TO THE devout student of the Scriptures every character of Christ has a precious quality, which calls for close consideration and quiet meditation. We have seen how the title Christ is itself the key to this apocalypse, for He appears as the Anointed prophet, potentate, and priest. Now our hearts are engaged with Him once more and He is presented to us as a Lambkin.
Instead of being called a Lamb, as heretofore, the diminutive form is used--He is a young Lamb, a Lambkin. This is full of precious significance. A literal lamb, after the lapse of many hundreds of years, would be very old. But the sacrifice of Christ does not become decrepit with age. Rather, it renews its youth. It is fresher than ever. It is incorruptible and potent as long as time shall last.
Serious objection was at first taken to the term "Lambkin" and the use of the neuter pronoun "It" in referring to it. Why not use the name Lamb, as the current versions have done? To those who are spiritual, our reason is both simple and satisfactory. If the CONCORDANT VERSION had made no other improvement than this in the Unveiling we would consider it worthwhile. If our aim were to pander to personal prejudice we too, would have used "Lamb." But accuracy, consistency, and that deep, underlying principle of language--the relative value of words--which is so little understood or appreciated, compels us to use "Lambkin."
Words are like currency. They have no absolute value but depend entirely on their relation to other words for their efficiency. The CONCORDANT VERSION aims not simply to accord each Greek word its nearest English equivalent, but to so arrange its vocabulary that the relation of its words to one another will correspond to that of the original, and thus preserve the proportion and interrelations of truth. It is of far greater concern that we use terms properly related to the divine vocabulary than to conform to fluctuating modern English.
The word before us is a simple illustration of this principle. A lamb is a young sheep. If the word here used were the only word for a young sheep used in the Scriptures, it might have been admissible to translate it, Lamb. But there is another word, of which this is the diminutive, which means lamb. The task of the translator, then, is not simply to transfer the thought common to these two words, but to register the distinction between them. One is a young lamb, a lambkin. Otherwise, how can he convey the striking contrast in our Lord's commission to Peter after His resurrection? Its pathos and beauty are sadly marred in our version which renders two different words "love" and two "feed," and translates a second word "lamb." The Lord did not say "Feed my lambs" and "Feed my sheep," but "Be grazing My lambkins" and "Be tending My sheep."
Our Lord is called the Lamb of God in the first chapter of John's gospel (verses 29 and 36). He is compared to a lamb in Acts 8:32 and 1 Peter 1:19. Why did not the spirit of God use this word in the Unveiling? Because it fails to convey the full thought.
Submission and sacrifice are associated with Him as the Lamb. These are not uppermost in this scroll. It is gentleness, weakness, utter defenselessness, and youth which is suggested by the Lambkin. How sublime is the contrast between the powers of evil and the power of God! A monstrous dragon leads the powers of darkness to defeat, a little Lambkin leads the legions of light to victory. The weakness of God is stronger than the most powerful confederacy of His creatures.
Students who read this scroll attentively will be struck with the fact that, while the Lambkin appears so often on the scene, it is almost always in connection with blessing, and not with the execution of the judgments which follow the severing of the seals. It seems to have no part at all in the terrible trumpet trials or the more awful besom of the bowls. How is it that this is all in the hands of messengers when we have so lately learned that no one was worthy to open the seals but the Lambkin? True, It is alone in the breaking of the seals, but the inflictions that follow, if not providential, come through the mediation of messengers, or angels, as they are usually termed.
Notwithstanding the fact that the seven eyes of the Lambkin are distinctly stated to be the seven spirits of God, commissioned for the entire land, both the seven horns and the seven eyes are supposed to be a simple intimation of the fullness of Its power and intelligence. If this interpretation is true, then it must also be correct in the case of the ten-horned beasts (12:3; 13:1; 17:3,7,12,16), and the explanation would be, "And the ten horns which you received are the fullness of its Power..." But what we do read is that they are ten Kings (17:12). This should open up to us an entirely new conception of what God intends us to understand by the seven horns and the seven eyes of the Lambkin.
