Ezekiel 1 And Revelation 4 Both Detail Four Living Creatures. They both are described in the context of the glory of God’s Throne. They both detail that these creatures are intimately attached to God’s presence, even surrounding it, and transporting it.
The 4 Living Creatures are:
❄ the Lion
❄ the Ox
❄ the Eagle
❄ the Man
Interesting bit of knowledge – in the book of Numbers chapters 1 & 2 God ordered the 12 Tribes of Israel in a certain precise and ordered arrangement around His portable Tabernacle and Ark.
From a bird’s eye view, the arrangement resembled a CROSS moving through the Wilderness for all of those 40 years. Fascinating, aye? smile emoticon An allusion to the fact that the presence of God would one day manifest upon the Cross – the greatest expression of God’s love and glory.
More than this, each one of the 12 Tribes had a ’emblem’ or ‘standard’, an ‘ensign’ that Hebrew history and Scripture tells us they would fly on their flags – for proper distinction of what family and what clan were to be where. Each group was to “camp by his own standard, beside the emblems of his father’s house” (Numbers 2:2)
Because God had a precise arrangement of the Tribes around His Tabernacle, the clans and families of Judah needed to stay on the Eastern side, Reuben on the South, and so on…
So naturally, they needed to fly banners of distinction. The emblems, or symbols, that they flew on their tribal banners were modeled after the prophetic blessings of Jacob (Israel) from Genesis 49 when he blessed his twelve sons shortly before departing this life (Moses offered similar prophetic utterances over the twelve tribes before his departure in Deuteronomy 33).
Also, their were designated 4 “Lead” Tribes in each of the 4 directions of the encampment. So three tribes would reside in one direction, but of those three, one was considered the Lead tribe when picking up and moving camp.
The 4 “Lead” Tribes were,
→ Judah to the East.
→ Joseph to the West.
→ Dan to the North.
→ Reuben to the South.
So in sum, with their tribal emblems combined with their direction,
→ Judah was the ‘Lion’ to the East,
→ Joseph was the ‘Ox’ to the West,
→ Dan was the ‘Eagle’ to the North,
→ Reuben was the ‘Man’ to the South.
Fascinating! heart emoticon
So these 4 “Living Creatures” surrounded the earthly and portable ‘Throne’ of God’s presence as found in His tabernacle – the Ark of the Covenant inside the Most Holy Place.
Truly, the earthly is mirroring the truth and reality as found in the Heavenly realm! It would indeed appear that the camp is intended as a shadow of the heavenly throne room! (Hebrews 8:5; 9:23)
Going one step further – the 4 Gospels are also likened to these 4 Living Creatures. Haven’t you ever wondered why their were precisely 4 Gospels in God’s word? For within the 4 Gospels are 4 ‘portraits’ or ‘depictions’ of Jesus – taken from 4 different perspectives.
They reveal the 4 major characteristics of Jesus!
Matthew is accorded to the ‘Royal Lion’ of Judah – as Matthew has always been regarded as the most ‘Hebrew’ of all the 4 gospels, containing more direct allusions to Jesus as the ‘Son of David’ and establishing His gospel into five subsections modeled after the 5-book Torah.. also likening Jesus to a ‘new Moses’ with a ‘new Law’ that He dispenses from the Mount (of Beatitudes)… containing the only references to Jesus coming up out from Egypt and the slaughter of newborns (like Moses, mimicking a mini-Exodus)… containing references to Jesus’ Jewish right of accession to David’s Throne through His descent from Abraham and the Tribe of Judah (and thusly claim the title of Messiah) per His lineage in Matthew 1. Jesus is presented primarily as the ‘King of the Jews’ herein.
Mark is accorded to the ‘humble, servantile creature of the Ox’ – as Mark has been revered as depicting Jesus more in the vein of the lowly servant designed to bear our burdens and work the fields.. highlighting He is the servant of God, and the Servant of men.
Luke is accorded to the ‘Man’ – as Luke was a physician of men and wrote a more detailed, analytical gospel with direct geographical and historical references, also including more precise medical references in relation to Jesus’ ministry of deliverance and healing. Jesus is more often depicted as the ‘Son of Man’ – showing to have more instances of compassion for those He touched and interacted with, relating in His human incarnation with our mortal infirmities. Luke is also the only Gospel to highlight the human descent and connection of Jesus, detailing his lineage all the way back to the First Adam in Luke 3.
John is accorded to the ‘Eagle’ – as John wrote a distinctly unique Gospel. The preceding three gospels are called ‘Synoptic’ gospels, because they largely share similar or common material, just told from varying perspectives. John is unique in that he writes a ‘spiritual Gospel’ – giving profoundly deeper spiritual truths towards the Heavenly nature and qualities of Christ – highlighting His preexistence and eternalness, being called the ‘WORD (Logos) of God’, relating He is the ‘Bread of Life’, ‘the True Vine’, ‘The Good Shepherd’, ‘The Way, Truth, and Life’, ‘the Light’, etc. John, as the Eagle’s vision, pierces the heavens and can see much further, higher, and deeper than the previous animals mentioned hitherto. The eagle’s domain is within the Heavenly – and this is where John takes up habitation as he gives his discourse on Christ.
