Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Four Living Creatures in Revelation

There are also four “living creatures” surrounding God’s throne (Revelation 4:6-8). These “living creatures” are similar, but are probably not the same figures either Isaiah or Ezekiel saw.

Revelation 4:6-8Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in 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 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.’”

Isaiah 6:1-3 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above Him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory.’” 

Ezekiel 1:4-24I looked, and I saw a windstorm coming out of the north —an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light. The center of the fire looked like glowing metal, and in the fire was 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. 

10 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. 11 Such were their faces. They each 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. 12 Each one went straight ahead. Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, without turning as they went. 13 The appearance of the living creatures was like burning coals of fire or like torches. Fire moved back and forth among the creatures; it was bright, and lightning flashed out of it. 14 The creatures sped back and forth like flashes of lightning.

15 As I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the ground beside each creature with its four faces. 16This was the appearance and structure of the wheels: They sparkled like topaz, and all four looked alike. Each appeared to be made like a wheel intersecting a wheel. 17 As they moved, they would go in any one of the four directions the creatures faced; the wheels did not change direction as the creatures went. 18 Their rims were high and awesome, and all four rims were full of eyes all around.

19 When the living creatures moved, the wheels beside them moved; and when the living creatures rose from the ground, the wheels also rose. 20 Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, and the wheels would rise along with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. 21 When the creatures moved, they also moved; when the creatures stood still, they also stood still; and when the creatures rose from the ground, the wheels rose along with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.

22 Spread out above the heads of the living creatures was what looked something like a vault, sparkling like crystal, and awesome. 23 Under the vault their wings were stretched out one toward the other, and each had two wings covering its body. 24 When the creatures moved, I heard the sound of their wings, like the roar of rushing waters, like the voice of the Almighty, like the tumult of an army. When they stood still, they lowered their wings."

The reason I say that they are similarly appearing creatures but different comes from the description each prophet gives of them.

The creatures John saw are covered with eyes, as were the creatures Ezekiel saw. 

The creatures John saw have six wings, as did the seraphim Isaiah saw, but Ezekiel’s creatures only had four wings each.

The creatures John saw each have one face, but the creatures Ezekiel saw had six faces, albeit the faces are the same four faces between them (lion, ox, eagle, human).

Covering Body
Covering Body
Covering Body

It’s possible that the creatures from Isaiah and John’s visions are the same, but it would be curious that Isaiah wouldn’t mention the fact that the creatures he saw had animal faces.

Either way, we should not assume that these creatures are the same just because they are described so similarly and have such similar duties. It is completely possible that God made these angels with some diversity between the different groups.

They seem to always surround God’s throne in these prophetic visions. In human terms, they seem to be something like God’s chariot drivers or litter-carriers. They are also His criers, but rather than shouting, “Make way!” they call, “Holy, holy, holy…”

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