The Lion and the Lamb, Jesus Christ
What’s the most frequently used name for Jesus in the Book of Revelation? Is it the Lion of Judah? After all, the lion symbolizes royalty—power, dominion, strength. And that’s the theme of “the revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place” (Rev. 1:1). Jesus is “the first and the last … [the one who] holds the keys of death and Hades,” the one on whose robe and thigh is written “king of kings and lord of lords” (1:18, 19:16).
The royal name, Lion of Judah, however, is used only once in Revelation; “Jesus” and “Jesus Christ” are used twelve times. But the name Lamb is used twenty-four times in the book’s twenty-two chapters. God always does the unexpected. And crowning a lamb instead of a lion is just his style.
“God will provide himself the lamb”
Actually, a lamb is one of the most prolific, significant biblical symbols. The word first appears in Genesis 22 when Isaac asked his father Abraham, “Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham responds, “God will provide himself the lamb” (22:7-8).
In one sense, providing a lamb is the theme of the whole Bible. The human race needed a substitute sacrifice. We needed a Savior. Every Old Testament sacrifice foreshadowed the need for a vicarious offering. In the New Testament, John the Baptist introduced Jesus as the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world (John 1:29). In the gospels, Jesus never referred to himself as the lamb, but he did say that he had come “to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).
In the rest of the New Testament—Acts, Romans, and the Epistles—Jesus is only called the Lamb twice. In Acts 8:32, the Ethiopian eunuch was reading Isaiah 53:7 when he invited Philip to come up into his chariot: “He [Jesus] was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” Peter reminded his readers that they were redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:18-19).
And then there’s Revelation: twenty-four references to Jesus as the Lamb. The first reference is in chapter 5. John weeps when “no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll” that was sealed with seven seals (v. 4). But then the Lamb appears. He alone is worthy to open the scroll that recounts God’s story of redemption because he was slain, and with his blood purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation (vv. 6-9).
“The Lion became the Lamb”
That’s the reason Jesus is continually called the Lamb in the Book of Revelation even though he is also the Son of God, the Root of Jesse, the Lion of Judah, and the King of kings. If Jesus had not become the Lamb of God, there wouldn’t be a multitude of saints gathered around the throne singing his praises.
Paul explained it in Philippians:
[Jesus], being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him . . . (2:6-9a).
God exalts the Lamb because the Lamb humbled himself and became a man. Nothing will ever make that statement less astounding: God became man. The king became the servant. The Lion became the Lamb.
Therefore, every created being in heaven will be singing, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, forever and ever” (Revelation 5:13).
Praising the Lamb
But there’s no reason to wait for that day. The privilege of praise is ours now. We can sing of the Lamb of God’s worth every day through our attitudes, words, and actions. How do we do that?
We ask the Holy Spirit to cultivate within us the lamb-like mindset of Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:5). Our attitudes proclaim his worth when we “in humility consider others better than ourselves” (2:3). That motivates us to “do everything without complaining or arguing” because we are more interested in helping others than in gratifying ourselves (2:14-16).
Lamb-like attitudes produce words of edification and praise. Because we’re learning to see others as Jesus sees them, we use our words to build unity in our families, workplaces, and churches. Our words are governed by tenderness and compassion rather than selfishness and conceit (Philippians 2:1-4). And oneness in spirit and purpose exalt Jesus’ worth, allowing his glory to shine through us (2:15).
Lamb-like attitudes also generate works that bring him glory. They flow naturally from a mind that seeks to “act according to his good purpose” (2:13). Like Paul, we’re willing to be “poured out like a drink offering” for others (2:17). In other words, we expect nothing in return. We joyfully volunteer to cook at a local soup kitchen, take a senior citizen to lunch, send an encouraging, handwritten note to the church custodian, or smile at a grouchy cashier and express our thanks. Their response does not concern us because we see even the most mundane action as a sacrifice of praise to the Lamb of God.
The Lamb of God willingly “made himself nothing” for us, becoming a servant so he could redeem us. Are we equally willing to become a sacrifice of praise to him through our attitudes, words and actions?