The Lamb Reigns

The Lamb overcomes and reigns, not the Lion. In popular preaching, Jesus has become the “Lion of the Tribe of Judah,” the Messiah who unleashes his predatory roar as he conquers his enemies. Unlike the man from Nazareth, this warrior-king is about to come and destroy everyone who opposes him as he imposes his kingdom on the willing and the unwilling. No longer is he the savior who submitted to an unjust death to save the world. Does not the Book of Revelation tell us that he is the roaring messianic lion?

But that is NOT the image found in John’s vision. In Chapter 5 of Revelation, John begins to weep bitterly because no one in the entire creation is found who is “worthy” to open the “Sealed Scroll” and implement its contents. If it stays sealed, the redemptive purposes of God will remain unfulfilled.

Lamb - Israel - Photo by Sulthan Auliya on Unsplash
[Photo by Sulthan Auliya on Unsplash]

But John then 
HEARS one of the twenty-four “elders” order him to cease weeping, for the “Lion from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, overcame to open the scroll and its seven seals.” However, when he LOOKS, John SEES a “slain Lamb” and NOT a roaring lion who crushes and devours his prey.

Thus, what John SEES interprets what he first HEARS - an interpretive technique used several times in the Book. In other words, Jesus IS the “Lion of Judah,” but he fulfills that messianic role as the “slain Lamb.”


And the English term rendered “slain” translates the Greek verb used commonly for the “slaying” of sacrificial animals in the Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint - (sphazo). This “Lamb” is the sacrificial victim whereby atonement was made for sin.

Paradoxically, it is by this sacrificial death that he “overcomes” or CONQUERS and thus becomes “worthy” to reign from the Divine Throne. He does not achieve sovereignty over all things by slaying his enemies.

Moreover, from this point forward in Revelation, the term “Lamb” becomes the primary designation for Jesus. He is called “Christ” seven times, “Jesus” fourteen times, but “Lamb” twenty-eight times – (4 x 7). The passage in Chapter 5 is the one and only time when he is called the “Lion of Judah.” It is the “Lamb” who rules over the entire creation from his Father’s Throne and unveils the contents of the “Sealed Scroll.”

The rest of the passage confirms this understanding. Immediately upon his appearance, the “Lamb” approaches the Throne, takes the “Sealed Scroll,” and begins to open its seals. Then the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders prostrate themselves before him and--:

  • They sing a new song, declaring, Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were SLAIN and purchased for God with your blood men from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation, and made them a kingdom and priests unto our God; and they are reigning on earth…Worthy is the Lamb that has been slain to receive the power, and riches, and wisdom, and might and honor, and glory, and blessing!

From the Book’s opening salutation, its visions are anchored firmly in the past death and resurrection of Jesus. He is the “Faithful Witness, the Firstborn of the Dead, and the Ruler of the Kings of the Earth. Unto him who loves us and loosed us from our sins BY HIS BLOOD; and made us a kingdom, priests unto his God and Father.”

And it was in his sacrificial death that he gave his “faithful testimony,” and his life poured out willingly in sacrifice constituted his followers as “priests.” They now reign with him. He has all authority - including over “Death and Hades” – precisely because he is the one who was dead but now is “alive forevermore.”


When the Book of Revelation describes faithful believers as a “kingdom of priests,” it uses the PRESENT TENSE – This is what they are now on the earth. Already, they are reigning with him as they bear faithful witness to the “Inhabitants of the Earth.” But they reign as priests, not overlords, and they do so by giving their lives in priestly service for others.

The distinction between “lion” and “lamb” is critical not only for how a believer “overcomes” and stands before Jesus and the “Throne,” but more importantly, for how he or she understands who and what Jesus is.

At the close of the Seven Letters to the churches of Asia, the “faithful and true witness” summoned all his churches to “conquer” and sit with him on his throne, but to do so “JUST AS I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches” – (Revelation 3:14-22).

Likewise, in Chapter 12, the victorious saints “overcome the Dragon,” doing so “by the blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimony, and because they love not their lives unto death” – (Revelation 12:11).

It is the “Lamb” who is now the “Lord of lords and King of kings.” In the Book’s final vision, those whose names are “inscribed in the LAMB’s book of life” are found in the “city of New Jerusalem.” Even though total victory is achieved throughout the Cosmos, it is still the “Lamb who is found reigning in the city – (“The city has no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine upon it: for the glory of God illuminates it, and its lamp is the Lamb”).

The Apostle Paul declared that the proclamation of “Christ crucified” is the very “power and wisdom of God” by which He achieved total victory over sin, death, and the Devil. In its own pictorial way, Revelation tells the same story.

The image of a mighty warlike lion “roaring” while he slays our “enemies” certainly appeals to our carnal side; however, such notions are incompatible with the Messiah who “poured himself out and humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even death on a cross.” THAT is the Jesus whom God highly exalted and made Lord over all things, and the same Jesus who is the “same yesterday, today, and forever.”



The Living Word

The Suffering Servant