Jesus in the Apocalypse of John: Sacrifice

This post is part of an ongoing series examining the Christology of the Apocalypse of John.

Sacred ScriptureRevelation 5:12 is particularly indicative of the importance of Jesus’ actions as sacrifice. The slain Lamb is worthy, not just because of who he is, but also because of what he has done—redeemed the world through his blood. As Revelation 5:9–10 says, “for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” Jesus’ sacrifice not only guarantees the redemption of humanity, but also points toward his victory over death as the “living one” (1:17).[1] Of course, Christ’s defeat of death, both on the cross and in the eschaton (20:14), highlights his status as “firstborn of dead” (1:5) and directs Christians toward the coming resurrection (20:5f). For John, Jesus’ sacrifice serves as precursor to his redemption of humanity and ultimate victory over death.

However, Jesus’ sacrifice does not stand by itself. Instead, as Congar reminds us, the two aspects “of the Lamb as both sacrificed and conqueror, are intimately connected.”[2] That is, Jesus’ conversion of the nations (22:2),[3] conquering of the beast and his minions (19:19–21; 20:7–10), judgment of the dead (20:11–15; 21:7–8), and eschatological significance (21:1–22:5) make him ultimately victorious.[4] In the end, the Lamb serves as conqueror and judge, not only of the living and dead, but of the cosmic forces of evil, Satan and Death itself.

Ancient Jesus ImageIn each of these roles—Seer, Sacrifice, and Conqueror—Jesus ultimately functions as an agent of God, for “[w]hat Christ does, God does.”[5] Whether through prophetic utterance, self–sacrifice for the redemption of the creation, or final judgment and defeat of death, Jesus shares the work of God. But this work never stands alone, for the heavenly reactions to this work demonstrate that Jesus also receives the adoration and worship of believers.[6] As was noted in the review of Revelation’s names for and images of Jesus, the Apocalypse’s portrayal of Jesus’ actions reveals that he shares in the deeds of God, especially those pertaining to the judgment of the nations and eschatological finality. Therefore, Jesus’ actions in the Apocalypse also divulge a high Christology, that Jesus is rightly viewed and worshiped as Lord.

[1] Lioy, 114–20. Marshall, 33.

[2] Congar, 105.

[3] Zeph. 3:9–13. Allan J. McNichol, The Conversion of the Nations in Revelation (London: T&T Clark, 2011.) See also Dave Mathewson, “The Destiny of the Nations in Revelation 21:1–22:5: A Reconsideration,” Tyndale Bulletin 53, 1 (2002): 121–42.

[4] John Christopher Thomas, “New Jerusalem and the Conversion of the Nations: An Exercise in Pneumatic Discernment (Rev. 21:1–22:5),” in The Spirit and Christ in the New Testament and Christian Theology: Essays in Honor of Max Turner, eds. I.H. Marshall, V. Rabens, C. Bennema (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012), 241–2. Witherington, 27. For a discussion of how imagery of “Christ as bridegroom” plays into this victorious state, see Thomas 232–3.

[5] Bauckham, Theology, 63. See also Hurtado, God, 65–71.

[6] Congar, 103. Witherington, 30.


Published by Jacob J. Prahlow

Husband of Hayley. Dad of Bree and Judah. Lead pastor at Arise Church. MATS from Saint Louis University, MA from Wake Forest University, BA from Valparaiso University. Theologian and writer here and at Conciliar Post. Find me on social at @pastorjakestl

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