This consideration is full of interest to us in our present inquiry. The Lambkin is a composite symbol. It includes more than Christ in Person. It presents Him and His messengers as incorporated in one animal. He has the seven spirits (3:1). They are His. They join in the benediction which opened the prophetic portion of the book (1:4). They are associated with Him in the work of setting up the kingdom. Spirits are often messengers or angels. The Lambkin opens the seals, but the seven messengers are commissioned to blow the seven trumpets. In His sacrifice Christ was alone, but in the deliverance by power, He is accompanied by His holy angels, who are His eyes and His horns of power.
Perhaps the easiest composite symbol for us to grasp is that of the wild beast which has seven heads and ten horns (13:1). Both the heads and the horns are distinctly stated to be kings (17: 10,12). The body of the beast, like a leopard, its feet, like a bear, and its mouth, like a lion, are probably representative of the governments which are subordinate to it. For our present purpose, it is enough to see that this animal brings before our mind a confederacy of kings. This beast will have no literal existence. It is a vision, designed to illustrate the apostasy of the nations at the time of the end.
This is by no means the only Composite symbol in this scroll. The dragon (12:3) has Seven heads and ten horns each of which is doubtless a distinct power. His tail may well represent his numerous following. He has messengers in his train who battle for him and are cast down with him (12:7-9).
A composite symbol which comes very close to us is the body of Christ. He is not alone in His administration of the celestial realms. His orders are carried into execution through the members of His body. We would not care to be His agents in blowing the trumpets or pouring out the bowls, Such strange work is not for us. We shall school the celestials in the ways of wisdom and in the grandeur of His grace. If, then, He will associate us in a work which is so agreeable to Him, why should He not delegate His holy messengers to deal out the destruction due His enemies?
And is not this precisely what He has foretold? At the time of the end "the Son of Mankind shall dispatch His messengers, and they will be culling out of His kingdom all snares and those doing lawlessness, and they will be casting them into a furnace of fire" (Matt.13:41). Again and again, in the course of the judgments, messengers are the means He uses. But we are especially directed to two groups of seven each, one of which blows the trumpets and the other pours out the bowls. May not these be represented by the seven horns and the seven eyes?
After the Lambkin has opened all the seals, John perceived the seven messengers who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them (8:2). Again he sees the seven messengers who have the seven last calamities (15:1). One group sounds the trumpet call to war and call for power. They are the horns. The other group cleanses the land with the bowls of the sanctuary. They are the seven spirits which are commissioned for the entire land. As in the days of Joshua the great priest, they will remove the iniquity of the land (Zech.3:9).
All of this confirms that sober canon of interpretation which refuses to find a figure in the explanation of a figure. The seven eyes are not literal. But the seven spirits, which is God's interpretation of the figure, must be literal. When God says "seven . . . which are seven," no expositor should dare to change it to "seven . . . which are one."
When the Lambkin takes the scroll there is a responsive thrill throughout creation, from its center to its circumference. The heavenly choir, composed of the animals and the elders and myriads of messengers, intone their psalm of praise:
Worthy's the Lambkin which has been slain
To get power and riches and wisdom and strength
And honor and glory and bliss!
The response is universal. Every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and underneath the earth and on the sea and all those in them echo back the hymn of hope
To Him Who is sitting on the throne
To the Lambkin
Be bliss and honor and glory and might
For the eons of the eons!
If we concede that the taking of the scroll is the most amazing act in human history--nay, in the chronicles of creation we should be prepared for a stupendous sensation throughout the universe. Yet where is the expositor who does not ignore or deny this marvelous foretaste of the final issue? Seiss, in The Apocalypse, tells us "There was not a holy heart unmoved, nor a holy tongue that did not lift up its song."
This he calls a "universal thrill of adoration." But he has practically taken the word "creature" out of this passage and substituted for it "saint." How the saints will be able to feel a universal thrill, especially at the time of the end, when saints will be so scarce on earth, we are not told. Neither can we imagine why saints in the sea and underneath the earth should be specifically included.
