The Lion-Lamb in Revelation

The Lion-Lamb in Revelation

by Jason DeRouchie, Tom Kelby, and Jack Yaeger


JY: Welcome to Gear Talk, a podcast on Biblical theology. Today Tom and Jason talk about the Lion-Lamb in Revelation 5. The Apostle John uses the Old Testament more than any other New Testament author. Where did he pull these references to the Lion-Lamb from in the Old Testament? This is the first part in a series of podcasts on major figures in the book of Revelation. When you’re done listening to today’s podcast, check the show notes for links to helpful resources from Hands to the Plow focused on Revelation.

Introduction: Babylon as the Backdrop for Missions

TK: Welcome to gear talk, Tom and Jason together. We have a pretty fun conversation today, Jason.

JD: We do, Tom, but it will potentially push the limits of how people are normally thinking.

TK: Right, right. What started this was Jason, you and I were talking about sermon you preached recently and the topics—and we thought, wow, this would be good to cover in a Gear Talk podcast, so can you kind of throw out and, I think your sermon went like 47 hours, but in a short version of it—if you can just tell us what the sermon was about and how we wound up where we’re going today?

JD: Absolutely. So, I was preaching this last week on Revelation 14:1–13. Our own church is walking through the book of Revelation, and this is where we were in the flow. And it’s where my assignment landed, and what a joy it was. Throughout the book of Revelation it uses so much imagery, very comparable to what we would see in a in like the Chronicles of Narnia series, where certain figures that are discussed—the figure itself creates images in our mind but represents something in the real world. And within this particular passage, it speaks of the Lamb and the beast. And specifically, marks that are associated with the Lamb and His father and marks that are associated with the beast and its image. Chapter 14 of Revelation occurs within one of many cycles that that are found within the Book of Revelation, perhaps as many as seven that retell or revisit a comparable period in history between Christ’s first coming through his second coming and beyond and just detail the portrait of what we often call the church age into the new heavens and the new earth from various angles. And the cycle that Revelation 14 is a part of begins in Revelation 12. And within that unit we see numerous characters, not only the Lamb, but it’s his archenemy, the dragon. And then alongside the Dragon, the one who looks like him, the beast, and then even another beast, which later in the book we learn is the false prophet.

TK: Kind of a lamb beast. I mean, beast-lamb.

JD: That’s right. He it—we’re told of the false prophet that he looks like a lamb, but he talks like a dragon. And this unholy trinity is then placed up against the ultimate, true Trinity in the book, the Father, the Son who is the Lamb, and the Holy Spirit. And in my passage in Revelation 14, all three of those true members of the Trinity are talked about, and what we learn is that their purposes on earth are happening in the context of what my passage called Babylon. So all of a sudden we see a new character that’s introduced right in my passage in Revelation 14, and picked up again in Revelation 16 and 17. And so we have a whole bunch of images that are much more like images we would think about in the Lord of the Rings or Chronicles of Narnia, rather than Anne of Green Gables, or you know, the world that you and I are a part of. This Lamb, the dragon, the beast, the false Prophet and Babylon. So as you and I talked about this particular—my particular passage, we thought it might be good for our listeners to consider the book of Revelation a little bit.

And this even in my mind stretches us back a couple of years ago, Tom, when you and I did a missions conference together and the theme of the Missions Conference was By the Waters of Babylon. And we and we were using this—we were building off this same biblical imagery, which actually reaches all the way back to the book of Genesis to talk about that the place where missions is happening is in this spiritual Babylon. You and I are members of a different city and of a different culture. Our citizenship is not here, but rather in Mount Zion, the Heavenly Jerusalem. And yet we are here as ambassadors with the seal of God, the mark of the Lamb, and his Father onto our foreheads. And we bear his name. And everywhere we go, we are to represent him well as we live near the waters of this spiritual Babylon, in exile, in a context that is controlled by a different god. Satan is called the god of this world, and that’s the context where missions is operative. So, all of that brings us to today’s podcast, and I think it will, we hope, benefit our listeners to consider some of these biblical images that will take us from Genesis to Revelation and help shape the backdrop to what we read in specific texts within this final book of the Bible.

