The figure of God.
The four living creatures.
The whirling wheels.
The throne and the glory of the
In Rev 4,2-8 John gives us a description of what he saw when he
was taken off to heaven in spirit. He saw a throne and on the throne there was
A throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne.
Rev 4,2 Immediately I was in the Spirit; and
behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne.
4,3 And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance;
and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance. 4,4
Around the throne were twenty-four thrones; and upon the thrones I saw
twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on
their heads. 4,5 Out from the throne come flashes of lightning and sounds and
peals of thunder. And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne,
which are the seven Spirits of God; Rev 4, 2- 5;
As all serious exegetes are in agreement on the point that the
one sitting on the throne was God, the Almighty, we can go straight on and turn
our attention to the appearance of God. And – to be more precise – not with the
appearance which John describes in verse Rev 4,3, but with the figure of God,
which can be inferred only indirectly from this text.
The fact that there is talk about a throne here and that someone was sitting on it, implies that this somebody had a manlike figure, otherwise he would not be able to fulfill the physical prerequisites for a creature that is able to sit and John would not have described him as "sitting". This throne and the figure that was to be seen on it, was also described by the prophet Ezekiel. He had his vision on the river Chebar, in the land of the Chaldeans.
And on the throne, high up, was a figure with the appearance of a man.
Eze 1,22 Now over the heads of the living beings
there was something like an expanse, like the awesome gleam of crystal, spread
out over their heads. 1,23 Under the expanse their wings were stretched out
straight, one toward the other; each one also had two wings covering its body on
the one side and on the other. 1,24 I also heard the sound of their wings like
the sound of abundant waters as they went, like the voice of the Almighty, a
sound of tumult like the sound of an army camp; whenever they stood still, they
dropped their wings.
1,25 And there came a voice from above the expanse that was over their heads; whenever they stood still, they dropped their wings. 1,26 Now above the expanse that was over their heads there was something resembling a throne, like lapis lazuli in appearance; and on that which resembled a throne, high up, was a figure with the appearance of a man. Eze 1,22-26;
And in contrast to John, Ezekiel expresses it in Eze 1,26 quite
clearly: The one on the throne had the appearance of a man. And he even confirms
right subsequent to this verse, in Eze 1,28, that this was "the glory of
Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD.
Eze 1,27 Then I noticed from the appearance of His
loins and upward something like glowing metal that looked like fire all around
within it, and from the appearance of His loins and downward I saw something
like fire; and there was a radiance around Him. 1,28 As the appearance of the
rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding
radiance. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD.
And when I saw it, I fell on my face and heard a voice speaking. Eze 1,27-28;
So, God has the appearance of a man. Is this surprising? –
Frankly speaking, it is not, for in Gen 1,26-27 we explicitly read that God
created man in His own image – in the image of God.
Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.
Gen 1,26 Then God said, "Let Us make man in
Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the
sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth,
and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." 1,27 God created
man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He
created them. Gen 1,26-27;
And if man is created in the "image", that is to say
in the figure of God, also the other way round must be applicable, namely also
God must have a manlike figure. Even if now God in His almightiness and
omniscience, that is to say in His spiritual attributes is not at all comparable
to man, we may imagine His figure to be similar to our one.
John then continues the description of his vision in Rev 4,6-8
with the "four living creatures".
And around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind.
Rev 4,6 and before the throne there was something
like a sea of glass, like crystal; and in the center and around the throne,
four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind. 4,7 The first
creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and
the third creature had a face like that of a man, and the fourth creature
was like a flying eagle.
4,8 And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, "Holy, holy, holy, holy is the LORD God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come." Rev 4, 6- 8;
The conventional exegesis has interpreted these four living
creatures since Ireneus (170 A.D.) as symbols of the evangelists of the New
Testament, that is to say Matthew = man, Mark = eagle, Luke = calf and John =
lion. In this connection the order of the assignment can vary, however, from one
exegete to the other one. Other exegetes, on the other hand, see the four
creatures as symbols of the attributes of God, with the calf representing the
"sacrifice of God", the eagle representing the "comprehensive
view of God", the lion representing the "majesty of God" and the
man representing the "lowness of God in His Son".