If we, too, would adore the Lambkin and apprehend the colossal nature of the task it undertakes at this, the crisis of creation, it will be necessary to banish all such unbelief. Let us allow that there is no limit here, that every creature of God's hand senses and responds to the scene sublime.
Some have supposed that here we have a record of the reconciliation of all, for they could not praise God while at enmity with Him. But this cannot be true, for at this crisis the estrangement between God and His creatures has reached its climax, and reconciliation is not finally effected for two full eons further on. Yet there is a measure of truth in the mistake. God often gives an earnest or foretaste of the outcome at the beginning. We, who have the spirit of God, have, in minute measure, what will be ours in glory. So, at this turning point in the career of creation, which will come to its consummation in the reconciliation of all, God gives every creature a tiny taste of what He has in store for them.
Of course, the religionist will rant, and the rationalist reason that this cannot be. They cannot accept God's great assurance that He will be All in all. Hence they cannot receive this record that every creature will respond, to some degree, to the great change of policy in the government of the universe.
There are those who tell us that God cannot accomplish His purpose to reconcile all to Himself. He cannot override the will of His creatures. This symptomatic sample, at the very beginning of His efforts for all mankind, indicates, not only that He can, but that He will.
Strange as it may seem, this passage, instead of proving God's power and promising His purpose to reconcile, all creatures, to Himself, has been made the basis of an argument to disprove it. As this is put into excellent form by the devout student who is its author, we will copy it here. Unlike others who ignore or deny the universal terms here used, this critic claims this to be the only place in all the Scriptures which is actually broad enough to include all. It is also a good example of the rationalistic method which seeks to reason away such revelations as are not confined within the creeds and confessions of apostate Christendom. First, we will show the unreasonableness of the argument and then point out a better way to test the validity of our faith.
Those who believe in the final salvation of every lost being in the universe, usually fall back on three texts to try to prove their doctrine. These are Colossians 1:20, Philippians 2:10, and Revelation 5:13. But do these texts teach that all the lost are finally saved? Let us diagram and number them thus:
Number 1 speaks of the reconciliation of things in heaven and earth. The things in two places are reconciled.
Number 2 speaks of the confession of those in heaven, earth, and under the earth. Those in three places bow and confess that Jesus is Lord.
Number 3 speaks of the praise of those in heaven, earth, under earth, and sea. Those in four places give praise by saying: "Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever."
Now Number 1 may teach salvation, but the two classes of which it speaks do not include all; for when the Lord would include all He adds two more classes as in Number 3. So that counts Number 1 out.
Number 2 has more classes than Number 1, but not the four classes of Number 3. Thus Number 2 is not broad enough to include all. But even if it did include all it does not speak of salvation. It simply says that its three classes bow and confess Him, Lord. This does not mean salvation for them, for we read in Matthew 7:21-23, "Many will say to me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not . . . in thy name done many wonderful works?' And He will say to them: 'Depart from me.' 'I never knew you.'" John 18:6 tells us that those who came to arrest Jesus 'went backward, and fell to the ground' when He told them who He was; and the Lord can just as easily make others bow before Him. Certainly, the saved will do this willingly, but the time will come when the three classes mentioned in Phil.2:10 will do it whether willingly or unwillingly. Thus bowing and confessing Him Lord does not of itself imply salvation. Number 2 does not teach universal salvation.
Number 3 has four classes, and is perhaps broad enough to include all, but it does not speak of either reconciliation or salvation, but only of ascribing blessing, honor, glory, and power unto the Lamb. One who does this is not necessarily "saved," for demons praised Him saying He was the Holy One of God. They submitted to Him, and, in the person of one possessed; bowed to Him, and acknowledged Him as their Judge; and at that time at least they were not saved. Thus Number 3 does not teach universal salvation.
We may sum up these three texts thus: Number 1 may speak of salvation, but is not broad enough to include all. Number 2, and Number 3 may include all but do not speak of salvation.
