Rev 4:6                                  Four Living Creatures                               5/22/2005      ßà   

  • A Sea of Glass Like Unto Crystal (Rev 4:6-11, Ex 30:18, Isa 57:20)

 

 

 

 

#1.       Four Living Creatures (Rev 4:6-8, Rom 8:21, Eph 2:6, Ex 19:4)

 

 

 

 

  • Again Four Living Creatures (Ezek 1:1-14)

 

 

 

 

#2.       More Visions of God (Ezek 1:24-28)

 

 

 

 

  • Cherubim (Ezek 10:16-22)

 

 

 

 

#3.       Thou Art Worthy, O Lord (Rev 4:8-11, Psalm 76:10)

 

 

 

 

  • I Fell Upon My Face (Ezek 1:28, 1Pet 5:5)

 

 

 

Please open your Bibles to The Revelation of Jesus Christ, Rev 4:6 (2X). We are continuing our travels through Revelation, and we have arrived at Rev 4:6. God shows the Apostle John a vision of heaven. We have already seen that John saw a door, and he heard a loud voice as of a trumpet, and he saw a throne, and someone sitting on the throne, and he saw round about the throne 24 elders, with each one a crown on their heads, and seven lamps of fire before the throne, and lightnings and thunderings and voices proceeding out of the throne. We have already looked at all these things last week, and we have seen that this is an aspect of God that we have not seen before. This does not seem to be the God of love that we are familiar with. This is a God who is infinitely righteous, and whose righteousness towers above all His other characteristics, even above His love. And then there appears on the scene: “Four Beasts”, which actually should have been translated: “Four Living Creatures”, because these are not beasts, or animals, like we know here on earth. And these four living creatures dominate the scene for the rest of the chapter. That is why the title of the sermon of today is, Four Living Creatures (2X). Let us read this here in Rev 4:6. First of all we see:

  • A Sea of Glass Like Unto Crystal (Rev 4:6-11, Ex 30:18, Isa 57:20)

Re 4:6  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.

Re 4:7  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.

Re 4:8 ¶  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.

Re 4:9  And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever,

Re 4:10  The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

Re 4:11  Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

What is this “sea of glass”? We need to keep in mind what the main theme is throughout this part of Revelation. The main theme is the certain displacement of the kingdom of Satan by the Kingdom of God in Jesus Christ. It is the displacement of the old and sinful order by the new and perfect order in the new creation. It is the displacement of the satanic kingdom of darkness by the glorious Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. All the visions that we now read about in this prophecy serve to throw light upon this general theme. Therefore, when some people try to relate this sea of glass to the laver of brass which God commanded Moses to make for the foot-washing of the priests (Ex 30:18), and which Solomon later replaced by the “molten sea” of brass in the court of the temple, also called the “brazen sea”, and which was connected to ceremonies for the altar of burnt offering, we know that this is an interpretation in the wrong direction. We don’t want to look back to the old temple. We want to look forward to the new temple of God in Christ. Then there are others who want to relate this sea of glass to the sea of nations, because in Revelation the term “sea” always refers to the nations of the world, just like God stated in Isa 57:20, “But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt”. This also is taking us in the wrong direction, because the nations of the world that are mostly unsaved are no longer in view in the new creation. The vision that we have in front of us is a picture of the ideal new order as it will ultimately have the victory. It is to be taken symbolically rather than literally. It is a sea of glass like unto crystal, which means it looks like a sea of crystal. But crystal is a material of this world and not of the new creation. And thus this expanse that looks like a sea of crystal is a symbol of the splendor, as well as of the transparency, of the entire new creation. In this sea of crystal before the throne the new creation in all its glory and beauty must have been reflected. In the new creation all things shall reflect the glory and beauty and grace of Him who sits upon the throne. All things shall reflect His glory and righteousness and holiness. And there we shall know even as we are known. And then we see:

#1.       Four Living Creatures (Rev 4:6-8, Rom 8:21, Eph 2:6, Ex 19:4)

Re 4:6  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.

Re 4:7  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.

Re 4:8 ¶  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.