Those interpreters who see in these creatures the "entire nature disposing of a living soul", construe them as the "four classes of animated nature": man, tame animals (calf), wild animals (lion) and birds (eagle). Also the complete abstraction into symbolism is not lacking in the interpretation of this text. So, some exegetes see the entire image as a metaphor of the sighing creature. According to them the wings are the expression of the yearning aspiration for more freedom of those who are bound, and the calling day and night in verse Rev 4,8 is tantalizing restlessness. But there are also serious attempts to see hints at astrological signs of the zodiac (taurus, leo…) in this image.
So we see, there are various attempts to interpret this rather difficult text. However, precisely such a delicate passage from the Scriptures should not be interpreted by personal interpretations of the individual exegete, but should be interpreted on the basis of arguments and analyses which are in conformity with the Scriptures, because all other attempts will inevitably lead into the exegetical Nirvana.
If we are now looking for a hint at these four living creatures in the Scriptures, we find it again with Ezekiel in quite an unmistakable way. However, whereas John above describes only the faces of these four creatures, Ezekiel also tells us here something about their figure: "they had human form". That is to say, both God (Eze 1,26) and the four creatures had a manlike figure.
Within it there were figures resembling four living beings.
Eze 1,2 (On the fifth of the month in the fifth
year of King Jehoiachin’s exile, 1,3 the word of the LORD came expressly to
Ezekiel the priest, son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river
Chebar; and there the hand of the LORD came upon him.) 1,4 As I looked, behold,
a storm wind was coming from the north, a great cloud with fire flashing forth
continually and a bright light around it, and in its midst something like
glowing metal in the midst of the fire. 1,5 Within it there were figures
resembling four living beings. And this was their appearance: they had
human form. 1,6 Each of them had four faces and four wings. 1,7 Their legs
were straight and their feet were like a calf’s hoof, and they gleamed like
burnished bronze. Eze 1, 2- 7;
However, these two reports differ in the description of the
faces of these four creatures. Whereas John recognizes with each of the four
creatures an individual and each time different face, Ezekiel observes the same
four faces with each of these four creatures.
The form of their faces.
Eze 1,8 Under their wings on their four sides were
human hands. As for the faces and wings of the four of them, 1,9 their wings
touched one another; their faces did not turn when they moved, each went
straight forward. 1,10 As for the form of their faces, each had the face
of a man; all four had the face of a lion on the right and the
face of a bull on the left, and all four had the face of an eagle.
1,11 Such were their faces. Their wings were spread out above; each had two touching another being, and two covering their bodies. Eze 1, 8-11;
Judging by this description, Ezekiel saw these four creatures
standing in a quadratic formation, with one figure at each corner of the square.
Each of them had four wings on the four sides of their bodies. Two of the wings
were stretched out and touched the wing of the two neighboring creatures – at
the back and at the side and/or at the front and at the side – and thus formed
the sides of the square. The two other wings covered the corresponding side of
the body, as it is also described in Eze 1,23.
Some interpreters establish a connection between the statement of Eze 1,22, "Now over the heads of the living beings there was something like an expanse, like the awesome gleam of crystal, spread out over their heads" and the "firmament" and see in the four living beings then those forces which support this firmament at the four corners of the earth. However, at a closer examination, one can see easily that this "expanse" is only an imitation of the firmament (also the text says so literally) and the dimensions of the square which is formed by the four creatures and their stretched-out wings are approximately 4 times 5 meters (1Ki 6,24-25). The way how Ezekiel describes now the four faces at the four sides of the heads of each of these creatures, he must have taken up a position which was left of and in front of this formation. Then we can proceed from the assumption that the human face was situated on the right from his point of view, but seen from the four creatures it was orientated toward the front. Therefore, Ezekiel saw the head of the lion right of it from where he was standing, the head of the calf opposite of it, on the left side and the eagle at the back. While in the case of Ezekiel each of these four creatures had these four faces, John sees these four creatures, too, however, each of them has only one of these faces. With John we do not find any hint at the positions of the four creatures either. But probably it is not wrong to proceed also here from the assumption that – in a similar way as with Ezekiel – seen from the view of the beholder in front of the throne, the human face could be seen in front of the throne, while the head of the eagle was standing at the back, the head of the calf on the left and the head of the lion on the right side of the throne. The reconstruction of the positioning of these four creatures with John may seem relatively unimportant at the first glance, but as we will see immediately, it can help us with the interpretation. Although the faces of the four creatures – apart from the four faces of each one with Ezekiel – are described by both prophets in the same way, nevertheless a considerable difference emerges in the further analysis. Ezekiel had two such visions of these four living beings. One by the river Chebar, quoted above from Eze 1,1-28, and the other one in Jerusalem, which is reported in Eze 10,1-22. And also in this vision he describes the four living beings and their faces.
