Tag Archives: lamb

Revelations from REVELATION [chapter 13]

Then I saw another monster coming up from the earth. It had two horns like those of the lamb, and it spoke like a dragon. ~REVELATION 13:11

In this chapter we have two beasts–one from the sea, and one from the land. The beast from the sea is Rome and its political power. The beast from the earth represents economic and religious forces supporting the cultic empire. Behind the two beasts, empowering them, is the dragon. So we have here an unholy trinity.

This second monster, looking like the Lamb, but speaking like a dragon, shows that there were evil religious forces pushing the agenda of the empire, and also reminds us of Jesus’s warning to be on the lookout for wolves in sheep’s clothing. (I just love that artwork above from the latest album by Ritual Servant, a most excellent Christian metal band with up front Scripture-based lyrics)

This beast from the earth is later called “the false prophet” in chapters 16, 19, and 20. G.K. Beale sums up nicely in his commentary: “A true prophet leads people to worship God, but the false prophet leads them to worship the state (and, by extension, the devil).” This is such a simple test, isn’t it? Does the teacher in question lead and encourage you to follow God? Or someone or something else? This we must ever keep before us.

A person may speak very well, be charismatic and passionate, but who or what are they really leading you to? The speaking like a dragon in this verse reflects the alluring, deceptive speech of satan, the dragon, which led to the sin of Adam and Eve. And later, in the first century A.D., false teachers under the influence of the same dragon were encouraging compromise with the culture’s idolatrous institutions.

I’m thinking a lot along this subject line lately as I’ve been immersed in the story of the twentieth century false prophet Jim Jones. So immersed in fact, that the other day my wife Ana asked me, “So when are you going to come back home from Jonestown?” She knows all too well that when I dive in to something, I take up residence there for a month or two, absorbing every drop I can soak up before returning–hopefully with life lessons learned and wisdom to pass on.

Jim Jones never really encouraged the worship of God, but rather the worship of socialism and of himself. In fact, in an interview the year before his death, he said that he was an atheist and never actually did believe in God. Yet he was ordained in the Disciples of Christ denomination! How can this happen?

When you speak like a dragon.

When you are “gifted” in the way of saying what the people in front of you want to hear. If you are speaking to Bible-based believers, you quote Scripture. When you’re in front of a crowd of non-religious folk who have a heart for social justice, you downplay God, maybe even denigrate the Bible, and talk about how we need to help the downtrodden. This is how the not-so-reverend Jones did it. But not everyone was fooled of course.

The speech of the false prophet may be alluring, but even a mildly careful listen will clue you in on the fact that this is dragon speak, and not truly Lamb-like. Again, the main item you listen for is who they point you to.

By showing us what Babylon is really like, Revelation is asking us: Who do you belong to? Where do your loyalties lie? What are those basic commitments that make you who you are? Does your life bear the seal of God, or the mark of the beast?

Revelations from REVELATION [chapter 5]

One of the elders, however, spoke to me, “Don’t cry,” he said. “Look! The lion from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has won the victory! He can open the scroll and its seven seals.” Then I saw…a lamb. It was standing there as though it had been slaughtered…~REVELATION 5:5-6

One of the details in Revelation that I never paid close attention to is here in these two verses. And it has huge implications.

First, just a little bit of context. John sees a scroll sealed with seven seals in the right hand of Yahweh sitting on the throne (this throne room vision began in chapter 4). A mighty angel asks if there’s anyone worthy to open it and undo its seals. The answer is: nobody in the universe is able to open it. At this John bursts into tears thinking no one can know the will of God or carry out His plans against evil which are contained in that scroll. But then one of the twenty-four elders tells John not to cry because look! the Lion of Judah/Root of David (Messiah) has conquered and can open the scroll as well as its seals. But when John turns to get a look at this fierce lion of power and majesty, he sees…a little lamb. Not only that, but it’s been slaughtered–yet still standing.

Here is the detail I never really pondered: John hears that the Lion of Judah is worthy, but he sees a slaughtered Lamb. What’s up with this sacred shapeshifting? And not only that, but the Greek word John uses for lamb here is “arnion” which is diminutive and literally “lambkin.” John uses arnion 29 times in Revelation, all referring to Jesus except for one (13:11). Aaaaand, arnion-lambkin is used only one time elsewhere in the entire New Testament, in John 21:15, and there it refers to Jesus’s followers.

What’s the significance?

John is giving a completely new conception to his readers.

John is redefining what victory looks like.

God’s victory is won through suffering and His triumph is achieved through sacrifice. The Lamb is indeed as powerful as a Lion, but his power is exercised through what he suffers for the sake of others.”, says Professor of New Testament Craig Koester. Contrary to what many modern readers may say, John was not writing in some elaborate code to hide Jesus’s identity, he was revealing Jesus’s character. Remember, the word “revelation” means disclosure, not super secret code. (And if John was indeed writing in code, he needs to brush up his game as he gave a major spoiler alert in Revelation1:1!)

God’s kingdom is built through the self-giving sacrifice of Jesus–this is how the Lamb “conquers.” The theme of chapter 5 according to commentator G.K. Beale is: “Christ as Lion overcame by being slaughtered as a Lamb.” And don’t think for a second that this Lambkin is weak–it takes more strength than we can imagine to willingly submit to and walk into what He did for the sake of all of us. The way of the Lamb is not weakness, but strength beyond strength as we understand it, complete and perfect power (symbolized by the Lamb’s seven horns later in verse 6) . By contrast, the way of the dragon and Babylon is violence and exploitation which in the end, is pathetic and weak.

What might this mean for us today?

So back in chapters 2 and 3 in the letters to the seven churches, each message had a part towards the end which said basically that the one who conquers will receive an eternally extravagant reward in the end. For example, in the letter to the church in Laodicea, “This will be my gift to the one who conquers: I will sit them beside me on my throne, just as I conquered and sat with my father on his throne.” Conquering, according to the book of Revelation, is to remain an allegiant or faithful witness to Jesus Christ to the end, no matter how hostile the environment may become towards being such a witness. The words most used to the churches were “works” and “resilience” or we might say perseverance and endurance. Conquering, in the kingdom of God, is simply remaining faithful to Christ and absorbing whatever suffering may come as a result of that.

This is what victory looks like as John is redefining it for us here.

It does not look like crusades, conquistadors, or colonialism.

If I were a Baptist preacher obsessed with alliteration, I would say:

“In Revelation 5 we have a new Conception of Conquering! A new Paradigm of Power! And a new Vision of Victory!”

But since I’m not, I won’t.

I’ll close with some words by Scot McKnight from his new and very helpful book Revelation For The Rest Of Us which just came out last month:

Being an allegiant witness of enduring works is about the public expression and embodiment of the lordship of King Jesus.