Question:

Can you please help me with this question? Can you please explain the reversal of images and transformation of symbols, such as a slain Lamb appearing right after the proclamation that a Lion is worthy to open the scroll (Revelation 5:1-6)?


Answer:

"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" (Revelation 5:1-6).

The shifting representations reminds the reader that he is not reading a literal account, but a figurative one that represents the truth. While someone unfamiliar with the Bible would be confused by the multitude of symbols, Christians can read these because they know what the symbols represent from their own study of the Bible.

Lion of the tribe of Judah: Even in the Bible, the lion is seen as the king of beasts (Proverbs 30:30; 19:12; 20:2). Going all the way back to Jacob's blessings on his children, Jacob stated: "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" (Genesis 49:9-10). Shiloh is a reference to the coming Messiah and Jacob prophesied that the Messiah would be a descendant of Judah who was characterized as a young lion. Our Lord Jesus was of the tribe of Judah (Hebrews 7:14).

The root of David: Meaning that he descended from King David, thus inheriting the right to rule God's people. "And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, who shall stand as a banner to the people; for the Gentiles shall seek Him, and His resting place shall be glorious" (Isaiah 1:10). Jesse was David's father. Once again, this is a reference to Jesus, "concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh" (Romans 1:3). David was told by God, "When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. ... And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever" (II Samuel 7:12-16).

A lamb as though it had been slain: John the Baptist declared concerning Jesus, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29). His statement was an allusion to the description of the suffering Servant in Isaiah 53. "He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken" (Isaiah 53:7). The imagery in turn alludes back to Abraham's offering of his only son Isaac. As he and Isaac prepared to climb Mount Moriah, "Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, "My father!" And he said, "Here I am, my son." Then he said, "Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" And Abraham said, "My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering."" (Genesis 22:7-8). After God stopped the sacrifice, He provided a ram for the offering -- not a lamb -- thus, providing a subtle hint that another lamb was in God's mind, Jesus Christ. "And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma" (Ephesians 5:2). "Sweet-smelling aroma" is a term closely linked to the burnt offering.

The prophecies of the Old Testament confused the Jewish scholars for many years. They read about coming Messiah being a conquering king in many passages, but in others they found him to described as a suffering servant. The ideas were at such odds that the prevailing idea was that there would be two Messiahs. Not until the coming of Jesus and his death did the world learn that these contrasting ideas are bound in one person. Jesus came to serve, but he is our Lord and King. He suffered and died, but in doing so he conquered his enemies: sin and death. The symbols of Revelation capture that complex representation of Jesus, but it could not be done with one symbol, but a series.