Let me begin by telling you all a story. There was once a council of animals, where rabbits and deer, forest animals of all kinds, rubbed elbows with lions and tigers, and the animals demanded equality, that all animals be respected equally. At this point the lion turned to the forest animals and yelled, “Where are your teeth and claws?” Lions are symbols of brutal strength to humans. However, lions are also considered the kings of the jungle, and so this dual nature of lions, fierce and violent but also regal and royal, exists in our own mental picture about this powerful animal.
The Bible shows the same dual nature of lions, at times pointing out the regal and royal nature of lions as the symbol of legitimate kings, and at other times pointing out the vicious and brutal nature of the lion as a symbol. Let us therefore examine two lions in scripture so that we may understand the complexity of the Bible’s portrayal of the lion, and learn what aspects of the lion’s nature we can respect and emulate, and what aspects of it we must reject and overcome.
The Lion of Judah
Let us first turn to Genesis 49:8-10, where we read of the regal aspects of the Lion of Judah, the kingly line of David, ultimately referring to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, our Savior and elder brother, Jesus Christ. Genesis 49:8-10 reads as follows: “Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise; your hand shall be on the neck of our enemies; your father’s children shall bow down before you. 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.”
Let us examine what this passage is saying. For one, this passage shows the regal and secure nature of the lion. The lion is victorious over its enemies, just as Jesus Christ will be when He returns to rule the earth. The regal nature of the lion and its strength mean that all the world will bow down to Jesus Christ as King, and none will make Him afraid. Additionally, the legitimacy of rulership was established within the line of David, the shepherd king, and ultimately to the Good Shepherd Himself, Jesus Christ, the Firstborn Son of God. Shiloh, which was the name of the city of priests where the tabernacle once stood in Israel, is another name for our heavenly high priest, showing the connection of priest and king that Jesus Christ holds in his offices and that we too hold as believers, a royal priesthood and a holy nation, as 1 Peter 2:9-10 states.
Here we see the positive side of the lion, the side that represents Jesus Christ, the legitimate and righteous King over all. It is this side of the lion that we are to model and represent, secure in the strength and power of God, secure in the righteous judgment and authority of God over the universe He created. There is, however, a darker side to the lion, and it is this side that I wish to discuss now, so that we may understand the second way in which the nature of the lion is discussed in scripture.
Satan, The Roaring Lion
Satan, the illegitimate and counterfeit king, who has long sought to overthrow the righteous rule of Jesus Christ and rule over the universe himself, is also portrayed as a lion in scripture. Let us read this in 1 Peter 5:5-9. 1 Peter 5:5-9 reads as follows: “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to each other, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.”
This passage places before us two alternatives in behavior. If we are humble, respectful, and patient, and know that whatever our present struggles, God will lift us up so that we are mighty and respected and powerful when we are ready to assume those responsiblities of godly rulership, then we are the right kind of lion, like our elder brother and king. If, however, we are proud and arrogant and seek to take honor and glory for ourselves, we will be devoured by Satan, the roaring lion, who seeks to devour and destroy us. Lions dwell in groups called prides, and if we are proud and arrogant instead of humble, then we accept Satan the arrogant lion as our king, and share in his judgment.
Many ancient rulers were obsessed with the symbolism of lions to describe their own majesty and brutality. The brutal emperors of Assyria sculpted bas-reliefs of lion hunts on the walls of their palaces, showing themselves spearing lions, and sharing in the brutal nature of the lion. These same kings sculpted bas-reliefs of pyramids of skulls and naked slaves led by strings tied through the nose coming from captured cities, showing that they too were brutal just like the lion. The kings of Babylon sculpted massive lions in walls of deep blue for their gates, showing that they were mighty and territorial like the lion, able to protect their cities. They were wrong, and their city was taken, but that was their claim nonetheless.
Satan’s demons are territorial as well, just like lions are, jealously guarding their turf. Let us turn to Daniel 10:20-21, which speaks of the territorial nature of demons. Daniel 10:20-21 reads as follows: “Then he [an angel] said, “Do you know why I have come to you? And now I must return to fight with the prince of Persia; and when I have gone forth, indeed the prince of Greece will come. But I will tell you what is noted in the Scripture of Truth. (No one upholds me against these, except Michael your prince.)”
This particular passage states that each empire and kingdom has its own demon ruler. There was a demon prince over Persia and another demon prince over Greece. When the two kingdoms fought, their demons warred against each other to see which of them was more powerful, and which of their kingdoms would rule over the other or have the glory and power within that part of the world. Angels who wished to deliver messages to prophets like Daniel had to fight against these demons, who disliked others invading “their territory.” This required the intervention of powerful angels on their side, like the archangel Michael. We see here that the earth is divided up into kingdoms ruled over by various demons, hostile and competitive against each other, like the roaring lions opposed to any who would invade their land, not remembering that all of the earth belongs to God, and He divides it according to His will.
Let us therefore conclude on a hopeful note. We have read of both the regal and royal nature of the good lion of Judah and the brutal and territorial nature of the satanic roaring lion. Let us now conclude with a reflection of the nature of the lion after Jesus Christ returns to rule the earth and after Satan has been bound in chains for a thousand years. What will the lion be like then? We find the answer in Isaiah 11:6-9, one of the most pleasant prophecies in scripture. Isaiah 11:6-9 reads as follows: “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopar shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like an ox. The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, or the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”
When Jesus Christ returns to take authority over His kingdom and rule over the entire earth, the nature of animals will change. No longer will animals like the wolf, the bear, the lion, the cobra, and the viper seek to harm people or other animals. It is these wicked and brutal animals that the satanic kingdoms of the world model themselves after. Instead, they will all be peaceful and gentle animals. The lion will be regal and respected, but will no longer be brutal and bloodthirsty. Therefore, the nature of all creatures will be restored to its godly and original state, the way it was before sin and corruption entered this world. We too should therefore seek to emulate our Lord in heaven, the lion cub of Judah, and reject the brutal and arrogant nature of Satan the roaring lion, whose time as the counterfeit king of this earth is nearing its end.