Sometimes the scriptures ask more questions than they answer. Enoch’s testimony of the Savior is one of those.
47 And behold, Enoch saw the day of the coming of the Son of Man, even in the flesh; and his soul rejoiced, saying: The Righteous is lifted up, and the Lamb is slain from the foundation of the world; and through faith I am in the bosom of the Father, and behold, Zion is with me (Moses 7:47).
John’s discussion of the war in heaven poses the same questions:
7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
8 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.
11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.
12 Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time (Revelation 12:7-12).
Do they simply mean that the Savior was chosen “from the foundation of the world”? Or do they mean that the burden of his Atonement predated the Savior’s birth? The answers are not given, so the questions remain. However, the name-title “the Lamb of God” may supply part of the answer, for it not only denotes a sacrifical lamb, but also a quality of soul that will accept, but never inflict pain.
The title, “Lamb of God” is unique to John the Beloved in the New Testament. John uses it in recounting Jesus’s baptism, and again in his book of Revelation. The name-title is not found anywhere else in the Bible. However, it is frequently found in the Book of Mormon.
The story of Jesus’s baptism by John the Baptist is told differently in the King James Bible and the Inspired Version. Some words are changed, as is the verse order. The Inspired Version reads:
29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and said; Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world!
30 And John bare record of him unto the people, saying, This is he of whom I said; After me cometh a man who is preferred before me; for he was before me, and I knew him, and that he should be made manifest to Israel; therefore am I come baptizing with water.
31 And John bare record, saying; When he was baptized of me, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.
32 And I knew him; for he who sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me; Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he who baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.
33 And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.
34 These things were done in Bethabara, beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.
35 Again, the next day after, John stood, and two of his disciples,
36 And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he said; Behold the Lamb of God!
37 And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus (JST John 1:29-37.
In the Law of Moses, a young lamb that was less than a year old and without blemish, was offered as a sin offering. It was purported to cleanse the sinner, but as Paul and Peter insisted, those offerings that were repeated frequently in this world, were not effectual in the eternities. Paul wrote,
1 For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.
2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins.
3 But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year.
4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.
5 Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me:
6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. [He is referencing Psalm 51:16-17 and 34:18 which say that the sacrifices God will accept are a broken heart and contrite spirit.]
7 Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.
8 Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law;
9 Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.
10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
11 And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins:
12 But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;
13 From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.
14 For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified (Hebrews 10:1-39).
Peter also explained the Savior’s Atonement in terms of the sin offering of the Law of Moses.
18 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;
19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:
20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,
21 Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.
22 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:
23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.
24 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:
25 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you (1 Peter 1: 18-25)
Much of the symbolism of the lamb without blemish is lost to people in our modern culture. To city folk the concept of “lamb” is different from the understanding of those of us who grew up on a farm. A little lamb, less than a year old, is innocent and perfectly vulnerable. It is not capable of doing harm to anyone, but is always subject to being harmed by others.
In contrast, as soon as baby kittens are old enough to have their eyes open they hiss and scratch at any stranger who gets too close. Puppies romp and explore anything they can get their nose into. Calves and colts are up and running soon after they are born. I don’t know about baby goats. We never had any on our farm and neither did our neighbors.
To the agrarian people of the Old Testament, a little lamb was almost like an innocent human child. Lambs are naturally open and trusting, and very nice to cuddle. Then they grow up to be sheep who remain vulnerable and trust their shepherd.
Isaiah’s prophetic description of the Savior reflects that same image of innocence and vulnerability.
1 Yea, even doth not Isaiah say: Who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?
2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground; he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him there is no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
6 All we, like sheep, have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquities of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb so he opened not his mouth.
8 He was taken from prison and from judgment; and who shall declare his generation? For he was cut off out of the land of the living; for the transgressions of my people was he stricken.
9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no evil, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief; when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 He shall see the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied; by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death; and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bore the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors (Mosiah 14:1-12 & Isaiah 53).
In Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, we suggested that the origin of sin was when one sought to use other people for one’s own advantage. Using that definition, it is easy to understand how the Savior was innocent from the beginning, having never sinned in the whole of his eternal existence.
