Four Living Creatures
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25. Four Living Creatures
Revelation 4.6b-11

"In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front, and back. The first living creature was like a lion. The second was like an ox. The third had a face like a man. The fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come. Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor, and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say, 'You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will, they were created and have their being.'" (Revelation 4.6b-11)✞

Covered with Eyes

Raiders of the Lost ArkIn the adventure movie "Raiders of the Lost Ark," the Ark of the Covenant is discovered in Egypt. It is also known as the "Ark of the Testimony," and is an acacia wood chest overlaid with gold. It contains the stone tablets with the Ten Commandments brought down from God by Moses at Mount Sinai as well as Aaron's rod which budded and a container of manna from the desert wilderness journeys. Two cherubim in gold, which are angelic beings attending God, are sculptured on the lid of the ark facing each other with their wings sweeping over their heads as a covering for the ark. Cherubim are often shown on Christian icons as a bull or a lion with eagle's wings and a human face, like the four living creatures. In the Genesis account, the "cherubim," guard the way to the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve were expelled because of their sin. The cherubim which is the Hebrew plural of the word "cherub", are close protectors defending the throne of God. The "four living creatures" are possibly similar to the cherubim in Ezekiel 1.4-9. There the prophet writes, "The center of the fire looked like glowing metal, and in the fire were what looked like four living creatures. In appearance, their form was human, but each of them had four faces and four wings. Their legs were straight; their feet were like those of a calf and gleamed like burnished bronze. Under their wings on their four sides, they had human hands. All four of them had faces and wings, and the wings of one touched the wings of another. Each one went straight ahead; they did not turn as they moved." Ezekiel 1.10-14 continues, "Their faces looked like this: Each of the four had the face of a human being, and on the right side each had the face of a lion, and on the left the face of an ox; each also had the face of an eagle. Such were their faces. They had two wings spreading out upward, each wing touching that of the creature on either side, and each had two other wings covering its body. Everyone went straight ahead. Wherever the spirit went, they would go, without turning as they went. The appearance of the living creatures is like burning coals of fire or like torches. Fire moves back and forth among the creatures; it is bright, and lightning flashes out of it. The creatures sped back and forth like flashes of lightning."

Four Faces

The four living creatures represent all forms of living beings and described in both Ezekiel and Revelation. They have the added feature of being covered with eyes both in front and behind. The Greek in Revelation 4.6-8 for the "living beings" is "Tessera zoia." A "Tessera" is an individual tile usually formed in the shape of a cube in a mosaic floor or wall. "Zoia" is a name or surname. Hence the four living creatures called "a four-sided cube" are on guard in the Heavenly Courts!

Cherubim

Many EyesAround the throne are four living creatures covered with eyes who cry out continuously, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord." The Revelation "living creature" or "living being" is called "hayyoth" in Hebrew. They are a class of heavenly beings also described in Ezekiel and Daniel. In Ezekiel 10.1-2, they are identified as "cherubim." Ezekiel writes, "I looked, and I saw the likeness of a throne of "lapis lazuli" above the vault that was over the heads of the cherubim. The Lord said to the man clothed in linen, 'Go in among the wheels beneath the cherubim. Fill your hands with burning coals from among the cherubim and scatter them over the city.' And as I watched, he went in." "Lapis lazuli" is a semi-precious, intensely colored deep blue rock that forms the throne. Lapis lazuli is ground down into a powder and made into "ultramarine" and is the finest and most expensive of all blue pigments favored by some of the most important artists of the Renaissance, including Vermeer and Titian. Each living creature is "covered with eyes in front and the back" and even under their wings, emphasizing God's all-seeing knowledge and also "alertness and knowledgeability." Each creature is said to be "in the center around the throne,", that's how much a part of the court of God they are. The word "eyes" may be a reference to "stars" or may have described a mirror-like reflection from them or a shell-like coating like the scales of a fish. Whatever it must be a remarkable sight for John of Patmos to behold!

Animal-Like Appearance

CherubimGod's attributes appear in the animal-like appearance of each living creature. Majesty and power are indicated by "the lion," faithfulness by "the ox," intelligence by "the man," and swiftness in the heavens by "the eagle." Each living creature is positioned "around the throne" in the center. The Old Testament prophet Ezekiel also saw four similar living creatures called by the technical theological term "tetramorph" in one of his visions. A "tetramorph" is defined as "a symbolic arrangement of four different elements in one unit." The four living creatures are, therefore, a symbolic representation of four parts that move as one. "The lion, the calf, the human being, and the eagle" symbolize, respectively, what is "noblest, strongest, wisest, and swiftest in all creation."✞

Animals Praise

Musk Ox"Living creatures" are suggestive of wild beasts, domesticated animals, human beings, and flying creatures. It highlights the fact that the Lord God rules over all creation. Some people ask whether animals are capable of praising God. Here in Revelation, eight times the "living creatures give glory, honor, and thanks to him, who sits on the throne." On the other hand, Irenaeus (130-202 AD) who is a Christian leader and writer in the Early Church in Lyon, France around 180 AD holds that these four creatures represent four aspects of the work of Christ, which in turn are representative of the writers of the four Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The "calf" traditionally translates "ox," which is the Greek word referring to a "heifer" or "young bull."✞

Unending Praise

Throne of God"Forever and ever" indicates that there is constant unending praise from the living creatures. The words "Holy, holy, holy" and "Who was, and is, and is to come" are all reminders of the "threefold Holy Trinity in heaven." The twenty-four elders lay their crowns before the throne as a mark of submission like conquered kings to a more powerful king in ancient cultures. All the living creatures give glory to God in heaven and on earth because he is the Creator and sustainer of all things!

"Four Living Creatures"
by Ron Meacock © 2019

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