What are the “Four Living Creatures”?


By BibleAsk Team

The Four Living Creatures

The apostle John wrote, “Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying: “‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come” (Revelation 4:8).

The word “creature” in the above verse does not indicate to what order of creatures these four beings belong. However, it is believed that they closely resemble those of Ezekiel’s vision (Ezekiel 1:5–26), which Ezekiel calls cherubim – angels of the second highest order (ch. 10:20–22). Like Ezekiel’s cherubim (Ezekeil 1:22, 26), these four living creatures were seen under the throne as well as around it (Psalms 80:1; 99:1; Isaiah 37:16).

In Ezekiel 1, the four living creatures were identical in appearance. Each of them had four distinct faces, those of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle (verse 10). By contrast the four living creatures that John saw were not identical (Revelation 4:7). Each of the four beings appears with one of the four faces that were characteristic of each of the cherubim in Ezekiel’s vision (Ezekiel 1:10; 10:14). The forms, however, corresponded to the faces of the living creatures Ezekiel saw.

The cherubim of Ezekiel’s vision each had four wings (Ezekeil 1:6; 10:21), whereas the seraphim (highest order of angels) of Isaiah had six (Isaiah 6:2). Wings may be understood as indicating the speed with which God’s heavenly creatures execute their missions (Hebrews 1:14).

The eyes of these creatures may be understood as a symbol of the intelligence or “brilliance” (Proverbs 23:31; Ezekeil 1:4, 7, 16, 22, 27; 8:2; 10:9; Daniel 10:6). And also, may mean that their appearance was one of shining light.

These four living creatures cry Holy, holy, holy like the cry of the seraphim in Isaiah’s vision (Isaiah 6:3). The creatures closest to God’s throne initiate the praise and thanksgiving to God for his mercies, care, and good will towards all His created beings.

When an attempt is made to interpret these four living creatures, it is well to keep in mind that in symbolic prophecy the prophet sees representations of the actual and not the actual itself. For example, Jesus is symbolically presented as a lamb with a bleeding knife wound, and with seven horns and seven eyes (Revelation 5:6). No one would conclude that this was an attempt to represent the appearance of Jesus. As in the case of parables, in interpreting symbolic prophecy, we must learn what is the overall lesson of the vision.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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