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Don Stewart :: Who Are the Living Creatures?

Don Stewart
The Book of Ezekiel describes heavenly beings called "living creatures."

And 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 of them 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 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 thus: 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 had the face of a man; and they four had the face of a lion on the right side; and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four had also the face of an eagle. And their faces and their wings were separate above; 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; they turned not when they went. As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches: the fire 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 1:5-12).

The description Ezekiel gives of these creatures is both complicated and puzzling - they are merely called "four living creatures" and nothing more. In this context, we have no other clue to their identity.

Are They The Cherubim?

Though the living creatures are not identified in Ezekiel 1, we may have an explanation of their identity later in Ezekiel. In another vision, Ezekiel sees heavenly creatures which he calls "cherubim."

Now the cherubim were standing on the south side of the house when the man went in; and a cloud filled the inner court. Then the glory of the LORD rose up from the cherub to the threshold of the house; the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the glory of the LORD. The sound of the wings of the cherubim was heard as far as the outer court, like the voice of God Almighty when he speaks. When he commanded the man clothed in linen, "Take fire from within the wheelwork, from among the cherubim," he went in and stood beside a wheel. And a cherub stretched out his hand from among the cherubim to the fire that was among the cherubim, took some of it and put it into the hands of the man clothed in linen, who took it and went out. The cherubim appeared to have the form of a human hand under their wings. I looked, and there were four wheels beside the cherubim, one beside each cherub; and the appearance of the wheels was like gleaming beryl. And as for their appearance, the four looked alike, something like a wheel within a wheel. When they moved, they moved in any of the four directions without veering as they moved; but in whatever direction the front wheel faced, the others followed without veering as they moved. Their entire body, their rims, their spokes, their wings, and the wheels - the wheels of the four of them - were full of eyes all around. As for the wheels, they were called in my hearing "the wheelwork." Each one had four faces: the first face was that of the cherub, the second face was that of a human being, the third that of a lion, and the fourth that of an eagle (Ezekiel 10:3-14).

Because this description is similar to chapter 1, many people think they are two different descriptions of the same creatures - the cherubim.

Revelation 4

Some identify them with the living creatures spoken of in the Book of Revelation.

the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with a face like a human face, and the fourth living creature like a flying eagle (Revelation 4:7).

Represent God's Creation

They had four faces: of a man, an ox, a lion, and an eagle. They seem to be representative of various parts of God's creation (humanity, domesticated animals, the wild beasts, and birds).

These living creatures worship God continually.

And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and inside. Day and night without ceasing they sing, "Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God the Almighty, who was and is and is to come" (Revelation 4:8)

Who Are They?

Though these beings are similar to the ones spoken of in Ezekiel, there are some differences between them. Whether they are the same creatures with slightly different descriptions, or two similar types of heavenly creatures, we cannot be certain. There is simply not enough information.

Summary

Ezekiel saw in a vision four living creatures that were around the throne of God. Their identity is not explained. In chapter 10 he gives a description of the cherubim - which could be the same creatures. We also find similar living creatures in the Book of Revelation. Though their characteristics are similar, they are not exactly the same. Consequently we do not have enough information to make any definite conclusions about these heavenly creatures.
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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