The first face was the face of a cherub.
Eze 10,14 And each one had four faces. The first
face was the face of a cherub, the second face was the face of a man,
the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle.
10,15 Then the cherubim rose up. They are the living beings that I saw by the
river Chebar. Eze 10,14-15;
And here it is striking that the description is identical with
Eze 1,10, with the exception of the face of the calf. Although Ezekiel confirms
that this was the same vehicle – he calls it the "living being" – ,
which he saw also by the river Chebar, here the face of the calf is replaced by
the "face of a cherub". As we can rule out transcription or
translation errors at this passage, it seems that Ezekiel was mistaken in one of
the two cases. It would not be in the least surprising, when there are so many
incredible happenings, it may well be that he did not pay attention to quite a
few details. The question is now only which of these two reports is now the
correct one. And in this connection a further statement from the vision in
Jerusalem can help us.
So I knew that they were cherubim.
Eze 10,20 These are the living beings that I saw
beneath the God of Israel by the river Chebar; so I knew that they were
cherubim. 10,21 Each one had four faces and each one four wings, and beneath
their wings was the form of human hands. 10,22 As for the likeness of their
faces, they were the same faces whose appearance I had seen by the river Chebar.
Each one went straight ahead. Eze 10,20-22;
Also here Ezekiel corroborates that this appearance concerned
the same vision he had by the river Chebar. He confirms in particular that the
"appearance of their faces" is identical with those of the vision he
had then. That means that the faces themselves were not changed, but that the
prophet just found out that, by mistake, he had seen the face of a calf in his
description of the first vision instead of the face of a cherub and that
therefore the description of the second vision, the one in Jerusalem, is the
Also other details of the Jerusalem vision confirm that this must be the case. As it says above, in Eze 10,20, also Ezekiel found out only this second time that these four living beings themselves were cherubim. And as it seems, this discovery was not based on any external signs of recognition, but on the simple fact that the Lord ordered him in Eze 10,2 and 10,6 to "enter between the whirling wheels under the cherubim" and to "enter the whirling wheels from between the cherubim" and that thus he identified these living beings as cherubim. From that time on, Ezekiel knew that these living beings were cherubim.
Enter between the whirling wheels under the cherubim.
Eze 10,1 Then I looked, and behold, in the expanse
that was over the heads of the cherubim something like a sapphire stone, in
appearance resembling a throne, appeared above them. 10,2 And He spoke to the
man clothed in linen and said, " Enter between the whirling wheels under
the cherubim and fill your hands with coals of fire from between the
cherubim and scatter them over the city." And he entered in my sight.
10,3 Now the cherubim were standing on the right side of the temple when the man entered, and the cloud filled the inner court. 10,4 Then the glory of the LORD went up from the cherub to the threshold of the temple, and the temple was filled with the cloud and the court was filled with the brightness of the glory of the LORD. 10,5 Moreover, 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. 10,6 It came about when He commanded the man clothed in linen, saying, "Take fire from between the whirling wheels, from between the cherubim," he entered and stood beside a wheel. 10,7 Then the cherub stretched out his hand from between the cherubim to the fire which was between the cherubim, took some and put it into the hands of the one clothed in linen, who took it and went out. 10,8 The cherubim appeared to have the form of a man’s hand under their wings. Eze 10, 1- 8;
And while he reports in Eze 1,18 on the wheels that they
"were full of eyes round about", he extends this description in Eze
10,12 also to the four cherubim, of whom he writes that "their whole body,
their backs, their hands, their wings and the wheels were full of eyes all
around". So this is – after the two rectifications "living beings
– cherubim" and "face of a calf – face of a cherub" – the
third correction which Ezekiel makes on the basis of the second vision.
