Leo, the Lion
Hydra, the Serpent
Crater, the Cup
Corvus, the Raven
THE CONSUMMATED VICTORY
Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.
The scene of these words was in the heavenly spaces, whither the Apostle John had been caught up to witness what is to come to pass after the present Church-period comes to its close. They bring to view a great and oppressive sorrow and a great and glorious consolation.
In the hand of enthroned Almightiness lay a roll or document written within and without and sealed with seven seals. That roll denoted the title-deed of the inheritance which man had forfeited by disobedience, and which had reverted into the hand of God, to whom the race had become hopelessly indebted.
Those “seven seals” attested the absoluteness of the bonds of forfeit, and bespoke how completely the inheritance was disponed away and gone. Nor could it ever be recovered to man, except as some one should be found with worth, merit, and ability to satisfy the claim, lift the document, and destroy its seals. But neither in heaven or earth nor under the earth did any one appear worthy to take up the writing, or even so much as to look upon it. This was the grief that made the Apostle weep. It seemed to say to him that man’s patrimony was clean gone for ever. It drew a dark and impenetrable veil over all the promises and over all man’s prospects, as if everything hoped for was now about to fail. Could it be that all the fond anticipations touching “the redemption of the purchased possession” were now to miscarry, and the whole matter, of which the saints had been prophesying so long, go by default? So the matter looked, which was a grief indeed that well might overwhelm the soul of an Apostle, even in heaven.
But, though John “wept much,” he was not left to weep long. A voice from among the throned elders soon broke in to relieve his anxiety and dry his tears. That voice said: “Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.” This was the consolation which comforted the holy Seer, and which he was directed to write for the cheer and comfort of the sorrowing Church in all these ages since.
And what was thus said to John, both in substance and in figure, we likewise find written upon the stars in the twelfth and last sign of the Zodiac and its Decans.
The text speaks of a mystic Lion. The lion is a kingly, majestic, noble, but terrible creature, so strong and courageous as to fear nothing, and so fierce and powerful that no other animal can stand before him. The names of the lion in Hebrew, Arabic, Syriac, and Coptic, though different, all signify about the same, and mean He that rends, that tears asunder, that destroys, that lays waste. The name in Greek and Latin is formed from words which express sharp and flaming sight, leaping forth as flames, coming with raging vehemence. From this we see how the earlier peoples were impressed by what they saw and knew of this terrible beast. The common sentiment of mankind has associated it with royalty and dominion, and awarded it the title of “king of beasts.” It scarcely has an equal in physical strength, which is further combined with extraordinary quickness and agility. Ordained to feed on flesh, it is fitted for the work of capture and destruction, and is supplied with the most powerful physical machinery conceivable for the purpose. It can easily kill and drag away a buffalo, and it can crush the skull of a horse or break the backbone of an ox with one stroke of its paw. Its claws can cut four inches in depth at a single grasp. It has great ivory teeth capable of crunching a bullock’s bones. The fall of its fore paw in striking is estimated to be equal to twenty-five pounds in weight, whilst it is able to handle itself with all the nimbleness of a cat, to whose family the lion belongs. The possession of such powers, with its instincts for blood, renders this animal wonderfully daring, bold, and self-confident, and the great terror of men and beasts in the vicinity of its haunts.
When the lion is assailed and thoroughly aroused, and lifts himself up in proud contemplation of his foes, though banded in troops around him, his composed, majestic, and defiant mien is described as noble and magnificent beyond conception; whilst the terribleness of his growl and the thunder of his roar contribute to make the picture almost superhumanly impressive.
And this is the image which we are called to contemplate in the text as describing the character and majesty of Christ in connection with the final scenes of the taking of the roll from the hand of eternal Godhead, the breaking of its seals, and the clearing of the earth from all enemies and usurpers.
CHRIST AS THE LION
When the dying Jacob blessed his sons, he pronounced Judah a lion, whom his brethren should praise, whose hand should be in the neck of his enemies, and before whom his father’s children would bow down (Gen. 49: 8,9). His words on that occasion were all intensely prophetic. What he said of Judah applied to the warlike and victorious energy which was afterward shown in that tribe. The same received remarkable fulfilment in David, in whom the lion-nature was strikingly exhibited, and whose boast in the Lord was, “By Thee I can dash in pieces the warlike people, I pursue after mine enemies, and overtake them, and turn again until I have consumed them” (Ps. 18).
But these lion-qualities assigned to Judah looked onward to a still nobler King, who “sprang out of Judah” as David’s lineal descendant and heir, who is at once David’s Lord and David’s son, and pre-eminently the Lion of whom Jacob spoke.