What or who do these four beings represent? These beings do not represent God as some people suggest. These beings are created beings. The Greek word used here refers not to brute beasts, but to created beings. That is why the best translation is “living creature”. These four living creatures represent “the entire fulness of the new creation in all its various powers from an ideal point of view”. They do not represent the present creation, because the present creation shall be destroyed, and according to Rom 8:21the present creation shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God”. And so, the 24 elders represent the church of all the saints born on this earth, both of the OT and of the NT time period, whereas the four living creatures are representing all creation in the NH&NE, including the saints in their glorified bodies. How can we explain that these four living creatures are round about the throne and in the midst of the throne? God says Eph 2:6 that we presently are seated in heaven with Christ and in Christ. We do not understand how this exactly is realized; we just believe what God said. If we are presently called the Bride of Christ, then we shall be united with Him in the great wedding feast in the NH&NE. And thus it is not impossible that the four living creatures are round about the throne and also in the midst of the throne. John saw four of these creatures. Four is the number that indicates universality. For example, the four corners of the earth refer to the whole earth, or the four winds of heaven refer to the entire universe. In other words, the number four here is symbolic of the new creation in all its fulness. And thus we can explain the appearance of the four living creatures. Would Christ be pleased with their appearance? Does their appearance give glory to God? Consider the lion. The lion is considered the royal representative of the wild animal kingdom. But the lion is also worthy to represent Christ as the lion of the tribe of Judah. Consider the ox. The ox is considered the strongest of the domesticated animals. But the ox is also worthy to represent Christ on the altar of sin-offering. Consider the man. Man is considered the most intelligent creature on this earth. But Christ chose to come to earth in the body of a man and be called the Son of man. Consider the eagle. The eagle is considered the king among the birds. But the eagle is also worthy to represent Christ as the One who has snatched us out of the house of bondage to sin and Satan. For example Jehovah called unto Moses out of Mount Horeb and said in Ex 19:4, “Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself”. And so we see that the appearance of these four living creatures is among the most God-glorifying creation can provide. It is not that these living creatures will actually be present in the new creation but they are symbolic, and they represent the new creation in all the fulness of its power and talents, when it shall develop to the glory of Him who sits on the throne. When we consider the eyes on the living creatures and on their wings we must not think that it represents their ability to look and move in every direction, but rather as revealing their inmost nature and being. All nature is to reveal itself plainly and openly to God’s glory, and the nature of creation shall be no more be under the veil of sin. Therefore, in the following chapter this is also the meaning of the Lamb that has seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits. In the eye the creature reveals his spirit, his nature, and therefore his name, above all other features. In the seven eyes the seven Spirits that dwell in the Lamb shine forth. In the eyes of these living creatures their real nature, their spirit of life is revealed, under the influence of the Spirit of all creation. These considerations of the four living creatures would not be complete without considering a similar appearance of four living creatures in the prophecy of Ezekiel. Please turn to the Prophecy of Ezekiel 1:1 (2X). There we also see:

  • Again Four Living Creatures (Ezek 1:1-14)

We can see clearly that God intended us to compare the prophecies of Ezekiel and Revelation, because of the similar appearances of these four living creatures. Both prophets Ezekiel and John were commissioned to bring messages to rebellious people who bear the name of God. Both Ezekiel and John were given a book to eat, and in both cases the book was written inside and on the outside. In both cases the book contained lamentations, and mourning and woe. Both prophecies of Ezekiel and Revelation are filled with almost incomprehensible symbolism. Both prophecies have as their main theme a destruction of the old which is replaced by a rebuilding of the new. In the case of Revelation the main theme is the destruction of the old creation, which was defiled by the kingdom of Satan, and it is replaced by the new creation of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ which is perfect and without sin. In the case of Ezekiel the main theme is the destruction of the old temple and the rebuilding of the new, that is of the ideal temple of God. Or we can say that the message of Ezekiel was to predict the displacement of the old temple, which was made with hands, by the new temple which would consist of the new creation of the NH&NE. Just like John prophesied the displacement of the sinful order by the perfect order of the new creation, so Ezekiel was called to prophesy the displacement of the sinful order in the earthly temple by the perfect order of the new temple of God in the new creation. This then is the main theme we must keep in mind when we attempt to interpret the Prophecy of Ezekiel. Let us now read the first chapter of this prophecy:

Eze 1:1 ¶  Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the river of Chebar, that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.

Eze 1:2  In the fifth day of the month, which was the fifth year of king Jehoiachin’s captivity,

Eze 1:3  The word of the LORD came expressly unto Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and the hand of the LORD was there upon him.

Eze 1:4 ¶  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 colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire.

Eze 1:5  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.

Eze 1:6  And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings.

Eze 1:7  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 colour of burnished brass.