(See also Table 15: "The
throne of God and its surroundings.")
In the question which is relevant to us we can therefore proceed
from the assumption that the fourth cherub did not have the face of a calf, but
the face of a cherub. With this knowledge we now return to the Revelation and
try to get, on the basis of the relevant texts, a general idea of the position
and the function of these four living creatures within the framework of this
The Lamb and the four living creatures.
Rev 6,1 Then I saw when the Lamb broke one
of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying
as with a voice of thunder, "Come." 6,2 I looked, and behold, a white
horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went
out conquering and to conquer.
6,3 When He broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, "Come." 6,4 And another, a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that men would slay one another; and a great sword was given to him.
6,5 When He broke the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, "Come." I looked, and behold, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. 6,6 And I heard something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, "A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not damage the oil and the wine."
6,7 When the Lamb broke the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, "Come." Rev 6, 1- 7;
The living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne.
Rev 4,9 And when the living creatures give glory
and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever
and ever, 4,10 the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits
on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast
their crowns before the throne, saying, 4,11 "Worthy are You, our Lord and
our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and
because of Your will they existed, and were created." Rev 4, 9-11;
And they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God.
Rev 7,11 And all the angels were standing around
the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they
fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God. Rev 7,11;
And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders.
Rev14,3 And they sang a new song before the
throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could
learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been
purchased from the earth. Rev 14, 3;
One of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls.
Rev 15,6 and the seven angels who had the seven
plagues came out of the temple, clothed in linen, clean and bright, and girded
around their chests with golden sashes. 15,7 Then one of the four living
creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of
God, who lives forever and ever. Rev 15,6-7;
And the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God.
Rev 19,4 And the twenty-four elders and the four
living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sits on the throne saying,
"Amen. Hallelujah!" Rev 19,4;
This look back to the Revelation shows us for one thing that also John had obviously the same problems
in recognizing the figures as Ezekiel: He could not identify the four figures as cherubim and therefore calls them
"living creatures", and in the case of the fourth one he sees the face of a calf. So, as also John sees the face of a
calf here, the question arises, of course, in how far the face of a cherub has a certain resemblance to the face of a
bull, over and above that to the face of a young bull, a calf, as John specifies in Rev 4,7 – - that is calf's head,
still more where it says in Eze 1,7: "Their legs were straight and their feet were like a calf’s hoof".
On the other hand, also here this mistake is not astonishing, for also he sees this picture for the first time. By the way, the stem of the word "cherub" comes from Assyrian and has the meaning of "winged bull". So, we can complete the description also here – analogously to Ezekiel – by interpreting these four living creatures as cherubim and the face of the fourth cherub as the face of a cherub.
But the above texts, especially Rev 19,4, show us also that these four living creatures are unmistakably servants of God. They are – after the Lamb and still before the twenty-four elders and the angels – those who are closest to the throne all right, but they have, no doubt, a serving function. And here a new interpretation offers itself in face of the new finding that the fourth figure did not have the face of a calf, but the face of a cherub.
With the four creatures we are confronted with four cherubim, who have four different faces: a cherub, a man, a lion, and an eagle. At closer examination, it can be concluded from that that these faces could, indeed, be symbolic "representatives" of all creatures of God. The criteria for the choice of just these four faces can be substantiated approximately in the following way.
Cherubim: are the representatives of the world of the angels and thus
creatures of the heavenly dimension. They are immortal and therefore do not need
any reproduction (Lk 20,34-36;).
Man: He belongs to the biological living beings of this earth. He has the
ability to develop intellect in common with the angels. With the other earthly
beings he shares their mortality and the necessity to have to reproduce himself
in order to preserve his species.
Lion: The mammals are not endowed with reason, but they nevertheless have
a privileged position among the biological beings because they – like man – are
born alive (viviparous, Latin viviparus, born alive) and feed their
breed at the very first period of their lives by endogenic milk production,
that means that they are able to suckle. Apart from the land mammals also whales
and dolphins, among other animals, number among this group.