Under the New Testament, and during the course of the existing Church-period, our Saviour is more commonly contemplated as the innocent, uncomplaining, and spotless Lamb of sacrifice, meekly yielding up His life that we might live. Even among the stupendous works of battle and judgment set forth in the Apocalypse, He still appears again and again as “the Lamb” – “a Lamb as it had been slain,” “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” – by whose blood the saints are washed from their sins, their garments made white, and their final victory over all Satan’s accusations achieved. And to His people, even as the eternal Bridegroom, He will never cease to be the Lamb of God, by whose sacrificial death and mediation they have their standing and their blessedness. Neither does He cease to be the Lamb even in connection with His being the terrible Lion. The Lamb is capable of wrath, and in the day of His wrath He is the Lion. He is the one to His friends, and He is the other to His enemies. Nay, He does not come to the exercise of His powers and prerogatives as the Lion, except as He first clears away all impediments and overcomes all embarrassments by means of sacrificial atonement and satisfaction for the sins of those for whom He at length takes the character of the Lion, to tear His and their enemies to pieces.
This is what the elder means when he says that this Lion of the tribe of Judah “hath prevailed,” so as to be in position of worthiness and ability, as the almighty Redeemer, to go forward as a Lion, to take the inheritance by destroying all who have obtruded themselves upon it and presume to hold it in defiance of His royal rights.
Nor are the Scriptures sparing in their references to this lion-character and lion-work of the glorious Redeemer when things have once come to ripeness for the sharp sickle of judgment. Not only Jacob and Moses, but all the prophets, have alluded to it. Thus the word of the Lord by Hosea (13: 7, 8) was: “I will be unto them as a lion, I will rend the caul of their heart, I will devour them like a lion.” Thus Zephaniah (3:8) prophesied: “Wait ye upon me, saith the Lord, until the day that I rise up to the prey: for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them my indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy.” Thus Isaiah (42:13), referring to the period of the judgment, says: “The Lord shall go forth as a mighty man, He shall stir up His jealousy like a man of war: He shall cry, yea, roar; He shall prevail against His enemies.” Thus Amos declares: “The Lord will roar from Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem; and the habitations of the shepherds shall mourn, and the top of Carmel shall wither. Will a lion roar in the forest when he hath no prey?” (1: 2; 3: 4, 8). “Consider this,” saith the Lord (Ps. 50: 22), “ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver.”
And here, in the sign of Leo, is this very Lion, thoroughly aroused, salient, and full of majesty, the same in all the pictorial Zodiacs of all nations. It is the same “Lion of the tribe of Judah” to which the text refers, for in the Jewish astronomy this twelfth sign was the sign of Judah. He is the Lion of Judah in the text, and He is the Lion of Judah in the Zodiac. The record of the signs and the record of the Word are here precisely identical. The coincidence is positive and absolute, and rests on no mere inferences from mere likeness or concurring circumstances. The picture in the sky is one and the same with the picture in the Revelation as shown to John in his visions in Patmos.
In the Apocalypse the Lion-Lamb takes the roll from the hand of eternal Majesty amid thrills of exaltation which shake the whole intelligent universe from centre to circumference. He tears asunder seal after seal, until the very last is reached and broken, and with each there bursts forth a divine almightiness, seizing and convulsing the whole world as it never before was affected. The white horse of conquering power, and the red horse of war and bloodshed, and the black horse of scarcity and famine, and the cadaverous horse of Death with Hades at his heels, dash forth in invincible energy upon the apostate populations of the earth. The heavens are shaken, and seem to collapse like a falling tent, the earth is filled with quaking, the mountains and islands are moved out of their places, and the mightiest and bravest, as well as the weakest, of men are filled with horror and dismay. The great tribulation, the like of which never was and never again shall be, sets in. The golden censers of the heavenly temple, filled with fire from the celestial altar, are emptied into the earth amid cries and thunders and terrific perturbations. The judgment-angels sound their trumpets and pour out the contents of their bowls of wrath, filling the world with burning and bitterness and tripled woe, unloosing hell itself to overrun and deceive and torment the nations, developing all their antichristianism into one great and all-commanding embodiment of consummated iniquity, and gathering its abettors at the last into the great winepress of the wrath of God, to be trodden by the divine Avenger till the blood flows in depth to the horses’ bridles for more than a hundred miles, and who will no more give over until the beasts from the abyss, and the Devil, are cast into the burning lake of the second death.
