The four living creatures in Revelation – Who are they?
The four living creatures in Revelation are special among the angelic beings. They exist to praise God forever before His throne, and they hold "golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints" (Revelation 5:6-14). This means that they hold the prayers of all believers throughout time, both the prayers of the past and those that will be prayed—a fragrant offering before God's throne (Revelation 8:3-4). This eternal fragrance was first symbolized by the incense burning in the tabernacle (Exodus 25:6).
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The four living creatures are described in Revelation 4:6-9; 5:6-14; 6:1-8; 14:3; 15:7 and 19:4. They are said to be "full of eyes in front and behind" and look to John like a lion, an ox, a man, and an eagle in flight. They each have six wings and are always saying "holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come." These four living creatures closely resemble the four creatures described in Ezekiel 1:10 and Isaiah 6:2. It is not clear whether these passages are describing the same four living creatures, but it is very likely they are of the same exalted order of angels, whose main job is to worship God and speak His holiness (Revelation 19:4). In response to the worship of the four living creatures, the twenty-four elders cast their crowns before God's throne in agreement (Revelation 4:10-11).
One of the most interesting aspects of the four living creatures is that they demonstrate that Jesus, the Lamb of God, is equal to God Himself. Their worship of the Lamb in Revelation 5:6-14 is clearly directed towards Jesus Christ (Revelation 5:5; 9-10), and they say "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!" (Revelation 5:11-12) and "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!" (Revelation 5:13) and they fall down and worship the Lamb, along with "him who sits on the throne" —God, the Father. Scripture makes it clear that "the Lord is God; there is no other besides him" (Deuteronomy 4:35; 1 Kings 8:60). God spoke through Isaiah, saying, "I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God" (Isaiah 45:5-6) and Jesus Christ also responded to the Pharisees' question about His identity by saying "before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:58). Based on their subsequent attempt to stone Jesus, we know that His statement "I am" was taken to mean "I am God" and the Pharisees took it as blasphemy. But the words and worship of the four living creatures make it clear that Jesus was telling the truth.
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