by T. Austin-Sparks
Reading: Exodus 12:1-11.
"And I saw in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain..." (Rev. 5:6).
"The Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall be their shepherd, and shall guide them unto fountains of waters of life: and God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes" (Rev. 7:17).
"The Lamb which is in the midst of the throne...." That designation of the Lord Jesus is a very frequently occurring one in the book of the Revelation, as we know. It occurs some twenty-eight times. I think it might be helpful by way of laying a foundation if we hurriedly passed our eye over the book in that connection.
In chapter 5 it occurs four times. Here we have the Lord Jesus as the Lamb slain, in exaltation in the midst of the throne; then as the centre of worship; and then as the One who is worthy to judge. There is a book sealed, and no one is found, not even in heaven, worthy to take the book and open it. Something more than the very purity of angels and archangels is required; some features, some elements, which an archangel does not possess are necessary for this, and there is weeping that no one is found worthy to unseal the book. The Lamb is introduced as possessing the qualities which give Him the right to open the book and the seals thereof. It is the book of judgments, the judgment of the world, and only the Lamb has the right, by reason of qualification, to undertake the judgment of the world. That is the first thing here.
In chapter 6 the title occurs twice. The book is opened and the judgment begins and here the wrath of the Lamb is referred to.
In chapter 7 we have the word four times again, in connection with the great multitude which no man can number who have come up out of the great tribulation, and have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb, and they are before the throne of the Lamb.
Then we have to go right to chapter 12 for the next reference, a very familiar one. The title is only once mentioned here, in connection with the overcomer company who are said to overcome the dragon because of the Blood of the Lamb.
In chapter 13 it occurs once more. Here all worship the beast except those whose names are written in the book of life of the Lamb.
Then the sixth occurrence is in chapter 14, which contains the title four times. The Lamb appears on Mount Zion, and with Him a hundred and forty and four thousand.
In chapter 15 mention is made once more of those who are victorious from the beast, and they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and of the Lamb.
In chapter 17 ten kings give their power and authority to the beast and make war against the Lamb.
In chapter 19 we have the title twice used, with reference to the marriage of the Lamb.
In chapter 21 it occurs five times: firstly, we have the Lamb's wife; secondly, the twelve apostles of the Lamb; thirdly, the Lamb is the temple; fourthly, the Lamb is the light of the city; and fifthly, the Lamb's book of life.
Then finally, in chapter 22 there are two mentions of the Lamb. The river of water of life proceeds from the throne of God and of the Lamb, and then the definite phrase, "the throne of God and of the Lamb".
The Significance of the Title
Now, that is something more than a summary of Scripture references. That gives a foundation, as I have said, for tremendously significant reflection and leads us at once to ask, What is the significance of this designation, the Lamb?
The simplest contemplation would surely lead us to feel how strange it all is, how peculiar. All these tremendous things, the greatest things of which we can conceive, covering a vast range and reaching from the centre to the circumference of God's universe, all focussed in One who is given the title of "the Lamb"?
Well, what is the significance of this term? As I see it, there are two outstanding characteristics of the Lamb which is chosen by God. One is purity and the other is unquestioning yieldedness to God's will. That sounds very simple, but it goes to the heart of everything. Purity and unquestioning yieldedness to God's will. These are really one thing in essence. The yieldedness indicates the absence of every element of self-will, of self-direction, of self-determination, of self-reasoning, of self-mindedness, or self-interest; and I understand that to be the meaning of "a lamb without spot or blemish". The spots and blemishes, what are they? Well, they would constitute some aspect of a self-life, some element of selfhood, and this Lamb is without any such elements or features. God, who sees to the inward parts in His Lamb, sees no trace of the principle of self, that self-principle which arose through Satan's interference in Adam, the utter destruction of which, and the riddance of which, is essential to secure that primal state of absolute pleasure to God. Yieldedness, unquestioning yieldedness to God's will, is the utter ruling out of all self-elements. Spotlessness and being without blemish is that, and that too is purity. That purity of heart which sees God is singleness of eye to the will of God. The pure in heart shall see God. What is it to be pure in heart? It is to have no other interest in the universe and in life but the will of God, a single eye to the glory of God; that is purity of heart. The Lamb is to be without blemish, the blemish of a will that cuts across the will of God, and therefore the Lamb is marked by utter yieldedness to that will - "As a lamb that is led to the slaughter...". You know, and already your minds are drawing upon the scriptures which bear this out. If Isaac is a type of the Lamb; if, in connection with the offering of Isaac his father says, "My son, God will provide Himself a lamb", then Isaac is the embodiment of this unquestioning yieldedness to the will of the Father: and so you find it throughout the Word.
