Only once in the New Testament is Jesus described as a lion. The book of Revelation (named in part for what it reveals about Christ) portrays the risen Jesus as the only one worthy to open the scroll that contains the ultimate unfolding of God’s purposes for the world. The apostle John perceived Jesus as both Lion and Lamb, who through His death and resurrection becomes the ultimate victor and conqueror. When you pray to Jesus as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, you are praying to the One with the power to banish all fear, to the One who watches over you with His fierce protecting love. You are also praying to the One who is judge of the living and the dead.
Genesis 49:8-10 – “Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise; Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; Your father’s children shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion’s whelp; From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He bows down, he lies down as a lion; And as a lion, who shall rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the obedience of the people.”
Revelation 5:1-10 – And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it. So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it. But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.” And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth. Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth.”
Understanding the Name
Today, lions can be found in sub-Saharan Africa and in northwest India. But in biblical times lions also roamed the region of the world now comprised of Israel, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Greece, and Turkey. From ancient times their images have graced thrones, palaces, gates, and temples, including the temple in Jerusalem. First Kings indicates that King Solomon’s throne was adorned with twelve lions, symbolizing his greatness and power. And Ezekiel pictures the cherubim with lion’s heads.
Throughout the Bible, the lion appears as a symbol of might, and it is hardly surprising that Israel’s enemies are sometimes depicted as lions. In the New Testament, Peter calls the devil a roaring lion and warns believers that he is constantly on the prowl, looking for someone to devour.
Though lions are sometimes a symbol of evil, they are also used as symbols of God’s people. Near the end of his life, the patriarch Jacob prayed a blessing over his twelve sons. When it came time to bless Judah, he compared him to a lion—hence the phrase “the Lion of the tribe of Judah”. Jacob’s prediction that the scepter would not depart from Judah has been traditionally applied to the Messiah.
In the Hebrew Scriptures, Yahweh is sometimes depicted as a lion who roars in judgment against the nations and against his own faithless people. But he is also depicted as a mighty lion who fights fiercely on behalf of his people. Revelation depicts the risen Christ as the mightiest of all victors. He is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the one found worthy to open the scrolls of history, meaning that he is in charge of history and of how the world’s destiny unfolds.
Studying the Name
Why do you think the book of Revelation portrays Jesus as both Lion and Lamb? In the Bible “seven” is considered a sacred number, symbolizing perfection or completeness, while a “horn” symbolizes power. What does this say to you about how the Lamb is portrayed in Revelation 5? How have you experienced and understood both the“lamblike” and “lionlike” nature of Jesus in your own life? If you could choose one adjective to describe this passage from Revelation, what would it be and why? Would you call it bizarre, moving, perplexing, enlightening, or something else?