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The four beasts that are mentioned in Rev 5:8–9 were worshipping the Lamb, "for [He] was slain and had redeemed [them] to God by [His] blood". Are these beasts humans or angels?

Rev. 5:8–9 (ESV): And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, ..."

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The KJV translates these four living creatures as “beasts,” which is a meaning given in Strong’s, but which is not the context of these scriptures. These are of a completely different office and nature than of the predator beasts of chapters 13 – 20. These are the living creatures who are the agents of God, with the characteristics of God as described in Ez. chap. 1, and are correctly translated so in Young’s Literal Translation of the above verses.

Rev. 4:6-7,

”and before the throne [is] a sea of glass like to crystal, and in the midst of the throne, and round the throne, [are] four living creatures, full of eyes before and behind; 7 and the first living creature [is] like a lion, and the second living creature [is] like a calf, and the third living creature hath the face as a man, and the fourth living creature [is] like an eagle flying.” (YLT)

Compare with Ezekiel’s description:

Ez. 1:5, 10;

"And out of its midst [is] a likeness of four living creatures, and this [is] their appearance; a likeness of man [is] to them,” ….. “10 As to the likeness of their faces, the face of a man, and the face of a lion, toward the right [are] to them four, and the face of an ox on the left [are] to them four, and the face of an eagle [are] to them four.” (YLT)

These are the same which Ezekiel identifies as the cherubim of Ez. 1:15, 20:

"15 And the cherubs are lifted up, it [is] the living creature that I saw by the river Chebar.…..20It [is] the living creature that I saw under the God of Israel by the river Chebar, and I know that they are cherubs.” (YLT)

Isa. 6:2 calls them “seraphim:”

”Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. 3 And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.” (KJV)

These are burning ones symbolizing judgment of God. God’s fury is fire (Ex. 3:2; Psa 21:9; Nah.1:6; Heb 12:29), and these have a burning flame described in Ez. 1:13 as coals of fire, and burning lamps going up and down their bodies. Isaiah sees them with six wings, whereas Ezekiel sees four wings and four faces. They fly where God wills them to go (Ez. 1:12, 20). They hand out coals of fire, which are the judgments from God (Is. 6:6; Ez. 10:2, 7)

“And he spake unto the man clothed with linen, and said, Go in between the wheels, even under the cherub, and fill thine hand with coals of fire from between the cherubims, and scatter them over the city. And he went in in my sight.” (KJV, Ez. 10:2)

They are represented in the wilderness tabernacle over the mercy seat in the holy of holies (Ex. 25: 18-20), which is a representation of the throne of God.

“And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.” (KJV, Ex. 25:22)

And we go back to Gen. 3:24,

“So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.” (KJV)

They are guardians, agents / angels of God, bearing his chariot in Ezekiel, and constantly doing the will of the Almighty.

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They are neither humans, nor angels, nor beasts, because they are symbolic. They are correctly described as "living creatures" or (in the related account in Ezekiel 1:4-24) "living beings" (Hebrew chai). That is because the Greek word in the Revelation is z~oa.

It might also be worth pointing out that while there are no beasts before God's holy throne, the symbolic beasts that are mentioned in the Revelation all have to do with satanic systems he raises up to deceive the world.

The Greek for a creature that has been made is ktisma and is found in Rev. 5:13 and 8:9 but not in 5:8-9 (thus ruling out animals, humans and angels). Further, the description of the four living creatures is such that nothing about them can be taken literally - they are symbolic images seen by John in the vision, as also seen by Ezekiel in the vision given to him. They represent spiritual truths and realities that no human could envisage or understand without God giving that revelation to Jesus Christ, who sent his angel to convey it to John.

Let me just partially quote from one book dealing with the interpretation of such matters.

"In Revelation four living creatures appear, one with the face of a lion, another with the face of a calf, a third with the face of a man, and the last as a flying eagle. These represent the whole Creation, just as four is the number of the earth. They are full of eyes before and behind. Behind their intelligent sight beholds all that was cherished in the garden of Eden, and in the entire Creation. Before lies a new Creation, and they see it, and pertain to it, though now they await the end of this world, and the consummation of all things.

...They corresponded inwardly with the mind, and the right, of God in and to his own creation of the earth and its fulness. Such creatures were first named - but not described - in Genesis 3:24, after fallen man was expelled forever, when the earth was cursed, and the world had begun its mad and ever-accelerating career downwards through time into greater and greater evil... But all this time the symbol of the cherubim stood at the gate of the lost paradise. Now 'cherubim' means 'grasped'. Man had let go all. But God had let go nothing. It was 'grasped'.

