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The Four Living Creatures

Some of the most enigmatic descriptions in scripture involve the four living creatures that surround the throne of GOD in heaven.  Both the prophet Ezekiel and the Apostle John give descriptions of these extraordinary creatures.

And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the color of amber, out of the midst of the fire.  Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man.  And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings.  And their feet were straight feet; and the sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf's foot: and they sparkled like the color of burnished brass.  And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and they four had their faces and their wings.  Their wings were joined one to another; they turned not when they went; they went every one straight forward.  As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle.  Thus were their faces: and their wings were stretched upward; two wings of every one were joined one to another, and two covered their bodies.  And they went every one straight forward: whither the spirit was to go, they went; and they turned not when they went.  As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of lamps: it went up and down among the living creatures; and the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning.  And the living creatures ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning. Ezekiel 1:4-14

And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.  And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.  And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.  And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle.  And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.  And when those beasts give glory and honor and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever.  Revelation 4:4-9

As is apparent there are very strong similarities between Ezekiel's living creatures and those of John in Revelation. Because of the closeness of the descriptions, the extremely strong assumption is that these four living creatures in Revelation are angelic beings and the same beings in both testaments. In Ezekiel, they are said to be cherubim, and there is no reason not to suspect they are anything else but that in Revelation 4 and 5.

After meditating on what these creatures are really like, in detail, the natural inclination is to see if there are any pattern or symbolism in scripture somehow associated with these amazing creatures.  As might be expected there are some examples in scripture tied to these creatures.

After the Israelites made their exodus from Egypt and subsequently spent forty years in the wilderness, they ultimately camped around the tabernacle that GOD commanded to be constructed.  There were very specific instructions on how to built the tabernacle and the encampment was arranged in a particular way every time the nation of Israel moved in the wilderness.  These instructions are chronicled in the second chapter of the Book of Numbers.

As the Israelites moved to a new location the tabernacle, as the place in which Jehovah dwelt, was pitched in the center of the camp.  In the center, round the tabernacle, and with no standard but the cloudy or fiery pillar, which rested over it, were the tents of the priests and Levites. Moses and Aaron at their head were encamped on the eastern side.

One of the three priestly divisions encamped around the tabernacle was headed by Kohath the second of the three sons of Levi, from whom the three principal divisions of the Levites derived their origin and their name. In the journeyings of the tabernacle the sons of Kohath (Kohathites) had charge of the most holy portions of the vessels of the tabernacle.

The second of the priestly divisions, the Gershonites, were descended from Gershom, another son of Levi. The Gershonites had charge of all the fabrics of the tabernacle. These included the coverings, curtains, hangings and cords.

The Merarites, were also descended from a son of Levi and head of the third great division of the Levites. Their charge was the cords of the tabernacle and the court, and all the tools connected with setting them up.

Furthermore, working out from the central area of the tabernacle and the priestly divisions, it can be seen that Ezekiel's description of the four "living creatures" are symbolic of each of the four "brigades" of Israel, in the four-square Wilderness Camp. The four living creatures are described as each having four faces: lion, ox, man and eagle. These are found to be the emblems of the tribes on the outermost parts of the encampment. (Judah, Reuben, Ephraim, and Dan)

Ezekiel further states the "four creatures" came out of the "north." Since the face of the "man" is represented as seen in a front position and coming from the "north," the face (lion) on the right would be placed in the "east," the face (ox) on the left in the west, and the face (eagle) in the rear or the north.

The same symbology can be applied to the beasts in Revelation chapter 4 and 5.

Notice that John does not describe these beasts except to liken them to something that someone would be familiar with, if they had read the book of Ezekiel.  Especially notice the words "like" and "as" used in his account. John further describes the four creatures as having six wings each and being full of eyes within."

While John could only describe the beasts by comparison, he is very precise in telling what they do", And they rest not day and night, saying, " HOLY, HOLY, HOLY LORD GOD ALMIGHTY , which was, and is, and is to come".

These are amazing creatures.  They follow God wherever he goes.  There are four creatures beneath the throne, and they have four faces.  These four faces may be a key to the four gospels.  Each of the four faces may be associated with a particular gospel.

The Gospel of Matthew carries the theme of the face of the Lion.  A lion is the "King of the Beasts" and represents majesty. Thus Christ is portrayed in the gospel of Mathew as "King of Kings". As Jesus rides into Jerusalem, right on time, on the back of donkey, he comes as the King of the Jews.

The gospel of Mark has the theme of a servant or a laborer.  The calf represents this theme.  Ezekiel describes this creature as an Ox, which is the same animal as a calf.  The word translated "calf" can also be translated as "bullock" or "heifer".  This of course, was an animal frequently used for sacrifice. Jesus here is portrayed as sacrifice for our sins. Mark in his Gospel presents Jesus as the servant who was to be sacrificed. Throughout the book we see the labor of Jesus that Mark has recorded.  There is no genealogy or record of Jesus' birth and early life but directly after baptism goes straight to work with the sick and hurting of the people.   More than any of the other gospels, there is an emphasis on the message Jesus was trying to get out to the people.  It is recorded he preached to the people the good news and that was the message of the servant or laborer for God.

The Third living creature "had a face as a man". The third creature would represent Jesus as a man. The Gospel of Luke presents Jesus as the perfect man. Also, as described in Philippians 2, Jesus left His position of Glory with the Father and became a man so that He might die on the cross for our sin.

The fourth living creature is described "like a flying eagle".  The eagle symbolizes sovereignty and supremacy. Thus the living creature represents Jesus in all his deity. The Apostle John in his gospel presents Jesus as the SON of GOD and shows His relationship with heaven.

The four living creatures are surely something on which to meditate!  Someday soon we shall actually see these wonderful creatures, maybe touch them, possibly speak with them.  When meditating on such things is can be difficult to actually visualize the sights that will be seen in the future.  Whatever the reality. when we, who love GOD, finally see these creatures, we can be assured that God has prepared the scene for us long ago.

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. 1 Corinthians 2:9

Be blessed and meditate or meditate and be blessed!!!!. The choice is yours!! 
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