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 and 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 37.2-9 describes it, "Bezalel made the ark of acacia wood – 45 inches long, and 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 poles of acacia wood and overlaid them with gold. And he inserted the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry it. He made the atonement cover of pure gold – two and a half cubits long and a cubit and a half 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 with them. 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 Ark of the Covenant later contained the stone tablets with the Ten Commandments written on them brought down from God by Moses at Mount Sinai. It also held Aaron's rod, which budded, and a container of manna from the desert wilderness journeys.

Four Living Creatures

The "four living creatures" are possibly similar to the cherubim in Ezekiel 1.4-9. 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." The four living creatures represent all forms of living beings 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!

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. They 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 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. It is ground down into a powder and made into "ultramarine" blue, the most desired and expensive of all pigments. Some of the most famous artists of the Renaissance, including Vermeer and Titian, favored it.


The Hebrew word "Cherubim" is the plural of "cherub." Cherubim are close protectors defending the throne of God. Each living creature is "covered with eyes in front and the back" and even under their wings, emphasizing God's all-seeing knowledge, "alertness and knowledgeability." Each creature is said to be "in the center around the throne," that's how much a part of God's court they are. The word "eyes" may refer to "stars" or describe a mirror-like reflection from them or a shell-like coating like the scales of a fish. 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 "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 "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. The Lord God rules over all creatures in creation. 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 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 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 © 2020

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