The Lion & the Lamb
I want to read again part of that portion of the Revelation which I read a moment ago, from Revelation Chapter 5, and from verse 4…”And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon. And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. And I looked, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain …” Rev 5: 4-6
Here one of the Elders of Heaven tells John that the “Lion of the tribe of Judah” is the only one worthy to open the seven seals, on a great book of Justice, and when John looks, instead of a Lion, he sees a Lamb? The Elder calls for a Lion, and a Lamb steps forward? What kind of paradox is this? How can a Lamb be a Lion, – how can a Lion be a Lamb? Yet these two titles do in fact belong to one person – the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. In today’s sermon which I have entitled “The Lion and the Lamb” I will endeavour to explain just why Jesus embodies these two wonderful titles, for he is truly
a LION and a LAMB?
Which is your favourite picture of Jesus? I don’t mean a painting or illustration, but your favourite image of these two, the Lion or the Lamb?
Yet having a favourite image of Jesus can lead to a danger and an error as I shall show later: We may choose to think of Jesus in that way – and NOT in others. There is always a danger of our focusing on one aspect of Jesus’ character and, by so doing, overemphasizing that, misunderstanding and thus misrepresenting the person of Jesus!
We must remember a basic principle of Biblical interpretation: Use Scripture to understand Scripture. We need to look at the entirety of Scripture to keep our theological understanding in balance. Lock that word Balance into your thinking.
Thus Paul says to Ephesian elders:
“I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God“. Acts 20:26-27. The whole counsel of God – that is what we are to preach – and that should form the background for every theological position we hold. What is heresy? Heresy is not complete falsehood for Heresy always has a basis in truth. Heresy is picking up on one truth and running with it, at the expense of other truths. Heresy is getting your theology out of Biblical balance. As Bible believing Christians, we want to avoid any heresy; so we look to the whole counsel of God, and I am committed through expository preaching to teach you that whole counsel of God.
In today’s text, in Revelation 5, John himself is confronted with two very different images of Jesus back to back. The vision God gives him juxtaposes, puts right next to each other, two views of Jesus: Jesus as the Lion of Judah; and Jesus as the slain
yet living Lamb.
This is a puzzle: How can it be accurate to describe anyone as both Lion and Lamb? It is my prayer that God would use this text to open our eyes to both these truths, so that you might give glory to Jesus, as you see the contrasting aspects of His character and delight in Him for Who He is.
This is what we find in Revelation 5. The book of Justice must be opened if every wrong is to be righted, if justice is to be done. Yet there is no one without sin. No one worthy to judge. So John weeps and weeps: for his own sinfulness, for the sinfulness of the human species, for the lack of justice. But that’s not the end of the story!
Lets read again…
And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll (or book) and its seven seals.” Revelation 5:5
There is one who is worthy! There is one member of the human race who has not sinned: that is The Lion of the tribe of Judah!
Why is Jesus called a lion? Lions are powerful and dangerous. Lions are majestic – even in Jesus’ day, the lion was a symbol of royalty. This is a specific reference to the prophecy that Jacob gave about the descendants of Judah in Genesis 49: Let me read it: “ Judah is a lion’s cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down; he crouched as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him? The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the people”.
“The sceptre shall not depart from Judah” – and thus his kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom. “To him shall be the obedience of the people” – and thus every tribe and tongue and people and language on earth will serve Him. Since Jesus is a descendant of Judah, all this is fulfilled in the images of Revelation 5.
The angel also refers to Jesus as the “Root of David”. This term comes from Isaiah 11 (although there, He is called the “Root of Jesse”, David’s father):
This passage pictures a perfect king, a king who will bring justice to the poor and the weak, a king who will punish the wicked by killing them with the breath of his lips, and striking the earth with the rod of his mouth. So, John expects to see a mighty, powerful, majestic Lion. He expects to see one who is able to overcome all opposition! This is the person he expects
to take the scroll. But that is not what he sees at all:
“And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth”. Revelation 5:6
John hears a description of the Lion – then looks, and sees something completely different. This happens several times in the Book of the Revelation. The contrast sheds light on the character of what is heard and seen.