Eze 1:8  And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and they four had their faces and their wings.

Eze 1:9  Their wings were joined one to another; they turned not when they went; they went every one straight forward.

Eze 1:10  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.

Eze 1:11  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.

Eze 1:12  And they went every one straight forward: whither the spirit was to go, they went; and they turned not when they went.

Eze 1:13  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.

Eze 1:14  And the living creatures ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning.

Are these the same four living creatures that we saw in Revelation chapter 4? Apparently so. Here too the Hebrew word that was translated living creatures refers to something that was created. It cannot refer to God. The vision God gave in Ezekiel chapter 1 is a symbolical representation of the new order of things in the NH&NE. Here too the four living creatures represent the entire fulness of the new creation after the judgment of all the unsaved has been completed and all sin has been done away. But we can see that there is a slight difference: the lion, the ox, the man, and the eagle are inseparably united in this vision. Why this difference? In the prophecy of Ezekiel God is telling us that we will be intimately united with Christ and with everything else in the new creation. In the prophecy of Revelation God is telling us that we will not lose our identity: we will still be individuals very distinct from one another. But how do we explain verse 1 where we read, “and I saw visions of God”. Does this not mean that these four living creatures represent God? No! Verse 4 speaks of a whirlwind, and a great cloud, and fire. These were visions of God. Let us read on, and we will see:

#2.       More Visions of God (Ezek 1:24-28)

Eze 1:24  And when they went, I heard the noise of their wings, like the noise of great waters, as the voice of the Almighty, the voice of speech, as the noise of an host: when they stood, they let down their wings.

Eze 1:25  And there was a voice from the firmament that was over their heads, when they stood, and had let down their wings.

Eze 1:26 ¶  And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it.

Eze 1:27  And I saw as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about.

Eze 1:28  As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake (2X).(Remember this)

There in verse 26 Ezekiel saw a throne, and someone sitting upon the throne, and the appearance of fire. These again were visions of God. Our God is a consuming fire.  But the four living

creatures were not part of God. God appeared in the firmament over their heads, and the glory of the Lord was the rainbow and the brightness round about the throne. And so, these are three different things to consider when we read Ezekiel chapter one: #1, Visions of God, #2, the glory of the Lord, and #3, the four living creatures, which are also called cherubim. Please turn now to Ezek 10:16 (2X).

  • Cherubim (Ezek 10:16-22)

Forget whatever I have said in the past about cherubim. They cannot be representations of God because God commanded Moses to embroider cherubim on the curtains of the tabernacle. And certainly God will not violate the 2nd commandment or entice Moses to commit that sin. Here we read:

Eze 10:16  And when the cherubims went, the wheels went by them: and when the cherubims lifted up their wings to mount up from the earth, the same wheels also turned not from beside them.

Eze 10:17  When they stood, these stood; and when they were lifted up, these lifted up themselves also: for the spirit of the living creature was in them.

Eze 10:18  Then the glory of the LORD departed from off the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubims.

Eze 10:19  And the cherubims lifted up their wings, and mounted up from the earth in my sight: when they went out, the wheels also were beside them, and every one stood at the door of the east gate of the LORD’S house; and the glory of the God of Israel was over them above.

Eze 10:20  This is the living creature that I saw under the God of Israel by the river of Chebar; and I knew that they were the cherubims.

Eze 10:21  Every one had four faces apiece, and every one four wings; and the likeness of the hands of a man was under their wings.

Eze 10:22  And the likeness of their faces was the same faces which I saw by the river of Chebar, their appearances and themselves: they went every one straight forward.

We can clearly see that the four living creatures are called cherubim. We can also see that the cherubim and the glory of the Lord are two separate things. Therefore in Ezekiel as well as in Revelation we may call the four living creatures: cherubim. In both these visions the cherubim are made to represent the fulness of the life of the new creation as it will shine forth in the NH&NE. And herein the symbolism of Revelation chapter 4 is complete. Please turn now again to Rev 4:8 (2X).

