“Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. 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. “And the four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!’” Revelation 4:6-8.
“Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. 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 4:6-7.
The above has been retained for context; this post will cover Revelation 4:8a.
“And the four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!’” Revelation 4:8.
While the appearance of these creatures seems somewhat unsettling, it is likely that when we see them we will be taken with their beauty.
God is a God of beauty, just as we love beauty, since we are made in His image; and no, I cannot explain black widow spiders, unless they are a result of the fall.
Many expositors make the mistake of saying that these are the cherubim of Ezekiel chapters 1 and 10. Compare Ezekiel’s narrative of a vision of his which took place in 592 B.C. for yourself.
“Then I looked, and behold, a whirlwind was coming out of the north, a great cloud with raging fire engulfing itself; and brightness was all around it and radiating out of its midst like the color of amber, out of the midst of the fire. Also from within it came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had the likeness of a man. Each one had four faces, and each one had four wings.” Ezekiel 1:4-6.
“As for the likeness of their faces, each had the face of a man, each of the four had the face of a lion on the right side, each of the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and each of the four had the face of an eagle.” Ezekiel 1:10.
These four were the bearers of the throne of God and each is shown beneath the throne.
“And above the firmament over their heads was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like a sapphire stone; on the likeness of the throne was a likeness with the appearance of a man high above it. Also from the appearance of His waist and upward I saw, as it were, the color of amber with the appearance of fire all around within it; and from the appearance of His waist and downward I saw, as it were, the appearance of fire with brightness all around. Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all around it. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.” Ezekiel 1:26-28.
Notice all the words like, appearance, as it were, and likeness, Ezekiel is describing something that cannot be described.
These four cherubim have four wings, not six; they each have four different faces, not one different face, and they are beneath the throne and not in the midst of and round about it.
The book of Isaiah, 740 to about 680 B.C. has a much more satisfactory vision than the above.
“In the year [740 B.C.] that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!’ And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. Then I said: ‘Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.’ Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said: ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged.’ Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me.’” Isaiah 6:1-8.
While the number of seraphim here are not given the number of wings is given, six. The face of these seraphim, not faces, is covered by two wings, and while Isaiah may have seen the face of the one touching his lips with the coal, his countenance is not described.
And very significantly these seraphim are depicted as being above the throne of God not underneath.
The average king, dictator, president, or occasional grand Pooh Bah, will not have anyone seated or stationed above him under normal circumstances; yet here we have God unafraid of losing the limelight allowing created beings to occupy such a position.
Maybe it is nothing, but it seems to give us a glimpse of His gentle, humble character.
A brief look at these books may clarify the differences between thrones. The book of Isaiah, as noted before concerns the period 740-680 B.C. and Isaiah himself says this of it.
“The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.” Isaiah 1:1.
Primarily focused on Judah and Jerusalem Isaiah warns the people of the coming invasion of Judah by Babylon. His message to the people is to repent and return to the Lord.
Knowing that they will not heed his warnings God also gives the promise that though they will be destroyed and carried off into captivity there will be a day of re-gathering into the land.
Along with this there are prophecies of the tribulation, and of millennial blessings, and more than any other Old Testament book, prophecies of the coming Messiah, Isaiah chapters 52-53 are likely familiar to many Christians.
The kings mentioned earlier, Uzziah and Jotham were good godly kings, while Jotham’s son Ahaz took all the good that his father and grandfather had built up and nearly ruined the country with his evil idolatrous ways. Needless to say Ahaz completely ignored the advice of Isaiah.
It is always amazing then when someone evil like Ahaz has a son, who is as good as Hezekiah, yet by the grace of God he did.
And Hezekiah with the godly advice of Isaiah was able to extend the life of the southern kingdom of Judah beyond the time of the destruction of Israel. Israel the northern kingdom was carried off in 722 B.C. by the sadistic Assyrians.
At the time of Isaiah’s vision of the throne of God in the temple at Jerusalem (Isaiah 6:1-8 quoted earlier), the Shekinah glory of God had not yet left the temple, so it was only natural that God be seated there.
The book of Ezekiel on the other hand spans the period from 592-570 B.C. about 88 years after Isaiah’s writings ended in 680 B.C.
Ezekiel was among the captives taken from Jerusalem to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar in 597 B.C. His contemporaries were, Daniel, whose prophecies and history written in the book of Daniel span from about 605-537 B.C. and Jeremiah, who ministered from about 627-585 B.C.
While B.C. dates are very confusing to read because they go backward instead of forward if you look carefully you will find that they overlap for all three of these prophets.
While the prophets Ezekiel and Daniel were writing from captivity in Babylon, Jeremiah was actually writing from the besieged city of Jerusalem with people starving all around him, yet they would not listen to him.
Because of all this the captive Ezekiel’s vision was by the river Chebar in Babylon, not Jerusalem.
The carrying of God’s throne by the cherubim to that location is because the times of the Gentiles had started with the defeat and captivity of Israel. The times of Gentile domination will continue until the end of the tribulation.
Ezekiel’s task was to faithfully carry the message to Israel that it was because of their idolatrous stubbornness that they were carried away. And that they might, even in captivity, turn back to the God of Israel.
It is not until this period that Ezekiel sees the vision of the Shekinah Glory of God departing permanently from the temple in Jerusalem, see, Ezekiel 9:3a, 10:4, 18-19, and 11:22-23.
So we do not see the throne in the temple again, Solomon’s temple, the first one, was destroyed soon after (about 586 B.C.).
Continuing in verse 8, the four living creatures are described as “full of eyes around and within”.
“And the four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!’” Revelation 4:8.
Well as we read these things a thought comes to mind, “What is wrong with this picture?” The easiest and safest solution is to say, “I will know when I get there.”
It is safe because folks like to say things like, “Oh, that is allegorical, the ocean cannot turn into blood”, which many have done with most of the Bible.
A metaphor can be abused no end; however, there are many metaphors used in the Bible, so great care is necessary when reading Scripture. The following is a good example:
“For dogs have surrounded Me; the assembly of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.” Psalm 22:16-18.
Written nearly 3000 years ago this must have been something of a puzzler back then, but having read of the crucifixion of the Lord nothing could seem as plain as it is today.
Yet the dogs; the dogs were a metaphor for the ungodly Gentiles who were also at the cross.
Let us say then that the seraphim in verse 8 are exactly as described, what of the eyes?
“For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.” 2 Chronicles 16:9a.
The eyes of the Lord speak of His omniscience, His all knowing; perhaps the “eyes around and within” on the living creatures suggests some form of limited omniscience. I know that is a contradiction of terms but it is the best I can do; only God is omniscient.
I think that these seraphim surrounding the throne of God may well be in charge of the chronicles of the Lord or archivist of some sort. In other words witnesses to all things God does concerning His created beings. If this is so, no wonder they continually say “Holy, holy, holy”.
“Above it [God’s throne] stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!’ And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.” Isaiah 6:2-4; 740 B.C.
“Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” Revelation 4:8b; 90 A.D.
Revelation 4:8a taken from godisrevealed.com updated on 10-22-16, reposted on 6-9-22.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version, copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission, all rights reserved.