From the island of Patmos the apostle John “in the Spirit” ascended into heaven, and saw in God’s right hand a scroll “sealed tightly with seven seals” (Revelation 1:9; 4:1-2; 5:1). When no one “could open the scroll,” John “wept much” (Revelation 5:3-4). One of the 24 elders said to him,
Do not weep. Look! The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the descendant of David, has conquered! He can break the seals and open the scroll (Revelation 5:5).
However, the one who took the scroll from God’s hand was not the Lion, but a Lamb! What is the explanation?
All 66 Bible books are interlocked. The history of the Lion and Lamb pattern begins in Genesis. About 1706 B.C. the patriarch Jacob prophesied about one of his sons:
Judah will stoop and crouch as a lion, and as a lion, who will arouse him? The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet until the Peacemaker comes, and him the peoples will obey (Genesis 49:9-10).
Apparently because the lion is the king of the jungle, God planned that a descendant of Judah would be given a king’s scepter of “all authority in heaven and on the earth,” and as a lawgiver the King would issue “the law of the Spirit of life,” the words of which will “judge” all people “in the last day” (cf. Matthew 28:18; Romans 8:2; John 12:48).
Isaiah added to Jacob’s prophecy that the coming lion-like King would be a descendant of King David:
Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and on his kingdom, to order it and to establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of Jehovah of hosts will perform this (9:7).
And a throne will be established in lovingkindness, and one will sit thereon in truth, in the tent of David, judging, and seeking justice, and swift to do righteousness (16:5).
Moreover, the King on David’s throne would not compromise with evil:
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked (11:4).
Other prophets spoke of the coming monarch as a second lion-like “David” (Hosea 3:5; Jeremiah 30:9; Ezekiel 34:24). Then we are shocked to read that he would be
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep is silent before his shearers, so he will not open his mouth (Isaiah 53:7).
How could a king sitting “upon the throne of David” (Isaiah 9:7) become “like a lamb”? Or be called a “servant of rulers” (Isaiah 49:7)? Seven times Isaiah called him a “servant” (42:1; 49:5, 6, 7; 50:10; 52:13; 53:11). As a lion and a lamb are opposites, so are a king and a servant.
Physically, no lamb can change into a lion, but one person changed from being an earthly servant into a heavenly king: “The Son of man came not to be served, but to serve” (Matthew 20:28). Everywhere he “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38). When “Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with fever,” Jesus “went to her, took her hand, and raised her up. The fever left her” (Mark 1:30-31). On another occasion, Jesus
took a towel and wrapped it around himself. Then he poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to dry them with the towel.” (John 13:4-5)
His purpose in coming to the earth was to be “the offering for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:2). He volunteered his life as a “ransom” (Matthew 20:28). A ransom is the “price paid” for a release.
Sin is repugnant to the holiness of God, “a being of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he” (Isaiah 6:3; Deuteronomy 32:4). A ransom for the release from the guilt of sin is impossible by “perishable things, as silver and gold” (1 Peter 1:18).
A release is possible only “by the precious blood of Christ, as of an unblemished and spotless lamb” (1 Peter 1:19). Ours was a debt we could not pay; Jesus paid a debt he did not owe. When John the immerser “saw Jesus coming to him,” he exclaimed, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
The Lamb’s blood has “purchased for God men of every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). The Lord adds to the church day by day every saved sinner (Acts 2:47), and so it can be said that “he bought” the church “with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). Baptism puts a sinner “into Christ” (Galatians 3:27), and “in him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7).
While the Lamb was on the earth he was not a king. But after he had given “his life as a ransom” (Matthew 20:28), then he “conquered him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14), and so he “led captivity captive” (Ephesians 4:8), and “stripped rulers and authorities, boldly exposing them in his triumph” (Colossians 2:15). He had entered “the house of the strong man” and had bound him (Matthew 12:29). In so doing, he “indeed abolished death, and has brought to light life and immortality through the gospel (2 Timothy 1:10).
On his return to heaven, having been raised from the dead “to sit” on David’s throne (Acts 2:30), on Pentecost Day, May 28, A.D.30, he became “King of kings” (Revelation 17:14). He “must reign until he has put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:25-26). “Then is the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God” (1 Corinthians 15:24). Thanks be “to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).
How did Jesus become a lion, a conquering king? Only by first being a submissive lamb. His path to the crown was preceded by his path to the cross. The way to the top began down below. He had to work his way up. Like “a lamb,” he “humbled himself, and became obedient to death, even the death of the cross” (Isaiah 53:7; Philippians 2:8). He won by losing. He gained by giving up.
When 24 elders and 4 living creatures in heaven saw the Lamb who was able to open the scroll, they combined their voices in a new song of praise to him.
You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were murdered, and with your blood you purchased for God men of every tribe and language and people and nation, and you made them to be a kingdom and priests for our God, and they reign on the earth.