The Message of Symbols Part 1

Oftentimes when we read some of the things in scripture, particularly symbolic things in books like Revelation or Daniel we are left shaking our heads. It is easy to simply move on to something easier to grasp. Yet if we see the scriptures as a unity, 66 books inspired by one divine author and penned by many human authors, we can draw wisdom from these symbols. There are patterns that we can see across scripture if we look. Once we see the repeated patterns some of the symbols are easier to understand. An example is the image of Jesus as the Lamb in Revelation. However understanding the symbols in Revelation requires a solid foundation in the Old Testament (OT).  

And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth. Revelation 5:6 (NKJV)

Here we have Jesus depicted as the Lamb. The word ‘midst’ is used twice in this verse showing that the Lamb is the focal point of the attention of John as the observer. Earlier in 5:1 we have the Father on the throne holding the scroll. Then we see the Lamb in the same place. In my mind’s eye I see this lamb as superimposed over the image of the Father on the throne and at the same time in the Father and the Father in the Lamb. 

The Lamb has seven horns and seven eyes. The passage tells us that the eyes are the seven spirits referred to earlier in 1:3, 3:1, 4:5. The point is not that Jesus is an actual lamb but that He was the sacrificial Lamb for the sins of humanity. The fulfillment of the OT type. Seven in scripture is the number of completion or fulfillment. Some refer to it as perfection. I prefer the idea of completion or fulfillment as Genesis refers to seven days to complete creation and seven days complete a week. The seven eyes mean that Jesus has complete access to see everything. Nothing is hidden from Him.

The seven horns. Horns represent power or authority because they represent the power of horned animals. We see examples in the OT of horns that represent power and authority, both good and bad.

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Psalm 18:2 (NKJV)

4     “I said to the boastful, ‘Do not deal boastfully,’ And to the wicked, ‘Do not lift up the horn. 5 Do not lift up your horn on high; Do not speak with a stiff neck.’ ” Psalm 75:4–5 (NKJV)

17   For You are the glory of their strength, And in Your favor our horn is exalted. Psalm 89:17 (NKJV)

10   But my horn You have exalted like a wild ox; I have been anointed with fresh oil. Psalm 92:10 (NKJV)

“After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. I was considering the horns, and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words. Daniel 7:7–8 (NKJV)

Now back to the Lamb with seven horns in Revelation. What the image communicates is that the Lamb has complete authority. We see this in The Great Commission.

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. Matthew 28:18–20 (NKJV)

The message of the Lamb with seven horns and seven eyes is that Jesus sees and knows all and that in the events about to unfold He has complete authority. If we know Him we can rest in this reality in scripture.

28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. Romans 8:28–30 (NKJV)

This use of symbols may seem like a roundabout way to get to the message of Romans 8 but John knew the OT so the message of the horns, eyes and seven would not have been mysterious to him. Instead they would have brought assurance, as they should for us. 

I will continue looking at symbols in scripture in future posts.

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I have been walking with Jesus since 1985. I am currently retired from my career in the helping professions but still focused on ministering to others. I completed a Doctorate of Philosophy in Apologetics in September 2020.

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