To the One who Conquers – Courage

TK: It’s so good to do this and what we’re going to do today is focus on one particular image and even in the way we describe the false prophet and we said he is like a like a lamb, but he’s beastly. We’re going to talk about the Lord Jesus here, and we have two images that are joined together. So, he is described as a Lion-Lamb and we’re going to talk about where that comes from. So, where the passage—where this is found is Revelation 4–5. This section, it starts out, it says, “After this I looked behold the door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said come up here, I will show you what must take place after this” (Rev 4:1). So, the earlier—there have been visions or letters to seven churches and all the churches are told, you need to conquer. So I think, Jason, that’s a good spot to start as we consider Revelation 4-5 and the and the Lion-Lamb is that Revelation isn’t intended to frighten believers, it’s intended to give us courage. And it’s supposed to help us conquer. It’s something that has to happen and what we’re going to hear today is something that that should deeply encourage us about the Lion-Lamb. So we start Revelation 4 and John is taken up to heaven. He sees a vision and something worth noting is that the word throne is repeated, I think I said, seventeen times in in these next couple chapters. But the point for believers that gives us courage is that there is a throne and there is one seated on that throne. If it appears all as chaos, we need to know something that comforts my heart—is no, there’s a throne, a real throne. And there is one seated on it.

JD: That’s right. It reminds me right off the bat of the text Jesus goes to, the writer of Hebrews recalls—Psalm 110 where David says, “Yahweh said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet” (Ps 110:1). So here Yahweh, God of heaven and earth, is portrayed as seated, overseeing, in sovereign control of his universe. And he invites David’s Lord, who is Jesus, to sit at his right hand. And it’s into that heavenly throne room where the Son with his Father is indeed in the throne room side by side. But what’s intriguing is that, within this book, the—at least up until we get to chapter. 21—the Lamb is not seated but standing. And we’re going to see he’s standing because he is readying for action and that action is judgment. And within this book, as you were saying, it is designed—that vision of judgment of this royal figure who is ready to judge. That’s good news. That’s good news for the saints who are reading this book, as it says in chapter one, reading it aloud. “Blessed are those who read this vision aloud” (Rev 1:3). I did this just a couple of weeks ago, went through the entire book of Revelation, reading it out loud, and ultimately because I longed to be blessed. And we’re told at the beginning of the book that those who read it aloud will be blessed, and I just let my soul revel in the hope, the good news that this book brings. But often we think of good news in the context of our deliverance, and that is part of this book, but much of the good news in this book is in the form of the Judge, coming to overcome his enemy, to overcome all that is evil and has been hostile to God in the world that you and I are living in to destroy the curse. And that is a vision of good news for us. You mentioned the need for courage, and that courage is directly related to the conquering and how that language of “To the one who conquers, I will give. To the one who conquers, I will give”—that vision of conquering culminates in chapter 21, where the one who conquers has this heritage and that heritage is a world with no more tears, no more pain, in the very presence of God. And then it’s contrasted in verse seven, it says, “The one who conquers will have this heritage … But As for the cowardly”—and it’s striking that that’s the first in a whole list of vices—“cowardly, faithless, detestable, murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur” (Rev 21:7–8). But it’s striking that in that list of vices, it’s the cowardly who are first. God is writing this book, John—God is writing through John—this book to awaken courage in the saints of the Most High as we follow the victor.

TK: And that’s—if we think about it, when you said just a little bit ago that blessed are those who read this aloud, that idea of the blessing you are going to get here is courage, so that you might conquer. So that you’re not cowardly.

JD: It is through the speaking word of the Spirit of God that we are strengthened to follow the ultimate Son of God. And in this book Jesus dies and rises again so that we can enjoy such sanctifying grace. Courage is about sanctification. Those who are justified enjoy the grace of God coming from the Son of God through the Spirit of God and that grace or that blessing is—one of those blessings is courage.

