Ezekiel: The Four Living Creatures
The word of the LORD came expressly unto Ezekiel the priest ...
And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself ...
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. And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings. ...
And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and they four had their
faces and their wings. ... 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 1:3ff (Spoke 4, Cycle 2)
The opening vision of Ezekiel here on Spoke 4 contains the greatest density of the Number 4
in the entire Bible. This is one of the most stunning examples of God's perfect and precise integration of
content with form (BW book pp 40, 75). Its significance is greatly amplified by
the correlation of the Four Living Creatures
with the fourfold pattern of the camp revealed in Numbers (BW book pg 173). It is one
of the richest visions given in Scripture; a revelation of the pre-incarnate Christ sitting in all His glory upon
His Throne (Ezek 1:26). There is no plumbing its depth, its symbols come straight from the Mind of God and so
have infinite ramifications. But one thing is clear; it is a fourfold revelation of the character of God
and in many ways echoes the structure of His Holy Word. There are two obvious correlations with the pattern of the Bible,
one ancient and one new. The new correlation derives from the "wheel in the middle of a wheel" (Ezek 1:16) which immediately
evokes a sense that it must be some sort of prophecy of the Bible Wheel. This is explored in Part III of the BW book
(pg 382). The ancient correlation recognizes
the four faces of the living creatures as emblems of the four views of Christ
given in the Four Gospels. This tradition can be traced back through early Church fathers such
as Irenaeus (AD 170), Jerome (AD 420), and Augustine (AD 430), and is enshrined in countless Christian artworks
such as the thirteenth century Munich Psalter shown above (note the tri-radiant halo).
Here is how Philip Schaff explained it in his History of the Christian Church:
The Christian church, looking at the origin of the Four Gospels, and the attributes which God
has in rich measure been pleased to bestow upon them by his Holy Spirit, found a prophetic picture of them
in the four living cherubim, named from heavenly knowledge, seen by the prophet Ezekiel at the river of Chebar.
Like them the Gospels are four in number; like them they are the chariot of God, who sitteth between the
cherubim; like them they bear him on a winged throne into all lands; like them they move wherever the
Spirit guides them; like them they are marvelously joined together, intertwined with coincidences and differences:
wing interwoven with wing, and wheel interwoven with wheel; like them they are full of eyes, and
sparkle with heavenly light; like them they sweep from heaven to earth, and from earth to heaven, and fly
with lightning’s speed and with the noise of many waters. "Their sound is gone out into all lands,
and the words to the end of the world."
The correlation of the Four Gospels with the Four Faces of the Four Living Creatures naturally links to
the meaning of the Number Four as fourfold extension, like the four arms of the cross pointing in the four directions.
This idea is fully developed in the article on The Fulfillment of Ezekiel's Prophecy of the Wheels.