Eagle: Among the large group of oviparous animals rank apart from all
species of birds for instance also reptiles, fishes, insects, and worms.
(See also discourse 141: "Creation
strikes back – an interpretation of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse.".)
In this interpretation which is orientated toward the criteria of
intellectual capacity and preservation of the species, the cherub would consequently
represent the world of the angels, man would represent mankind, the lion would
represent the mammals, and the eagle would represent all those animals which
effect their reproduction by oviposition and thus the entire animated creation
would be represented in these four cherubim as the closest of all servants of
If this interpretation is correct, we find here a system of the living beings as it was discovered by man only thousands of years later (since Ezekiel!) in his "Natural System of the Animals" – and here also only incompletely (only for the earthly living beings). The modern attempts of classification to this effect go back to Carl von Linné (1707-1778, Systema Naturae) and distinguish six classes of animals: mammals, birds, amphibians (including reptiles), fishes, insects, and worms. These are the same categories which can be seen also above, with the criteria for distinction seeming clearer and therefore also more comprehensive there.
As for the many eyes on the cherubim and on the wheels "all around" (Eze 1,18; 10,12; Rev 4,6-8), one has to contradict the view of quite a few exegetes that with the formulation in verse Rev 4,8: "And the four living creatures (…) are full of eyes around and within …" the outer surface and the inner surface (under the skin) of the bodies of these four creatures were meant. The "all around" is derived from verse Rev 4,6, where "around the throne" is meant and where with that the side of these bodies which is visible from outside the throne is described, whereas the "within" refers to the side of the four creatures which is turned toward the throne and toward God.
For the meaning of these eyes there is sufficient evidence in the Scriptures, so that there is no need for an interpretation here. In the introduction of the Revelation, in Rev 1,4, John greets the seven churches with "Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne". The fact that these "seven Spirits" are mentioned in a connection with God, the Lord and that grace and peace is asked for also from them, makes it clear that these seven Spirits here can only be the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit.
Grace to you and peace from the seven Spirits who are before His throne.
Rev 1,4 John to the seven churches that are in
Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come,
and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, 1,5 and from Jesus
Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the
kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His
blood – 1,6 and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father – to
Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. Rev 1, 4- 6;
While these seven Spirits above, in Rev 1,4, were only
mentioned, they are also physically presented here below, in Rev 4,5. They are
the seven lamps of fire burning before the throne.
Seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.
Rev 4,5 Out from the throne come flashes of
lightning and sounds and peals of thunder. And there were seven lamps of fire
burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God; Rev 4, 5;
So, before the throne of God the Holy Spirit has the shape of
seven burning lamps of fire. The prophet Zechariah tells in Zech 3,9 of a star,
into which the Lord had engraved seven eyes as a token for the fact that he will
remove the iniquity of Israel in one day (outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon
(See also Chapter 10: "The
On one stone are seven eyes. Behold, I will engrave an inscription on it.
Zech 3,9 ‘For behold, the stone that I have set
before Joshua; on one stone are seven eyes. Behold, I will engrave an
inscription on it,’ declares the LORD of hosts, ‘and I will remove the
iniquity of that land in one day. 3,10 ‘In that day,’ declares the LORD of
hosts, ‘every one of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and
under his fig tree.’" Zech 3, 9-10;
These seven eyes of the LORD range to and fro throughout the earth.
Zech 4,10 "For who has despised the day of
small things? But these seven will be glad when they see the plumb line
in the hand of Zerubbabel – these are the eyes of the LORD which range to
and fro throughout the earth." Zech 4,10;
These seven eyes are the eyes of the Lord, which range to and
fro throughout the earth and therewith they are also a representation of the
Holy Spirit. And so, also John sees the Lord Jesus Christ in Rev 5,6, when he
saw the "the Lamb standing, as if slain", this Lamb, our Lord Jesus
Christ, with seven horns and seven eyes.
The seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth.
Rev 5,6 And I saw between the throne (with the four
living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven
horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all
the earth. Rev 5, 6;
Also here, these seven eyes are called " the seven Spirits
of God, sent out into all the earth" and with that they are to be
understood without doubt as the presence of the Holy Spirit of God in the Son.
