Does the worship of the Lamb in Revelation 5 contradict the first commandment (Exodus 20:2-4)?
At the end of Revelation 5, the entire creation worships the Father and the Son together:
"Then I heard every creature … singing:
- 'To him who sits on the throne (the Father)
- and to the Lamb (the Son)
be praise and honor and glory and power! And the four living creatures
kept saying, ‘Amen.’ And the elders fell down and worshiped." (Rev
Were these beings breaking the first commandment by worshipping the Lamb (Rev 5:13)?
A Very Important Question
This is a very important question. The emphasis in Revelation 13 and 14 is on worship. This word appears several times. People worship the dragon (Rev 13:4) and the beast (Rev 13:4, 8, 12) as well as the image of the beast (Rev 13:15). In the context of that end-time persecution, the only direct command God’s people receive is to “worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters” (Rev 14:7). The point is that the end-time crisis will be about who we worship.
The First Commandment
The first commandment reads:
“You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for
yourself an idol, or any likeness … You shall not worship them or
serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God.” (Exo 20:3-5)
The word “LORD” is translated from the word YHVH, which is the personal name of God.
So, as a first observation, this commandment does not seem to be directly applicable. In Revelation 5:13-14, these beings do not have another god “before Me” and they did not make an idol. Jesus is “the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15), meaning that He is “the exact representation of His (God’s) nature” (Heb 1:3), but He cannot be regarded as an "image" that the creatures made.
Nevertheless, they worshiped “the Lamb” (Jesus) together with “him who sits on the throne” (the Father) and the Bible does elsewhere teach that only God may be worshiped (Exo 34:14; Deut 8:19; Matt 4:10; Luke 4:8; Rev 14:7). So, perhaps we may rephrase the question as follows:
Did they, by worshiping the Father and Son together, identify the Son
as God or as equal with the Father?
Jesus and God
It is often claimed that Jesus is God and, therefore, that it is appropriate that He be worshiped. But that is not what Revelation teaches. The book begins with the following words:
“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him” (Rev 1:1).
This phrase, firstly, MAKES A DISTINCTION between Jesus and God, implying that Jesus is not God. If we read on, we will see that Revelation NEVER refers to Jesus as God but ALWAYS maintains a clear distinction between Jesus and God (e.g., Rev 1:2, 9; 5:9-10; 7:10, 17; 12:5; 12:10, 17; 14:4, 12; 20:4-5; 21:22; 22:1, 3). It reserves the title “God” for the Father ONLY.
Revelation’s opening phrase, quoted above, secondly implies that Jesus is SUBORDINATE to God because God gave Him this revelation. Revelation does refer to Christ as “the first and the last,” “the beginning and the end” and as “the Alpha and the Omega” (Rev 1:17; 22:12-13), implying that He has always existed. Revelation, nevertheless, presents Christ as subordinate to His Father, as also indicated by the following:
Revelation refers to the Father as Jesus’ God (Rev 1:6; 3:2, 12).
One of the frequent titles for the Father in Revelation is “Him who
sits on the throne.” The Father is even described as such in the verse
on which the question above is based, in which Jesus is “worshiped”
together with “Him who sits on the throne” (Rev 5:13-14; cf. Rev 3:21;
4:2; 5:7; 7:10; 12:5; 19:4). The Father, therefore, is the ultimate
In defense against the indications that the Son is subordinate to the Father, people make a distinction between different types of subordination. They say that Jesus is functionally subordinate to the Father but ontologically (in terms of His being) equal to God. In other words, they say that Jesus is also the Almighty; the One who exists without a cause; the Ultimate Reality. In contrast, Revelation describes the Son also as ontologically subordinate to the Father:
Firstly, Revelation (and the entire New Testament) NEVER refers to Jesus as the Almighty but makes an explicit distinction between Jesus and the Almighty:
“The Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (Rev 21:22;
cf. Rev 19:15).
Revelation identifies “God” as the “Almighty” (Rev 1:8; 4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 16:7, 14; 19:6) and “God” refers to the Father ONLY. For further discussion, see - Is Jesus the Almighty?
Secondly, Jesus is “alive forevermore” (Rev 1:18) and “will reign forever” (Rev 11:15), but Revelation identifies the Father as "Him who lives forever and ever" (Rev 4:9-10; 15:7). The difference is that the Father “alone possesses immortality” (1 Tim 6:16). As the only begotten Son of God, Jesus derived His eternal existence and nature from the Father. The Father is the Unbegotten Source of all things. He, alone, has inherent (essential) immortality.
