Keys to Understanding the Book of Revelation,
Revelation 5: Jesus as the “Conquering Lamb”
One of the most vivid of these unveilings comes in Revelation 5. Here John stands before the throne of God. The Father, sitting on the throne, holds a sealed book (really a scroll) in His right hand, and a “strong angel” asks the question, “Who is worthy to open the book?”—that is, break the seals (verse 2). John weeps as he beholds that no person is found worthy to open and read the book (see verse 4).
John is informed by one of the elders that “the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof” (verse 5). Yet when John finally sees this “Lion,” it is no lion at all. Rather, what John sees is a “Lamb as it had been slain,” who approaches the throne and takes the book from the Father.
Those gathered round the throne begin to sing praises to the Lamb:
“Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;
“And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth” (verses 9–10).
Some see in this episode Jesus accepting the divine role of Savior in a premortal setting, while others understand it as Jesus returning to the presence of the Father following His sojourn in mortality.
What fascinates me as a reader of the book of Revelation is the paradox used to represent Jesus as two contrary animals, a lion and a lamb. It is difficult to think of two more different animals to pair together. Lions represent strength and regality, and they had a particular connection with the tribe of Judah (see Genesis 49:9; 1 Kings 10:19–20), from which it was prophesied the Messiah Himself would descend. A lamb, on the other hand, is an animal often associated with docility and meekness, in every way the antithesis of the lion. As if to emphasize the meekness of the Lamb even further, this particular Lamb is slain, or sacrificed, and it is the shedding of the blood of the Lamb that sets in motion the events that John will view next.
Revelation 5, with its images of Jesus as both a “Lion” and a “Lamb,” presents its readers with a riddle of sorts: Can victory be obtained through submission? Can one conquer through meekness? Can life be obtained through death? John’s vision will be, in large part, an attempt to provide answers to these riddles.