ST ANDREW’S OCCASIONAL PAPERS
THE LAMB UPON HIS THRONE
These words are actually the second line of that well known hymn, “Crown Him with many crowns.” This hymn is based on one written in the nineteenth century by Matthew Bridges but now incorporates verses by Godfrey Thring. There can be little doubt that Matthew Bridges had various passages from the book of Revelation, the last book in the Bible, in mind when he chose these words. We will return to this later.
- The sacrificial lamb.
From the earliest times, as recorded in the Bible, mankind has sacrificed animals to God. Indeed the first murder was occasioned by the difference in sacrifice between Cain and Abel. Abel brought “fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock” (Genesis 4:4), while Cain brought “some of the fruits of the soil,”(Genesis 4:3) which suggests that Abel took a lot more care over his offering than did Cain. Anyway Abel’s offering was accepted and Cain’s was not which made Cain very angry and as a result he attacked his brother and killed him.
However the main point is that the sacrifice of a lamb was seen as an acceptable offering.
When Moses, under God’s guidance set out the rules for sacrifice, various animals were deemed acceptable including a lamb. The precise instruction was, “If the offering is a burnt offering from the flock, from either the sheep or the goats, he is to offer a male without defect” (Leviticus 1:10).
It is very important to note the words “without defect,” such a lamb could no doubt be found among those in the flock, but the temptation to offer a damaged lamb as a cheaper alternative had to be rejected, it must be “without defect.”
But what was the purpose of these sacrifices? Moses explains that the one who offers the sacrifice “is to lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him” (Leviticus 1:4). The idea is basically simple. The one who brought the sacrifice was aware that he had sinned and the act of sacrifice transferred the sin to the animal, symbolised by his putting his hand on the head of the animal. Thus the man was acquitted, he was made at-one(-ment) with God.
- Jesus the Lamb.
Twice John the Baptist calls Jesus “the Lamb of God” (John 1:29,35). On the first occasion he explains why he used this great title, for he added, “who takes away the sin of the world!” He had been shown that Jesus was the one who was to die for the sins of human kind and therefore was to take the place of all the sacrificial lambs (etc.) that had been sacrificed in the past and were still being sacrificed at that time.
Peter picks up the same theme when he tells us that we “were redeemed … with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” (1 Peter 1:18,19).
4.Upon His Throne.
We have all seen either pictures of thrones or the real thing, thrones that can be very elaborate, made of very expensive materials, or very simple, little more than a chair. However, whatever the degree of adornment, the purpose is clear, it is to distinguish the leader from his subordinates, and often enough the leader will be the king or queen.
- Jesus the King.
When Jesus was on trial before Pilate, the first question that Pilate put to Him was, “Are you the king of the Jews?” (Matthew 27:11) because this was the accusation that the Jewish authorities had made. Jesus replied, “Yes, it is as you say.” Jesus was indeed the king of the Jews but not only of the Jews, Jesus is King of Kings, the King of all the earth. However, as Jesus later explained to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world…” (John 18:36). The kingdom of Jesus is a spiritual kingdom and all those who believe and trust in Him are its subjects.
Pilate must have been influenced by this because when he had the notice that was to be fixed to the cross above Jesus’ head written, he used words like “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” and refused to change them to please the Jewish High Priests. (John 19:19-22).
- The Lamb upon His Throne.
I said earlier that the hymn writer was probably influenced by various passages from the book of Revelation. Let us turn to one of these now, to chapter five.
We start by a vision of God the Father seated on a heavenly throne with a scroll, sealed with seven seals, in His hand. At first it seems that no one can be found who was worthy to open the scroll and look inside it. Then the cry goes up, “See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals” (verse 5).
However we are not shown a roaring lion but a Lamb, standing in the centre of the throne. And not just any old lamb, but one that was “looking as if it had been slain” (verse 6).
Clearly this lamb is none other than Jesus Himself, who can take the scroll and open it.
A chorus of heavenly creatures then sing songs of worship to the Lamb.
- A Lamb looking as if it had been slain.
uot;> Twice in the songs of worship which conclude Revelation 5 there is reference to the fact that the lamb who took the scroll was slain.
This emphasises the fact Jesus the Lamb came to this earth knowing that He would have to die upon the cross to accomplish the work that He had been commissioned by the Father to perform.
But although the Lamb who stands on the throne and who takes the scroll appears to be slain it is also clear that the Lamb is alive, or else it would be unable to stand or to take the scroll.
Thus the resurrection of Christ is also confirmed by the active presence of the Lamb.
This is so important because as St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (1 Corinthians 15:14).
Jesus died as a sacrificial lamb to take the place of you and me, and He could do this because He was sinless, a perfect sacrifice. But His sacrifice was not in vain because He rose from the dead to become the One who stands alongside us in the Heavenly Court and ensures that our sins, which are many, will not count against us because He Himself has paid the penalty (death) laid upon every sinner.
- “No King but Caesar”.
When Pilate asked the Jewish chief priests if he should crucify Jesus because He was their king, they answered that “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15). This travesty came about because they failed to recognise Jesus as the promised Messiah, who would indeed be the King they should have expected from all the messages in the prophets.
But they refused to recognise Him and instead pledged their allegiance to Caesar, the Roman Emperor. This did not help them very much when Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed by the Romans in A.D.70.
But the question that must be faced is whether we would have done any better. Here was an itinerant preacher who apparently could perform many different types of miracles, and who made great claims, particularly that He was the Son of God. He may have explained that He had come to serve His people to the extent of dying for them. All good things, but would we have accepted them as true and responded to Him in faith?
Would it have made any difference if we could have stood by the side of St. John and witnessed the scene described in Revelation 5? I hope it would have done.
We must be prepared to say that we have no spiritual king but Jesus Christ and to serve Him as our Lord.
Sometimes we tend to skip over little words and concentrate on what seems to be the major ones. However before we leave the subject of this paper I would like you to think about the little word “His.” Remember our subject is “The Lamb upon His Throne.”
So just whose throne is it? If we go back to Revelation 5, and compare it to chapters 4,7,11 and 19, we would probably say that the One who was sitting on the throne and therefore the One whose throne it was, was God the Father. Yet the Lamb who comes to open the scroll is described as “standing in the centre of the throne” (Revelation 5:6).
Thus it would seem that both the Father and the Lamb, who we also know as the Son, have a claim on the throne.
This is quite correct and so it adds to the evidence that the Lamb, Jesus Christ the Son of God, is truly God.
The Father is truly God, the Son is truly God and so is the Holy Spirit. Yet there is but one God. Our finite minds cannot unravel this, although many have tried. Perhaps it must remain an article of faith which we shall not fully understand until we do see God sitting on the throne, and maybe we shall not fully understand then, but this will not matter because we shall be safe in the heavenly arms of the Lamb upon His throne.
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version. © 1973,1978,1984, International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder and Stoughton, a member of the Hodder Headline Group. All rights reserved.