Revelation 4–5: Worship of the Lion-Lamb in Heaven

TK: Amen. Well, chapter 4 in Revelation. My summary of it would be John is seeing what is happening in heaven and everything is working as it should be working. So, you have creatures symbolic of all creation, and they’re praising God. You have people seated on thrones, symbolic of saints from the Old and New Covenant, praising God. Heavenly beings praising God, everything is praising God, and it ends in verse 11, it says, “Worthy are you our Lord and God to receive glory and honor and power for you created all things and by your will they existed and were created” (Rev 4:11). We get a picture in—heaven knows how the universe is supposed to function. But we’re not getting a vision of earth in chapter 4 and what is happening here—and for all of us who live on earth but who know the story of the whole Bible up to this point, the fact is simple earth is not worshipping like heaven is, like the Lord’s Prayer says, “May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10). So at least in how I would read it, there’s a scroll written on it and the scroll would be the plan of God to restore worship on earth as it is in heaven. But no one, no one is worthy to break the seal, open the scroll and enact the things written in it, no human can do this thing because no human being has conquered.

JD: That’s right. We want to think about God’s purposes. He carries them out by his word he created in the beginning, “God said… God said… God said…” He created by his word. He sustains by his word, as it says in the book of Hebrews in chapter one, verse three, he upholds all things by the word of his power. He has a book, as it were, a scroll on which are written his saving purposes for the world. And yet the image is that that scroll could not be opened up. His saving purposes could not be unleashed in the world. The world was in darkness and Satan’s accusatory power was real. He could say, God, you’re not justified to save Abraham. You’re not justified to save Moses. You’re not justified to save Hannah. Or before Hannah, Ruth. You’re just not justified to do these—declare these people as righteous.

TK: Because these people are rebels.

JD: Because these people are rebels, their hearts have been against you and Romans 3 would say in order to show that God was just and the justifier that he indeed was justified to save, he sent Christ to work in this world (Rom 3:24–26). In this book, John is seated here, seeing this scroll, on which are apparently written all the words of God that would bring about his saving purposes in the world, and there was no one worthy to open the scroll.

TK: Which means it won’t happen then. That’s the point.

JD: That it won’t happen and it it’s as if all of the world’s hope is lost. And yet then we read a messenger comes and says to John. Don’t weep, don’t weep. There is one who is worthy. And that’s where we enter into our beautiful vision that’s going to control our day.

TK: Something that happens here that’s pretty significant in this story, but it happens throughout Revelation—is John hears something and then later on, he looks in the same vision and he sees something which—so it’s almost as if somebody said, look over there there’s a whatever there, there’s a car and then you look over there and you see something that clearly is what the person was referring to, but it’s something else other than what you were expecting. So, it’s something that has helped me a lot to see, Oh John’s told one thing with words, but when he looks it looks different than he expected. So, what he’s told here…

JD: Well, let me just jump in and give one example back or—but at the end of the book, in Revelation 21, John is invited, “Come and see the bride of the Lamb” (Rev 21:9). And then it says—so he follows the voice. His eyes turn, and then it says, and I looked, and I saw a city, Jerusalem coming down from heaven to Earth. And that Jerusalem is the bride. Jerusalem is the bride of God. And then the description is it’s filled with the people of God. And this is indeed the bride of the Lamb. So that’s what—you’re exactly right John invites people in, raises certain expectations, and then what he sees comes at him in an unexpected way.

TK: Right, right. So what he’s going to be expecting here is a Lion. So, “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” (Rev 5:5). And so what I’m expecting as a reader is—I’ve heard about a Lion—and obviously, all of the additional descriptions, we could track those out. We’re not going to do that today, but we are going to talk about the Lion of the tribe of Judah. But he’s expecting to see a Lion, we’re going to leave Revelation 5, I’m assuming pretty quick here, but he’s going to—you imagine he’s looking at the person speaking, then he turns and looks, but. Jason, he doesn’t see a Lion, does he?

