|CHRISTIAN LIFE AND DOCTRINE||March 1999|
Worthy Is the Lamb
“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.”
JOHN THE BAPTIST, our Lord’s forerunner, baptized the people of Israel for repentance, reinstating them into their covenant relationship with God, and preparing them for the Messiah. He also “bare witness of him [Jesus].” (John 1:15) The witness John gave of Jesus is recorded in John 1:19-34. Included in that witness was the identification of Jesus as the Lamb of God, “which taketh away the sin of the world.” (vs. 29) In the early part of this first chapter of John we are given an insight into the prehuman existence of Jesus, who, as the Logos, was the Father’s spokesman. It was the Logos who “was made flesh, and dwelt among us” so that we could behold his glory as he assumed his role as the Lamb of God. (John 1:14) The Logos was ‘a god’ (mighty one) but not ‘the God’.—Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott, Interlinear
WHEN GOD WAS ALONE
In the distant past of eternity, when God was alone, he desired something. When one thinks of the power and wisdom of God, could he not, if he desired something, just command and it would become a reality? Not in this instance. For the Heavenly Father to gain that which he desired required a plan that embraced many ages, really eons of time. This is because his wisdom, love, and justice directed a specific course of action which would in no way violate his character.
The Heavenly Father desired a family on his own spiritual plane of existence—the Divine nature. This is suggested in many scriptures. One that is especially impressive is the 132nd Psalm. This psalm, written by David, shows his great concern because there was not a permanent resting place for the Ark of the Covenant. David wrote: “Lo, we heard of it at Ephratah: we found it in the fields of the wood.” (Ps. 132:6) He was so desirous of building a habitation [a temple] for God that he used a vivid illustration: “Lord, remember David, … how he sware unto the Lord, … I will not give sleep to mine eyes, or slumber to mine eyelids, Until I find out a place for the Lord, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob.” (vss. 1-5) Then he beseeches God not to turn “away [from] the face of thine [his] anointed.”—vs. 10
JESUS, THE ONLY BEGOTTEN SON
This seems to indicate David was reminding the Heavenly Father that to David’s son was promised the honor of sitting on the throne of David as the specially anointed one. God repeats his promise for David’s reassurance: “The Lord hath sworn in truth unto David; he will not turn from it; Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne.”—Ps. 132:11
There is more detail given in II Samuel 7 concerning David’s desire to build a house for the Lord. The answer God sent to David through the Prophet Nathan was as follows: “When thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men: But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee. And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever.”—II Samuel 7:12-16
It might appear from these words that Solomon, David’s son, would fulfill this prophecy. Certainly, parts of the prophecy are applicable to him, such as building a literal temple, and being chastened if he committed iniquity. These words: ‘I will be his father, and he shall be my son’, and that his kingdom will be established forever, are the main thrust of the prophecy, and they prophetically apply only to Jesus.
THE SLAIN LAMB
The Lord Jesus was destined to receive a nature like that of God, his Father. In order to accomplish this, God made possible a testing ground—this planet, Earth—to insure that the Logos, (Jesus in his prehuman existence) could prove to be worthy of such a reward. It is for this reason that Jesus is called “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Rev. 13:8) The part that Jesus would play as the Lamb of God in providing the ransom was a main factor in God’s plan from the beginning.
Another objective of the permission of evil on the earth has been to demonstrate the bitter fruit of following an evil course. Hence, when the kingdom begins to function, and those who do righteously are rewarded, they will be able to distinguish between good and evil. It will also serve as a lasting lesson for all of God’s intelligent creation. All will be able to contrast the exceeding sinfulness of sin with the perfection, majesty, and grandeur of God’s righteous law. Those who receive life will have willingly chosen a life of obedience—there will be no need to force them into the decision.
A DIVINE NATURE
For one to receive the Divine nature, as promised to Jesus, required especially stringent measures and testing to the uttermost. To be on the highest plane of existence means one has life within oneself. Such could not die.
What a frightening thought if Satan had possessed such life! Hear the chilling account of his selfish, evil desires: “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer. … For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, … I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.”—Isa. 14:12-15
God would violate his own law if he created one on such a high plane without having previously crystallized his character in righteousness by severe testing. The Scriptures indicate that the most glorious being ever created was our Lord Jesus in his prehuman existence. The Apostle Paul speaks of him as “the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth.”—Col. 1:15,16
Yet, to be raised from the dead in “the express image of his [the Father’s] person” (Heb. 1:3) required testing of a severe type in the presence of evil. The Apostle Paul states, “though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.” (Heb. 5:8) We realize Jesus was obedient before he came to earth, and he was also obedient as a child and a man. Just what does it mean, ‘he learned obedience’?
THE TEMPTATION OF JESUS
This suggests that obedience to righteousness became a fixed or crystallized part of his character because it was willingly exercised in the presence of many testings, such as privation, suffering, and finally a cruel death. The account of Satan’s temptations in the wilderness illustrates how Jesus always sought to know the Father’s will and to be obedient thereto. He was tempted along the same lines that we are—that is, by the world, the flesh, and the Devil.
Jesus was tempted to use his unique power of performing miracles to satisfy his own fleshly needs. We read that he was very hungry because of fasting, and then Satan suggested, “If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.” (Matt. 4:3) He knew the use of miracles was to glorify the Father and show forth the glories of the kingdom. How clear his answer: “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matt. 4:4) In other words, Jesus was saying: ‘My miracles are not to be used to sustain myself but to glorify the Father; my food and natural needs will come by the Father’s providences’.