These creatures, representing God's grasp upon the nature of the Creation, and of the creature, despite man's having brought this Creation and its creatures to perpetual ruin in the Fall, I say, these cherubim appeared in the tabernacle. They also appeared in the temple. In his holy place, God signified that nothing of his was lost, whatever man had relinquished. [Likewise, before his holy throne in heaven, the four living creatures signify that God has let go of nothing to do with his creation. Then the author goes on to deal with the living creatures in Ezekiel's vision.]

...The cherubim embody the creature - ox; lion; eagle; man - the Creation lost in the Fall. [Then the author deals with parallel points in Isaiah's vision, ch. 6]

Every detail is in principle preserved for something, but that something is not in this world nor for fallen man on earth, because despite all that is below, these are seen in heaven. When John describes the new Creation in the closing chapters of Revelation these creatures appear no more. Because then fallen man and the present world will have passed away in judgment. But every thought of God, all his mind in Creation for Christ, will have come to pass for eternity. The time for mysterious symbols is over. Reality comes with eternity." (The Revelation of Jesus Christ, pp101-104, John Metcalfe)

That is why there are no 'beasts' before God's holy throne in heaven, and the 4 living creatures that are both in, and around, that throne have disappeared forever by the time the new Creation is established.

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  • Very interesting perspective. Can I have a like to the source material ? Dec 23 '21 at 21:28
  • @Faith Mendel The book is 618 pages and I don't know if it's available digitally on the author's web-site, but here is the link to that. The 'Revelation' book is at the bottom of that page. johnmetcalfepublishingtrust.co.uk/reviews.htm
    – Anne
    Dec 24 '21 at 10:17
  • @FaithMendel - I had to go through Amazon to track down my copy, which I found in a U.K. bookshop. Here is the ISBN number: 1 870039 77 7
    – Lesley
    Dec 25 '21 at 10:41
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There are different words used for beast

The one used here is zoon/ζῶον and is the same word used to describe the four zoon-s in the previous chapter.

“the first living creature (zoon/ζῶον) like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight.” ‭‭Revelation‬ ‭4:7‬ ‭ESV‬

It would appear that these are the same as those in the OT

“As for the likeness of their faces, each had a human face. The four had the face of a lion on the right side, the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and the four had the face of an eagle.” ‭‭Ezekiel‬ ‭1:10‬ ‭ESV‬‬

And the Ezekiel passage goes into more details about these beasts including that they had wings

It would appear based on cross reference of multiple passages and common features, that these four beasts are ‘angelic’ to use that word or part of the heavenly host to put it differently. Not humans, not angels per se but definitely of the heavenly realm

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Peace to you.

The 4 living creatures are the living words (“angels”….or rather “messengers”) of the Scriptures. The God-breathed Scriptures are living and are beneficial and have 4 faces:

2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for (Greek: “pros” meaning “toward, facing, face”) doctrine**, for (“pros” : facing) reproof*, for (“pros”) correction, for (“pros”) instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Each has a “face” such as an ox for teaching, etc.

The Scriptures that are God-breathed (interpreted by the Spirit of God) bring life to the Scriptures and those who will hear.

This is different than the “private” interpretation of the Scriptures by carnally-thinking men who wrest the Scriptures to their own destruction and lead many astray from the Way of righteousness….the narrow path that leads to life in this earth.

People can also be messengers when they are moved by the Holy Spirit to speak the God-breathed Scriptures to others. Men speak the God-breathed Scriptures as they are moved by the Spirit to do so as opposed to the private interpretation of natural men who only see the face-value...the surface...of parables.

2 Peter 1:19-21 KJV (19) We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: (20) Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. (21) For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

These men who are moved to speak by the Holy Spirit are the "children" set in the midst of us by the Lord.

Matthew 18:1-6 KJV (1) At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? (2) And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, (3) And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. (4) Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

We must be found receiving the "little child" sent by Him to speak His words of life and spirit (the God-breathed and interpreted Scriptures) to our hearing ears. By humbling ourselves, we shall be able to enter in to understand the Scriptures.

(5) And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. (6) But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Those who will oppose will wax worse and worse. They will not be able to enter in to understand and will persecute those who will.

2 Timothy 3:12-17 KJV (12) Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. (13) But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. (14) But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;

From a "child" did Timothy know the Holy Scriptures. Likewise, those who become humble as a child will also know the Holy Scriptures which makes us wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus whose sacrifice redeems us. We are to continue in those things which we learn and have been assured in knowing that the Lord Himself teaches us.

(15) And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. (16) All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: (17) That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

Only through the Lamb….through the Sacrifice ….the blood of our Lord Jesus…can we hear and enter in to the understanding of the Scriptures.

We must keep His sacrifice (the Lamb) at the hearing of His living words of spirit (the heavenly interpretation of the Scriptures in our hearing of them through the Spirit…Breath… sent from Heaven). The Scriptures will “sing a new song” to our hearing ears and the not the tired old "song" of the clichés we hear being preached by natural men who have no understanding of them.

Revelation 5:9 KJV (9) And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;

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