The Lamb: Slain from before the Creation of the World

“You were redeemed … [by] the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world” (1 Peter 1:18–20, NIV).

Christmas begins within the triune God—the Father’s planning, the Son’s choosing, the Spirit’s moving—before creation began. The Incarnation and sacrifice of the Savior is the final narrative that defines the purpose of earthly and heavenly history.

In biblical history, Abel cared for sheep. With Abel’s death begins a remarkable analogy that unfolds throughout the pages of the Old Testament, continuing with the Passover lamb (Exodus 12:3–27) and the Mosaic Law’s sacrifices that included “a male [lamb] without defect” upon whose head one is to lay his hand “to make atonement” (Leviticus 1:3–4). Finally, at the baptism of Jesus Christ, John the Baptist cries out, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Of the thirty-two times the term “lamb” occurs in the New Testament, twenty-seven appear in the Book of Revelation as the primary name of the Son of God. When the glorified Christ first encounters the elder John on Patmos, “his face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance” (Revelation 1:16)—like nuclear light blazing forth from a human shell. We see the blindingly radiant Son whose presence dwarfs the earthly power of persecuting emperors.

As John is transported into heaven, we expect an even more glorified Son of God. Yet here the Savior appears as a Lamb slain (5:6). What a strange, jolting image. Then Jesus is worshiped “because you were slain and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (5:9). The Son’s glory in heaven centers in His becoming the sinner’s substitute. He paid it all. This is the soteriology of heaven.

Throughout the rest of Revelation, Jesus is “the Lamb.” The Son does create, judge, and rule, but the Son’s most astonishing work is His sacrifice as the Lamb of God. The Incarnation and the Cross reveal the deep heart of the triune God. Christmas begins before the creation of the world.