The Blood of the Lamb - the Essential Life-energy of Incorruptibility
Now, the Blood of the Lamb, the very life energy of this Lamb, is this incorruptible nature, this nature which, under no provocation or trial or temptation, can be brought to project a self-interest as in the place of the Father's will. The whole life of the Lord Jesus is gathered up in that one thing. From the day when He was introduced publicly as the Lamb of God, there was an almost immediate conspiracy of hell to blemish that Lamb, and it was all along this one line of seeking to bring up some self-interest, self-preservation, self-consideration, self-sympathy, self-pity, self-ambition, self-realization, all the thousand ways in which self can work. Right to the end and in the dire hour of His final anguish, the temptation still goes on. "Come down and we will believe!" Behind that suggestion, with all the fierceness of the fire, is again the endeavour to introduce some action of a "self" character for self-deliverance. But no! "I come to do thy will"; and the will of God, and the will of man, of the flesh, can never go hand in hand. The Blood of the Lamb is the essential life-energy of incorruptibility. It cannot be corrupted. Hell has exhausted its last evil resource to corrupt the Lamb, and has failed. The Lamb is triumphant, the Lamb has overcome, the Lamb is in the midst of the throne.
The Book of Revelation in the Light of the Lamb
You see how this throws light upon everything in the book of Revelation. Everything is taken up in relation to the Lamb, and you have to see everything, therefore, in that book, as everywhere else, in the light of this nature, this incorruptible nature, or in the light of this One whose nature this is.
(a) The Judgment of this World
Chapter 5 then must be seen in the light of the Lamb. Who has a right to pass judgment, who has the right to bring judgment upon another, or upon a world? Only He whose moral quality is above reproach, only He who through every testing, has proved Himself more than a match for the effort to corrupt Him. The judgment is in the hands of One who is uncorruptible and incorruptible, and it is His moral value, not His official appointment, which gives Him the throne. "Thou art worthy"; that is the point. "Thou art worthy"; not because Thou art the Son of God, but because Thou art the Lamb of God. "Thou art worthy to take the book." Beloved, all judgment is upon that foundation, that basis of judgment, and that is the blessedness of the truth that those who, by faith, have taken sides with the Lamb, have come and appropriated all the virtues of His precious Blood by faith, those who are joined to the Lamb, have their judgment already passed; their judgment is past, their sins have gone to judgment beforehand. There is no judgment because there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. The judgment of the world is in view in chapter 5. The pouring forth of the vials of judgment, five terrible judgments, and then the sixth which is worse than all the five which have preceded; all is on the ground of this, that there is a righteousness which has been available to men by which they could escape judgment, but having rejected which, there is no escape. Well, it is according to the Lamb.
(b) The Justified
Then we have the great multitude which no man can number standing before the throne of God and the Lamb, having come up out of great tribulation and having washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb. It simply means this, that they, both as to position and as to state, have by faith been united with the Lamb. Position? Yes; but they have also washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb. What have they done? They have accepted Him as their righteousness, as their holiness, as their "spirit's spotless heavenly dress". But they also have repudiated a self-life, a life of self-interest, self-realization, self-direction, and in great tribulation, having refused to seek their own salvation, have stood with the Lamb against themselves and their own interests. They serve Him day and night in His temple.
