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. 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. (Revelation 4:7-8)
John saw four “Living Beings”, called “beasts” in the King James Version, worshipping the Holy and Sovereign God in antiphon. The description of the four, is akin to that of the Cherubim Ezekiel saw in his vision of God.
The Cherubim were the angels who with flaming swords guarded the way to the tree of life, after the fall of Adam and Eve, barring the couple from ever returning to the garden . The figures of the cherubim were embroidered into the Holy curtain in front of the Holy place of the tabernacle and the Holy of Holies also.
But in the throne room of God, John encounters the actual beings, in all of their awful, Holy glory. We have noted that the faces, of Lion, Eagle,Ox and man, are expressions of the highest orders of created life on earth.
The Lion is the “king” of wild animals, the OX is the ultimate domesticated beast, the eagle is the acme of bird life, and Man is the Image bearer of God himself, the crown of all creation.
But the Cherubim denote something even deeper than that. They are a living revelation of Jesus Christ and his work on this earth. There are four of them, four is the number associated with the earth. There are four directions, four seasons, and four gospels which proclaim the earthly sojourn of our saviour, the Lord Jesus.
* The Face of a Lion- This corresponds to the gospel according to Matthew, with its heavy Hebraic emphasis. Jesus is the “Lion of the tribe of Judah”, the one Jacob prophesied of as a crouching lion,
Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy father’s children shall bow down before thee.Judah is a lion’s whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up?(Genesis 49:8-9)
The Messiah is the King of Israel, and his teachings are the law and polity of the Kingdom. Jesus is Lord, the Son of David, the King who shall reign forever. Matthew’s emphasis is the King and the Kingdom of God.
* The Face of an Ox – The Gospel of Mark has no birth story for it is irrelevant how a lowly servant is born. This is the gospel of the servant of the LORD, who came to carry out his Father’s will.
The imperative word, Euqus, translated ,”immediately” is repeated over and over again in Mark. It is a word one would use on a servant, for in Mark, Jesus is hard at work, rushing to do God’s will.
Like an Ox, he plods, on undeterred by opposition, suffering or death. He came to die, as a sacrificial OX, and as the strong, carrying the burdens of we, the weak and bankrupt.
He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:4-6)
*The Face of An Eagle- In John’s gospel, we are given something unique to the other three, we are given the Divine perspective of Jesus.
The eagle flies higher, and sees clearer from farther away than any other creature on earth. Jesus is God. He came to us from above, he then descended to earth, that he might “bear us up” as on eagles wings.
And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.(John 3:13)
Jesus is presented as the one who is from above-
And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world.I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.(John 8:23-24)
His descent to us is that we might be born from above, and have everlasting life.
* The Face of a Man- Finally, in the gospel of Luke, Jesus is revealed as the ideal man, He is what mankind was always intended to be, and in him, our true humanity is redeemed and restored.
The genealogy in Luke goes all the way back to Adam, for Jesus is the representative man. He fully enters into all of man’s problems; poverty, oppression, suffering, hunger, temptation, weariness, and injustice, and as the representative man, he prevails, for he keeps faith with God his Father through it all.
Jesus tells us, of his mission, that “the Son of Man comes to seek and to save that which is lost”, and in this gospel the threefold parable of the lost coin, the lost sheep and the lost son are told.
The compassion of God for Lost and suffering humanity is shown in Luke’s preaching of Jesus , the true son of Man.
Therefore the “Beasts ” of the throne room of Revelation, do indeed reveal Jesus, in the aspect of the four gospels, and his earthly ministry. Jesus is Lord!