resurrection and exaltation to power and
glory. In similar proclamations by the redeemed, salvation is linked with glory and power (19:1), and
with the coming of the kingdom and authority of the Messiah (12:10). Salvation is seen as a work of
both the Father and of the Son. In a similar way, Paul also described both God and Jesus as the
Saviour (Titus 1:3-4), and that God showed his love to sinners through Christ’s death (Rom 5:8).
Again, this demonstrates the deity of Jesus as the co-saviour with the Father.
The Lamb is described as being Lord of lords and King of kings (17:14), the name inscribed
on the robe and thigh of the rider of the white horse (19:16). In Deuteronomy, God is described as
God of gods and Lord of lords (Deut 10:17). This title should be seen in contrast to the Roman
Emperor, Domitian, who claimed to be 'Lord and God' and Saviour of the world. Only the Lamb
can truly claim this title as he is both the redeemer of the world and the one who has conquered evil
through his sacrificial death.
The 144,000 standing on Mt. Zion with the Lamb had his name and his Father’s name written
on their foreheads (14:1). Again the Lamb and the Father are being placed in equality with each
other, strongly showing the deity of the Lamb. As Jesus himself said, “I and the Father are one” (Jn 10:30), and “to know me is to know the Father” (Jn 14:7). The Book of Revelation affirms the great truths about the deity of Christ stated elsewhere in the New Testament.
Worship of the Lamb
The deity of the Lamb is also shown in the frequent worship scenes. One of the great themes
of the book is worship, and it contains many songs of worship sung to God and to the Lamb.
Humanity is divided into two groups, between those who worship the beast and receive his mark
(14:9), and those who worship the Lamb and receive his seal (14:1). The readers of the book are
urged to remain faithful to Jesus and not worship the beast. In several places John describes the
heavenly worship of the Lamb and of God the Father together. To worship the Lamb is to worship the
Father, and to worship the Father is to worship the Lamb. There is absolutely no competition between
them. At the climax of the throne-room setting for the seven seals, every creature in heaven and earth
is singing worship to God seated on the throne, and to the Lamb (5:13). The Lamb is worthy of
seven-fold (complete and perfect) praise because he was slaughtered (5:12).
The Lamb and his people
The Lamb is described as being the shepherd who will guide the great multitude who have
come out of the great tribulation to the springs of the water of life (7:17). Jesus is the good shepherd
who lays down his life for the sheep (Jn 10:11), and who will lead them to the Father (Jn 14:6).
Immediately after the revelation of the dragon (ch 12) and the two beasts (ch 13), which demand
worship and persecute the believers who refuse to worship it (13:12,15), John received a vision of the
Lamb standing on Mt Zion with 144,000 of his people (14:1). In stark contrast to the inhabitants of
the earth who worship the beast and receive its mark on their foreheads, which is the name of the
beast (13:16-17), the Lamb’s people worship him and have his name and the Father’s name on their
The Lamb’s people are described in several ways. Firstly, they have not defiled themselves
with women, for they are virgins (14:4). It is best to interpret this as meaning spiritual purity, and
abstinence from sexual immorality. They resist being seduced by the whore Babylon, with whom the
kings of the earth commit fornication (17:2). Elsewhere, the believers are described as the bride of
Christ and those invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb (19:7,9). They are also described as those
who follow the Lamb wherever he goes (14:4). This is a vivid description of Christian discipleship,
showing complete commitment and devotion to Christ. They have been redeemed from humankind as
first-fruits for God and the Lamb (14:4). In the OT, the first-fruits of the harvest was considered
holy and was dedicated to God (Ex 23:19). Here, the church belongs to God, and is consecrated to
him, and should be free from human entanglements. We should also note that the church belongs to
both God and the Lamb, again showing the deity of the Lamb.
The marriage of the Lamb
The Book of Revelation continues the picture developed in the prophets (eg. Is 54:5, Ezek 16,
Hos 1-2), the gospels (eg. Matt 22:1-10, 25:1-13), and the letters (eg. Eph 5:25-33) of the relationship
between God and his people being described as husband and wife. The people of God are described
as the bride, the wife of the Lamb (21:9), in contrast to the people of the beast described as the whore
(17:1). John is invited to see the bride, the wife of the Lamb (21:9). The church is both the pure and
spotless bride of Christ, as well as enjoying the intimacy with Christ as the wife of the Lamb. The
heavenly rejoicing following the judgement of the whore Babylon declares that the marriage of the
Lamb has come (19:7), and proclaims a blessing on those invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb
(19:9). The believers are pictured as both the bride and the guests at this great feast, which should be
seen in contrast to the great supper of God at which the unbelievers are the food! (19:17-18). The
marriage supper pictures the full coming of God’s reign and the consummation of his kingdom
achieved at the second coming of Christ. In the present time the church is the bride of Christ, eagerly
anticipating her marriage when the bridegroom comes to take her to be with himself.
