Exposition of Revelation: Revelation 5:6–9

Revelation 5:6 (ESV)
And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.
Revelation 5:7–9 (NET)
Then he came and took the scroll from the right hand of the one who was seated on the throne, 8 and when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders threw themselves to the ground before the Lamb. Each of them had a harp and golden bowls full of incense (which are the prayers of the saints). 9 They were singing a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals because you were killed, and at the cost of your own blood you have purchased for God persons from every tribe, language, people, and nation.”

The reign of the slaughtered Lamb

Many older Christians have heard the expression “salvation is free because Jesus paid for it.” One result is that we should feel boundless gratitude toward Jesus for letting us be part of his kingdom. But are we living out that gratitude through obedience?

Another result of our redemption is that Jesus has bought us for a purpose. Are we living for that purpose?

In 5:6 John first introduces the metaphor of Jesus as the Lamb. From here to the end of the book lamb will occur twenty-eight more times. Its background lies in the Passover sacrifice of Exodus chapters 11–12 and in the Suffering Servant of God (“a lamb led to the slaughter”) from Isaiah 53:7. The idea from Isaiah is explicitly carried into 5:6 by the words “one like a slaughtered lamb” (HCSB).

Osborne explains how the former section (Rev. 5:1–5) relates to the current one: “Verse 6 provides an important clarification of the militaristic overtones of 5:5. There Jesus is seen as the Davidic Messiah destroying the enemies of God. Here we see how the victory was actually achieved, not by sword but by sacrifice.”[1] That is definitely not the earthly path to victory!

Osborne says, “In short, in Revelation the Lamb of God has two aspects, the sacrificial lamb and the military ram, and they are interconnected, standing at the heart of the book and depicting the two sides of God’s activity, his mercy and his justice.”[2]

The reader should understand that in the Bible horns are frequently used as a symbol of strength or rulership (see Dan. 7:7–8:24; Deut. 33:17; 1 Kings 22:11). Both Revelation and Daniel use that metaphor frequently.

The “seven eyes” (5:6) speak to the completeness of the Lamb’s knowledge of all that happens, and this is explained in terms of “the seven spirits of God” (the Holy Spirit), who are sent out like apostles throughout the earth.

The Lamb says nothing about his own worthiness to open the scroll, but his actions speak when he takes the scroll from the One seated on the throne (5:7). Beale says, “Daniel 7:13 is the only OT text in which a divine, Messiah-like figure is portrayed as approaching God’s heavenly throne to receive authority.”[3]

And with the clouds of the sky one like a son of man was approaching. He went up to the Ancient of Days and was escorted before him. 14 To him was given ruling authority, honor, and sovereignty. All peoples, nations, and language groups were serving him. His authority is eternal and will not pass away. His kingdom will not be destroyed.
(Dan. 7:13–14)

The immediate response throughout heaven is worship directed toward the Lamb (5:8). Then the assembled multitudes sing a new song (5:9–10), which contains one of the greatest statements of Christ’s work in the entire NT. The heavenly throng declares Christ’s worthiness in terms of his sacrificial death, which purchased members of “every tribe, language, people, and nation” (5:9).

The verb used to express the purchase of God’s people (Greek agoraz?) “is a commercial metaphor used for the freeing of a prisoner of war from bondage”[4] through payment of a ransom. The ransom payment is explicitly identified as “the cost of your own blood” (5:9). In the history of Christian theology, this ransom from slavery to sin is known as redemption. Jesus gave his life to redeem us.

But Jesus died to free us to live for God! We are appointed both as members of his kingdom and priests (5:10). Together with Christ we will reign on the earth (20:4, 6). We have an amazing identity!

The kingdom of redeemed people

One great motivation for world evangelism is the certainty that Jesus has redeemed people from every corner of the planet to join in his kingdom. There have been many great empires in human history, but none of them has or will come close to the scope and splendor of what Jesus will rule.

God has brought a new song into the heart of each one who belongs to the Lamb. Let this song of praise burst into every area of your life!

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

[1] Grant R. Osborne, Revelation, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002) 256.

[2] Osborne, Revelation, 256.

[3] G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999) 356.

[4] Osborne, Revelation, 260.

Do you have an opinion or a different interpretation? Let me know!