For prophets, visions tend to be highly symbolic, with imagery that arouses heightened passions as well as points to an absolute reality. In a sense, visions are both a veil, and a veil being removed.

  • A veil, because what is seen only represents, or indicates, the true reality.
  • But also a removal of the veil, for once the symbology has been deciphered, what is revealed displays a much deeper truth than what the eye sees.

John described as best he could what his eyes saw. But the realities his vision revealed are what Christians keen after.

Do Not Weep

The word used to describe the apostle John’s weeping is κλαίω | klaiō, defined as “any loud expression of pain or sorrow, especially for the dead, to weep, lament”[1] It evokes hard, wracking sobs, overcome by the intense emotion of utter grief, that kind of unfettered wailing that seems inconsolable.

Yet, evidently, none of the elders, none of the living beasts, not the attending angels nor the mighty messenger angel—no one else in the throne room of God lamented.


Then, one of the elders says to me, “Do not cry out in pain: Behold, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah prevailed – the Root of David – to open the scroll and its seven seals.

And I saw in the midst of the throne, and the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders a lamb standing as though having been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, that is the seven spirits of God having been sent into all the earth.

Revelation 5:5-6

The elder who spoke to John gave the apostle two appellations that would help him understand what his eyes were about to behold—the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, and the Root of David.

But John merely recorded his experience.

He left interpretation to the reader.

By Auftraggeber: Otto III. oder Heinrich II. – Bamberger Apokalypse Folio 13 verso, Bamberg, Staatsbibliothek, MS A. II. 42, Public Domain,


Commentators in this camp see the elder’s two titles for Christ as reference to Jesus’s unique nature as Fully God and Fully Human.

According to His human nature,

Jesus’s ancestry traces back through the tribe of Judah—as Matthew’s Gospel takes great pains to exhibit—beginning with the third patriarch Jacob, who was moved by God to prophecy over his sons and grandsons towards the end of his life. In his blessing oracle, the progenitor of the tribes of Israel said of his third son,

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.
Judah is a lion’s whelp;
    from the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He crouches down, he stretches out like a lion,
    like a lioness—who dares rouse him up?
The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
    nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,

until tribute comes to him,
    and the obedience of the peoples is his.
Binding his foal to the vine
    and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine,
he washes his garments in wine
    and his robe in the blood of grapes;

his eyes are darker than wine
    and his teeth whiter than milk.

Jacob to Judah in the presence of all, Genesis 49:8-13 (NRSV)

According to His divine nature,

Christ is the culmination of the promises God gave to David concerning a dynasty that would last into eternity.

The Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth 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. 

God to David through the prophet Nathan, 2 Samuel 7:11-13 (NRSV)

Jesus is that root growing out from David.

David’s own prophetic psalm speaks of the Lord, which Jesus quoted a thousand years later to present Himself as fulfillment of it.

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: “What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying,

‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
    until I put your enemies under your feet”’?

“If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?”

Jesus quoting Psalm 110:1, Matthew 22:41-45 (NRSV)

Some have asserted Jesus really is the root, or source, for David, based on the wording of this psalm, because Jesus is the One through Whom, and for Whom, all things have been made.

Others see the phrase “root of David” as synonymous with the prophet Isaiah’s “stem of Jesse,” which he later referred to as the “root of Jesse.”

The seven horns and seven eyes represent Jesus’s omnipotence and omniscience, respectively. John’s reference to the seven spirits is either the Holy Spirit, or ministering angels.

Cattedrale di Anagni – Affreschi | By Unknown authorPublic Domain


Theologians with this viewpoint focus on Christ portrayed as a slain lamb. Because Jesus sacrificed Himself and prevailed, He was able to conquer all the forces of darkness and evil.

Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.

Hebrews 2:14 (NRSV)

And because it was essentially, and firstly, the religious rulers in Jerusalem who brought about Christ’s crucifixion, Messiah has a particular right to exercise justice over Jerusalem as well as find vindication. As the preterist sees it, the One Who is like a slain lamb in the sacrifice of His Own life, now returns as a Lion to avenge righteous Christian martyrs.

Monastery of Saint-Antoine-le-Grand France / Rhone-Alpes / Saint-Laurent-en-Royans | By AnonymousPublic Domain


One commentator who identified the twenty-four elders as patriarchs beginning with Adam suggests the elder who spoke to John was none other than Judah himself. By saying “Behold!” Judah was exclaiming “Surprise!” Tears shall be changed to shouts of joy for the Lion, the root of David, is worthy to open the scroll! John’s despair could now be translated into hope.

But the surprises keep coming.

As John looked up, he expected to see a mighty and victorious Lion, but instead he saw a lamb, standing as though slain.

