The Book of Revelation with commentary by Dr. Henry M. Morris and paintings by Ramona Lowe
The paintings are a work in progress and the finished pieces are highlighted in red on Page 2

Page 29

Cherubim and Seraphim

Revelation 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.

     The sea of glass before the throne (no doubt “before” it on all four sides, separating the unmovable throne of majesty from all His creatures surrounding it), is obviously the antitype of the laver in the tabernacle (Exodus 30:18-21) and the sea in the temple (2 Chronicles 4:2-6), both used for the cleansing of the priests before they could minister in the work of the Lord.  In the heavenly temple, however, the sea was not moving water but still as crystal.  The priests had already been cleansed and thus could already walk on the sea as it were, entering directly into the presence of the Lord.  The crystal sea may also be in view in the two visions of God as noted in Exodus 24:10 and Ezekiel 1:22.

     The four beasts (Greek zoon, “living creatures”) have been the subject of inordinate speculation.  The introductory statement concerning them is that they are round about the throne – one on each side, but also in the midst of the throne, closer to God than any other of His creatures.  Thus these are the highest of the angelic hierarchy, in immediate access to the throne of God.  Furthermore, they are full of eyes, able to see in all directions at once so that nothing escapes their observation.  Their very name, “living ones,” denotes the fact that they are vibrant with life, imparted to them by God their Creator.

     These, like the elders, are real beings – not symbols.  They also speak, both as a unit (Revelation 4:9; 5:14) and individually (Revelation 6:1, 3, 5, 7).  They are not men, however, like the elders, but are specially created beings – angels – for a very special set of ministries related to the immediate presence of God.

Revelation 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.

     Because the Greek word is zoon, form which is derived our English words “zoo” and “zoology,” the King James translators used the word “beast,” but it means simply “living creature.”  The appearance of these living ones immediately is seen to resemble that of the four cherubim described in Ezekiel 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.”  Ezekiel also says, however, that “this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man.  And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings” (Ezekiel 1:5, 6).

     The picture seems to be one of four mighty angelic cherubs, each of whom has four faces.  The four faces represent the lion (greatest of the wild animals), the ox (greatest of the domestic animals), the eagle (greatest of the flying animals), and the man (greatest of all creatures).  The different order as described by John and by Ezekiel evidently resulted simply from the different points from which they viewed them.  That these were the cherubim (Hebrews plural of “cherub”) is stated in Ezekiel 10:20-22.  They all have “the likeness of a man” in their general mien even though three of their four faces depict other creatures.  The manlike face of each may be always directed toward the presence of God, judging from the representations of the two cherubim over the ark of the covenant (Exodus 20:17-22).  They can proceed in any direction without turning (Ezekiel 1:12).

     Cherubim had been placed at the entrance to the garden of Eden after the expulsion of Adam and Eve.  Wherever the cherubim are mentioned, they are represented as in the presence of God, either symbolically (as in the tabernacle and temple) or actually (as in the descriptions of John and Ezekiel).

     Isaiah also was granted a glorious vision of the heavenly temple, where he saw certain angelic beings which he called “seraphim” (Isaiah 6:1-7).  The word means “fiery ones” and they are probably the same – or at least of the same order – as the cherubim (the root meaning of which is not known).  Ezekiel describes the cherubim thus: “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” (Ezekiel 1:13).  Both the seraphim (Isaiah 6:2) and the living creatures in Revelation (4:8) are said to have six wings, whereas the cherubim in Ezekiel 1:6 are said to have four wings.  The latter, however, are presumably the wings for flying, two to move backward and forward, two to move left and right.  An additional two wings on each face were said in Isaiah’s vision to be for covering the face and two for covering the feet.

Revelation 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. 

     Further identification of these living ones with the seraphim is indicated by their occupation – the unending ascription of threefold holiness to the Lord of hosts (Isaiah 6:3).  Though these cherubim/seraphim are no doubt the most gloriously beautiful of all God’s creatures (the fallen cherub, evidently Satan, of Ezekiel 28:11-19 was said to have been originally “full of wisdom and perfect in beauty”), they give all glory to God.  The connection of the three-times repeated “Holy!” to the past, present, and future work of the triune God is evident.  God is perfectly holy in His work of creation, His work of redemption, and His work of consummation. 

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