Before examining the premises of this argument we will take it to be true, and see where it leads us. First, as to creation. In the beginning, God created only the heavens and the earth. The sea and the subterranean regions are not included. Another creator must be responsible for their existence (Gen.1:1)! The Son created only a part of the universe, notwithstanding the fact that "all came into being through Him, and apart from Him not one thing came into being" (John 1:3). His creation was confined to heaven and earth (Col.1: 16)! God is Lord only of heaven and earth (Matt.11:25)! All power in heaven and in earth is given to Christ (Matt.28:18) but He will have no jurisdiction over anything beneath the soil or on the sea! In the final eon, His headship will be likewise confined (Eph.1:10)! Why, in this very chapter, the search for one to open the seals was not thorough, for the sea was not included (5:3)! When heaven and earth pass away (Matt.5:18; 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 16:17; 21:33; 2 Peter 3:5-13; Rev.20:11) the sea and the subterranean regions will remain!
Now that we see where this reasoning leads we are prepared to examine more closely the basis on which it is built. The chief foundation stone of this argument is, that all things continue as they have been from the creation, and will so continue till the end. There is no recognition of the great change God has brought about since creation.
In Colossians we have creation as it was in the beginning, and reconciliation as it will be at the consummation. Why are the sea and the underworld omitted? Because there was no sea and no underworld in the beginning and there will be none at the consummation. The sea is the result of the cataclysm of Gen.1:2. It will pass away in the new creation. True reasoning would take account of these facts. What is true at one time is false at another. How foolish it would be to one acquainted with the truth to open the record of revelation thus: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth and the sea and the subterranean regions!" The latter two, as such, were not there. Neither will they be present at the end, and I would have no hesitation in condemning any attempt to include them in the reconciliation of all at that time.
Philippians and Revelation do not deal with the first earth or with the final state. Hence, in the Unveiling, where the sea and the subterranean regions are prominent factors, and where we would be strongly inclined to omit the creatures in them, they are specifically mentioned. The action takes place while they exist.
In Philippians, the sea is omitted because, at the special time which is in view, the new creation, there will be no sea.
Let no one deduce from this that the sea and the subterranean regions are excluded whenever the present "heaven and earth" are referred to. The whole passage in the third of second Peter is a protest against this. Neither the sea nor the subterranean regions are mentioned, yet no one can exclude them. This is confirmed by the twentieth chapter of the Unveiling. Only heaven and earth are said to pass away. It is quite unnecessary to add the details for no one can question them without becoming questionable.
Unless driven to it in order to find an argument against the truth, no one would even question what is so apparent in every passage, that "the heavens and the earth" are used by the spirit of God to include all creation. Blot the reconciliation of all from your mind for a moment, and imagine what all true believers would think of a teacher who "proved" in this way from Gen.1:1 that God created only a part of the universe! If God created all then He will reconcile all, for exactly the same terms are used. You cannot destroy God's consummation without demolishing His creation.
It is unnecessary to go into the other details. The praise of Revelation does not necessarily include salvation. The bowing and "confessing" of Philippians assuredly lead to it, yet it is certainly not the universal reconciliation, for it takes place while Christ is Lord. The reconciliation comes long after, at His voluntary abdication. A great teacher once read Col.1:20: "By Him to reconcile all things to Himself." Commenting on it he said: "There are some people who actually believe this as it stands!" He then "explained" it. God grant that we may be silly enough to "believe it as it stands!"
There is another explanation of this passage which has early evidence to commend it. We present the matter in the words of our esteemed friend, Alexander Thomson:
"The difficulty is that here we have a universal ascription of praise taking place during the eons. The teaching of other Scriptures is that this occurs only at the termination of the eons. Or, if Philipplans 2:9-11 is fulfilled during the eons, it seems to happen just at the end of them. It seems more in keeping with the apparent will of God that a scene such as this should be reserved for the great goal God is striving after.
