THE LAMB OF GOD
SLAIN FROM THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD
Gary Ray Branscome
Jesus Christ is, “The lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world // The lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world.” (Revelation 13:8, John 1:29)
Scripture’s reference to
Christ as, “the lamb slain from the foundation of the world” tells us
efficacy or effect of His sacrifice is not limited by time, but has
available to all men “from the foundation of the world” – just as if it
been made before the creation of the world. Or to put it another way,
efficacy of His Son's death extended backward as it also extends
that day on
Because the efficacy of Christ's sacrifice is not limited by time, the covenant of grace is actually older than the covenant of the law, and those believers who lived and died prior to the time of Christ were justified and saved in the same way we are justified and saved. In fact, that is exactly what the Apostle Paul was trying to tell us when he said, “The covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul” (Galatians ). Therefore, because salvation has always been by grace, and the law cannot save anyone, the primary purpose of the law was to point people to Christ (Galatians 3:24, Romans 3:19-20, Hebrews 10:3,10).
If Abraham had been justified by his works he would have had something to be proud of, but his works were not what pleased God, for the Bible says that “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (Romans 4:2-3). Moreover, I would like you to take special notice of the word “righteousness,” for only one thing can make a person righteous in the sight of God and that is the total and complete forgiveness of sins (Romans 10:4). Therefore, since the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sin, Abraham’s sins had to be washed away by the blood of Christ, and that fact is proof positive that he had access to the same forgiveness that we do (Hebrews 10:4, Acts 4:12).
Because Job was trusting in that forgiveness, he could speak of his Redeemer in the present tense saying, “I know that my redeemer lives, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth” (Job ). Likewise, David could say, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity” (Psalm 32:1-2 and 13:5). And, Isaiah could refer to Christ's death on the cross in the past tense (as if it had already happened) saying, “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5). Or, in the present tense saying, “I will have mercy on you, says the Lord your redeemer” (Isaiah 54:8).
Since Abraham was saved by grace, you might wonder why the law was given at all. And, the Bible answers that question when it tells us that the law came because of transgression (Galatians ). Nevertheless its purpose was not to minimize sin, but to cause it to abound (Romans ). In other words, the purpose of the law was not to make people righteous before God, but to establish some basic rules for conduct while exposing their guilt and showing them their need of a Savior. That is important because people will not look to Christ for mercy until they realize that they are sinners in need of His mercy (Romans ). Therefore, the law was given to help those living before the time of Christ to be saved by grace (Galatians ).
The fact that Ten Commandments were literally “written in stone” gives them a special status as the foundation of the political law. Furthermore, a proper enforcement of those laws not only provides us with a certain amount of protection, but also results in getting people to take sin seriously. While many of the other regulations given by Moses did not carry any political punishment, they helped the people living before the time of Christ to see that they were not doing everything that God’s law required (Acts 15:10).
This brings us to the next set of laws given by Moses, namely those requiring animal sacrifice. While the Bible plainly tells us that sacrifices were for the forgiveness of sins, it also tells us that the blood of bulls and goats was not what took away sin. On the contrary! The act of offering a sacrifice was symbolic (Numbers , 28, Hebrews 10:4). The actual forgiveness came to believers then, as it does now, through faith in God’s promise (Galatians ). God simply used the ceremony to give the person bringing the sacrifice His promise of forgiveness. He or she then received what was promised in the same way that Abraham received it, and in the same way that we receive it, namely through faith in God’s promise of mercy (Galatians 3:6,22, Psalm 13:5). [Leviticus 4:20,26,31,35, Leviticus 5:10,13,16,18, Leviticus 6:7, Leviticus 19:22.]
In other words, when someone who felt a burden of guilt brought his sacrifice to the priest, he went away believing that God’s anointed priest (who was a type of Christ) had made atonement for his sin, and that his transgression was covered by the blood. For that reason, his assurance of salvation did not rest on faith in his own righteousness, but on faith in God’s mercy (Psalm 13:5). And, because Christ is God, faith in God’s mercy was a form of faith in Christ. In that way, God used the law to point people through type and shadow to Christ. And, even today, God uses the Biblical record of those sacrifices to help us understand the reason for Christ’s sacrifice.
The fact that Christ’s sacrifice is not bound or limited by time, is a very important part of the salvation message. For, if the effectiveness of Christ's sacrifice did not extend backward in time (just as if He had been crucified before the world was created), it would not extend forward in time either. In which case, we would need a new sacrifice for any sins committed after His death on the cross. And, we know that such is not the case for the Bible tells us that Christ’s sacrifice is everlasting (Hebrews ).