The Book of Revelation prominently features four bizarre and mysterious “living creatures.” The four living creatures first appear in Revelation 4:6, standing “in the midst of the throne [of God] and around the throne.” They are mentioned 21 times in Revelation, so obviously they play an important role. Each of the creatures has a different appearance: “The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle” (Revelation 4:7).
These creatures also appear in Ezekiel chapters 1-11, where we see that each one actually has all four faces. Apparently in Revelation each creature only displays one of his faces.
We learn from Ezekiel 10:20 that these creatures are Cherubim (a category of angels). They accompanied God as He came to earth on His “portable throne” to lead Ezekiel on an investigation of the leaders and people of Judah who had fallen into idolatry and were about to be sent into captivity. Every appearance of the living creatures in both Revelation and Ezekiel is associated in some way with the judgment.
According to Hebrew tradition, the faces of the creatures appeared on the standards (flags) of the leader tribes as they camped around the sanctuary during the Exodus. The lion was for the tribe of Judah, the calf for the tribe of Ephraim, the man for the tribe of Reuben and the eagle for the tribe of Dan.
One of the most fascinating appearances of the four living creatures is in Revelation 6, a section often referred to as “the four horsemen of the apocalypse.” Each horse with its horseman is introduced by one of the four living creatures.
How does this all fit together? Why are the four living creatures so interested in the four horsemen of the apocalypse, and what does the scene have to do with judgment, which is the main focus of the living creatures? Where do the four leader tribes who were somehow symbolized on their standards by the images of the living creatures fit into the picture?
The answers to these and many more important questions are found in the book, “A Revelation of Jesus.” You can read the sections about the four living creatures at these links: 4:6-8 The Four Living Creatures and Chapter 6. You can read the whole book for free (click “Book” at the top of the page) or order a hard copy (click “order the book” at the top of the page).