JD: He doesn’t see a Lion. What we’re told he sees is one that was like a Lamb, as if slain. So come and weep—I mean, weep no more. Behold, look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David. So, Judah, that’s going to take us back to the Old Testament. A Lion of the tribe of Judah. That’s going to take us to a specific prediction. And he’s the root of David, not the fruit of David, meaning that this Lion that comes from the tribe of Judah is actually one that gives rise to David. He comes from David, but in this text he is both the fruit, that is a Lion of the tribe of Judah, and the root of David, who’s in the line of Judah. And then he turns and the one he sees is none other than a Lamb, “A Lamb that is standing as though it had been slain, a Lamb with seven horns and seven eyes”—and then we’re told—“which are the seven spirits of God, sent out into all the earth” (Rev 5:6). And this right here, it just sets a trajectory for the rest of the book, and the language of Lamb is going to occur over and over and over again. This figure is going to be central, indeed, the protagonist in the entire rest of Revelation’s story, and we’re never going to hear again this imagery of the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root—we will hear about the root of David. But the Lion of the tribe of Judah. That language is never going to show up again.

TK: Jason, let me read something before we move on from here. This is from our preacher’s guide from this passage. So it’s the note on Revelation 5 and verse 6 and it says this is a surprising image. Based on the words of the elder the reader is expecting to see a Lion instead—however, the reader sees a Lamb. The Lamb hasn’t replaced the Lion. Instead, the Lamb is the Lion. These two images cannot be separated. The reader is to carefully think about both these symbols of Christ, for in them the entire gospel message is contained. The words about the Lion come first, for Jesus is the anointed king, and we must never forget who he is. However, it’s significant that the symbol we are to think of when we think of the Christ isn’t a Lion, it’s a Lamb. The Lion image never appears in this vision, except in the words of the elder. The reader hears about the Lion, but sees the Lamb, and then, as you just said, interestingly, after this point in Revelation, Christ is never referred to as a Lion again. And then I list the verses that refer to him as a Lamb. It says the reader is never to think of the conquering Christ, without remembering that he conquered by offering himself as a sacrifice. The Lion conquered by becoming the Lamb. And then it goes on from there. So, Jason, reflect on that for a second before we move forward.

JD: Well, even as you’re talking it reminds me of imagery, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s even from Revelation 5 that Jack Lewis, CS Lewis, had in mind, that he was drawing from when he wrote The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Here we have the lion. He’s the one who’s first introduced, Aslan who is the great lord of Narnia. He is the great king, and he is not a tame Lion. He’s not under anyone’s control. And yet when Edmund, one of the sons of Adam, rebels against Aslan, becomes a slave, a prisoner of the White Witch, Aslan’s enemy, Aslan willingly becomes a substitute and gives himself over to being bound like a lamb and being sacrificed on an altar like a lamb. That imagery is not the imagery of what happens to lions. It’s what happens to lambs. And so even in the story, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in the Narnia chronicles, you have a lion being portrayed as a lamb and the story unpacks the gospel as deeper magic. Such that if one willingly and unjustly gives himself over to stand as a substitute for a guilty one, then what would have been eternal death gets reversed into eternal life. The judgment goes in reverse and this deeper magic was something unknown, says Lewis, to the White Witch and all of a sudden Aslan rises from the grave and Edmund is free, and the Lion proves his victory, even over death itself. He’s not a prisoner, and he’s not a slave to the power of death or to the power of the White Witch. That’s the story of the gospel, and it’s being captured first by John in this imagery of behold, the Lion, which is an image of royalty stretching all the way back to the book of Genesis as we’re going to see. And yet it’s this—how is it that he conquers? How is it that his sovereignty is exercised? This royal figure triumphs only through tribulation. He proves his sovereign oversight through sacrifice. He is a Lamb that was slain.

TK: And what comfort to God’s people!

JD: He looks like that. And yet he is the victorious one who is worthy to open up the scroll and within the context of Revelation 5—your point right there is exactly where John goes. All of heaven breaks loose, singing a new song, a new song of salvation. “Worthy are you,” O Lion-Lamb king, “To take the scroll and to open its seals for you were slain”—but you’re not slain anymore—“you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed some for God from every tribe and language, and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” (Rev 5:9–10). That imagery of tribe, language, people and nation is pervasive throughout the book. It is the object of God saving purposes, bound up in the scroll. And the fact that they will reign on the earth alongside the Lion-Lamb king, that language is pervasive throughout the book. They have conquered and triumphed, as it says in Revelation 12, “By the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony” (Rev 12:11), declaring he is king, he is victorious. And so all of this imagery is massively hopeful because what it means is that though we were worthy of death, he took our payment, though we were worthy of the wrath of God, or as it says, in Revelation 14, we were worthy to drink the cup of the wrath of God. But as we see depicted in the Lord’s Supper, Jesus took that cup and drank it for those who were in him, and therefore his punishment is our hope. We identify with him in his sufferings. He bears our pain. And his righteousness is counted as ours as an unblemished Lamb led to the slaughter. This is unbelievable victory. And that vision of the Lamb, I mean in—throughout church history, it’s been portrayed as a cross, right. This graphic image of brutality has become the symbol of Christianity and it’s directly related to the Lamb being the dominant image in all the book of Revelation of victory for the saints.