“IF THOU BE THE SON OF GOD”
Next, “the wicked one” (I John 5:18) suggested a dramatic demonstration by Jesus so that he would be recognized immediately as from God. Satan even used scripture to make it sound acceptable. Satan suggested that Jesus cast himself from a pinnacle of the Temple and land unharmed in the street. He said to our Lord: “If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.” (Matt. 4:6) Jesus’ answer was clear and scriptural, because his heart intention was right. He replied: “It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.”—vs. 7
God had not instructed Jesus to do such things as a means of revealing himself to the devout of Israel as their Messiah. Jesus had been instructed in the Word to preach the truth, heal the sick, open the blind eyes, unstop deaf ears, raise some of the dead. This was how he was to be recognized as the Messiah—not by asking the Father to rescue him unharmed in a dramatic action, such as jumping from the pinnacle of the Temple.
Satan persisted in his tempting. He suggested to the mind of Jesus the glory of the then existing kingdoms and said, “All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” (Matt. 4:9) Our Lord was firm in his decision, saying: “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.”—vs. 10
Thus Jesus was tempted to use worldly tactics, which are Satan’s, to further his ministry. With our Lord’s perfection of mind and body, he could have charmed the rulers of his day. In our time men speak of some politicians as having “charisma.” This means that such leaders have special personal charm and appeal. Jesus, however, knew so well the Father’s will for him. That will was not for him to captivate and maneuver people to accomplish ultimate ends; nor should this be our motivation.
THE WITNESS OF JESUS
He was to preach the clear truth of the coming kingdom. The Father would determine and draw those who would be the followers of our Lord. Jesus said, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” (John 6:44) He was to “preach the Gospel to the poor, … to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4:18,19) This very ministry alienated him from the leaders of his day and eventually led to his death.
The final tests that came upon Jesus occurred during his last night on earth as a man. He and his disciples were in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus knew his imprisonment was near. Peter had a sword and used it in an attempt to prevent our Master’s being harmed.
“Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:11) Just think of this final cup of sorrow! The High Priest had him scourged, the Roman soldiers placed a crown of thorns on his head, mocked him, spit upon him, and nailed him to the cross to hang until he died. It was prophesied of him: “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and … he openeth not his mouth.”—Isa. 53:7
How differently would the princes of the world have acted toward our Lord if they had known the truth! If they had known only of his prehuman existence, they would have stood in awe of him, and adored him. If, when seeing him, they had known that in time he would become a Divine immortal being seated at the right hand of God, they would have fallen prostrate at his feet.
OUR LORD’S KNOWLEDGE
When Jesus walked among the children of men after his baptism, he alone knew the awesome truth that he had been with the Father in ages past. He knew the prophecy of Micah which told not only of his human birthplace but also of his relation to the project of Creation. Micah wrote, “Thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting [the days of eternity.]”—Micah 5:2, Marginal Translation
The expression ‘days of eternity’ suggests that point in eternity when our Lord was “the beginning of the creation of God” (Rev. 3:14), and to him was committed the project of Creation. As the Apostle Paul states of him in Colossians 1:15,16, “[He] is … the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth.”
As he traveled through Israel in his ministry, this knowledge of his prehuman existence must have, by faith, had a profound effect on him. At night he would sometimes absent himself from the disciples for prayer. What thoughts must have coursed through his mind as he saw the stars shining in the black velvet of night—he had been there!
WORTHY IS THE LAMB!
Now his task upon earth was about to be completed. Jesus knew that God would reward him with a Divine nature, yet in his prayer he said, “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” (John 17:4,5) He did not drive a bargain with his Father by saying, ‘I have done my part; now you are to give me a Divine nature’. All he asked was to return to the glory he had before as the Logos.
God, however, was anxious to have a Divine family of his own, and Jesus was to be the first of these sons. His position would be unique, as the Apostle Paul describes: “He raised him [Christ] from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come.”—Eph. 1:20,21; Phil. 1:6-11
In the Second Psalm, God tells how he has set his Son to be King, and declared a decree: “Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.” (Ps. 2:7) The Hebrew word translated ‘begotten’ is yalad, which is a principal root meaning both ‘to bear young’ and ‘to beget’. One might think that this prophecy was referring to the begettal of the Lord Jesus by the Holy Spirit upon his immersion in the river Jordan. The Apostle Paul, however, clarifies the matter in Acts 13:33,34, quoting this verse in Psalm 2 as the equivalent of our Lord’s resurrection to the Divine nature.
God’s people of the present time are aware of our Lord Jesus’ glory, and on every occasion they glorify his name. The world, and many who have espoused the Christian faith, do not know this. In the heavens, the angelic beings know. The pageantry of the events bearing on our Lord’s successful completion of his test is presented in Revelation 5:12, with the angels saying, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing,” which is our theme text. Jesus was the beginning of the “eternal purpose” of God “which he [the Father] purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Eph. 3:11) Without Jesus none of God’s plan could be achieved.
The angels proclaimed Jesus to be ‘worthy’. The next verse is prophetic, and speaks of the time when “every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.”—Rev. 5:13
What a wonderful day that will be!