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, 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 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, honor, and power, for you created all things, and by your will, they were created and have their being.'" (Revelation 4.6b-11)✞

The Lost Ark

Raiders of the Lost ArkIn the fictional 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. Exodus 37.1-9 describes it, "Bezalel made the acacia wood ark 45 inches long, 27 inches wide and high. He overlaid it with pure gold, both inside and out, and made a gold molding around it. He cast four gold rings for it and fastened them to its four feet, with two rings on one side and two rings on the other. Then he made acacia-wood poles and overlaid them with gold. He inserted the poles into the rings on the ark's sides to carry it. He made the pure gold atonement cover – 45 inches long and 27 inches wide. Then he made two cherubim out of hammered gold at the ends of the cover. He made one cherub on one end and the second cherub on the other; at the two ends, he made them of one piece with the cover. The cherubim had their wings spread upwards, overshadowing the cover. The cherubim faced each other, looking towards the cover." In the Genesis account, the "cherubim" guarded the way to the Garden of Eden after God expelled Adam and Eve because of sin. The Covenant Ark later contained the stone tablets with the Ten Commandments brought down from God by Moses at Mount Sinai. It also held Aaron's budded rod and a container of manna from the desert wilderness journeys.

Four Creatures

The "four living creatures" are the same as the cherubim in Ezekiel 1.4-9. The prophet writes, "The fire center 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 a calf's 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 one's wings touched another's. Each one went straight ahead; they did not turn as they moved." Ezekiel 1.10-14 continues, "The living creature's appearance is like burning fire coals 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 lightning flashes." They represent all forms of living beings described in both Ezekiel and Revelation. Eyes cover them in front and back. In Revelation 4.6-8, the Greek for the "living beings" is "tessera zoia." A "Tessera" is an individual tile usually formed in a cube's shape on a mosaic floor or wall. "Zoia" is a name or surname. Hence the four living creatures called "a four-sided cube" are the heavenly court's guards!

Covered in Eyes

Many EyesAround the throne, the four living creatures cry out continuously, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord." The Revelation "living creature" or "living being" is called "hayyoth" in Hebrew. These are a class of heavenly beings also described in Ezekiel and Daniel. Ezekiel 10.1-2 identifies them as "cherubim." Ezekiel writes, "I looked, and I saw the likeness of a "lapis lazuli throne" above the vault over the heads of the cherubim. The Lord said to the linen clothed man, '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" was a semi-precious, intensely colored deep blue rock that formed the throne. It is also ground into a powder and made into "ultramarine" blue, the most desired and expensive of all color pigments. Some of the most famous Renaissance artists, including Vermeer and Titian, favored it.

Cherubim

The Hebrew word "Cherubim" is the plural of "cherub." Cherubim are protectors defending God's throne. Each living creature is "covered with eyes in front and the back" and even under their wings, emphasizing God's all-seeing "knowledge and alertness." Each created being was "in the throne's center" and a part of God's court. The word "eyes" may refer to "stars" or describe mirror-like reflectors of fish's scales. It must have been a remarkable sight for John of Patmos to behold!

Animal-Like Appearance

CherubimGod's attributes appear in the animal-like aspect of each living creature. "The Lion" has majesty and power. "The Ox" is faithful. "The Man" is intelligent. "The Eagle" is swift in the heavens. Each living creature is positioned in the center "around the throne." 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 "a symbolic arrangement of four different elements in one unit." The four living creatures are a symbolic representation of four parts that move as one. "The lion, calf, human being, and 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. The Lord God rules over all creation's creatures. Some people ask whether animals are capable of praising God. Here in Revelation, on eight occasions, the "living creatures give glory, honor, and thanks to him, who sits on the throne." Irenaeus (130-202 AD), a Christian leader and writer in the Early Church in Lyon, France, around 180 AD, held that these four creatures represented four aspects of Christ's work. Irenaeus believed they were representatives of the four Gospel writers - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The "calf," traditionally translated as "ox," is the Greek word referring to a "heifer" or a "young bull."✞

Unending Praise

God's Throne"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." 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 living creatures give God glory in heaven and on earth because he is the Creator and sustainer of all things!

"Four Living Creatures"
by Ron Meacock © 2021

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