Lions are both majestic and fearsome. Their muscular build, courage, strength, ferocity and sheer power have earned them the title “King of the Jungle.” Under the right conditions a male lions’ roar can be heard as far away as 5 miles! But paradoxically, the Bible tells us that there will come a time when the ferocious lion will lie down with the helpless lamb.
In ancient Middle East cultures key leaders were often described using lion-like characteristics. “The kings of Babylon and Assyria as well as the pharaoh of Egypt are depicted as vicious and voracious lions, which are bent on tearing other people and nations apart (see Jeremiah 50:17; Ezekiel 32:2).” Temples, palaces and thrones were often adorned with lion figures and statues. King Solomon’s throne was surrounded by statues of lions.1
Numerous writers in the Bible metaphorically use the lion to describe the delivery of God’s judgement on individuals, cities and nations. For example, Jeremiah 25 (NET) prophesies God’s judgment on his people beginning in Jerusalem and ultimately the whole nation: “Like a lion about to attack, the Lord will roar from the heights of heaven; from his holy dwelling on high he will roar loudly. He will roar mightily against his land …” (vs. 30).2
Joel uses lion-like characteristics to speak not of judgement, but of God’s protection for his people. In the Day of the Lord at the second coming of Jesus Joel 3:16 prophesies “The Lord roars from Zion, and utters his voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth quake. But the Lord is a refuge to his people, a stronghold to the people of Israel.“
Just before his death Jacob pronounced a blessing for each of his sons as described in Genesis 49. In his blessing for his fourth son Judah (vs. 8-12), Jacob lovingly and confidently referred to Judah as a “lion’s cub.” Jacob’s blessing foretold that as Judah matured into a full-grown lion he would conquer his enemies, that Judah’s brothers would “praise him” and “bow down” before him, and that the people would be obedient to him. History proved that Jacob was prophetic as each of his blessing statements for his son Judah was fulfilled. Ultimately Judah’s descendants, along with those of his brother Benjamin, constituted one of the twelve tribes of Israel, commonly known as the Tribe of Judah. Appropriately, the lion became the symbol for the Tribe of Judah … The Lion of the Tribe of Judah.3
It is no surprise that the symbolism of the lion has been so significant to the Jews for thousands of years. But there is a significant surprise for the Jews regarding the lion revealed in the book of Revelation. Revelation is an often misunderstood and mysterious portion of the Scripture. Even gifted Bible scholars disagree on the interpretation of many passages. But one thing is crystal clear … Revelation is first and foremost a revelation about Jesus Christ (1:1). Throughout the book of Revelation Jesus is identified as:
- “the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.” (1:5)
- the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End” (1:8)
- the one “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (1:8)
- the risen, glorified Son of God ministering among the churches (1:10-11)
- the First and the Last (1:17)
- the Son of Man (1:12)
- the one who was dead, but now is alive forevermore (1:18)
- the Son of God (2:18)
- “the holy one, the true one” (3:7)
- “the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God” (3:14)
- the Lamb in heaven, with authority to open the title/deed to the earth (6:1)
- the Lamb on the throne (7:17)
- the Messiah who will reign forever (11:15)
- the Word of God (19:13)
- the majestic “King of kings and Lord of lords,” returning in glorious splendor to conquer His foes (19:16)
- “the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star” (22:16) 4
There is one identification recorded in Revelation that I have purposely left off of the list until now. Consider the scene portrayed by John in Revelation 5:1-5:
1 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. 2 And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” 3 And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, 4 and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. 5 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.”
The apostle John wept loudly (vs. 3) as no one “worthy to open the scroll” (vs. 4) comes forward. But John’s weeping is short-lived as “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David ,” Jesus himself is identified as the only one worthy to “open the scroll and its seven seals.” (vs. 5)
But why is Jesus … the Lion of the tribe of Judah … the only one found worthy? Because Jesus is the only one who could meet God’s righteous requirements for the forgiveness of sin … the only one who … as the perfect, sinless and unblemished sacrificial Lamb of God … was worthy to be slain as the ransom for “every tribe and language and people and nation.“ (Revelation 5:9-10) 5
The Lion of the tribe of Judah is Jesus! He is not just a symbol or a historical figure. He is the Savior of the world. And He promised that He is coming again soon (Revelation 22:7). Do you know Jesus as your Savior? Are you sure that you are going to Heaven? In not, use the link to tell you how to Become a Christian.
Holy Father, thank you for sending Jesus, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, to be my refuge, my Savior, my Lord! Thank you for the assurance that you have given me that as a sinner saved by grace through faith that I will spend my eternity in Heaven! Amen and Amen.
1 See “Lion and Lamb as Metaphors of Divine-Human Relationships” by Dr. Richard D. Patterson at this link.
2 See additional passages where similar metaphor for God delivering lion-like judgement: Edom (Jeremiah 49:19), Babylon (Jeremiah 50:44), Judah (Amos 1:1-2, 2:4-5), Israel (Amos 2:6-16), surrounding nations of Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Ammonites, Moab (Amos 1:3-2:3).
3 Historically portrayed in Figure 1. from the Mosav Zkenim Synagogue (Figure 1. Attribution: By Talmoryair (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons——– Page URL File URL). Figure 2. is currently the emblem for the modern day holy city of Jerusalem. The inscription above the crest is the Hebrew word for Jerusalem (yerushalayim). Created by graphic designer/typographer Eliyahu Koren. Adopted in 1949, approved in November 1958. Uploaded on 2007-03-25 — Public Domain.
4 Adapted from John McArthur’s introduction to The Revelation of Jesus Christ.
5 This is not the first time that Jesus was identified as the Lamb of God. When John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him he exclaimed, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)