Imagine John’s surprise: He sees not a Lion but a Lamb! And even the Lamb is not mighty and powerful, but one who is “as slain.” (There is no need to translate this “as though it had been slain”. That translation makes it look as if the Lamb only appeared to be slain. But the Lamb is really slain! So “as slain” or “as one who was slain” is a better translation.)
What is the image of the lamb in Scripture? There are almost 200 references in Scripture to lambs; the vast majority of these refer to lambs killed as sacrifices. The most important of these references for us is in Isaiah 53, the passage about the suffering servant, dying for His people. He is said to be “like a lamb that is led to the slaughter” (v7). Why? Because “the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (v6). Sin requires judgment. God told Adam in the Garden that he would die the day he ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Every sinner is subject to that death sentence. Justice must be done. But God provides a substitute, God provides a lamb on whom He can put the sin of those He saves. So, God exercises justice, seeing that every sin is punished; and God exercises mercy, forgiving those who believe by putting their sins on a lamb, God’s Lamb or the Lamb of God.
The Lamb must be spotless. Otherwise, the Lamb would have to die for His own sins. But since Jesus was sinless, He was the perfect sacrifice. As the book of Hebrews says: “in every respect he was tempted as we are, yet without sin”. Hebrews 4:15
He did not have to die for His sins. So He was able to take on the sins of all those who believe in Him.
I should point out here that the Lamb is literally “in the midst of the throne.” We remember this from earlier in Revelation 3:21, since Jesus said there, “I sat down with my Father on His throne.” So He gets up from the throne, and takes the scroll from the right hand of God the Father Almighty. Then the four living creatures and 24 elders – in fact, everything that has breath – worship Him.
Is this right? Is it right for these creatures and elders to worship the Lamb? Twice in Revelation John begins to worship angels, and they rebuke him, telling him to worship God alone; But there is no rebuke here! The Lamb of God, the Lion of Judah, is God Himself! He is worthy of worship! He is the second person of the Trinity! All creation praises him for being worthy to take the book and open its seals. For by His death He ransomed or redeemed us. And He ransomed us for a purpose: He ransomed us for God! To bring glory to God! Thus He is worthy of all praise, all glory, all honour – and He will receive it in full, and will receive it for all eternity … Worthy is the Lamb.
So in order to see Jesus fully, to see Him in all His complexity, we need to see Him as both Lion and Lamb. He is a Lamb, truly. He is a Lion, truly. Why do we need this balanced view of Jesus as Lion and Lamb? And why is this important? What are the dangers of overemphasizing Jesus as Lion, or overemphasizing Him as Lamb? How can the Biblical truth concerning the character of Jesus be distorted by not keeping in balance the whole counsel of God?
Some may consider him as … The Avenging Lion
“He will come to judge my enemies. He will protect me, and wreak vengeance on those who have harmed me. So you my enemies, had better watch out! The Lion is going to get you!”
Is there truth here? By all means! Jesus is the Lion! Jesus will wreak vengeance on all His enemies. He will destroy those who trample His Name. He will watch over His people and protect them. We need not fear; We cannot be killed while His purpose for us remains. Yet there is unbalance here in this view.
You think of your human enemies as THE enemy – and you expect Jesus, the Lion, to fight against them.
But we must remember that Jesus is the Lion and the Lamb!
He could be the Lamb who was slain for your enemies!
He may intend to conquer your enemies with love, and not with might; He may intend to bring your enemies to Himself through your witnessing of His grace. He may bring your enemies to Himself through your death! So as Jesus said: “love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). For you can be the means by which your enemies see the Lamb!
Furthermore, the whole counsel of God is vital because …
Some may consider him as … The Gentle Lamb
Those with this view say and believe that, “Jesus is the Lamb of
God who takes away the sin of the world! He died to give life to His enemies! He is so gracious, so kind, so forgiving! He is
the perfect revelation of God’s love! “So will this Lamb hurt anyone? How could He be the perfect lamb if He did? He may discipline people, He may correct people – but He could not send anyone to hell? The dying Lamb! Forgiveness in God,
available to all!”
Is there truth in that view? By all means! Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He is gracious and forgiving. He is the servant of all, who died willingly to be a substitute for sinful humanity. He is the Redeemer of all who come to Him and accept or grasp that by faith.
