THE FOUR LIVING CREATURES
4 And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire. 5 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. 6 And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings. Ezekiel 1
Many consider that this passage of scripture as well as the corresponding one in Revelation 4:6-8, represents the images of the cherubim that stand in the presence of God Almighty, and that these creatures symbolize the four gospels in scripture.
However, I believe that they also represent the images of the five-fold ministries that reflect those characteristics of Christ Himself.
These creatures stand before the throne of God and are there to worship Him night and day. But if we consider the appearance of each of the four creatures faces, then we gain a deeper insight into their significance.
The face of a lion – the Bible says the righteous shall be as bold as a lion – Jesus is the Lion of Judah – when the Israelites move, the tribe of Judah was in front. The ministry of the apostle confronts spiritual darkness and territorial spirits controlling the minds of people. He is the master builder who governs with wisdom in working with others to build-up the body of Christ, to help bring them to maturity. The lion, I believe, represents the apostolic ministry in that it is one of governing. The lion as a majestic beast, symbolizes authority, and as such, governs with justice towards the other ministries in the church. The time will come then when we will no longer be children, tossed to and fro with every wind and doctrine.
The face of an eagle – Eagles fly high up in the sky, and are always searching down below upon the earth. They rise and drift upon the wind currents in the atmosphere. Spiritually, the eagle corresponds with the prophetic ministry. The eagle has sharp discernment, and can see the inner roots and motives of the heart. The prophet is the eye of the body of Christ, and helps guide and direct them to the truth. This ministry is bathed in prayer and intercession, as this time spent there is paramount for those called to this ministry. One must feed spiritually on those times spent with the Father. The revelation knowledge that is gained there is necessary for one to speak forth boldly to the people. Along with the apostle, the prophet is called upon as a foundational ministry, to help bring the body of Christ unto maturity.
The face of a man – the pastor-teacher is the most humane ministry. The pastor is like the ring finger, in that this person lays down his life for the brethren. He is the Shepherd who looks for the lost sheep to bring them into the fold. As Christ came in human form and took on the sins of the world, the pastor takes on the form of humanity in reaching the lost, and caring and feeding them with God’s word. The pastoral and teaching ministry is also called upon to help bring the body of Christ unto maturity, and to ground and protect it from those who would come to do it damage. The Father is looking for true shepherds who aren’t here to build their own kingdoms, but rather are willing to be a true servant to all.
The face of an ox – The ox is a working bull that is used in farming and with agriculture. It is a productive animal, and labors day in and day out. The ox corresponds with the evangelist, as he or she labors in the fields, gathering them into the fold, and leading them to Christ. As with the other ministries, the evangelist also helps bring the body of Christ unto maturity. We are all called upon to help bring others to Christ, but there are those whose sole calling is addressed to this divine service. Then the winds of strange and unusual doctrines can be swept aside.
All of us are called upon to be servants and not to build our own kingdoms upon this earth. The purposes of these ministries are to help bring the body of Christ unto maturity, so that the winds of doctrine will not sweep us aside from the cunning of men and their deceitfulness.
We are all called upon to work together, as no one is alone unto themselves. And then we will reach a unity in the faith, unto the full stature of the fullness of Christ. This fullness will not happen until we meet face-to-face with Christ Himself. Then we will behold the multi-faceted natures of Christ Himself, and the four living creatures will be seen in their entirety.
Stephen A. Hanson