"Verse thirteen can hardly be accepted as expressing anything less than absolute universality. Thus, Kalamos, in 'Prophetical Suggestions,' writes: 'The last two verses of Rev. v. convey a meaning which seems to be but little understood and appreciated by readers generally. These verses record the doxology of the universal creation.
"Understood in the fullest sense, the words so clearly teach the doctrine--so dear to the heart of Saint Paul--that a time is coming when the entire universe and all things therein existing at that time shall be fully reconciled to God, that those theologians whose prejudices are opposed to such a doctrine must of necessity try to minimize the meaning.
"Let the reader carefully study the opening words of verse thirteen, and ask his own conscience and common sense if it is honestly possible to read into these words any meaning less than that of universality: 'Every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in [or on] the sea, and all that are in them.' The inspired writer exhausts all the ideas of universality known to the age in which he lived, in order to express the vastness of the meaning.'
"Nevertheless, this verse cannot speak of salvation or reconciliation. The time for these has not arrived.
"If the present reading is allowed, the action must be in a manner subconscious, as in 11:13. When the city experiences the shock of the earthquake, and seven thousand human beings are killed thereby, 'the rest become affrighted, and give glory to the God of heaven.' The same thing would occur today during an earthquake or any death-dealing outburst of the awesome power of nature. The natural instinct is to ascribe the glory or awfulness of the event to God, even although He be but the distant 'God of heaven'.
"That the praise of all creation in Unveiling 5:13 seems to be consciously spontaneous seems indicated by the fact that the four animals approve and corroborate by their 'Amen!' while the elders prostrate and worship.
"Some other explanation of the passage should be sought. Does such exist?
"The Greek Text of verse thirteen adopted by most editors, including Weymouth and Nestle and Souter, is as follows: Kai pan ktisma ho en to ourano kai epi tes ges kai hupokato tes ges kai epi tes thalasses (estin) kai ta en autois panta, ekousa legontas, . . .
"The Greek Text of verses 9-10 and 13-14 contains a few uncertainties and minor problems, but the only various readings in verse thirteen which are of any special importance to us at the present juncture are:
"For ekousa, 'I hear,' Tischendorf and the Bale Edition and the CONCORDANT VERSION have kai ekousa, 'and I hear,' in company with Codices Sinaiticus and Vaticanus ('b', No. 2066). The Bale Edition margin omits the 'and.'
"For legontas, 'saying,' (plural, masc. accus.) Codex Alexandrinus, with a few other MSS. and versions, has legonta (plural, neuter, nom, or accus.) while Westcott & Hort and the Bale Edition have this spelling in their margin.
"Panta is 'all ', plural, neuter, nom. or accus. Pantas would be plural, masc. accus. In place of panta, Alford prefers pantas, with the support of quite a few cursive MSS., including the following of Scrivener's, a b d e h j l, the Vulgate, and a few patristic quotations. The Vatican Codex ('b') has the combined reading, panta kai pantas ('all [neut.] and all [masc]'). MS. No. 40 reads panta ta en autois pantas, 'all those [neut.] in them all [masc.].' The following MSS, have kai pantas: f, n, 13, 47. Some have pantas kai ekousa, including k, m, 30-4-5-6.
"The proper reading the Greek originally exhibited may have been: Kai ta em autois panta. Kai pantas ekousa legontas . . . 'And all [plural, neuter] those in them. And I hear all [plural, masc.] saying . . .'
"Or the second 'all' might have been omitted, thus reading: 'And all those in them. And I hear [them, masc. ] saying . . .'
"If the reading legontas be accepted, it is remarkable that only here is the neuter gender departed from, and a masculine preferred.
"The key to the meaning of the passage is perhaps contained in the ancient Syriac Version, the earliest of all translations. It reads as follows:
"The translation would, therefore, be:
"Saying with a loud voice: 'Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to get power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing and every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and in the sea and all those that are in these.'"
"And I hear Him that is sitting upon the throne saying: 'To the Lamb let there be given blessing and honor and glory and power for the eons of the eons.'"
