One argument used to support the idea that the controlling image of Christ in the narrative is the lamb who was slain is that this is how he is introduced in his very first appearance in the book. Anything that follows must therefore be read in light of this introductory image. The problem is that this claim is simply not true. Christ first appears not in chapter 5 as the sacrificial lamb but in chapter 1 as “one like a Son of Man,” (1:13) that is, as the cosmic judge of the earth referred to in Daniel 7, who destroys God’s enemies and their rule. In this opening vision Christ is dressed in a white robe and gold sash, just as the mighty angels who will later pour out the bowls of God’s wrath (15:6). But he is far mightier than these earth-destroyers. His hair is white, not to show that he is old and decrepit but to reveal that he is the One who has ruled from eternity past (see Daniel 7:9), the “alpha and the omega” (22:13). Most important, he has a two-edged sword coming out of his mouth. This probably shows that he is the one who speaks the Word of God; but for John the Word of God is not a peaceful, soothing communication to calm the souls of those on earth. It is the Word of Judgment. Later Christ tells the Christians they should repent or “I will make war against them with the sword of my mouth” (2:16), as indeed he does near the end of the book (19:11-16), where we find the book’s final physical description of Christ (19:11-21). This is at the last battle, where Christ comes forth from heaven on a white horse and wages a war of righteous judgment against the armies of the Beast at the battle of Armageddon.
Here Christ is called “The Word of God” and we are told that he is clothed with “a robe dipped in blood” (19:13). He will not be shedding his own blood again, however; he will now make his enemies pay for his earlier sacrifice. Once more, he is said to have a sharp sword coming from his mouth. Now there is no doubt what the sword is for. With it Christ will “strike down the nations” so that he can rule the world with a “rod of iron” (19:15). He proceeds to do so, and the blood of God’s enemies flows.
The Christ of Revelation is not the proponent of non-violent resistance who inspired Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. He is the lamb who has become a lion, set to destroy everyone who is not a slave of God.
It cannot be emphasized enough in this connection – even though it is often simply overlooked – that in chapter 6 it is precisely
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