Monday, April 4, 2011

The Revelation of Jesus as the Lion and the Lamb

Part 12 of a series through the book of Revelation

Text: Revelation 5:1-14

GOD’S PLAN FOR THE FUTURE

Back in the eighties, there was a Canadian Tire commercial in which a group of boys are picking teams for a game of pond hockey. The littlest boy is Albert, and no one wants him on their team—not even his older brother. The commercial then skips about twenty years into the future. Albert is now a professional hockey player. (I’m not sure why Albert’s first name is on the back of his jersey.) The crowd is chanting his name. “Albert! Albert! Albert!” The commercial ends with the opposing team’s coach saying to his assistant coach, “Sure wish we had a guy like Albert.”

Right now, the Pittsburgh Penguins and their fans sure wish that Sidney Crosby will be ready to play when the playoffs start. (He’s been out with a concussion since early January.) When you have a guy like Albert or Sidney Crosby on your side, there’s a good chance that your team will win. The book of Revelation reveals that the victory of Jesus is certain.

Jesus is on our side, so be filled with worship, not fear of the future.

Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” (vv. 1-2).

The scroll with seven seals contains God’s plan for the future (seven seals, seven trumpets, seven bowls).

THE LION IS A LAMB!

In verses 5-6, Jesus is symbolized by two animals. First, Jesus is a mighty Lion. 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 and its seven seals” (v. 5). The background to the titles "the Lion of the tribe of Judah" and "the Root of David" can be found in the Old Testament. “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 scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute come to him; and to him shall be the obedience of people’s” (Genesis 49:9-10). “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. [...] In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious” (Isaiah 11:1, 10; cf. Revelation 22:16). Jesus is both a descendent (“shoot”) of David (Matthew 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30-31) and the source (“root”) of David’s rule (cf. Mark 12:35-37).

Second, Jesus is a slain Lamb. 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 (v. 6). A lion is an animal of strength (“king of the beasts”). A lamb is an animal of vulnerability. The Greek word for “Lamb” is arnion, which means “a little lamb.” This word is found 29 times in Revelation, and only once elsewhere in the NT (John 21:15).

The Lamb looked “as though it had been slain.” This represents the crucifixion of Jesus. The sacrificial lambs of the OT foreshadowed Jesus. He is the “ram, caught in a thicket by his horns” (Genesis 22:13). He is the Passover lamb (Exodus 12:1-13; cf. 1 Corinthians 5:7). He is the “suffering servant” who was “led like a lamb to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7 NIV).

The Lamb was “standing.” This represents the resurrection of Jesus. Following the resurrection, the body of Jesus still bore the scars from His crucifixion. “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it by my side” (John 20:27). Victory over sin and Satan was accomplished through the death and resurrection of Jesus. “He will bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15). He conquered not by sword, but by sacrifice.

The Lamb had “seven horns.” This represents the omnipotence of Jesus. “Seven” is the number of completion, and horns are symbols for strength. The Lamb also had “seven eyes.” This represents the omniscience of Jesus. The Lion is a Lamb, and the Lamb is a Ram. (A ram is a powerful animal. Dodge has named their truck the Dodge Ram—“ram tough.”)

THE MERCY AND JUSTICE OF THE LAMB

When John the Baptist saw Jesus, he declared, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). “Takes away” has two possible meanings.

First, "takes away" can mean that Jesus has atoned for the sin of the world. Sometimes it’s said that a person has “atoned for his mistakes” (e.g., NFL quarterback Michael Vick). Jesus didn’t atone for His own sins; He atoned for ours. We call this substitutionary atonement.

Second, "takes away" can mean that Jesus will judge the sin of the world. Jesus didn’t live up to most people’s expectations. When John the Baptist was put in prison, it seems even he was not certain that Jesus was the Messiah. (Isn’t the Messiah supposed to set the captives free?) He sent some of his followers to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3). The people of Israel didn’t think that suffering was part of the Messiah’s job description. They believed He would come as a Lion, not a Lamb. They didn’t understand that He would not appear as a Lion until His second coming. When He returns, the kings of the earth “will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings” (Revelation 17:14).

WORTHY IS THE LAMB!

“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” (vv. 9-10).

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (v. 12).

Why is Jesus worthy of our worship? (Keep in mind that worship is more than just praise. It is also devotion. We worship with our lips and our lives.)

First, He redeemed us. We are redeemed “not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19). Second, He will allow us to reign with Him.

Is Jesus on your side? (Or perhaps it would be better to ask, are you on Jesus’ side?) Have you put your faith in Him?

If Jesus is on your side, have you stopped to truly appreciate what that means? Be filled with worship, not fear of the future.