Such is the Lion-work of the Root and Offspring of David as it was shown to the Apostle John, and directed to be written for our learning. And what is thus pictured in the last book of the Scriptures is the same that was fore-intimated and recorded in this last sign of the Zodiac before any one book of our present Bible was written.
THE SIGN OF LEO
Here is the great Lion in all the majesty of His fierce wrath – Aryeh, He who rends; Al Sad, He who tears and lays waste; Pimentekeon, the Pourer-out of rage, the Tearer asunder; Leon, the vehemently coming, the leaping forth as a consuming fire. The chief star embraced in this figure, situated in the Lion’s breast, whence its mighty paws proceed, bears the name of Regel or Regulus, which means the feet which crush, as where it is said of the Messiah that He shall tread upon the serpent and asp, and trample the dragon under His feet (Ps. 91: 13). The second star in Leo is called Denebola, the Judge, the Lord who cometh with haste. The third star is Al Giebha, the exalted, the exaltation. Other names in the sign are Zosma, the shining forth, the epiphany; Minchir al Asad, the punishing or tearing of him who lays waste; Deneb al Eced, the Judge coming, who seizes or violently takes; and Al Defera, the putting down of the enemy.
As nearly and fully as names can express it, we thus have the same things in the Zodiacal Leo that we find ascribed to the Lion of the tribe of Judah in the Apocalypse. They both tell one and the same story – the story of the wrath of the Lamb, and His great and final judgment-administrations, in which the kingdom of Daniel’s mystic stone, cut out of the mountain without hands, falls upon, breaks in pieces, grinds to powder, and scatters in indistinguishable dust all other kingdoms and powers, and sweeps everything inimical to a common and eternal perdition.
And what we find so vividly pictured and expressed in the sign is still further and most unmistakable corroborated in its accompanying side-pieces or Decans.
The great mission of the promised Seed of the woman was effectually to bruise the Serpent’s head. This is the all-comprehending burden of the assurance given to fallen Adam, and his children after him. The Serpent was the subtle and snaky creature which deceived and seduced our first parents into transgression. Whether in the form of a literal snake is not worth our while to inquire; but it was some visible serpentine shape by which Eve was approached, and in and behind which was a treacherous, intelligent, evil spirit, who reappears again and again in the histories and prophecies of the Scriptures, even up to the end, as “the great Dragon, that old Serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world” (Rev. 12: 9). He was once a good angel and a chief among the angels, but “kept not his first estate,” left his place as one of God’s loyal subjects, abused his free will to sin and rebellion, and fell under bonds of condemnation, in which he is held over unto the judgment of the great day.
Meanwhile, he is exerting his great powers to the utmost in malignity toward God and all good. By his successful deception of our first parents he got a footing in this world, and has here planted and organized a vast Satanic kingdom, over which he reigns, and which he inspires and directs, impiously setting himself up as another god over against the true and only God, and particularly against Christ as the rightful Heir and King of the earth. Hence the saying of the Apostle Paul, which is ever true of all God’s people: “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against wicked spirits in the air” (Eph. 6: 12).
During these thousands of years, which the Apostle calls “man’s day” as distinguished from “the Lord’s day” or the day of enforced heavenly rule, this subtle and snaky spirit has managed to worm himself into everything that goes to make up human life, corrupting and perverting it to his own base ends, seating himself in all the centres of influence and power, and making himself the very king and god of this world. From all these places he must be dislodged, his dominion broken, his works destroyed, and he and all his effectually rooted out and put down, before the heavenly kingdom can come in its fullness or the great redemption-work reach its intended consummation. In other words, the whole empire and influence of the Serpent must be rent to atoms, worked clean out of the whole realm of humanity, and so crushed as never to be able to lift up its head again. Toward this end all the dispensations and gifts of God, from the first promise to Adam until now, have been directed. Toward this end all the works and administrations of Christ to this present are framed. To this end He is to come again in power and great glory as the Lion of the tribe of Judah, to “put down all rule and all authority and power,” and to trample “all enemies beneath His feet.”
And here, in the first Decan of Leo, is the grand picture of that consummation. Here is Hydra, that old Serpent, whose length stretches one-third the way around the whole sphere, completely expelled from the places into which he had obtruded, fleeing now for his life, and the great Lion, with claws and jaws extended, bounding in terrific fury and seizing the foul monster’s neck.
MYTHS AND NAMES
According to the myths, this Hydra was the terrible monster which infested the Lernæan lake – image of this corrupt world. It was said to have a hundred heads, neither of which could be killed simply by cutting off, for unless the wound was burned with fire two immediately grew out where there was one before. The poets describe him as
“Raising a hundred hissing heads in air;
When one was lopped, up sprang a dreadful pair.”
