I believe that the lion and the lamb conversation is one of the most misunderstood concepts that is taught about Jesus. Many songs, sermons, and statements have been made about Jesus being the lion and the lamb, but do we really understand this concept and what the Bible has to say?
“The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe” has given us an image of a lion figure that helps our imagination in attempting to put a theological framework around Jesus being a lion.
The lion and the lamb with lay down together
Growing up, I would often hear about Revelation saying something about a lion and a lamb laying down together. I even heard this by someone teaching high schoolers a few months ago, but this is not true! Not only is there nothing about this in Revelation, but the verses that are similar to this concept are about a wolf and a lamb.
The wolf will live with the lamb…
The wolf and the lamb will feed together…
The Lion of Judah and the slain Lamb
Many songs have been sung with this idea:
The Godhead Three in One
Father Spirit Son
The Lion and the Lamb
Out of the silence, the Roaring Lion
Declared the grave has no claim on me
And every knee will bow before the Lion and the Lamb
Oh every knee will bow before the Lion and the Lamb
These sound nice, but I would challenge that they are not biblically accurate!
Let’s take a look at the passage.
5 Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”
καὶ εἷς ἐκ τῶν πρεσβυτέρων λέγει μοι· μὴ κλαῖε, ἰδοὺ ἐνίκησεν ὁ λέων ὁ ἐκ τῆς φυλῆς Ἰούδα, ἡ ῥίζα Δαυίδ, ἀνοῖξαι τὸ βιβλίον καὶ τὰς ἑπτὰ σφραγῖδας αὐτοῦ.
A few things to be aware of:
- The Jewish people were waiting on a messiah to show up. We have to understand that Jesus showing up on the scene for the Jewish people was less about being a “personal Lord and savior”, like we preach about today, and more about a deliver coming that would overthrow the nations that oppressed the Jews and setup a kingdom that would last forever. This was promised over and over in the Old Testament (2 Samuel 7, Isaiah 9:6-7, etc)
- Jesus came from the line of King David (the root of David). We see this in both Genealogy accounts (Matthew 1, Luke 3).
- The Lion of Judah is a symbol of the expected messiah that goes all the way back to the blessing that Jacob gave to his son Judah (Genesis 49:9-10).
The messiah was believed to come from the tribe of Judah (Jesus did come from there).
Now the purpose of this passage is to be a dramatic comedy. The elders said that this messiah, who is fierce as the Lion of Judah and the root of David (warrior king), is worthy.
Let’s see what happens then as the passage continues…
6 Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.
Καὶ εἶδον ἐν μέσῳ τοῦ θρόνου καὶ τῶν τεσσάρων ζῴων καὶ ἐν μέσῳ τῶν πρεσβυτέρων ἀρνίον ἑστηκὸς ὡς ἐσφαγμένον ἔχων κέρατα ἑπτὰ καὶ ὀφθαλμοὺς ἑπτὰ οἵ εἰσιν τὰ ἑπτὰ πνεύματα τοῦ θεοῦ ἀπεσταλμένοι εἰς πᾶσαν τὴν γῆν.
*** In the essay, “The Lamb in the Rhetorical Program of the Apocalypse of John”, Dr. Loren L. Johns says:
“The lamb in the Apocalypse never “becomes” any other animal—not a ram, a lion, or any other creature. It remains a lamb from beginning to end.”
“While the throne vision of chapter 4 is the necessary context, the climax of this scene comes in the fifth chapter. The scene revolves around the question, “Who is worthy to take the scroll?” It is announced that the lion conqueror is worthy. But what does the seer see? “A lamb standing as slaughtered” (5:6). This scene, with its shocking switch of images, lies at the theological heart of the Apocalypse. From here on, the image of Christ as lamb serves as the dominant image for Christ. “
*** In the book “Breaking the Code”, Dr. Bruce M. Metzger says:
“What follows is altogether unexpected. John looked to see the Lion, the king of beasts, and instead he sees a Lamb with the marks of slaughter upon it (5:6)! He looked to see power and force, by which the enemies of his faith would be destroyed, and he sees sacrificial love and gentleness as the way to win the victory”
*** In the book “Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God”, Brian Zahnd says:
“Part of the divine comedy of Revelation is how the beasts of empire are conquered, not by another beast, but by a tiny slaughtered Lamb. The elder tells John to look for a lion: “Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah.” But a lion is never seen. What is seen is the Lamb. Jesus is referred to as the Lamb twenty-eight times in Revelation.”
The lion never showed up!
They expected a lion, but only got a slain lamb.
As a matter of fact, a lion never shows up in Revelation at all!
Only a lamb shows up, and this slain lamb is the theme of Revelation.
If we say that Jesus is a Lion and a Lamb, because of this passage, we miss the point! Just like they expected the messiah to come with fierce violent power… He was put to death as the lamb of God, but we tend to still want this warrior king and messiah. Jesus is the one who brought defeat not by violent rule, but by obedient death and servanthood. As Revelation goes one, how much more powerful is it that the dragon and the beasts are not killed by another beast (a lion) but by bloody slain lamb? This shows the power of Christ’s sacrifice. This shows the power of Christ’s death and His way!
He came the first time as a lamb, but will return as a fierce lion!
I often hear this from people. They point to the the battle at the end of Revelation as if Jesus is going to handle things in a different way than when He first came. Let’s look at one of these passages.
13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” (pointing back to Gen. 49:10) He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
king of kings and lord of lords.
A few things to notice:
- His robe is dipped in blood, before the battle. This is believed to be His blood.
- Notice the sword isn’t in His hand, but it is coming out of His mouth. This doesn’t represent Him doing battle the way the world does, but by truth. This truth doesn’t cut down individuals… it cuts down “nations” and empires because Christ, His way, and His kingdom is truth that will last forever.
Remember the conversation Jesus had with Pilate?
36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate.
This conversation is not just about Pilate killing Jesus to be the substitute for our sins so that if we pray a prayer we can go to heaven. This conversation is about the kingdom of Caesar and the kingdom of Jesus colliding with two different value systems. Jesus’s way is true and will prevail, because He laid down His life and didn’t use violent means. His kingdom and truth are not by the mean of this world, such as violence!
*** In the book “The Lamb Christology of the Apocalypse of John”, Dr. Loren L. Johns comments:
“The Lamb overcame evil by refusing to adopt its methods and its rules and bearing its brunt.”
Jesus will not reveal himself in His second coming in a way that opposes what we have seen and learned from Him. Remember…
8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Some of these statements about the lion and the lamb are exciting, because it makes it seem like we are living in the “Chronicles of Narnia”. Let’s seek to be accurate about our thoughts of Jesus and His Character, and let’s sing songs and teach these beliefs responsibly!
*** added on 6-15-2018