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The Vision of St. John the Divine: The Interrelationship of God and the Heavenly Lamb

I write on diverse religious issues, often analysing perspectives from the Abrahamic faiths (Jewish, Christian, Islamic, and Bahá’í).

Realm of the unknown

Realm of the unknown

God and the Lamb

In previous articles, it was demonstrated that the One who sits on the throne in heaven and is described as “God” in the Apocalypse of John is not the Omnipotent Creator of the universe but rather the Christ who is awaited on earth at the end times. It was also argued that the Lamb of the Apocalypse is not Jesus Christ of Nazareth but a Holy One with a comparable Messianic mission.

We now explore the interrelationship between the two Entities— “God” and “the Lamb” —of John’s Apocalypse.

(Note: All biblical references in this article are from the King James Bible.)

The Shared Roles of God and the Lamb

We begin by reviewing the shared attributes, roles, and functions of the Lamb and the One on the throne (known in the Apocalypse as “God”).

Shared Roles: The Seven Spirits

The Holy One on the throne, we are told, has “seven Spirits,” represented by “lamps of fire” before the throne:

…behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne…. and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. (Revelation 4:2-5)

Yet intriguingly, the “seven Spirits” are also associated with the reality of the Lamb:

…in the midst of the throne… stood a Lamb… having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. (Revelation 5:6)

This leaves no doubt that the One on the throne and the Lamb are inextricably linked.

Shared Roles: A Divinely Ordained Revelation

New Holy Book

Both the One on the throne and the Lamb are connected to one and the same holy book, as the 5th chapter of the Apocalypse, seems to demonstrate. It all begins with a book in the hand of the One on the throne:

And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals. (Revelation 5:1)

A question was asked:

Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. (Revelation 5:2-3)

Although “no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon” (Revelation 5:4), it did not take long for the Lamb to step forward:

And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne. (Revelation 5:7)

That act of taking the book drew praise from those assembled. But it was not only the “beasts” and “elders” surrounding the throne that “fell down before the Lamb” to sing “a new song” in gratitude, worship, praise, and adulation, the circle of his worshippers also widened to involve “many angels round about the throne” numbering “ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands”. It exploded to eventually embrace “every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth” —all of them saying: “Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.” (Revelation 5:8-13)

And then the Lamb proceeded to open the seals one after the other.

We can conclude from what transpired that the book with the seven seals is not the Gospel, but a new and highly potent revelation worthy of adulation by the denizens of heaven and earth. And both the One on the throne and the Lamb are connected to this divine revelation.

Every creature in heaven and on earth to applaud the unsealing of the holy book

Every creature in heaven and on earth to applaud the unsealing of the holy book

Water of Life

Both the One on the throne and the Lamb are also connected to the “water of life,” of which the Word of God is unquestionably its embodiment:

And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. (Revelation 22:1)

A pure river of the water of life, clear as crystal

A pure river of the water of life, clear as crystal

Source of Spiritual Guidance

Moreover, they jointly are the source of spiritual illumination for all people. This speaks to their common role as revelators and spiritual guides for mankind:

And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it…. there shall be no night there. (Revelation 21:23-25)

Shared Roles: A New Divine Order

New Song

What adds to the certainty that the book held by the One on the throne is a new revelation is the singing of a new song when the Lamb stepped forward to open and unseal it:

And they [the beasts and elders] sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof…. (Revelation 5:9)

Elsewhere, the Apocalypse talks of “a new song before the throne” that “no man could learn” but those “redeemed from the earth”:

…and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. (Revelation 14:2-3)

Of course, in prophetic language, such numbers as 144,000 are primarily symbolic. What is of importance for our discussion here, though, is the mention of “a new song” that is known only to the redeemed few. The old song that would have been more widely known, would apparently have become obsolete.

All Things New

When you combine the singing of a “new song” with the other new things that are promised elsewhere in the Apocalypse— “new name,” “new Jerusalem,” “new heaven… new earth” (Revelation 2:17, 3:12, 21:1-2)—the conclusion you arrive at is that the appearance of the Christ on the throne and the Lamb by his side will be an occasion for a new order of things—new divine arrangement, new covenant, new religious dispensation, and new spiritual cycle.

This reality is underscored by the explicit statement from the One on the throne:

And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new…. these words are true and faithful. (Revelation 21:5)

Shared Roles: Centres of Adoration

The reader must have noticed from the foregoing that both the One on the throne and the Lamb are worshipped and praised at one and the same time and that their influence is universal. Indeed, they are both at the very heart of worship throughout the whole earth, as the following attests:

And 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. (Revelation 5:13)

Temple Personified

Moreover, the One on the throne (known as Lord God Almighty) and the Lamb both constitute “the temple” of a remodelled society—implying the centre of worship for all the inhabitants of the earth:

…and the street of the city was pure gold…. And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. (Revelation 21:21-22)

Shared Roles: Spiritual Sovereignty

That the Lamb exercises spiritual sovereignty is underscored by the outcome of his engagement in a metaphorical war against his detractors, as described thus:

These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful. (Revelation 17:14)

But, as we showed in a previous article, the One on the white horse (who happens to be the same One on the throne) is also endowed with immense sovereignty:

And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. (Revelation 19:16)

So that settles the matter. Both the Lamb and the One on the throne are endowed with tremendous spiritual sovereignty.