(c) The Overcomer
The overcomer: he too wins through to this position because of the Blood of the Lamb. Oh yes, you and I have to learn much more and ever more about this mighty power of His Blood as the energy, the vital energy, of Christ against that ground which Satan works upon to get us actuated by the flesh interests, the self-interests, the old creation considerations; and beloved, the test for the overcomer will always be on this one point. Will you, under any kind of pressure, testing, trial, suffering, adversity, will you forsake the way of the Lamb, the will of God, the selfless abandonment to God's glory, in consideration for your own skin? You see, the two sides are perfectly clear. Their own lives - the way of the Lamb: and the way of the overcomer is the way of the Lamb, the way of the Blood of the Lamb, the energy of Christ against the energy of self. Of course, that can be enlarged upon very greatly, but it is a principle indicated.
(d) The Beast
The beast: and when you have said all that you can say about the beast, what does it amount to? Whether he is a political beast or a religious beast or whatever he is in prophecy, that is of secondary consideration. The primary thing is, what is he morally? The beast, in that sense, is simply the personification and the embodiment of all that is contrary to the Lamb, and he makes war with the Lamb; and remember, it is the Lamb still. It does not say that he makes war with the Son of God. He does not, in the language of the Scriptures, make war with Jesus Christ. He makes war with the Lamb. Keep the Lamb features in view and you have the key to everything.
What is this Lamb's significance? It is this purity, it is the absence, the total absence, of all flesh, self-interest, in utter abandonment that God's will and God's glory should be realized, and the beast is the sum total of all that is contrary to that Lamb, and the beast opposes the Lamb principle; and we know it. We need not begin to look abroad somewhere in Russia for the beast. He is not far from any one of us. Of course I know this means more than that; but what is the beast here? Only the accumulation, the aggregate, of what you are. It is the coming out in full force and manifestation, in embodiment, of this thing that is in the old creation, that is opposed to the will of God, opposed to that utter purity of selfless abandonment to God. The beast is the corrupt, the impure, the evil. He makes war upon the Lamb. Blessed be God, the Lamb overcomes, and there are those who are with the Lamb who also overcome with Him, and they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and of the Lamb. They have escaped the beast - a great reflection upon the spiritual thought of God concerning Israel. We will see more about that again.
(e) The Marriage of the Lamb
The marriage of the Lamb. What a contemplation! Here if anywhere we need adjustment of our thoughts. The Lamb, being what He is, will never marry anyone not after His own kind. The Lamb will only have a wife like Himself. There is another woman here, a mother of harlots. He will not marry her. He is marrying a wife, and this wife has made herself ready. "He that hath this hope (John is but expressing it in other words) in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure". The marriage of the Lamb means that there is a company conformed to His image who can be brought into this relationship with Him. It is a union of those who are one in every respect. There never was a marriage like this, so truly one. It is the marriage between the Lamb and those who have followed the Lamb whithersoever He goeth; that is, those who have gone the Lamb way, the way of selfless, unquestioning yieldedness to the will of God. That is the marriage, that is the wife of the Lamb. Similarly, we have to see these other things in the same light.
(f) The Throne of the Lamb
There is the throne of the Lamb. The Lamb is exalted and elevated and given the high place because of what He is, and that throws a light back on words which have gone before - "Shall sit with me in my throne". Yes, the throne is the throne of the Lamb. How shall we come to exaltation with Him, to reign with Him, to share the throne with Him? What is the foundation of reigning life? What is the very essence of throne life? Unquestioning yieldedness, unreserved selflessness. That is not the way in which the great of this world have got their place of power. Their way is by self-assertiveness, every form of self. It is what we are seeing today. But their thrones and crowns will perish. This throne is forever and ever! It is the moral quality of this throne which gives it its endurance.
(g) The Temple and Light of the City
The Lamb is the temple. What is a temple for? The temple is a place where you have fellowship with God, where God meets with you and speaks with you. The temple is the place of access to God, the place of an open heaven, the place of fellowship with the Lord. What is it that constitutes the temple, what is it that constitutes this fellowship with God, this open heaven, this meeting with God, this speaking of God? What is it? It is the Lamb. It is a certain kind of nature, disposition. It is not a place, it is a state, an attitude, a condition of heart. "To this man will I look...." That is the temple. No ornate building can secure that, and no miserable dungeon can exclude that. If we are one with the Lamb, we are in the temple of God. The Lamb is the temple, and the Lamb too is the light of the city.