The Lamb’s book of life
In the description of the beast that demands worship, it is stated that all the inhabitants of the
earth will worship it, those whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb (13:8). This
divides humanity into two groups: those who worship the beast, whose names are not in the book of
life, contrasted with those who do not worship the beast, whose names are written in the book of life.
The book of life can be seen as the register of those who have been saved by faith in the crucified
Lamb of God. The Lamb knows who belongs to him. God sovereignly planned the sacrifice of his
Son even before the creation and fall of mankind, so in no way should salvation be seen as an after-
thought. In a similar way, Peter stated that Christ was destined before the foundation of the world (1
Pet 1:20). The sacrifice of the Lamb was planned by God for all eternity. Later, in the description of
the heavenly city, it is only those written in the Lamb’s book of life who may enter the city (21:27),
anyone whose name is not in the book of life will be thrown in the lake of fire (20:15). Just as Paul so
strongly and consistently states in his letters (eg. Rom 3:21-22), salvation is not on the basis of
works, and justification is only to be found through faith in the Lamb.
The battle against the Lamb and his people
The Book of Revelation vividly describes the great battle between good and evil. It shows
that even though evil appears to be victorious, it is certain that the believers will share in the Lamb’s
final victory over the forces of evil, because of his sacrificial death. The enemies of Christ, including
the beast and the kings of the earth make war on the Lamb, but the Lamb, together with his called,
chosen and faithful people, will conquer them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings (17:14).
Participation in his victory depends not only on divine election, but also on continued loyalty and
commitment to him. The only time the word 'lamb' does not describe Jesus is when the beast from
the earth is described as having two horns like a lamb (13:11). This second beast is also referred to as
the false prophet (19:20), who deceives people, calling them to worship the first beast (13:12-14).
The wrath of Lamb
The Book of Revelation focusses on the central role the Lamb played in the act of redemption
associated with his incarnation, but it also describes his future role. In two places, John describes the
wrath of the Lamb, indicating that the slain Lamb will also be God’s agent in the final judgement on
God’s enemies. The sixth seal describes the great day of wrath, including the cosmic catastrophes
characteristic of OT descriptions of the Day of the Lord (6:12-14). Different groups, including the
rich and powerful, attempt to hide on the great day of wrath, calling the mountains and rocks to fall
on them and hide them from both the face of God (the one seated on the throne), and from the wrath
of the Lamb (6:16). In another judgement scene, the angel announces that those who worship the
beast and receive his mark will drink the wine of God’s wrath, and be eternally tormented in the
presence of the Lamb (14:10). The Lamb will be the witness of God’s punishment of the wicked,
especially those who reject him in this life and persecute his followers. Jesus, at his coming, as the
rider on the white horse, will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty
The Lamb in the heavenly city Jerusalem
As the book reaches its climax in the vision of the heavenly city Jerusalem, the Lamb is
mentioned seven times (between 21:9 - 22:5). The fundamental message is that the heavenly city
Jerusalem is where God and the Lamb are in their glory, and where his people will be with him
eternally. There is no temple in the heavenly city, because it does not need one. The temple is the
Lord God Almighty and the Lamb (21:22). The city is cubic (21:16), rather like a huge holy of holies
(1 Kg 6:20), the place where God dwelt in his glory in the OT. The city is full of the glory of God
and of the Lamb. He will dwell with his people (21:3), and they will see his face (22:4). The Lamb’s
people will be priests and kings in the heavenly temple (1:6). In the city, the sun and moon are
replaced by the glory of God and the Lamb (21:23, 22:5), as Jesus is the true light of the world (Jn
1:9, 9:5). The shekinah glory of God and the Lamb fills the city, just as it filled the original
tabernacle (Ex 40:34). The city also contains the throne of God and of the Lamb (22:1,3). The city is
built on the foundation of the twelve apostles of the Lamb (21:14), just as the church is built on the
foundation of the apostles and prophets (Eph 2:20).
In the Book of Revelation Jesus is introduced as the Lamb that was slain. This title becomes
the most distinctive description of Jesus, portraying one paradox between his suffering and his
victory, and another paradox between his humility and his kingship. It is also used as a profound
statement of his deity, showing his equality to God the Father, and therefore worthy of our worship