Finally, it can be concluded from all these hints that the eyes of the four
cherubim mentioned in Eze 1,18; 10,12 and Rev 4,6-8 are to be regarded as the
manifestation of the Holy Spirit as well.
The ultimate question, why these four creatures have only one face each with John, while they have four faces with Ezekiel, might have to do with their respective task. With Ezekiel their task – as a "means of transport" of the Almighty – is of a rather dynamic nature and requires a joint action of all four of them.
What would be more helpful in this case than dividing the mind and the faculty of perception of each of them and assigning it to all four of them equally? In that way a coordination would be established which cannot be excelled. With John, however, their function seems to lie in guarding the throne and in praising God. For this rather static function such an effort is perhaps not necessary.
The kind of locomotion of the four living beings has already
been recognizable in verse Eze 1,9. There it said, "… their faces did not
turn when they moved, each went straight forward". In the interpretation of
this text quite a few exegetes – for lack of a better understanding – dodge
into symbolism and interpret this description as a hint at the fact that there
is "no alien power which could repulse them".
They moved in any of their four directions without turning as they moved.
Eze 1,12 And each went straight forward;
wherever the spirit was about to go, they would go, without turning as they
went. 1,13 In the midst of the living beings there was something that looked
like burning coals of fire, like torches darting back and forth among the living
beings. The fire was bright, and lightning was flashing from the fire. 1,14 And
the living beings ran to and fro like bolts of lightning.
1,15 Now as I looked at the living beings, behold, there was one wheel on the earth beside the living beings, for each of the four of them. 1,16 The appearance of the wheels and their workmanship was like sparkling beryl, and all four of them had the same form, their appearance and workmanship being as if one wheel were within another.
1,17 Whenever they moved, they moved in any of their four directions without turning as they moved. 1,18 As for their rims they were lofty and awesome, and the rims of all four of them were full of eyes round about. 1,19 Whenever the living beings moved, the wheels moved with them. And whenever the living beings rose from the earth, the wheels rose also. 1,20 Wherever the spirit was about to go, they would go in that direction. And the wheels rose close beside them; for the spirit of the living beings was in the wheels. 1,21 Whenever those went, these went; and whenever those stood still, these stood still. And whenever those rose from the earth, the wheels rose close beside them; for the spirit of the living beings was in the wheels. Eze 1,12-21;
If we look at this statement in the context, however, we see
that it is now repeated in Eze 1,12 and put more precisely in Eze 1,17,
"Whenever they moved, they moved in any of their four directions without
turning as they moved". So, that means that these four living beings moved
only in right angles. That is to say either straight forward, straight backward
or straight sideward.
They know neither diagonal lines nor curves. So, on their way to a certain destination, they move ahead in a zigzag course – one time straight forward, then straight sideward – until they have reached the destination they are striving for. This unusual kind of locomotion is possibly also connected with the strange type of construction of the wheels.
Their appearance is described in Eze 1,16, "The appearance of the wheels and their workmanship was (…) as if one wheel were within another". This does not mean that a smaller wheel was inserted in parallel into a bigger wheel, as there is talk about "lofty rims" in verse Eze 1,18, which must overlay this second wheel and camouflage it.
The description "one wheel within another wheel" means a "cross wheel". These are two wheels or tires of approximately the same size which are fitted into each other in right angles and thus describe the circumference of a sphere. With these wheels it is only possible to move in the prolonged direction of the respective wheel tire – either straight forward or sideward – and therefore it is not possible either to describe curves.
And in this way also the description of this locomotion in Eze 1,14 is to be understood: "And the living beings ran to and fro like bolts of lightning". This does not mean that they "flash like lightning with every movement", but the track of their locomotion was comparable to the one of a lightning in the sky – that is to say a zigzag course.
A peculiarity in connection with these four cherubim in their task to transport the throne of God can be seen in Eze 10,11:
To the place whither the head looked they followed it without turning as they went.