All this answers wonderfully well to the history of evil in the world, and the impossibility of effectually overcoming it in any one of its manifestations except by the fires of judgment.
The myths further say that it was one of the great labours imposed on Herakles to destroy this dreadful monster, in which he also succeeded, helped by his faithful companion and charioteer, Iolaus. But his success was only by means of fire and burning, by applying a red-hot iron to the wound as head after head was severed from the horrid form. Herakles was the deliverer sent to free the world of its great pests. He was the mythologic symbol of the Seed of the woman who was to come to make an end of all ill powers.
Mythology thus answers to Revelation, and well bears out the interpretation of Hydra as a picture of Satan finally vanquished, rent, burned, destroyed by the fury of Judah’s Lion.
In the Dendera sphere the Lion stands directly on the Serpent, whilst underneath is the hieroglyphic name Knem, which means vanquished, conquered. The plain idea is that here is the end of the Serpent-dominion.
The name Hydra means the Abhorred. The principal star, Al Phard, means the Separated, the Excluded, the Put out of the way. Another name in the constellation is Minchir al Sugia, which means the punishing, or tearing to pieces, of the Deceiver.
Everything thus falls in with the one idea, and adds its share to prove that we here have, by the intent of those who framed these signs, a direct and graphic picture of the glorious triumph of the Seed of the woman crushing the Serpent’s head and putting him out of the way for ever.
And if further evidence is needed, it is furnished in the two remaining Decans of this final sign.
CRATER, OR THE CUP OF WRATH
The Psalmist (75:8) says: “In the hand of the Lord there is a cup, and the wine is red; it is full of mixture; and He poureth out of the same: but the dregs thereof all the wicked of the earth shall wring out, and drink;” “Upon the wicked He shall rain burning coals, fire and brimstone, and a fiery tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup” (11:6).
Concerning every worshipper of the Beast John heard the angel proclaim, “The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of His indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb; and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night” (Rev. 14: 10, 11). The portion of the worshippers of the son of perdition is “the lake of fire,” and the same is likewise dealt out to the Beast and the False Prophet, and ultimately to the Devil himself: for John saw him “cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the Beast and the False Prophet are,” and where he “shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever” (Rev. 20: 10). In other words, he and all his are to drink of the wine of the wrath of God which is poured out without adulteration or dilution into the cup of the divine indignation.
And lo! here, as the second Decan of Leo, we have the very picture of that Cup, broad, deep, full to the brim, and placed directly on the body of this writhing Serpent!
Nay, the same is sunk into his very substance, for the same stars which mark the bottom of the Cup are part of the body of the accursed monster, so that the curse is fastened down on him and in him as an element of all his after being! Dreadful beyond all thought is the picture John gives of this Cup of unmingled and eternal wrath, but not a whit more dreadful than the picture of it which the primeval prophets have thus inscribed upon the stars.
CORVUS, OR THE RAVEN
But this is not all. The wise man says, “The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it” (Prov. 30:17). When David, the first great impersonation of Judah’s Lion, met the terrible Goliath of Gath, he cursed him in the name of the Lord God of Israel, and said: “I will smite thee, and take thy head from thee; and I will give the carcasses of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth” (1 Sam. 17: 46). So, when the Lord of lords and King of kings dashes forth on the white horse, with the armies of heaven following Him on white horses, to tread the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God, an angel stands in the sun, calling with a great voice to all the fowls and birds of prey to come and feast themselves on the flesh of the enemy (Rev. 19: 17, 18). And here, in the third Decan of Leo, we have the pictorial sign of the same thing. Here is Corvus, the Raven, the bird of punishment and final destruction, grasping the body of Hydra with its feet and tearing him with its beak.
The myths have but little sensible or consistent to say of this Raven, except in making it the symbol of punished treachery. The Greeks and Romans had for the most part lost its meaning. The Egyptians called it Her-na, the Enemy broken. The star in the eye of this ill-omened bird is called Al Chiba, the Curse inflicted. Another name in the constellation is Minchir al Gorab, the Raven tearing to pieces. It is the sign of the absolute discomfiture and destruction of the Serpent and all his power; for when the birds once begin to tear and gorge the flesh of fallen foes, no further power to resist, harm, or annoy remains in them. Their course is run.
Thus, then, and thus completely, does Judah’s Lion dispose of that old Serpent-enemy, with all his Hydra heads, when once the day of final settlement comes.
