Question: In Revelation 13: 8, John says that all that dwell upon the earth shall worship the beast, whose names are not written in the book of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. How is Christ the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world?
Answer: To understand this, you have to go all the way back to the early chapters of Genesis. When God placed Adam and Eve in the garden, He warned them that if they ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, that they would die that day (Genesis 2: 17).
We know that Adam and Eve didn’t physically die that very day. The reason is because an innocent lamb was slain FOR them. They are seen leaving the Garden clothed in coats of skins of a slain animal (Genesis 3: 21). These were needed to replace the aprons of fig leaves that they had sewed together (Genesis 3: 7).
In Scripture, the garment is used as a symbol of righteousness (Isaiah 61: 10; 64: 6; Zech. 3: 3-4; Job 29: 14; Matt. 22: 11; Rev. 19: 7-8). Adam and Eve tried to cover their nakedness with a garment of their own making. But God made them coats of skins, indicating that a better righteousness was needed to “cover” their sin — one based on the sacrifice of an innocent life.
This original sacrifice set the pattern for all subsequent sacrifices in the Old Testament. They all point to the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross. He is the true Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world (John 1: 29).
Without shedding of blood is no remission of sin (Hebrews 9: 22). If the lamb had not been killed, Adam and Eve would have died that very day.
“For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” (Leviticus 17: 11).
After Genesis 3, the next time we read about a sacrifice is in the story of Cain and Abel. They had both certainly been instructed in the right way to approach God. But when Cain approached God, he offered the fruits of his own labors.
“And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of the flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering. But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect” (Genesis 4: 5).
Remember that the ground had been cursed for man’s sake (Genesis 3: 17). It was hard work clearing away the thorns and the thistles, hoeing and ploughing the soil, and carefully tending the crop every day to bring forth those fruits. But it was not the way to approach God.
God had already taught Adam that sacrifice was needed. Cain was being disobedient, as are all who seek to please God by their works. Because God rejected his offering, he slew his brother Abel. Based on the early chapters of Genesis, the only way man can be restored to Divine fellowship is through the blood of a slain victim. The “lamb slain from the foundation of the world” sets forth this doctrine.
Adam understood this, and so did his son Abel. But Cain didn’t. Today there are some Christians who understand the teaching of “penal substitutionary” atonement. There are many who don’t. Colleges, seminaries, and liberal pulpits are filled with men and women who cast doubt on the simple facts of Scripture. But the facts speak for themselves.
“The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6: 23). Christ physically died on the cross to pay the penalty brought upon mankind through Adam. His resurrection is proof that He was the spotless Lamb of God and that our sins are put away. We need only accept this sacrifice by faith to partake of the full benefits of salvation.
“For He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5: 21).