TK: My dad tells us story and my dad is with Jesus now, but as a little boy, he didn’t know the gospel and he would get dropped off at a Lutheran Church. And the church he was at is a pretty high church setting. But there were banners all along the wall, and there was a banner, he said of a cross—I mean, a crown. And then a picture of a Lamb or a Lamb under the crown and then under the Lamb there was blood. And you can imagine a little boy, who has no understanding of the gospel, looking at those three symbols. And he said, I just sat in that chair and the man is speaking up front—the pastor speaking—but I’m just staring at this picture of a crown and a Lamb and a blood. And I’m trying to think, what is this? What is the story being told here? And thankfully, my dad knows it by sight right now. He knows the Lion-Lamb, so this—I’m just saying how much courage this gives to God’s people that we serve one, we follow one—first of all as we’re going to talk about in a future podcast, he’s not beastly in his character. He does not crush and grind people like the beast does, but he is not weak. The Lion is introduced first in this book The Lion-Lamb, because believers need courage to stand in the face of other creatures that they might say, wow, this is more powerful, but they’ve just been introduced to the most powerful one, the one that they need.

JD: That’s right. That’s beautiful.

The Lion of Judah in Genesis

TK: So, Jason, this Lion of the tribe of Judah, you already mentioned it, but you said you’re pulling this from Genesis, so get us where you’d go. Where would you say John is pulling this? And it might—John never does something in Revelation, he never says, as is quoted in Genesis, he wouldn’t do that. It’s not the way this type of literature works—the book of Revelation. But he uses the Old Testament probably more than any other New Testament book.

JD: That’s right.

TK: He’s thinking of a lot here, isn’t he?

JD: Oh, he is. John never quotes any of his Bible, but he alludes to specific texts, on some counts, over 1000 times in 22 chapters. He is saturated with his scripture and if you have ears to hear, if you know the Old Testament word, his symbolism is going to awaken you to remember and recount and draw you to specific contexts, where predictions are made, where imagery is used, so I think.

TK: That’s really just jumping in right there. But if I’m going to treat Revelation like it’s all brand new and has nothing to do with earlier things, I’m going to miss what John was doing.

JD: Oh, I think you will not understand like your dad as a child looking at that banner, you’re going to miss it. You’re not going to grasp what was going on or we—I’ll stop there. That’s right. You’re going to miss so much because you don’t know the story. But if you know the story, all of a sudden it’s going to—John’s images are going to push you back to John’s Bible. And John’s Bible was first and foremost before any Gospels were written or before any of the Epistles were etched. John’s Bible was what we call the Old Testament, and it started with Genesis. And in Genesis, right toward the end in a—in all of the Pentateuch, which is the first five books of Moses that start out the Bible to start out our Christian scripture, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, throughout the entire Pentateuch—this could be a future podcast—there are major units that unpack this continuing story in the first five books, and each of the units right towards its end has a major poem. And I believe that Genesis 49 is the first conclusion to one of these major units that began in Genesis 2:4. And it’s the story that gets us up to Israel’s beginning. And in Genesis 49, this major poem, we’re told, is going to unpack what will happen in my ESV says, “The days to come,” but it’s specifically, “in the latter days.” Genesis began in the beginning. We learn what God did in the beginning, in seven days, giving us an original creation. And then through the rest of the Pentateuch, we learn over and over again what will happen at the end of days. So we have what happened at the beginning. And then the story tells us it gets messed up and then we get a series of declarations, many of them in direct relation to these poems that come at the major ends of section divisions in the Pentateuch. We learn in these poems what’s going to happen at the end of the days. So all of history is being captured from creation to consummation in the Pentateuch. What happened at the beginning, and then it was followed by the problem, and then how, at the end of the days, in direct relationship to the working of the Messiah, God is going to act.

