Who are the four living creatures mentioned in Revelation?

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The four living creatures mentioned in Revelation (4:6–9; 5:6–14; 6:1–8; 14:3; 15:7; 19:4) are heavenly beings that minister before God’s throne. The word “living beings” in Greek is zōa does not indicate to what order of creatures these four belong. However, these beings closely resemble those mentioned in Ezekiel’s vision Ezekiel 10:2, 14, 20 which Ezekiel calls cherubim (ch. 10:20–22). And they also resemble the beings that are mentioned by Isaiah in chapter 6:1-3.

When an attempt is made to understand these four living creatures, we should keep in mind that in symbolic prophecy, the prophet sees representations of the actual and not the actual itself. For instance, Jesus was symbolically presented as a lamb with a bleeding knife wound, and with seven horns and seven eyes (Rev. 5:6) and also as riding on a while horse clothed in a garment dipped in blood (Revelation 19:11-15). No one would conclude that this is a representation to the appearance of Jesus.

These heavenly beings declare the holiness of God in worship, praise and devotion. Like the beings in Isaiah 6:3, they say, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord.” They fall down and worship Jesus Christ and the Father (Revelation 4:10) for His infinite goodness and mercy towards His creation. They worship with the 24 elders who have “harps and golden vials full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” In addition, to worshiping God, the four living beings are involved in justice (6:1–8; 15:7). And these beings are in constant motion and ministry around the throne (Ezekiel 1:12–20).

The objective here, as in Ezekiel’s vision, was to give courage and inspire God’s people that He is in control watching constantly over His children. The believers needed to know that a divine, overruling purpose was at work during all ages. It is not important to imagine that in the service of God are four-headed, four-winged beings. The forms chosen for this prophetic presentation were chosen to only symbolize heavenly messengers in their offices, capabilities, and powers.

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In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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