Shared Roles: The Great Day of Judgment

The Day of Wrath can be interpreted as the long-expected Day of Judgment. Such a Day is blessing and grace for the righteous; it is all mercy for those who are “called and chosen”. Yet for the faithless it is nothing but punishment; it is indeed wrath for those who reject and turn away.

The interesting thing is that at the centre of affairs of that fateful Day are both the One on the throne and the Lamb:

And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand? (Revelation 6:15-17)

Summarising the Shared Roles of God and the Lamb

  • They are both associated with the same seven Spirits.
  • They share the same holy book.
  • They share the same new spiritual dispensation.
  • They are both centres of adoration and worship.
  • They both exercise spiritual sovereignty.
  • They are both at the centre of affairs on Judgment Day.

The Divergent Roles of God and the Lamb

So, it is not only the One on the throne who represents the end-time Christ. The Lamb also projects Messianic characteristics even if it is not to the same degree. Yet although they both share many attributes, roles, and functions in common, some other roles and functions are divergent or are exercised to differing degrees—as to be expected.

What is clear from analysing the vision of John is that the Lamb plays a supportive but subordinate role to the One on the throne. This comes out clearly from several of the scenes depicted.

Divergent Roles: The Primacy of God

While the Lamb exercises overwhelming sovereignty as “Lord of lords, and King of kings,” the One on the white horse (who is the same One on the throne) exercises sovereignty and overlordship to a superlative degree as “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”

This and other scenarios show that the One on the throne enjoys primacy in relation to the Lamb in what must be a joint spiritual enterprise.

Divergent Roles: The Precedence of the Lamb

Yet even though the One on the throne and the Lamb are engaged in a joint spiritual enterprise, it seems clear that the specific role played by the Lamb precedes that of the One on the throne.

One Holy Book, Two Revelators

For instance, the two are associated with a common book (as earlier described) that passes from the One on the throne to the Lamb. And yet the one who unseals it is the Lamb. The process of unsealing the book is akin to revealing its contents and introducing its themes. This, presumably, is what then constitutes “the bride” of the Lamb (Revelation 21:9).

So, there is one book, but its revelation and unveiling are initiated by the Lamb—presumably, to be completed by the One on the white horse (identical to the One on the throne) who, as John described it, is “The Word of God” (Revelation 19:13).

The First Fruits

With the revelation of the Word having been initiated by the Lamb, it should not be a surprise that “the firstfruits” of disciples also appear through him:

And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads…. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. (Revelation 14:1-4)

The “redeemed from among men,” having God’s “name written in their foreheads” “follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth.” This indicates that they are intimately related to the Lamb and are his disciples. But being the “firstfruits” implies that they are the first amongst men to be harvested in the joint spiritual enterprise involving the Lamb and the One on the throne. That puts the Lamb in the initial phase of that joint enterprise.

Divergent Roles: Opposition and Persecution

Where the Lamb differs even more substantially from the One on the throne is the extent of their persecutions. Like all Mediators of God, they are predicted to go through persecution and opposition. Thus, they and their followers are made to fight intense and prolonged spiritual wars against their enemies, “the beast”

And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. (Revelation 19:19)

These [associates of “the beast”] shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them…. (Revelation 17:14)

But whereas the One on the white horse is only “clothed with a vesture dipped in blood,” signifying the suffering, sacrifices, and persecutions that he has to endure, with the Lamb it is substantially different. That the Lamb is predicted to “overcome” his enemies must be understood to happen at the spiritual level only—because at the material level he is “slain”:

…for thou [the Lamb] wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation…. (Revelation 5:9)

…Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. (Revelation 5:12)

Hence, while both are persecuted, it is clear that the Lamb does not survive the persecution, unlike the One on the horse who apparently prevails. And it is the blood of the Lamb that atones for everyone on earth.

Two Messianic Advents for the End Times?

So, we are left with a dilemma. There appear to be two holy and powerful personalities for the end times. One appears to be very exalted, appears in the station of God Almighty, but is in fact the promised Christ of the end times. The other looks more like the Jesus known to Christians, but he is in a subordinate role in relation to the end-time Christ. Who is he, and are two Messianic beings expected at the end times? If not, why is John’s Revelation pointing to that prospect? But if so, why didn’t Jesus say so to his disciples while making his predictions of the end times?

The answers to these questions will form the subject of a future article.

© 2022 Kobina Amissah-Fynn