So, we see that in Genesis 49:1, God declares to Jacob, or actually, Jacob declares to his sons, “Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you what will happen at the end of the days.” And within this prediction comes a message about the one we call the Messiah. It begins in Genesis 49, and these are the words that we hear, “Judah”—that’s one of Jacob’s 12 sons, Judah will become one of the 12 tribes of Israel. We learn that, “Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down before you” (Gen 49:8). So, Judah is going to be a conqueror. And were told that his brothers, who will become tribes, are themselves going to be subservient to Judah. Then we read, “Jacob is a lion’s cub from the prey.”—sorry, Judah—“Judah is a Lion’s cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stopped, he crouched down as a lion”—so he’s a Lion of the tribe of Judah—“he crouched down like a lion and as a lioness who dares rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah”—this is a royal scepter—“nor the rulers staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him”—that is to him to whom it belongs—“to him shall be the obedience of the peoples”—plural. Then it says, “Binding his foal to the vine and his donkey’s colt to his choice vine, he washed his garments in wine”—an image of blood—“his vesture in the blood of grapes. His eyes are darker than wine, and his teeth whiter than milk” (Gen 49:9–12). So here we have a prophecy, and it comes in the final words of Jacob that he couches as I’m going to tell you what will happen at the end of the days. And in it, we learn that Judah will be raised up above his brothers and the scepter, the royal scepter, and the ruler’s staff will remain in Judah until a certain figure comes, and to him will be the obedience of the peoples. And then that figure is described as one whose life is like new creation, and yet he has garments that are red like blood. That’s the depiction. So, you have an image of one who is a victor, and yet he’s been a victor bringing about new creation. But through a battle that has made his garments filled with blood.

TK: And what you don’t know there is did this—was this his blood at all, or is this somebody else’s? You don’t know that from this particular poem.

JD: That’s right. But when we read a poem like this in a book like Genesis, we want to ever keep in mind it’s context and by context, I mean three things. First, it’s close context meaning, do we read any more about this person to whom tribute comes and to whom will be the obedience of the peoples? Do we read about this person anywhere else in the book? So, the close context, then the continuing context. And because we’re in the first book of the Bible, the only continuing context is the story that we’ve gotten from Genesis 1 up to Genesis 49. But then, the last level of context is the complete context, and that is considering how this particular passage fits within the rest of Scripture. Are there other passages that recall this text and interpret this text—extend the revelation of this text? And in the rest of the Bible, how does the rest of the Bible talk about this royal figure in the line of Judah in the latter days, whose life is like new creation, whose garment is dripped in blood, and to whom belongs the obedience of the peoples. And the Bible talks about this figure. Indeed it’s, I mean—but he’s called a Lion in relation to Judah, and it provides the first and most foremost context, I think for John’s imagery in the in the Book of Revelation.

TK: And Jason, would you say, in the way that we read Scripture, would you say, as a reader, I don’t go back and say yep, I found that phrase Judah and lion here. Is that what John wants me to just confirm, yep, that’s where he got it from. Or is he wanting me to take everything from that context? So for instance versus 8 through 12 in Genesis 49 and say this is what I meant by Lion of the tribe of Judah.

