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What does the Bible mean by the expression the lion and lamb shall lay down together?! Written by Dr Andrew Corbett, President of ICI Theological College Australia, and author of the popular commentary on the Book of Revelation- The Most Embarrassing Book In The Bible

The Lion Shall Lay Down Together With the Lamb - explained.

The Lion Shall Lay Down Together With the Lamb – explained.

The “lion and the lamb shall lay down together” is often cited a prophecy speaking of a literal utopia on earth to come – a Golden Age – referred to as ‘The Millennium’. It is argued that since so many of the prophecies regarding The Christ’s first appearing were fulfilled literally, surely such prophecies of a Golden Age will also be fulfilled literally. This yet-to-come Golden Age (“The Millennium”) is spoken of as “Paradise Restored” – an age of Paradise on earth where there will be no death, sorrow, pain or sickness. The prophets described this era with the expression, “the lion and the lamb shall lay down together…” But there is a slight, ever so slight, problem with this: the expression, the lion and lamb shall lay down together does not occur in the Bible! The closest we can get to it Isaiah 11:6.

¶ The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them.
Isaiah 11:6

I was with a group of pastors recently in Sydney where one of them quizzed me about the prophecy in the Old Testament referring to the lion and lamb laying down together. I gently pointed out that this expression doesn’t appear in the Bible. They immediately challenged my assertion. I quoted Isaiah 11:6 and pointed out that it refers to the wolf and the lamb not the lion and the lamb. I pointed out the significance of this prophecy and its most probable interpretation. They said that they would check this out when they returned home to their computer and I presume correct me if they could prove me wrong. After 7 years, I haven’t heard from them.

It’s interesting how many things are cited as if they are in the Bible. Like, one shall put a thousand to flight and two shall put ten thousand to flight is often quoted by leadership teachers about the power of an individual being exponentially multiplied when in a team. But how many realise this citation refers to what Israel’s enemies could do to them if they broke Covenant with God (not what they would do to their enemies)? (Deut. 32:30)

The particular almost-biblical-expression in question is used to promote “Pre-Millennialism” which is the idea that Christ will return and set up a Golden Age on earth for a thousand years where even normally carnivorous animals will become vegetarian. This idea has gained much popular paperback-theology endorsement. But I am proposing a quite different view for your consideration.

lion+lamb+lay+down

In Tom Wright’s book, “Justification“, the master exegete and Biblical scholar describes the difficulty in challenging a view of Scripture which is almost universally accepted and taken for granted, in the same way that it must have been difficult for Copernicus to convince the world that the Sun did not revolve around the earth – but rather, that the earth revolved around the Sun. “Look” Copernicus’s objectors and scoffers might have contested, “Each morning the Sun comes up then each evening it goes down. There you have it! The proof! The Sun goes around the earth.” But despite the objective data presented by Copernicus, the general perception continued and his objectors preserved the status quo, at least for a while.

Perhaps in a similar way, what I am proposing might meet with similar Copernican-type objectors. I am going to attempt to show that Isaiah 11:6 should not be taken in a wooden literal sense. Having already shown that the expression the lion shall lay down with the lamb…does not occur in the Bible, I am going to argue that neither is the very concept proposed – a Golden Age on earth, called the Millennium – to be what the Bible teaches.

“The wolf and the lamb shall graze together;
the lion shall eat straw like the ox,
and dust shall be the serpent’s food.
They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain,”
says the LORD.
Isaiah 65:25

The Book of Isaiah employs metaphors. Metaphors are word pictures. The Promised Messiah is described in Isaiah as a “tender shoot” or a “root” (incidentally, both metaphors occur in Isaiah 11). These word pictures of the Christ paint Him as the hope of Israel and One who would be born as a child and grow. The particular metaphors in question: the wolf, is frequently used in the Old Testament to speak of Israel’s enemies. For example, Jeremiah speaks of Israel’s enemies as a lion, a wolf, and a leopard.

¶ Therefore a lion from the forest shall strike them down;
a wolf from the desert shall devastate them.
A leopard is watching their cities;
everyone who goes out of them shall be torn in pieces,
because their transgressions are many,
their apostasies are great.
Jeremiah 5:6

Similarly, Israel is frequently described as lambs, or sheep. To speak of wolves and lambs laying down together, is to describe the effect of the New Covenant. That is, the largely ethnically-centred Old Covenant, would one day be replaced by the for-all-the-world-New-Covenant where Jew and (the previously hostile enemy) Gentiles are brought together under the same Covenant.

¶ Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility
Ephesians 2:11-14

The context of Isaiah 11 is the ministry and achievement of the Messiah. The resultant New Covenant would make peace between formally hostile enemies. There are some beautiful prophetic metaphors in Isaiah 11 which describe this. Such as verse 18, The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. This is not a picture of a Utopian Golden Era, referred to as The Millennium, rather it was a prophetic picture of the resultant peace from the spread of the New Covenant. How far will this New Covenant spread?

