The Throne Where God Is Sitting, Part 1 – The Lion and the Lamb
Wang Jianguo is the collective pseudonym for a group of Chinese house church pastors thinking and writing about issues related to the spread of Christianity in their nation. They are committed to preaching a grace-centered gospel, developing resources for the church, and loving China’s urban centers.
The author of this article first delivered its content to a large conference of house church leaders. He is the head pastor of a large church in a major city and is heavily involved in theological training initiatives in China. He received his M.Div. in Singapore and is currently completing a D.Min. from an American seminary that provides training in China. Check back next week for Part 2 of the series.
Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, “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.”
And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people 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.”
Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”
And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
- Revelation 5
This chapter is very important in the book of Revelation. At the beginning of Revelation, it mentions seven churches; and in chapter 4, there is a throne where God is sitting, and four living creatures and twenty-four elders worship God there. In chapter 5, we see that they worship Jesus Christ, and he is the same one sitting on the throne. He is worthy of worship. In this whole story, we see at the beginning an angel holding a scroll with writing on both sides, which are God’s will. When you read the following chapters, you read about the seven seals, then seven trumpets, and seven bowls. So the history begins once the lamb sitting on the throne opens the scroll.
That is why this chapter is very important – we can see Jesus Christ is the one the world was made for. Just as in Colossians and Hebrews, all things are created for Jesus Christ, by him and for him. This chapter is easy for Christians, even children, to understand: who is the center of the universe? Who is the one worthy of worship in the universe?
In the Bible, the angel holding the scroll is described as a “mighty” angel. If you know more about Revelation, you will notice that in chapter 10 and 18, the mighty angel is also mentioned, robed in a cloud with a rainbow above his head. His face is like the sun, and his legs are like fiery pillars. He gives a loud shout like the roar of a lion; and when he shouts, the sound can be heard in heaven and earth. He is mighty, but he is not worthy to hold the scroll, not worthy to open God’s will, not worthy to determine the fate of mankind. They are not worthy – although they are mighty in the universe, they are nothing compared to Jesus Christ.
So when John sees that no one can open the scroll, he weeps and he feels so sad. The great God, the God in chapter 4, cannot his will and plan be conducted? Yet one elder among the twenty-four elders says, "Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals." Then John wonders, who is the Lion of the tribe of Judah? John then knows that it means Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the King.
For in the Old Testament, the promised Messiah is always in the image of a lion. So we can imagine that in the vision John turns to the throne, surprised, and he sees a lamb. The lamb, standing in the center of the throne, has seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God. Horns are the symbol of power. In the Old Testament, horns mean power, and seven horns mean he is absolutely powerful. And seven eyes mean he is ranging throughout the earth and nothing escapes, for he is executing God’s mission. He is judging everything so he must be omniscient. Seven horns and seven eyes mean that he is omnipotent and omniscient as God, and that he is the seven spirits of God, who is fully filled with the Holy Spirit of God. But in this paragraph, it is not a perfect lamb, but a lamb that has been slain, a wounded lamb. He is more powerful than the one thought to be perfect, and the power is from his death and for God’s glory. Such a lamb is displayed in front of people, in front of John.
When we read the Bible, we will know that the true lamb and lion are Jesus Christ. Jonathan Edwards mentions that a lion and lamb are quite different animals, each with their own features. The virtue of the lion is strength and power with a loud voice, while the virtue of the lamb is gentleness and patience, edible and can be made into clothes. Both of them have a beautiful side, and Edwards said that only Jesus Christ is the most beautiful one, the one worthy of worship, for he is most glorious, brilliant, gentle, and deigning. Nothing in heaven and earth is worthy of our worship, except him.
If someone is in a high position, it is difficult to lower him. Jesus Christ is far above all these, and all virtues can be seen in him. So in chapter 5, we read and meditate on the nature of our Lord. If you think about the whole life of our Lord, you will find that his life is both the life of the lamb and the life of the lion. He was born in a manger, like a lamb; and both the angels and the multitudes of heaven came to celebrate, like a lion. He was born into a humble family; when he was young, his parents took him to the temple to sacrifice a dove, which means his family was very poor. He was like a lamb. While he was given birth to by a virgin pregnant from Holy Spirit, he was like a lamb. When he was on earth, he was very gentle and humble, and he made friends with his disciples and washed their feet for them to show the style of lambs. He also shows the style of the lion, because he does miraculous signs and wonders, and he can do anything. He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah: he heals the sick, he calms waves, and he casts out the unclean spirit. To challenge the power of evil spirits, he shows that he is the lion. He had no beauty or majesty, but when he transfigured in climbing the mountain, he revealed the image of glory and the disciples fell down to worship.
This is really the best and most beautiful description of Jesus Christ. He had all authority between heaven and earth, but he was totally obedient to the Lord of heaven and earth, the Father's will. He was killed to reveal that he is God's justice also God's love. His passion was considered most unworthy, but only his passion brings him real honor. The cross manifests that he is lamb and lion, and also manifests the holiness of Christ. The cross shows his greatest love for God, but also shows his greatest love for the enemy. On the cross, the enemy seems to win, the devil seems to win, and the sin seems to win, but it is the Lion who wins. He has infinite justice and infinite mercy, and he has unlimited sublimity, and infinite condescension. The Lord we know is much greater than we experience today and beyond our imagination.
John describes this to make us understand one thing. Talking about grace, we always think that grace is what is good to us, and we think grace is like a welfare policy – as long as it’s good to me, it is grace. But if Jesus Christ is the Lion and the Lamb, then he tells us that only God himself, Jesus Christ himself, becomes ultimate grace and is our true grace. He is the only one full of truth and grace, dwelling in human body.
We often think about grace in a self-centered way, so we don’t respond to God. If ultimate and true grace is God with person, and Christ is truly God and person completely, then after we enjoy his salvation, we should consider how can we reward him, how can we have further personal association with him, and how we can give ourselves completely to him.
If God does not reveal his righteousness and gracious to us in Christ Jesus, then our lives have no foundation. If God is not the most righteous, most holy, and most glorious, our life has no roots, because for all the moral things we should follow, we do not have to be responsible to anyone in the end. However we have the Lord, who is righteous and will give final judgment. So we must face the Lord and we should be holy, responding to him. When we face all the injustice in the world, we know that behind it all there must be a final solution – the righteousness God. Only after we have experienced the righteousness and love of the Lord, then can our lives really rest in peace.