When Nephi wrote his vision of the Savior’s life he described him as the “Lamb of God.” The following are only scattered snippits from Nephi’s account of his vision. The purpose of those short quotes is to show that in Nephi’s mind Jesus retained the qualities of a guileless lamb throughout his mortal life. Nephi first uses the name-title “Lamb of God” when he quotes his father Lehi:
7 And he spake also concerning a prophet who should come before the Messiah, to prepare the way of the Lord.
10 And after he had baptized the Messiah with water, he should behold and bear record that he had baptized the Lamb of God, who should take away the sins of the world (1 Nephi 10:7,10).
Nephi then tells of his own vision. Throughout the telling he only refers to the Savior as “the Lamb” or “the Lamb of God,” emphasizing his innocense and, therefore, his personal vulnerability.
21 And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?
22 And I answered him, saying: Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things.
27 And I looked and beheld the Redeemer of the world, of whom my father had spoken; and I also beheld the prophet who should prepare the way before him. And the Lamb of God went forth and was baptized of him; and after he was baptized, I beheld the heavens open, and the Holy Ghost come down out of heaven and abide upon him in the form of a dove.
31 And he spake unto me again, saying: Look! And I looked, and I beheld the Lamb of God going forth among the children of men. And I beheld multitudes of people who were sick, and who were afflicted with all manner of diseases, and with devils and unclean spirits; and the angel spake and showed all these things unto me. And they were healed by the power of the Lamb of God; and the devils and the unclean spirits were cast out.
32 And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me again, saying: Look! And I looked and beheld the Lamb of God, that he was taken by the people; yea, the Son of the everlasting God was judged of the world; and I saw and bear record.
33 And I, Nephi, saw that he was lifted up upon the cross and slain for the sins of the world.
6 And I saw the heavens open, and the Lamb of God descending out of heaven; and he came down and showed himself unto them.
10 And these twelve ministers whom thou beholdest shall judge thy seed. And, behold, they are righteous forever; for because of their faith in the Lamb of God their garments are made white in his blood.
11 And the angel said unto me: Look! And I looked, and beheld three generations pass away in righteousness; and their garments were white even like unto the Lamb of God. And the angel said unto me: These are made white in the blood of the Lamb, because of their faith in him.
18 And the large and spacious building, which thy father saw, is vain imaginations and the pride of the children of men. And a great and a terrible gulf divideth them; yea, even the word of the justice of the Eternal God, and the Messiah who is the Lamb of God, of whom the Holy Ghost beareth record, from the beginning of the world until this time, and from this time henceforth and forever (1 Nephi 11:21-12:18).
At the end of the vision Nephi was instructed:
24 And behold, the things which this apostle of the Lamb shall write are many things which thou hast seen; and behold, the remainder shalt thou see.
25 But the things which thou shalt see hereafter thou shalt not write; for the Lord God hath ordained the apostle of the Lamb of God that he should write them.
26 And also others who have been, to them hath he shown all things, and they have written them; and they are sealed up to come forth in their purity, according to the truth which is in the Lamb, in the own due time of the Lord, unto the house of Israel.
27 And I, Nephi, heard and bear record, that the name of the apostle of the Lamb was John, according to the word of the angel (1 Nephi 14:24-27).
In summary, Nephi has told us that John the Baptist testified that Jesus is “the Lamb of God.” Thereafter, as Nephi describes some of the events of the Savior’s life, he never calls him Jesus. He only refers to him as “the Lamb” or “the Lamb of God.” It is not until near the end of 2 Nephi that he tells us,
19 For according to the words of the prophets, the Messiah cometh in six hundred years from the time that my father left Jerusalem; and according to the words of the prophets, and also the word of the angel of God, his name shall be Jesus Christ, the Son of God (2 Nephi 25:19).
The scriptures give us two different, but not incongruent, word portraits of Jesus. The prophets Enoch, Isaiah, and Nephi portray his character as being like an innocent lamb. The gospels show us a personality that is compassionate and loving, but still forthright, powerful, and undaunted. Since his youth, Jesus was determined to fulfill the covenants he made with his Father and with us. Those covenants culminated in his ultimate exercise of integrity and power in Gethsemane, on the cross, and his resurrection.
His charge to his apostles (and implicitly to all of us) was a reflection of his own perfected character.
16 Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
17 But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues;
28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Matthew 10:16-17, 28).