As the texts quoted above show, “The Lamb that was slain” is Jesus. All Christian and many non-Christian religions “believe in Jesus.”[1] But from the very beginning of the Church there has been fierce controversy about just who Jesus is. Although there are issues about the nature of Christ that can never be resolved because of our limited capacity to comprehend, there is one critical aspect that is very clear: Jesus is fully God, He is not a created being.

The prophets of the Old Testament and the writers of the New Testament clearly witnessed to the divinity of Christ. “For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” John 1:1.[2] “But to the Son He says: ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever” (Hebrews 1:8). Paul and John identified Him as the Creator: “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made,” “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible.” (John 1:3, Colossians 1:16). Thus Jesus, called the Word of God before His incarnation, is the God of creation:[3] “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).

Jesus allowed people to worship Him,[4] even though He Himself had said, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve” (Matthew 4:10). To the contrary, neither the apostle Peter nor the angels allowed anyone to worship them.[5] Jesus did not rebuke Thomas when he exclaimed, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). Indeed, “All the angels of God worship Him” (Hebrews 1:6) and “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow... every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:10,11).

Jesus also forgave sins,[6] which no other person in the Bible ever did, and even the Pharisees recognized that this was a claim to be God, exclaiming,“Who can forgive sins but God alone?”[7] Jesus expressed His identity with the Father, saying, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father”, and “I and My Father are one” (John 14:9, 10:30). One of His names, Immanuel, means “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). Jesus also applied the divine name to Himself. He declared Himself to be the “I AM” who appeared to Moses in the burning bush in Exodus 3. A careful reading of the whole passage shows that “I AM” is God (Elohim) and the Lord (Yahweh).[8]

The divinity of Christ is not simply a theme for theologians to argue over. It is of vital importance for having a correct understanding of the character of God. God created the angels, including Lucifer and the third of the angels who eventually sinned. He created human beings, who also fell into sin. That sin requires death—“sin, when it is full grown, brings forth death” (James 1:15). God wanted to save sinners, which meant that someone else would have to pay “the wages of sin [which] is death”(Romans 6:23). But God did not create a substitute and then let him suffer the consequences of humanity’s sin; this would have been a very ugly picture of a God who did not take responsibility for His own creation. Instead God Himself took upon Himself the full burden of the sin of the whole world, and died the death that we should die so that we could live. When God “gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16) He was giving Himself. Expressing this truth in the words of Isaiah, “Surely He [God] has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows…He [God] was wounded for our transgressions, He [God] was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him [God], and by His [God’s] stripes we are healed…and the Lord has laid on Him [on Himself] the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:3-6).

Continue to next section: WHY WAS THE LAMB SLAIN?

[1] Three of many examples that could be given are Islam, which teaches that Jesus was a great prophet, the Jehovah’s Witnesses who teach that He was the greatest (created) man who ever lived and Unity which teaches that He was a great moral teacher and a divine idea

[2] The Jehovah’s Witnesses claim that because there is no article (the equivalent of “the”) in the original Greek text, it can be translated “and the word was a god," expressing the idea that He was divine but not God Himself. However, there are several instances in which the word for God (Theos) is used to refer to God Himself without the article (o). See for example Mark 12:27, Luke 20:38, John 8:54, Romans 8:33, 9:5, 1 Corinthians 8:4, 2 Corinthians 1:21, 5:15, 19, Galatians 2:6, 6:7, 1 Thessalonians 2:5, 2 Thessalonians 2:4, 1 Timothy 3:16, Titus 1:2, Hebrews 3:4, Revelation 21:7. Ancient Greek uses another word (theios) to express the idea of divine (see Acts 17:29, 2 Peter 1:3,4).

[3] God in Genesis 1 is Elohim, a plural word which shows that God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were all involved in creation.

[4] Matthew 8:2, 9:18, 14:33, 15:25, 28:9, 17, Mark 5:6, Luke 24:52, John 9:38, Hebrews 1:6.

[5] Acts 10:25, Revelation 19:10, 22:8,9 In contrast, Satan, the beast and evil angels seek worship (see Matthew 4:9, Luke 4:7, Acts 7:42, 17:23, 19:27, Revelation 13:8, 12).

[6] Matthew 9:2, Mark 3:5, Luke 5:20, 24, 7: 47, 48.

[7] Mark 2:7, Luke 5:21.

[8] In Exodus 3 “the Angel of the Lord appeared to [Moses] in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush” (v. 2). It turns out that the “Angel of the Lord” was God Himself: “God called to him from the midst of the bush” (v. 4, see also verses 6, 11, 13, 14, 15,16). The word for God is Elohim, the same God who “in the beginning…created the heavens and the earth.” This God, Elohim, was also Yahweh (Jehovah): “So when the Lord [Yahweh] saw that he turned aside to look, God [Elohim] called to him from the midst of the bush. (v. 4, see also verses 7, 15, 16, 18, 4:2, 4, 5, 6, 10, 11, 14). This God was the God of the Bible Patriarchs: “Go and gather the elders of Israel together, and say to them, ‘the Lord [Yahweh] God [Elohim] of your fathers, the God [Elohim] of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared to me” (v. 16). This same God told Moses that He had another name: I AM [Hayah]. “Moses said…‘what is His name?’ And God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM’. And He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you” (vs. 13, 14). Jesus applied the divine name “I AM” to Himself: “Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58). The Pharisees understood that He was claiming to be God and attempted to stone Him (v. 59).