Revelation 5: Who is the “Lamb as it had been slain” and what does this symbolism mean?

By Richard D. Draper and Michael D. Rhodes

This post is excerpted from The Revelation of John the Apostle.

That the phrase is introduced by the comparative article hōs, “as” or “like,” does not mean the Lamb only appeared to be slaughtered, but that it had actually been slaughtered and now stood alive. The image, therefore, carries the force of two theological motifs, that of death and resurrection. The Greek verb used, sphazō, “slaughter,” refers to the act of sacrificing. John could have had the Paschal lamb in mind. If so, he was tying the image to Israel’s Egyptian exodus which stood as a prototype of ultimate and final victory through the Messiah. Indeed, Jewish apocalyptic looked to a conquering lamb which was to appear in the days of the final judgment to destroy all evil. Through this powerful symbol, Revelation underscores a central theme of the New Testament: victory through sacrifice. Indeed, it would appear that the Lamb was mortally wounded in the act of defeating his enemy, thus showing that the act not only redeemed but also conquered. The Lamb prevailed not by sovereign might but by sacrifice grounded in love (see John 16:33). It is worthy because, expressing its love even to death, it purchased God’s people with its own blood. The vision’s metaphor emphasizes both the high value of those it purchased, costing it its blood and life, and the universality of the Lamb’s action in redeeming all the faithful from death and hell.