#3.       Thou Art Worthy, O Lord (Rev 4:8-11, Psalm 76:10)

In this vision we have an ideal picture of the Kingdom which will displace the kingdom of Satan, and which will have a complete victory in the end. In that Kingdom God and His throne of righteousness and holiness and majesty and grace shall be the central figure, for He shall be all in all. In that Kingdom the church shall be enthroned forever, delivered from all the power of sin and darkness, washed in the blood of the Lamb, and crowned with crowns of victory. For the elders are clothed in white raiment and they have golden crowns upon their heads. In that Kingdom all creation shall be delivered, and shall be allowed to exist and develop and shall reveal itself in all the fulness of its life to the glory of Him who sits on the throne. No we will not have lions and oxen and eagles there. These animal faces are only shown as a symbol of God’s new creation. The new creation is of an entirely different nature and possibly in a different dimension than this universe. We should not imagine earthly creatures or earthly pleasures in the NH&NE. It cannot be described in earthly terms, and thus these visions of John and of Ezekiel should be understood symbolically. In that new creation all things shall reflect the glory of the Most High God through Jesus Christ our Lord and in the seven Spirits which are before His throne. That Kingdom exists ideally in God’s decree. That Kingdom must go through a process of battle before it can reach its historical realization. But that Kingdom shall surely come, for God Almighty is on our side and the Lamb is our King. For that Kingdom of light and glory and bliss we long and we hope and we fight. For that Kingdom we sacrifice all that we have and we glorify the Lord our God also in the present day and age. Here in Rev 4:8 we read,

Re 4:8 ¶  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.

Everyone in the new creation shall praise God continually and forever. We also will continually praise Him. We do not know exactly how we shall praise Him. Our present vocabulary is insufficient to describe those praises. But this verse indicates that we will praise Him that sits on the throne, and we will praise Him for what He was, and for what He is, and for what He is going to be. Then we read,

Re 4:9  And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, (which is all the time)

Re 4:10  The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

Re 4:11  Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

This is the song of the new creation as it is anticipated in the vision to John. We must remember that the purpose of all things is the glory of God. For that glory all the world and all the universe exists All the world and all the fulness of the world, and all the powers of the world, and all the beauty of the world, all exists to reflect the glory and the majesty of Him who sitteth on the throne. In brute creation as well as in man God is to be glorified. But there is a difference. Brute creation glorifies God unconsciously. But man stands in the midst of this silently adoring creation and consciously takes note of God’s glory. Man knows that all creation has been made by Him. Man knows that it is all a reflection of God’s glory. We know that we all and all the reprobate with it were created for the purpose of being a name unto the Most High God. And therefore we understand creation round about us. We see how  the creatures glorify God. And standing in the midst of this glorifying creation and seeing the beauty of the Lord our God in all the creatures, we fall down in adoration and we pray, “O My Lord and My God”. This then is the original intent and the purpose of the existence of all things. Not only the children of God, but also the reprobate praise Him. We read in Psalm 76:10, “Even the wrath of man shall praise Him”. We can see this so clearly in the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus, where Herod and Pontius Pilate, and the Gentiles and the people of Israel were gathered together to kill the Lord Jesus, not knowing that in doing this they would bring glory to God through the satanic act of crucifying the Holy One of Israel.

What then do we see in the vision? We see the same thing. We see that the creatures give glory and honor and thanks to God. All creation gives praise to God. But at the same time we hear the battle cry in this song of the four living creatures and of the elders. The Lord God is almighty, and therefore He will have victory over all sin and over the power of darkness. And as all creation thus sings of God’s glory, the redeemed shall look and listen and see the beauty of their God, and they will worship and adore Him. For the elders fall down at the voice of the four living creatures. They are acknowledging that their royal status is only a reflection of  the sovereignty of Him that sitteth upon the throne. And so they cast their golden crowns before Him, they descend from their thrones, and worship and proclaim, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created”. And thus shall they glorify God in all His works. And God shall be all in all. And what is our reaction when we see all these facts, written in these two visions. Remember what happened to Ezekiel when he saw all these things? He wrote:

  • I Fell Upon My Face (Ezek 1:28, 1Pet 5:5)

Eze 1:28  As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake.

Ezekiel was overpowered by the vision, for who is able to stand before this holy Lord God? He fell to the ground in a humble sense of his own unworthiness, and of the honor now done to him, and of the infinite distance which he now perceived to be between him and God. As a general rule, the more God is pleased to make Himself known to us, the more we realize how low we should be before Him. And then Ezekiel heard the voice of God speaking to him. From this we see that God delights to teach the humble. And we are reminded of the words of 1Pet 5:5,

1Pe 5:5 ¶  Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

God is pleased to give grace to the humble. And how does God impart that grace? God makes the humble to hear His voice, either through a preacher, or through something that we can read and hear, not with our ears but with our hearts. For “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”.