If the Father ALONE is the Almighty and essentially immortal, then the Son is also ontologically subordinate to the Father.
Titles such as “the first and the last” (Rev 1:17), “the beginning and the end,” and “the Alpha and the Omega” (Rev 22:12-13) imply that the Son has always existed. Nevertheless, in the book of Revelation, only the Father is called God (cf. Rev 1:2) and Almighty (e.g., Rev 21:22) and sits on the throne (e.g., Rev 12:5; 3:21; 4:2). This presents the Son as subordinate to the Father.
Worship and Proskuneó
But, the question remains, if Jesus is not God, but subordinate to God, why is He worshiped? To explain this, consider the word “worship.”
No word in ancient Greek is exactly equivalent to the modern English word “worship.” The word translated as “worship” in Revelation 5:13 is proskuneó and means “to do reverence to.” While the word “worship” generally implies that the one worshiped is a god, proskuneó is also used when people “do reverence to” an exalted person such as a king (Matt 18:26; Rev 3:7-9; Acts 10:25). Proskuneó merely means to show extreme respect to another being by bowing down. See Stackexchange or here for a more detailed discussion.
When somebody proskuneó God or a god, “worship” is an appropriate translation. But when somebody proskuneó other beings, “bow down” or "do reverence" would be more appropriate translations. For example, in Revelation 3:9, Jesus said, “I will make them come and bow down at your feet.” “Bow down,” here, translates proskuneó. For similar examples, see Matthew 18:26 or Acts 10:25.
In the New Testament, people proskuneó Jesus 13 times. In all instances, the KJV translates this as “worship” but in six instances, where it is clear from the context that Jesus was not worshiped, the NASB translates this as “bow down.” For example:
“A leper came to Him and bowed down before Him” (Matt 8:2).
“A synagogue official came and bowed down before Him” (Matt 9:18; cf.
(Matt 15:25; 20:20; Mark 5:6; 5:9; 15:19).
For further discussion, see – If Jesus is not God, why must we worship Him?
The point is that when our Bibles translate proskuneó as "worship," when Jesus receives proskuneó, it is not because of anything in the word proskuneó itself; it is based on the view most translators have that Jesus is God. The same applies to the translation of proskuneó in Revelation 5:14. If the translators did not assume that Jesus is the Ultimate Reality, perhaps they would have translated proskuneó in that verse differently.
In conclusion, the translation of proskuneó in 5:14 as "worship" is an interpretation. It does not mean that Jesus is God or equal with His Father.
Revelation 5 describes what happens in heaven when Jesus arrives after His ascension. In particular, it describes His enthronement at His Father’s right hand. Philippians 2:6-11 describes that same event. In that passage:
Jesus is worshiped by the entire creation (“every knee will bow”)
because “God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is
above every name” (Phil 2:9-19),
He is worshiped “to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:11), and
“Every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord;” i.e., they
do NOT confess Him as God.
This is exactly what we see in Revelation 5 where the entire universe praises them:
“To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and
honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.” (Rev 5:13) Then the
elders fell down and worshiped/did reverence (Rev 5:14).
For a discussion, see the article on Philippians 2.
We Must Worship Jesus.
I would accept the translation “worship” for Jesus in Revelation 5. We must honor Him just like we honor the Father (John 5:23). God is the Creator, but He created and still maintains all things THROUGH His Son (John 1:3; Col 1:16-17; Heb 1:2-3; 1 Cor 8:6). God is the ultimate Ruler, but He GAVE all authority to His Son (Matt 28:18). The Father has “life in Himself” but He also gave the Son to have “life in Himself” (John 5:26). Before He became human (or, a human being), He existed in the form of God and equal with God (Phil 2:6). After His victory on earth, “God highly exalted Him … so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow” (Phil 2:9-10). “It was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him” (Col 1:19; 2:9). “He is the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15). “All will honor the Son even as they honor the Father” (John 5:23).
God cannot be seen because He exists outside the physical universe. Inside this universe, His unique Son has “all authority” (Matt 28:18). Created beings simply cannot see God (1 Tim 1:17) but, in Christ, we can see the fullness of God. For these reasons I maintain that we must worship Jesus to the full extent of the meaning of that word, even knowing that He is subordinate to the Ultimate Reality. He is worthy of all our adoration.