"The last sentence appears to have been confused by the copyists, but the Syriac Version is probably correct in coupling verse thirteen to verse twelve. In this case, the speakers in verse thirteen would be the angels, or messengers, of verse eleven, who surround the throne, the animals, and the elders. Legontas would then agree with 'messengers', which is also masculine. Otherwise, the word legontas instead of legonta seems inexplicable, as is the break in verse thirteen before the word kai, 'and.'
"If this explanation is true, the messengers in verse twelve say the Lamb is worthy to get certain honors, while in verse thirteen they ascribe these honors to Him directly.
"Not only is the Lamb worthy to receive power, riches, wisdom, strength, honor, glory, and bliss, but He is justly entitled to claim as His own every creature in the universe. As has been stated in previous chapters, 'He has bought the whole creation and paid for it by His blood,' and 'His blood . . . suffices, not only to redeem His own but to buy the whole creation.'
"As a reward for His lone combat on earth with the forces of evil, His abject poverty, His self-limitations, His weakness, His abasement and humiliation, His becoming as the off-scouring of the universe, His laying-aside of all reputation, the Son of God is entitled to the attributes of verse twelve.
"By His blood, however, He has paid in full for every creature in all God's realms.
"In chapter 4:11, God is worthy to get 'glory and honor and power;
For the universe Thou dost create,
It was and was created because of Thy will.'
"As Creator He is worthy, but now, chapter 5:13, as the Lamb of God the Son is worthy to obtain the entire universe of creaturedom.
"It is too severe a tax on one's credulity to assert that the Lamb will receive honor and glory and might, etc., just because He is worthy, yet to disbelieve that He will get 'every creature', of which He is equally worthy. We cannot imagine anything being withheld from the Son of God which the Word of God says He is 'worthy' to receive.
"The entire universe will revert to Him. All creatures are really His, but will again become His in the bonds of an indissoluble affection. Is He worthy of anything less?
"If it is objected that the second half of verse thirteen cannot be another shout of praise by the messengers alone, following so closely after their ascription in verse twelve, or if it is objected that it cannot be by all three companies of heavenly beings mentioned (animals, elders, messengers), in any case, these three companies are all included in the 'every creature.' In other words, is the ascription in the latter half of verse thirteen by
1. The entire universe of created beings,
2. The four animals, the twenty-four elders, and the myriads of messengers, or by
3. All the messengers (only)?
"No. 1 seems incompatible with other Scriptures, and foreign to the sense of this passage. Nos. 2 and 3 are both likely and reasonable. No. 3 is most likely when compared with chapter 7: 11, where "all the messengers stood around the throne and the elders and the four animals. And they fall on their faces before the throne, and worship God, saying:
'Amen! The bliss and glory and wisdom and
thanks and honor and power and strength be our
God's for the eons of the eons. Amen!'"
"Of the seven ascriptions in chapters 4-7 by companies to the Throne-Sitter or the Lambkin, two refer to the Priest Nation, and these two alone, out of the seven, have no mention of honor, glory, bliss, etc.
"The former, 5:9-10, is about human beings (the priest nation), and the latter, 7: 9-10, is by human beings (a vast countless throng, apparently of saved Israelites). Both companies are out of every tribe, language, people, and nation.
"If chapter 5:13 is an ascription by the messengers, then all the five ascriptions of honor, glory, bliss, etc. are by heavenly beings.
"Only two of the ascriptions refer to 'the eons of the eons'. These are 7:11, by 'all the messengers', and 5:13 by 'all' (the messengers,). (In chapter 4:9, the Throne Sitter 'lives for the eons of the eons', but this is not an ascription for the eons.)
"If the above view is correct, we would have in chapter five the Lambkin and the throne, surrounded by the four animals and the twenty-four elders. Around all these is an enormous host of messengers, thus:
11-12 (Many Messengers)
13 All (Messengers)
"It is admitted that the above exegesis is not free from difficulties, or wholly satisfactory, but it is put forward for candid consideration. The Old Syriac may be correct after all, in its unique and bold reading."
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