(h) The River of Water of Life and the Lamb's Book of Life
The river of water of life proceeds from the throne of the Lamb. The river, then, has its spring in what the Lamb is; and so also the Lamb's book of life. What is it to have our names written in the Lamb's book of life? It is not to have something inscribed. God does not have to do that sort of thing in heaven. If He were doing that, He would have to keep a good many angelic scribes very busy! That is not the way. There is something spiritually inscribed, inscribed in moral and spiritual terms, something settled, something established of relationship with God in the Lamb. If we have ever known what it is in a very little way to have our vitality sapped, drawn out of us, we do not forget it. That cost us something, and we ever remember that the securing of that cost something of our very life; our blood, we say, went out into that. It cost us life. When the Lord Jesus imparts His life to a believing heart, when the faith of a believer in all need and desperation draws that precious virtue from Him, it is a part of Himself going out. He has given something of Himself, and that to which He gives Himself is one with Himself, part of Himself. It possesses His very life, as of His very Blood. That is not forgotten. To eternity, that is not forgotten. That is inscribed in spiritual terms in an unforgettable way. The very life of the Lamb has gone out. The Lamb's book of life is something like that. It is a book of life; not a book of paper, but a book of life. You cannot describe a book of life. It is a volume of life in which we have a part, inscribed because we have the life. All who have that life are inscribed in that book. They have received their registration there. Well, you see, it is all in terms of the Lamb. In every connection, the significance of this term "the Lamb" has to be seen.
The Security of the Eternal Purpose is a Lamb
Again, in a word, all these things mean that God's end is reached, God's purpose is accomplished, God's ways are taken, on the basis of this Lamb-like nature, which, on one side, is purity, and, on the other side, is unquestioning yieldedness to the will of God; and that is said to be the mightiest thing of which men know. The cry in response to the weeping was, "Weep not; behold, the Lion that is of the tribe of Judah... hath overcome to open the book". And I turned to see this mighty, mighty king of beasts, this triumphant monarch, the Lion of the tribe of Judah - and, behold, "a Lamb... as though it had been slain". God speaks to our hearts of might, of power, of exaltation, of overcoming, in terms of purity of heart, and purity of heart, from God's standpoint, is singleness of eye to His glory, which, in other words, is the absence of self with all that we know that to mean in the old race of Adam. This is but the foundation. We are going to stop there for the present.
But I do trust that this is going to give some fresh meaning and value to everything in our relationship with the Lord, that it is going to provoke in us something deeper when we say, "Worthy is the Lamb!". It is going to make far more glorious and wonderful to us the foundation of our faith. How utterly other we are! This Lamb is not so. We are not this Lamb by nature and disposition. There is everything in us, if only it is provoked, which is the opposite of the Lamb; and yet, beloved, the place that the Lamb occupies can be occupied by us, even the throne! All that the Lamb means can be made good in us: the river, the light, the temple, and even the bride, and all through faith in the Blood of the Lamb. The Lamb has overcome, prevailed; His Blood has triumphed, and you and I, by faith in that Blood, can overcome, can triumph, can prevail, and can come and abide forever in the immediate presence of God who cannot look upon iniquity. We contemplate ourselves with the utmost loathing, and yet, because of the Blood of the Lamb, we can be where He is on the same terms; that is, abiding in the eternal burnings before the eyes of One who cannot behold iniquity, who cannot look upon sin. We will only overcome as we grasp that, as we believe, as we stand there. Remember we have to take the place of the Lamb. In other words, we have to come to the Cross, and self-strength, self-will, self-reason, and all that is of self has to be broken at the Cross. The glory of God has to be enthroned in our hearts as the one supreme object of a single-eyed yieldedness. He must reign in His will, if we would reign in His glory. Well, may this spur us to worship of the Lamb!