† Jesus is the roaring, conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah.
† Jesus is the servantile, humble Oxen born to carry our burdens.
† Jesus is the ‘Son of Man’ (earthly), identifying with our weaknesses, and having compassion on mankind.
† Jesus is the ‘Son of God’ (heavenly: Eagle), coming down from the realm of God’s heights.
These 4 creatures have also been understood to have represented the 4 various forms of the ‘highest types of God’s creation’:
• Man is the ‘King over creation’; being made in the ‘image of God’
• the Lion is the ‘King of the Beasts of Prey’ (‘meat-eating’); the wild animal Kingdom
• the Oxen is the ‘King of Domesticated Animals’ (‘grass-eating’)
• the Eagle is viewed as the ‘King of the Birds or Fowl of the Air’
Finally – even the ‘Stars’ declare the Glory of God (Psalm 19)! The very constellations (NOT astrology) were patterned after these representations of animals. The 4 ‘anchor’ star-signs at the 4 ‘anchors’ of the year (Spring & Fall equinox, Summer & Winter solstice) were originally the Ox (Taurus), the Lion (Leo), the Man (Aquarius), and the Eagle/Serpent (Scorpius). Again, this is not an advocacy of the false pagan belief system of astrology – it’s the idea that God had even the Message of Redemption and Salvation played out in the Stars (Genesis 1:14) In Hebrew, this is called the ‘mazzaroth’ (Job 38:32).
But that’s for another bible study…
ADDENDUM: Of note, Jesus came from the Tribe of JUDAH (which means “PRAISE”).
JUDAH was situated on the EAST. Judah was directly in front of the DOORWAY to the Tabernacle Entrance.
Jesus says “I AM THE DOOR”, and “I AM THE WAY”. (John 10:7-9; 14:6)
He is the Doorway to the Presence of God.
Also note the sunrise, with its light shedding over the eastern horizon, filtered through the ranks of the families of JUDAH first, being situated on the eastern horizon.
Jesus says “I AM THE LIGHT”. (John 8:12)
Also note the LION of JUDAH in the EAST is directly across from the OX of JOSEPH due WEST.
The First Coming of Jesus to Earth was to become the ‘suffering Servant’ of Isaiah 53 and shed His blood – i.e the OXEN. This is known as the ‘Messiah Ben-Joseph’.
When Jesus comes back, He returns as the conquering Lion of Judah per Revelation 5:5 – i.e the LION. This is known as the ‘Messiah Ben-David’.
The East-West parallel forms a straight line between His two comings, highlighting His TWO REDEMPTIVE ROLES as ‘Suffering Servant’ to the West, and ‘Conquering King’ to the East. (Also remember He returns from the East, as the Lightning per Matthew 24:27)
Also, Scripture has a distinct Geographical orientation when it comes to discussing LEAVING or ENTERING God’s presence.
When Man LEAVES God’s presence he is always depicted as going EASTWARD (Genesis 3:24; 4:16; 10:30; 11:2; 13:11; 25:6; Ezekiel 8:16; 11:23)
When Man is to ENTER God’s presence he is always depicted as going WESTWARD. (To enter back within the “Holy of Holies” in the Tabernacle and Temple, Genesis 12:1-5 for Abraham’s departure into Canaan; and the return of Israel from Exile in Babylon per Ezra/Nehemiah)
Now note that the EAGLE of DAN in the North is directly across from the MAN of REUBEN on the South.
Dan means “JUDGE” (and indeed the Eagle is used as a symbol of judgment through Scripture; Deuteronomy 28:49; Jeremiah 49:16, 22; Ezekiel 17:3-7; Obadiah 1:4) and is on the “LEFT-Hand side” of God’s Presence and Throne.
Reuben means “Behold, the SON”, and his image is the MAN, being the first-born of Israel. He is placed on the ‘RIGHT-Hand’ side of God’s presence and Throne, being located directly south.
Note the RIGHT hand side of God is favored as ‘Blessed’ for those inheriting Salvation in the parable of the judgment of the Sheep and Goat nations in Matthew 25:31-46; and the LEFT hand side is decreed as ‘Cursed’ for those inheriting Damnation (i.e judgment). The Sheep nations enter on the RIGHT; the Goats enter in on the LEFT.
(The orientation of God’s Throne is facing Eastward, so the North is on His ‘Left-Hand’, and the South is always favored as the Blessed side, being the ‘Right-Hand’ side – the right-hand being the hand of authority, power, blessing, favor in ancient culture)
These two, forming a North-South parallel highlight His TWO REDEMPTIVE NATURES – the EARTHLY ‘MAN’ (‘the Son of Man’) in the favored direction (South), and the HEAVENLY ‘EAGLE’ (‘the Son of God’) in the direction of Judgment (North).
They also form the acrostic of name meanings ‘Behold the Son; the Judge’.