Eze 10,9 Then I looked, and behold, four wheels
beside the cherubim, one wheel beside each cherub; and the appearance of the
wheels was like the gleam of a Tarshish stone. 10,10 As for their appearance,
all four of them had the same likeness, as if one wheel were within another
wheel. 10,11 When they moved, they went in any of their four directions without
turning as they went; but to the place whither the head looked they followed
it without turning as they went. 10,12 Their whole body, their backs, their
hands, their wings and the wheels were full of eyes all around, the wheels
belonging to all four of them. 10,13 The wheels were called in my hearing, the
whirling wheels. Eze 10, 9-13;
From the statement that they always followed the one in front it
can be inferred that these four cherubim did not move two by two in one
direction, but that in each case only one cherub formed – in the shape of a
square – the vertex of this quadrangle in one direction. Thus every cherub was
"responsible" for one of the four directions of movement, and when he
was instructed by the Spirit of God to go in this, namely "his"
direction, the others followed him willingly.
(See also Discourse 72: "Who
are the 24 elders? – The throne of God.")
In the Revelation of John these four cherubim are posted as a
kind of guards around the throne. In the interpretation of the description
contained in Rev 4,6 some exegetes think that they have to see here a
"stepped throne" and the cherubim halfway of the staircase in order to
be able to give an explanation for the formulation "in the center".
And in the center and around the throne, four living creatures.
Rev 4,6 and before the throne there was something
like a sea of glass, like crystal; and in the center and around the throne,
four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind. Rev 4, 6;
But the description simply means that the cherubim were standing
in the center of each side of the throne, that is to say "… in the center
(in the middle in front) of the throne and (of such a kind on each of the four
sides) around the throne …". So, they are the external boundary of the
throne. Both Ezekiel and John see also something resembling a "rainbow"
around the throne.
There was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance.
Rev 4,2 Immediately I was in the Spirit; and
behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne. 4,3 And
He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance; and
there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance. Rev 4,
As the appearance of the rainbow so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance.
Eze 1,27 Then I noticed from the appearance of
His loins and upward something like glowing metal that looked like
fire all around within it, and from the appearance of His loins and downward
I saw something like fire; and there was a radiance around Him.
1,28 As the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was
the appearance of the surrounding radiance. Such was the appearance of the
likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face and
heard a voice speaking. Eze 1,27-28;
As Ezekiel saw this "radiance", this surrounding
radiance that had the appearance of a rainbow around the one who was sitting on
the throne, we can proceed from the assumption that the throne is to be placed
within this surrounding radiance, but that the four cherubim, however, are to be
placed in both cases out of this surrounding radiance and that this aureole
forms an integral part of the glory of the Lord.
The actual appearance of the Lord, however, is described by Ezekiel immediately before that, namely in his vision by the river Chebar, in Eze 1,27. According to that the appearance of the Lord was from his loins upward "like glowing metal" and from his loins downward he saw something like fire. And also in his second vision, in Jerusalem, Ezekiel uses the same descriptions.
From His loins downward: the appearance of fire, and upward: the appearance of glowing metal.
Eze 8,2 Then I looked, and behold, a likeness as
the appearance of a man; from His loins and downward there was the
appearance of fire, and from His loins and upward the appearance
of brightness, like the appearance of glowing metal. Eze 8, 2;
Unlike Ezekiel, in the Revelation John compares the appearance
of the Lord with precious stones. He writes in Rev 4,3: "And He who was
sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance". However, also
afterward he chooses a precious stone as comparison for the description of the
radiance around the throne which had the appearance of a rainbow, which Ezekiel
only describes as "radiance", – namely the emerald – so that we
can assume that also John had the same vision of the Lord and only described it
in other words.
The visions of Ezekiel and the Revelation of John are separated by a period of nearly seven hundred years. The fact that both prophets have so many things in common in the description of the throne of God and the four "living beings", is not least also a proof of the fact that we are confronted here with the reality of the dimension of God, which these two men of God were allowed an insight into independently of each other.
When now some exegetes think that they have to point out that John retained "a clear memory" of a lot of the statements of Ezekiel and therewith want to say in plain text that John "plagiarized" from Ezekiel, they disqualify themselves with that in the final analysis. Those who cannot believe in the authenticity of the prophecies of the Scriptures, cannot believe in the God of these Scriptures either and consequently not the prophecies of the Bible – as these people think – , but rather their own dubious attempts at an explanation are to be judged as "fiction" and "legends".