And here is where the prophet’s vision is both a veil, and a veil removed.

  • For to the observer, Jesus is a man crucified, a “would-be” who became a “has-been.” A slain lamb.
  • But the spiritual reality, and indeed the absolute truth of reality is that the slaughtered Lamb is the sovereign Lion of Judah.

Futurists interpret the lamb’s seven eyes as the fullness of the Holy Spirit, and the seven horns as seven angels—perhaps in reference to the ram’s horns that will be sounded later in John’s Revelation. And because the Lamb is also the Lion of Judah, the house of David and tribe of Judah will be treated with mercy when God’s judgment rolls down across the earth.

Catedral de la Purísima Concepción (Tepic, Nayarit)  | By Nheyob – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,


Theologians coming from this perspective note that both of Jesus’s titles, given by the elder, point to His qualifications as Messiah. His lineage in the House of David signals His royal heritage and right to the throne of Israel. His designation as a Lamb hearkens back to John the Baptist’s declaration,

“Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

John 1:29 (NRSV)

All four gospels associate Jesus with the Passover lamb, noting Jesus’s birth and death both taking place during Passover week.

The Lamb of God is the Lord, having seven eyes denoting His divine attribute of knowing all things and seeing all things. His seven horns indicate the perfection of His power (seven being the number traditionally associated with spiritual and physical perfection).

Because of His divine attributes, Jesus is the fitting and perfect judge. He alone is perfectly suited to both indict and prosecute, and to execute justice. Yet, having sacrificed His life for the world as an innocent lamb, Jesus is also the only One qualified to be the perfect Savior.  

Douce Apocalypse – Bodleian Ms180 | By Anonymous, England – [1], Public Domain,

The four perspectives taken from Revelation: Four Views A Parallel Commentary, edited by Steve Gregg

[1] Abbot-Smith Greek lexicon

4 thoughts on “Revelation 5: The Lion is a Lamb

  1. Reblogged this on Zero Lift-Off and commented:
    Einstein said to be able to realize that the impenetrable actually does exist should leave a person rapt in awe which to me demonstrates how one of the most brilliant scientific minds had to admit that there is so much more that we cannot see or comprehend, not only in a purely physical plane of cognitive intellectual thinking approach but also on any metaphysical level or the most theoretical as well; in other words totally beyond our imaginations and capability!

    “The most beautiful and most profound experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive forms – this knowledge, this feeling is at the centre of true religiousness.”
    -Albert Einstein – “The Merging of Spirit and Science”

    Isaiah 55:8-9 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.”

    Job 36:26 “Behold, God is exalted, and we do not know Him; The number of His years is unsearchable.”

    Job 36:22-23 “Behold, God is exalted in His power; Who is a teacher like Him? “Who has appointed Him His way, And who has said, ‘You have done wrong’?”

    Isaiah 40:28 “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth Does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable.”

    Romans 11:33-34 “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor?”

    1 Corinthians 2:11 “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.”

    Ecclesiastes 3:11 “He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.”

    We mere creations of God’s should remain not only in awe but total humble respect by the deepest humility to God and His supreme majesty which is beyond all human thought capability; we who are ultimately truly ignorant and selfish imperfect sinful creatures; all the more why we must desire to know and love Jesus Christ above even our own lives or any perceivable things, He who is the “Only Begotten Son of God” the “Creator!” Jesus is truly our only hope of salvation!

    We in our frail human state or condition only have glimpses of what is so far beyond our knowledge and wisdom; only what God wills and entrusts us with in order that that we will learn to love, trust and serve only Him. Amen.

    He who is the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world, who is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; this to me is the one fundamental ultimate truth, and is all that matters!

    God bless you.
    Brother in Christ Jesus,
    Lawrence Morra III

    1. Thank you Sister Joanne! I must add one additional Scripture that to me is profoundly important which popped into my mind afterward!

      I add this following Scripture which actually had put all of this in a proverbial nutshell for me many years ago when reading it for the first time!

      Job 38:2-4“Who is this who obscures My counsel by words without knowledge? 3Now brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall inform Me. 4Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding.”

      This spoken to Job a very humbled righteous (tested) man directly by God is quite telling of what our attitude and position should be in relationship to God!

      1. You’re very welcome Sister Joanne, and I again must thank you for bringing all of this to the fore which registered strongly with me! Very inspiring and as always your articles are beautifully illustrated with many amazing photos or artist renditions!

        Job is a remarkable part of God’s word! When I really try to fathom how Job was singled out to be spoken to by God to in order to illustrate such powerful wisdom and truth for the ages to come; to benefit all of humanity if they will listen!


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