THE CAREER OF THE SERPENT
Great and marvellous is the part which this arch-enemy has played in the history of our race, is still playing, and will yet play before the end is reached. Like a dark and chilling shadow he came up upon the new-born world, insinuated his slime into the garden of human innocence, deceived and disinherited the race at its very spring, and so spun his webs around the souls of the earlier generations as to drag almost the entire population of the earth to one common ruin. Hardly had that great calamity passed when he began again with new schemes to get men in his power and sway them to his will. Before the Flood he won them through their carnal passions. Now he set himself to taint their holy worship, perverting it into idolatries which have held and debased the great body of mankind for these forty centuries, and still holds great portions of the world in darkness and in death. Then he plied them with visions of empire and dominion, and thus filled the earth and the ages with murderous tyrannies, misrule, oppressions, wars, and political abominations. Then he began to corrupt the thinking and philosophies of men, thereby making them willing slaves to damning error. And even to-day he is the very god of this world, to whose lies the vast majority of the race render homage, whose rule is in living sway over at least two-thirds of the population of the earth, which is full of misery from his power.
Nor is there the slightest solid ground for hope that it will be essentially otherwise till the great Lion of the tribe of Judah comes forth in the fury of His Almightiness to make an utter end of him and his infernal domination. But his doom is sealed. On the face of these lovely stars it has been written from the beginning, the same as in the Book.
Though Satan’s grasp upon our world should hold through the long succession of two-thirds of the signs, there is at last a Lion in the way, alive, awake, and mighty, even that Seed of the woman whom he has all these ages been wounding in the heel and trying to defeat and destroy. That Lion he cannot pass. Cunningly as the subtle Deceiver has wound himself about everything, injecting his poison and making firm his hellish dominion, he will soon be dragged forth to judgment, seized by almighty power, crushed, torn, pierced, put under the bowl of eternal wrath, whilst the hundred-headed body in which he has operated through all these ages is given to the black birds of uncleanness to be devoured.
And when the Serpent thus falls the circle of time is complete, and it is eternity. There is no continuity of the way of time beyond the victorious triumphs of Judah’s Lion. Death, and Hell, and all the wild beasts, with all their children, and the old Serpent, their father, with them, thenceforward have their place in the everlasting prison burning with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. And outside of that dread place “there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” Then the great voices in heaven sing: “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God;” for they “shall inherit all things” (Rev. 21).
Blessed consummation! How should we look and long and pray for it, as Jesus has directed where He tells us to say, “Thy kingdom come – Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”! Well might one of England’s greatest poets cry: “Come forth out of Thy royal chambers, O Prince of all the kings of the earth! Put on the visible robes of Thy imperial Majesty! Take up the unlimited sceptre which Thy almighty Father hath bequeathed Thee! For now the voice of Thy bride calls Thee, and all creatures sigh to be renewed.”
How cheering the hope, amidst the clash of conflicting beliefs, the strife of words, the din of war, the shouts of false joy, the yells of idolatry, the sneers of unbelief, the agonies of a dying race, and the groans of a whole creation travailing in pain together in consequence of the Serpent’s malignity, that a period is coming when eternal death shall be that Serpent’s portion; when peace and order and heavenliness shall stretch their bright wings over the happy sons of men; when rivers of joy proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb shall water all this vale of tears; when cherubim to cherubim shall cry, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory;” when myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands of angels round about the throne shall join in the acclaim of “Worthy is the Lamb which hath been slain, to receive the Power, and Riches, and Wisdom, and Might, and Honour, and Glory, and Blessing;” and when every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and upon the sea, and all things in them, shall sing, “To Him that sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb, be the Blessing, and the Honour, and the Glory, and the Dominion, for the ages of the ages”!
Yet such is our hope given us as an anchor for our souls, both sure and steadfast, entering into that within the veil, and linking us even now to those solid shores of the world to come.
We have it in the written word of Prophets and Apostles, and the same is certified to us by these everlasting stars in their ceaseless journeyings around the pathway of the circling year.
God be thanked for such a hope! God be thanked for the full and wide-sounding testimony to its certainty! God be thanked that it has come to us, and that ours is the privilege of taking it to our souls in the confidence and comfort that it shall be fulfilled!
“Not the light that leaves us darker,
Not the gleams that come and go,
Not the mirth whose end is madness,
Not the joy whose fruit is woe;
Not the notes that die at sunset,
Not the fashion of a day;
But the everlasting beauty
And the endless melody,
Heir of glory!
That shall be for thee and me.”
All text by Joseph A. Seiss, ‘The Gospel in the Stars’