JD: It seems absolutely evident when we’re working through the New Testament’s citations of the Old Testament—so that’s when the New Testament either quotes or alludes to Old Testament texts—that the authors intended us not only to think about the specific words, but their context, that is, their meaning in context. So, when he refers to the Lion of the tribe of Judah. He’s not only wanting us to say, yep, it came from Genesis 49:8–12, but—or verse 8 and verse 9 and 10. He’s wanting us to say, well, what exactly is this arguing for? And how does how do those five verses fit within the rest of the book of Genesis? And it’s there, I think, as we move backwards, we recall a figure from as early as Genesis 3:15, an offspring of the woman who would confront an enemy, an enemy who is called the serpent. And that imagery, as we’re going to see in a future podcast, is directly drawn on within the book of Revelation. In fact, the one that’s called the Dragon is identified with that ancient serpent, the devil, who is called Satan in Revelation 12. So, John is drawing on this whole series of material, the series of texts in Genesis, reaching all the way back to Genesis 3:15. There is a figure, an offspring, a male offspring of the woman who is going to overcome the serpent. So there seems to be good evidence that John is reaching back into the book of Genesis and drawing on a number of texts, and Genesis 3:15 provides a backdrop directly to Genesis 49.

TK: So I got sent to Genesis 49 by John, but Moses was already sending his readers earlier, and I need to follow that trail.

JD: That’s right. We need to follow the trail back to Genesis 3:15, where an offspring of the woman, a male offspring, is predicted to stand against the Serpent and his offspring, such that though he will find his heel bruised, the serpent will find his head bruised. So, all of a sudden, we see imagery of a battle and a battle that is actually going to include this individual offspring himself getting wounded. So, the blood in Genesis 49 may actually be some of his own blood.

TK: He’s washed his garments in wine?

JD: Yep, that’s right. He’s alive. He’s victorious. And then we move on, and we see that this figure in Genesis 22 shows up again, Genesis 22:17–18. We find out that he becomes an offspring that’s as numerous as the stars and through this offspring this multiplied group of descendants, the offspring of Abraham—so he’s the offspring of the woman, but he’s also the offspring of Abraham—he ends up expanding his turf so that he possesses enemy gates, and through him we’re told all the nations of the earth will regard themselves as blessed. So, Genesis—as we’re walking through the book, we’re learning about a figure we’re not only anticipating a people, we’re anticipating a person and by the time we get to Genesis 49, we find out that he is an offspring of the woman who’s going to defeat a serpent through his own tribulation. We find out that he’s an offspring of Abraham who is going to expand kingdom turf. He himself will multiply into a manifold people that include the nations. Abraham will become a father of many nations through this figure. So, when it says in Genesis 49 that this same figure will be royalty in the line of Judah and to him will be the obedience of the peoples and he will be a victor who will crush enemies under his feet. All of a sudden, we’re like, this figure, we’ve heard about him. We already know who he is, and now we’re gaining greater definition. And John would have us, in simply mentioning the Lion of the tribe of Judah, he would have us recall these texts and think about, oh, this is the figure that’s been anticipated since the beginning to overcome the problem, to provide the solution of global salvation.

The Lion of Judah in Numbers

TK: So, Moses writes this and he wrote five books. It’s our first gear in the way we’ve described it, the Law, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. So, the Lion figure—that’s not the only place we find it, in Genesis 49, is it?

JD: It’s not. In the book of Numbers, God uses a false prophet to predict true things and that false prophet is Balaam and Balaam, God uses Baalam. Balaam wants to curse the people of Israel and God uses him to bless the people of Israel through four different oracles. And in the second and—sorry, the third and the fourth of these oracles, we actually learn more about this king figure. He is going to be one who is going to be brought by God out of Egypt in Numbers 24.

TK: Yeah, looking at verse eight.

JD: And we’re told he’s God’s king in verse 7. And he’s associated with new creation, so that Israel, who is associated with him, is like a palm grove that stretches from afar. This is indeed the same figure that we have been anticipating. But it says specifically, this of him, “He crouched, he lay down like a lion, and like a lioness who will rouse him.” That’s a quotation directly from Genesis 49:10. And then it recalls Abrahamic promises, “Blessed are those who bless you, and cursed are those who curse you” (Num 24:9). God talking directly to this royal figure and so I think, once again, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, who is going to enjoy God’s blessing. Now we’re learning he’s going to lead a new exodus out of a future Egypt. And out of him is going to be birthed new creation, and he indeed is king. It says that he will be higher than Agag, which is a future king we learn about in first Samuel 15, a king of the Amalekites whom God has declared judgment against. So, Agag is a picture of a hostile nation against God to whom he declares judgment, and this future king, whom we know of as Jesus, is going to be higher than Agag. Intriguingly, though, the Greek translation of the Old Testament says he’ll be higher than Gog, and all of a sudden that connects us to Ezekiel 38 and 39, where Gog is the great enemy of God, and that then brings us into the Book of Revelation once again, when John speaks of Gog in Revelation 20 as the context from which the Dragon and the beast and the false prophet are building their armies against the Lamb and his own, and then God, through the Lamb, crushes them. So, all of a sudden, we have John once again—he’s reaching back here to the entire Pentateuch, his Old Testament, drawing on images that are all tied together, the entire Bible being held together by God’s good purposes. And all of this is—it’s part of what was on that scroll that no one was able to work out until the Lamb came. And so it’s just beautiful. He is indeed the Lion of the tribe of Judah that was anticipated from the earliest days.

