The Lion of Judah
By Chad Sanders
When John sees the throne room of God in chapters 4 and 5 of Revelation, he sees “in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll…sealed with seven seals” (5:1). John notes that no one in the universe was found who could open the scroll. John begins to weep. And then one of the “elders” in the heavenly throne room tells John that the “Lion of the tribe of Judah” has conquered and can open the scroll.
Of course, we understand this person to be Jesus Christ. By why? Why is Jesus referred to as the Lion of Judah?
Lions in Old Testament are depicted as fierce, hungry, ferocious, and savage. They hunt and kill and destroy their prey. We know the stories of Samson (Judges 14), David (1 Samuel 17), and Daniel’s (Daniel 6) battles with lions. There are many passages about lions but here are just a few:
Psalm 7:2 – “lest like a lion they tear my soul apart, rending it in pieces with none to deliver.”
Psalm 10:9 – “he lurks in ambush like a lion in his thicket.”
Psalm 35:17 – “How long oh Lord will you look on? Rescue me from their destruction, my precious life from the lions.”
Proverbs 20:2 – “The terror of a king is like the growling of a lion. Whoever provokes him to anger forfeits his life.”
Lions are nothing to mess with. Calling Jesus a lion speaks to his judgement. As lions are ferocious, angry predators, so also Jesus in his judgment of his enemies will be the same way. Judgement is a major theme in Revelation, the seals, the trumpets, the bowls…they all speak of judgement.
But Jesus is not just like any lion. He is the “Lion of Judah”. This is an allusion to one very important verse. The verse is Genesis 49:9. The context is Jacob blessing his 12 sons before he dies. Each son visits Jacob on his death bed and Jacob has a blessing for each son. When he gets to his son Judah, Jacob says this – “Judah is a lion’s cub, from the prey, my son you have gone up. He stooped down, he crouched as a lion and as a lioness, who dares rouse him?”
But how this relates to Christ is in the next verse, Genesis 49:10, which says “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, not the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until He comes to whom it belongs, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” What an amazing verse. Judah, and his lineage, is like a lion, who will be the father of many kings (the scepter is held by a king), until one particular king comes to whom the scepter belongs to…and all people will obey him. This is none other than Jesus Christ.
The Lion of Judah in Revelation is Jesus. He is from the line of Judah, the long awaited rightful king. It also speaks to the ferocious judgment with which Jesus will destroy his enemies.
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