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Revelation 5 describes a vision of a lamb with seven eyes and seven horns, appearing to stand as if slain. It takes the scroll, and then goes on in chapter 6 to start breaking the seals of the scroll.

When one tries to picture this in their minds eye, how does one literally picture this? Traditionally how do people understand what John saw?

Are we imagining a human (Jesus) that is described symbolically as a lamb? Or perhaps we are imagining a lamb with seven eyes that has human like features? Or perhaps a lamb that transforms to the appearance of a man?

NB: It's worth pointing out before someone else tries to, that how a Christian pictures this in their minds eyes is likely unrelated to a Christian's theological understanding of the passage. Hence this question is not about how we understand the passage theologically, but how we envisage the vision described to us through the ancient greek language.

closed as primarily opinion-based by brasshat, curiousdannii, 3961, Mr. Bultitude, bruised reed Jul 5 '15 at 8:08

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    This question has as many opinion based answers as there are users on the site. – brasshat Jul 2 '15 at 11:13
  • The only part of this that might be answerable is: "Traditionally how do people understand what John saw?" – 3961 Jul 2 '15 at 14:40
  • @fredsbend Exactly. I'm not overly interested in random opinions. – Jacob Jul 3 '15 at 14:44
  • @Jacob As written, I think that's about all you'll get. That's why there's four close votes. You should edit it to stress that part. – 3961 Jul 3 '15 at 18:13
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In the bible, dreams, prophecies and visions are almost always symbolic. The only way they can be understood is if the meaning of the symbols is explained.

For example, when Pharaoh had his dream of the sheaves of wheat and the cows, he could not understand it until the interpretation was revealed to Joseph. Likewise King Nebuchadnezzar could not understand his dreams until God revealed the meaning to Daniel.

However, some prophecies employ symbolism that has been used in other parts of the Bible, allowing the diligent to understand at least partially what is meant. Also, the prophet delivering the message sometimes explains part of the symbolism when they deliver the message. Thus in Daniel, beasts represent kingdoms. When we get to Revelation, beasts once again represent kingdoms, not bizarre monsters.

When we get to the lamb that was slain, we look back to other places in the Bible where something has been likened to a lamb. Since John the Baptist called Jesus the lamb that takes away the sins of the world, we have support for the idea that Jesus is the lamb that was slain. Many other parallels - like Jesus' crucifixion and other points of correlation with the Jewish sacrificial system - make this fairly certain.

The eyes and horns also have symbolic meaning. Thankfully the prophet tells us that they are the seven spirits sent out into the world. What the purpose and identity of those spirits is is not immediately disclosed, but it is clear that they are not actual eyes or horns.

It seems to me that these images are mnemonics given to help us to remember the message. Once the believer understands what the symbol stands for, the bizarre and unforgettable image remains as a way to hold onto the meaning. Also, the use of parallel symbolism is a tactic that forces us to revisit other parts of scripture to understand the meaning. It reminds us of what was said before and ties the whole together. To me, what I "see" is the interconnectedness of all God's revelations and the uniformity of his purpose and will across the centuries.

As for breaking the seals, maybe a rams' horn would come in handy...

  • I would say dreams, prophecies, visions, AND parables... Great answer, though! – jlaverde Jul 2 '15 at 20:35
  • Parables are actually more difficult to understand than visions. Visions are obviously bizarre. Even proud kings could tell that they did not understand them when they awoke. But parables often have an obvious meaning and a hidden meaning. The obvious meaning makes those who do not search whole-heartedly stop before they have the full answer. – Paul Chernoch Jul 3 '15 at 22:21
  • I don't think I'd disagree. I meant that parables are almost always a symbolic representation of something else, as is the case with visions, dreams, and prophecies. – jlaverde Jul 6 '15 at 16:13
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It seems to me the opinions of mature Christians on the subject of strange visions is that they are called visions precisely because they are the perception of things of a spiritual nature. In order to describe them, the seer is forced to limit them using words.

Therefore, trying to 'picture' any of them in your mind's eye is useless as it not only provides no benefit but also, no matter what, your inward eye will not perceive the same thing as the prophet or saint (unless you happen to be a great prophet in which case please forgive me).

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