TK: I think, if you tracked that out, if you were in Revelation, you said a Lion from the tribe of Judah, and I’m just going to look—I don’t even know what my references will say here in my Bible, interested in what yours say. Let’s see. It says, I’m looking in 5:5, it sends me back to Genesis 49:9 right there, which is just such a great tool.

JD: Awesome, yes.

TK: And what I’d say is go there, then go to Genesis 49:9, but don’t stop there and say yep, I found it, that’s all John was thinking about. Because that’s not all John was thinking about, because he knew very well, Balaam quoted the exact same thing. He knew Balaam referred to the Abrahamic covenant. And he knew that Moses was doing that in Genesis 49 too. But to follow these helps and to go to these spots. I’m thinking again we—the world we live in right now, a dangerous world where beastly powers are trampling on people. Think, where am I going to find courage? Well, if one like this Lion-Lamb would raise up, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and I would be associated with that one. I could find courage there. That’s one who could deliver me. And I would just say that would be—John is, I would say, expecting us to do this work, wouldn’t you agree?

JD: I would totally agree. He wants people to be confident in their Bible and when they see that the God, who gave them his word has been at work, he’s been anticipating the very challenges they’re experiencing, the very suffering they’re enduring, and he’s raising up a figure, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, that he has wanted his saints to hope in from all the way back in the beginning. Back in the Garden of Eden, he was already setting the stage for not only the suffering but the solution. This is supposed to give us great hope, great courage, as you said, that we would not be cowards in the face of challenge.

Now, Tom, our time is up and we haven’t even gotten to talk about the Old Testament background to the image of the Lamb, how beautiful that will be. And that’s the image that dominates the rest of Revelation. But this Lion-Lamb imagery has Old Testament background and when we begin to use our Bible this way, we not only read it forward, we read it backward, and then we read it forward again. We spend our devotions meditating and seeing, Oh my, God has connected all of this text and we’re to find hope from him. So that would be the word I’d want to give our people as we close out today’s podcast. Take courage in the Lion of the tribe of Judah, he is indeed our Lamb, a Lamb that was slain, who reigns now, and who is strong, stronger than the Dragon, stronger than every beast that we meet. And our hope is in him and one day it is this Lion of the tribe of Judah who will demand the obedience of the peoples, the one who has obeyed even to the point of death, death on the cross. He, right now, has been seated at the right hand of the father and been given a name that is above every name and one day at that name every knee will bow in heaven and on earth, and under the earth, declaring that indeed Jesus Christ is Lord, and they will bow whether as prisoners of war or as the redeemed. And our prayer is that our listeners, everyone will be among the redeemed, rejoicing, singing that new song of salvation, he is worthy for he was slain, and by his blood he ransomed a people, a tribe, a nation from every tongue, for his glory and our good.

TK: It’s pretty sweet to think of him like he’s pictured in Revelation, deliberately working God’s plan, opening the seals that—instead of everything’s happening to him and he’s out of control, he is making things happen and he’s totally in control. The way Balaam says it is, “Blessed are those who bless you,” and he’s obviously going reaching back into Genesis, “Cursed are those who curse you.” May we be those who bless this Lion-Lamb and follow him. Amen.

JD: That’s right. Amen.

JY: Thank you for listening to Gear talk. As I mentioned earlier, check the show notes for helpful resources from Hands to the Plow on Revelation. See you next week.