…for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.
Isaiah 11:9b

The Book of Revelation explained

The Book of Revelation explained

Of course, these various ideas come to affect how we understand the Book of Revelation. Some will continue to think that the Bible forecasts an earthly Utopia just as some continued to think that the Sun went around the earth in Copernicus’s day. To be sure, one day Christ will return, as the ancient creeds say, to judge all people and bring our dimensions to an end. In a sense, the New Heaven and the New Earth speaks of the New Covenant but it ultimately speaks of a time to come when –

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Revelation 21:4

In the meantime, the wolf lays down the lamb every time an Arab and a Jew find a common bond in knowing Christ as the Promised Prophet, Messiah and Saviour. And this is happening today perhaps more than people realise.

Dr. Andrew Corbett

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The Most Embarrassing Book In The Bible, eBook, by Dr. Andrew Corbett

The Most Embarrassing Book In The Bible, eBook, by Dr. Andrew Corbett

I have written a fuller explanation of the book of Revelation in my eBook – THE MOST EMBARRASSING BOOK IN THE BIBLE (click here to read a preview). The application from the Book of Revelation is that despite what appears to be an impotent Church struggling to serve an apparently impotent Christ, the Church is in reality made up of overcomers who lay down their lives gladly to promote Christ and His Gospel. In so doing, the Kingdom of Christ is extended, prayers are offered and heard, miracles are graced, and the believer can die with infinite hope that their Lord will keep them for eternity and clothe them with a new body which can not be subject to pain, injury, sorrow, or sin. With this knowledge we can endure momentary hardship during the brevity of this life on earth. We can be assured that our greatest delights and deepest moments of fulfilment are yet to come in the life to come.

¶ “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.
John 5:25

Amen.

Dr. Andrew Corbett, Legana, Tasmania, Australia, August 15th, 2011

Start With Christianity

For those unacquainted with religions, it is often thought by them that all religions are basically the same. After all, every religion offers peace of mind, moral teaching, a connection with the divine, and a means for prayer, ritual, and worship, leading to meaning, fulfilment, and happiness.

To the unacquainted, religion sounds like one of life’s optional extras. It is particularly suited to those who are not scientific, easily intellectually satisfied with mystical answers, and probably already familiar with religion due to their upbringing.

DOES BIBLE PROPHECY MATTER ANYMORE?

Does Bible Prophecy matter anymore? With so many Bible Prophecy teachers making so many wild interpretations of what the Bible supposedly teaches will happen in our near future, who have time and time again been proven wrong, the believer could be forgiven for simply abandoning the Bible as being prophetically credible. But being convinced in the inerrancy of Scripture and aware that much of what is taught in Dispensational churches inadvertantly attempts to undermine the inerrancy of Scripture by its false prophetic interpretations, I set about to study the subject of Bible Prophecy and learn for myself what the Bible really says and predicts.

About The Book of Revelation

Much damage to the credibility of the Bible has nearly been done by those who twist the contents of the Book of Revelation to force it to sound like it refers to the events of our present day. Time and time again, so called Bible-Prophecy teachers have been left with egg on their faces as their ridiculous speculations have proved to be completely wrong. Our Administrator forwarded onto me a copy of an email we were sent claiming that our understanding of the Book of Revelation was wrong and that we would be humiliated by the Lord when the Rapture took place on October 17th 2009.

You’ll notice that I am writing this brief article after this ‘day of humiliation’. But still the sillyness continues to be rolled out by many TBN preachers who (even inadvertently) misrepresent the Book of Revelation by claiming that it is written to us about our day. (I have compiled a small list of such of failed interpretations.) In the unlikely event that you are a now cynical believer reading this article, or even in the more unlikely event that you are a complete skeptic about Christianity and the Bible reading this article, I hope to take just a few minutes of your time to offer an alternate understanding of the Book of Revelation that will actually present a credible case for Christianity and the Bible.

What’s The Deal With The Millennium?

Where is human history going? Many people believe that the Bible has not only accurately predicted human history to this point, but that it predicts a coming ‘Golden Age’. This possibly impending event is called: “The Millennium”. But there are very devout Bible readers who think this kind of reading of Scripture is actually a gross misreading of the Bible, and that what the Bible really says about the future may surprise – and even shock people today.

The “Millennium” is the touchstone for how people label themselves when it comes to interpretting Bible prophecy. Depending on how they regard the Millennium, they will classify themselves either as, (i) Premillennial; (ii) Amillennial; or, (iii) Post-Millennial. Within these Millennial categories there are people who take a “fundamentalist” view, generally known as “Dispensationalists” and there are others who take a “Reformed” view, generally known as “Historicists”, or the position I will argue for- “Preterist”.

