Jesus: the Lion and the Lamb
Jul 5, 2018 · Courtney Jacob
The book of Revelation is an intriguing, puzzling mystery to many people. Although it shares qualities with Daniel and the New Testament letters, its overall character and style is different from any other book of the Bible. Revelation is filled with visions and otherworldly creatures, and often it leaves us scratching our heads as we seek clear explanations for the wars, terror, broken families, natural disasters, and diseases that continue wreaking havoc on our lives and societies.
But to read Revelation merely in order to understand the End Times or uncover black-and-white explanations is to miss much of what it offers. Like the rest of scripture, Revelation’s purpose is to reveal more of Jesus Christ.
The Images of Revelation
One of Revelation’s defining features is its vivid imagery: a lamb with seven horns and seven eyes (5:6), living creatures, angels, horses and their riders, a dragon, and a beast with ten horns and seven heads that resembled a leopard, but had the feet of a bear and the mouth of a lion (13:1-2). These detailed images may seem more like creatures found in works of fantasy rather than scripture. But, as biblical scholar and theologian Richard Bauckham observes in his book The Theology of the Book of Revelation, this type of imagery was necessary and meaningful for John’s first century audience living in the Roman empire.
“Revelation’s readers in the great cities of the province of Asia were constantly confronted with powerful images of the Roman vision of the world. Civic and religious architecture, iconography, statues, rituals, and festivals, even the visual wonder of cleverly engineered ‘miracles’...in the temples - all provided powerful visual impressions of Roman imperial power and of the splendour of pagan religion. In this context, Revelation provides a set of Christian prophetic counter-images which impress on its readers a different vision of the world: how it looks from the heaven to which John is caught up in chapter 4.”
We might think of Revelation as a glimpse behind the scenes at what's already going on right now. The images of Revelation aren’t meant to intimidate or scare the believer; they are meant to intimidate and challenge the images of power we encounter all around us.
In our Groundwork series “Jesus: the Lion and the Lamb,” we’ll follow Revelation’s purpose and turn our attention to two images of Jesus presented in Revelation 5:5-6: Jesus, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah and Jesus, the Lamb who was slain. We’ll see how these Revelation images of Jesus Christ reveal more to us about who he is and challenge the images of power around us.
Who is Jesus Christ?
If the images in Revelation challenge the images of power around us, then these Revelation images of Jesus Christ comfort and assure (not scare) the believer. By identifying Jesus as both “the Lion of the Tribe of Judah” and “the Lamb who was slain,” Revelation directs our attention back to earlier scripture and establishes his identity firmly in the Old Testament prophecies.
Why is this important? It demonstrates God’s consistent faithfulness to us. It confirms that Jesus is the Messiah and Savior foretold in all of scripture. It provides a firm foundation for our trust that Jesus reigns and God is in control, even when what we see and experience might tempt us to think otherwise.
Get to Know Christ from Heaven’s Perspective
If you’re frustrated with the world’s distribution of power or if you find each day’s news leaves you anxious and wondering why tragedies keep happening, I invite you to study the identity of Jesus Christ from heaven’s perspective through our Groundwork series, “Jesus: the Lion and the Lamb.”
- Jesus, the Lion - Revelation 5:5-6 and Genesis 49:8-10
- Jesus, the Lamb - Revelation 5:1-10 and Revelation 6:15-17
Together we’ll discuss what these seemingly contradictory images of Jesus tell us about who Jesus is and find peace, comfort, and assurance for our lives today.