Yet we must remember that Jesus is the Lamb and the Lion!
How we need this image of Jesus as Lion!
Already in Revelation we’ve seen powerful images of an avenging Jesus: In Rev.2:16 He wages war against His enemies with the sword of His mouth; In Rev.2:23, He promises to strike dead the children of the Jezebel-like woman in Thyatira. Jesus is loving, kind, forgiving, and merciful – Jesus is the Lamb. Praise God! But Jesus also executes perfect justice; He slaughters His enemies; He defends the honour of God – Jesus is the Lion, and we need to Hold On to both truths, to both pictures of him.
Then again there are some view him as …
Jesus, MY Lamb
Those who hold to this view say, “Jesus is the Lamb of God who died for me. He paid the penalty for my sins. He loves me with an everlasting love. Therefore, I must be really special! I must be wonderful! God doesn’t love rubbish! How great I must be!” some will say?
Precious truth! Jesus did Die to redeem a people for Himself! He died not for mankind in general, not for a class of people, but for
each of His people in particular. We often sing “My name is
graven on His hands, My name is written on His heart.” Love that truth and take great joy in that truth! But true as it is, it is not the whole truth for man is not at the centre; God is at the centre! And this false view puts man at the centre.
Why did Jesus suffer on the cross? What was He thinking of? What does Jesus Himself say? … let me read from the Gospel;
“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”
The glory of God! That is what Jesus thought of above all! The glory of God, as fulfilled in Revelation 5:13, when every creature – all those who weren’t worthy to open the scroll in verse 3 –
give glory to God and the Lamb for ever and ever.
Jesus is the Lamb who aims to glorify God for His mercy. Jesus is the Lion who aims to glorify God for His justice.
We must hold on to both!
So instead of singing of this truth in a man-centred way, we can express this precious truth in a God-centred way, as Charles Wesley says “Amazing love! How can it be that thou my God shouldst die for me.”
Jesus is the Lion and the Lamb. He is the King, coming to wreak vengeance on His enemies; He is the gentle lamb, dying for His people. As Isaiah writes: “Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will tend his flock like a Shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young”. Isaiah 40:10
Jesus comes to rule, He comes to pay back His enemies; He comes to gently carry His lambs. He will come to carry his lambs home, as he does when every true believer passes from time into eternity. He will come at the next resurrection to carry the Church home, but he will also come as a roaring Lion with words of judgement like a flaming sword, and put an end to all the evils of this world for ever. He is Gods Lamb, he is Gods Lion, look at Him in His entirety! See Him in ALL His glory! Don’t try to tame Him, to limit Him, to box Him in!
Love Him as the Lamb, dying for your sin!
Love Him as the Lion, with all authority, might, and power!
Love as the bridegroom, coming for His church!
Love Him as the conquering, vengeful King with the bloodied robe!
NOW THIS FINAL WORD
Let me tell you how I picture it … this is not what the Bible says
but certainly is what it implies. For me, Jesus is the Lamb of God, and I (David) am His lamb, held for ever near to His gentle breast, safe in his loving arms. I’ve been held there since the day I gave him my heart, 50 years ago. When the enemy, whatever or whoever that enemy be and anything and everything that is “hell” inspired, … when that enemy sees me come, it doesn’t see the lamb, it sees the Lion, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, in whom I rest, and that enemy runs, flees for its life, because of Him, not because of me. Left alone, you and I are no match for the Devil, but when we are resting in and leaning on Jesus, then the Devil and every Demon in Hell is put to flight. I have often had to pray or to cry out “don’t let me down Jesus” for I have sometimes been fearful to face that enemy alone, … yet I have discovered that if I am down, it is not that He let me down, but that I must have climbed down of my own accord. The Lamb, the Lion, the Word, call him what you will, but he will never let you down! Thank God for the Lamb, thank God for the Lion.
That’s why we can Love Him as the complete Christ – and love him today!
And as we bring our Service to a close let me ask you a simple question, …. are you in the arms of Jesus, safe on His gentle breast. If not, climb up there today by faith, and let him hold on to you for the rest of your days.
Glory to God, He will do just that. Amen.