The Lion, the Lamb and the Gorilla?
An expedition to see the mountain gorillas of Rwanda gave me a new vision of the millennial reign of Jesus Christ.
Sporting 400 pounds of solid muscle, he looked me straight in the eye. There was a moment of recognition before I looked away. In simian society, fixing the gaze of a silverback gorilla is worse than impolite, it’s a challenge. We wanted his permission to stay, which, after glancing around our group of eight respectful adventurers, he granted by returning to his breakfast of bamboo shoots. We were in.
The rainforest-covered Virunga volcanoes of northwestern Rwanda are among the few regions where one can still find Gorilla beringei beringei, of which, at the time of my visit, there were fewer than 400 left on the planet. (Today there are almost 900.) Mountain gorillas will not breed or even survive in captivity, so if they disappear in the wild, they’ll all be gone for good.
After a two-hour predawn drive on potholed roads to Volcanoes National Park, we were assigned to groups of eight, each led by rangers carrying rifles. Gorillas are normally quite gentle; silverbacks only fight to defend their harems of females and their young from direct threats. But an accidental encounter with an elephant, buffalo, hyena, poacher or participant in the genocidal cleansing of a decade earlier could be life-threatening.
Peace and unity
We hiked straight up the side of the volcano. Breathing hard as we approached 12,000 feet (3,600 meters), we felt our clothing soak through with drizzle and mist, and watched it gradually darken with mud as we slipped and slid ever higher. Suddenly, there they were in a clearing in the jungle, the Amahoro (Peaceful) group with its silverback Ubumwe (Unity). He assented to our presence, and a stopwatch clicked. We would have 60 minutes among them.
These were wild animals, but amazingly gentle, and they accepted our presence. A curious young blackback walked up to look at my video camera. He came within 6 feet (2 meters) before veering away. A young mother with a month-old baby clinging to her back walked so closely behind me that a ranger whispered an urgent warning: move! Surprised, I turned and could have touched them, but didn’t. A perceived threat to a baby will agitate even a gentle silverback. Nothing broke the trance.
A new vision for the world tomorrow
My feeling of unity with the creation was intense. It was peaceful, otherworldly and mesmerizing. From jungle clearing to jungle clearing, for me this became a new vision for the world tomorrow, the millennial reign of Jesus Christ: harmony, confidence, fascination, joy. Even their names were fitting: Unity, Peaceful. I thought of the words of Isaiah 11:6-9:
The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,
The leopard 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 the 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,
For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
As the waters cover the sea.
Now when I think of the Millennium, in addition to the lion and the lamb, I think of a gorilla. And I can’t wait.
Learn more about the coming time of peace in our free booklet The Mystery of the Kingdom.