The Tide Is Turning When It Comes To How We Understand Bible Prophecy

I remember as a young boy going to church on a Sunday evening and hearing the Bible Prophecy teacher give his end-times-chart-on-the-bedsheet-on-the-wall talk and feeling both excited and scared.”Excited” because it was reassuring to hear how accurate the Bible was in matching prophecy with history. “Scared” because the Bible apparently said that the ‘last days’ were going to be hell-on-earth! I was taught that the USSR was the bear of Ezekiel and also described as Gog and Magog. I was told that the Anti-christ was alive today in America and already plotting his world take-over. I heard that a time of Great Tribulation was coming on the earth to punish Israel for rejecting their Messiah and forming an alliance with the Anti-christ who will eventually rebuild Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. This would all lead to the battle of Armaggeddon where millions of people would be killed in the mother of all battles. But most evangelistically I was told that I could escape this coming doom by committing my life ot Christ and therefore qualify for being “raptured” just before this final seven year period began.

Like my interstate pastor friend, I just thought this was the traditional, orthodox doctrine. I mostly ignored the inconsistencies this understanding presented. I just let the questions mount. Then one day when I was still young, I heard another pastor teaching about end times who seemed to suggest that not only wasn’t this the traditional way of understanding Bible Prophecy, it was also not orthodox! That is, he said that the Bible couldn’t teach this. He called it “Dispensationalism”. Back then, Hal Lindsay was the paperback champion of Dispensationalism while Dr John F. Walvoord (of Dallas Theological Seminary) was the hardback champion. In my boyhood church no-one questioned these Bible authorities. Dozens of Bible Prophecy teachers were spawned by these authors. Each one reiterated the Dispensational interpretation of the Bible and too few of us realised that we weren’t just being told how to interpret Bible prophecy…

Finally, How To Understand The New Testament

Professors Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart state that the entire framework of the New Testament is eschatological (How To Read The Bible For All Its Worth, 2003:145). “Eschatology”, they write, “has to do with the end, when God brings this age to its close.” Hence my double entendre heading – Understanding what the Bible teaches about “finally” (Eschatology) is necessary in order to understand what the New Testament teaches… 

Determining The Date Revelation’s Authorship

It would be remiss of any serious student of Revelation not to at least do a cursory examination of the historical context to which Revelation is back-dropped. The first point of reference would have to be to determine when Revelation was written. Most scholars regard there being only two possible dates. Dr. Leon Morris explores this adequately in his Tyndale Commentary series volume on Revelation, and I recommend that this widely available commentary be read. In the case of most books of the Bible, determining the date of its authorship, while certainly important, is not necessarily crucial to its interpretation. But this is absolutely not the case with the Book of Revelation. Some tradition has up until recent times regarded the date Revelation’s authorship to be around 95AD. This has been based almost entirely on a misunderstanding of one vague statement by the second century Church Father, Irenaeus.

The Symbolism of The Book of Revelation

The Book of Revelation has variously been described as so mysterious that it simply cannot be understood. But this has not stopped some from speculating about what its symbolims means. Such speculation is based on the assumption that the Book of Revelation is uniquely symbolic. But what are the implications of the idea that Revelation is written with consistent Biblical symbolism in how we understand its message?

In fact, it can be shown that the Book of Revelation is saturated in Old Testament imagery and symbolism. Understanding this should help us to avoid abusing this profound Book with ridiculous speculation that forces such contemporary events as the European Union, the United States, modern Iran, and computer technology into the text.

The Disappointment of Dispensationalism

Dispensationalism comes in various forms. A “dispensation” is a period of time. An era. In its most extreme form it regards God as having multiple plans of salvation depending on the particular dispensation. These dispensations generally commence with the Dispensation of Innocence and include other Dispensations such as the Dispensations of Works, Law, and Grace. This is contrasted by the orthodox Christian view of regarding God only ever having one means of salvation: the work of Jesus of Nazareth, especially His suffering, death and resurrection. But Dispensationalism is most notably distinguished from orthodox Christianity in the way it regards Israel. Dispensationalism says that God has a distinct plan and salvation for Israel. The roof of Dispensationalism is then supported by the walls of a novel form of end-times teaching. This includes such things as a rapture of the Church, a two-part Tribulation period, the global rule of an Anti-Christ, the reconstruction of a Temple in Jerusalem, the Battle of Armageddon, and then the Return of Christ. Dispensationalist Bible Prophecy teachers have gone to great lengths in their predictions of what the future holds based on their interpretation of the Bible. I have written a separate article on some of these predictions. But there’s a problem. A big problem!

The Trinity Examined and Explained

There is no greater mystery than God. And perhaps there is no greater quest than to answer the question who is God? as truthfully as possible. When the identity of God is discussed there are a wide range of ideas put forward. Some have gained acceptance and formed the basis for the world’s religions. For those who have realised that God must have an identity they conclude that He must be a person. This is called theism- or more precisely, monotheism. Judaism, Islam, and Christianity are three great monotheistic religions of the world. But Christianity is further distinguished from these other monotheistic religions by identifying God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

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