The Lion, the Lamb, and the Throne Room
It’s definitely one of my favorite passages in the Bible. Revelation 5. The great throne room scene. The apostle John is seeing a vision of the very presence of God. “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?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it.” (Rev 5:1-4) Why does John get so upset? Because the scroll represents God’s plan, and that plan will not come about unless someone opens the scroll.
Then he gets the wonderful news: the Lion of Judah can open the scroll. He is worthy. Why? Because He has conquered. John turns to see the conquering, triumphant lion… and finds a lamb. Whereas lions are an image of strength, lambs are just the opposite. How many schools use “the Fighting Lambs” as their mascot? And not only is this a lamb, but a lamb with its throat slit. It’s a slaughtered lamb.
This verse is key to understanding the whole book of Revelation, dare I say, the whole of Christianity. Christ has redefined victory. You win by losing. You live by dying. The Lamb isn’t worthy in spite of having been slain. He is worthy because He was slain. Suddenly all the Old Testament prophecies take on a new light. All of our images about who the Messiah is are now defined in terms of the cross. There is victory in dying! There is triumph in suffering. The Lion is a Lamb. Death is a victory. Christians overcome by being faithful when persecuted, following the example of the Faithful Witness who triumphed through martyrdom.
What a message for a church that was about to be persecuted. “Faithful unto death” doesn’t mean a lifetime of faithful service; it means being faithful even as the blade severs our head from our body, even as the wild animals rip our lives from our bodies. It means faithful to the point of death… and beyond. We share in the Lamb’s triumph when we renounce our lives to share in His death. We don’t become powerful lions, we become lambs to the slaughter. By doing so we become worthy, just as the Lamb is worthy. Not because of our sacrifice, but because of His.
“And they sang a new song, saying, “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.” (Rev 5:9-10)
Powerful image. Powerful passage. Powerful message.