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Ezekiel 1:

5 and in the fire was what looked like four living creatures. In appearance their form was human, 6 but each of them had four faces and four wings.

Revelation 4:

8a Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings.

What is the significance of 4 wings vs 6 wings?

2 Answers 2

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As with many of the scenes of Revelation, John is inspired to use an amalgam of more than one scene from the OT and even some mythical creatures from the Graeco-Roman pantheon (eg, Rev 13:1-5).

Rev 4 appears to be an amalgam of two scenes:

  • The four cherubim of Eze 1 which had four faces, lion, ox, eagle, human, and attended the throne of God, complete with rainbow, and gleaming crystal around the throne
  • The four seraphim of Isa 6 which have six wings and cry "Holy Holy Holy is the LORD of Hosts.

Note that the living creatures in Rev 4 are called neither seraphim nor cherubim.

The function of these two epiphany scenes in the OT have both similarities and differences.

  • Both scenes are used to initiate someone to a sacred office - in both cases the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel to the office of a prophet. Rev 4 & 5 appears to be the formal enthronement scene for the Messiah after His resurrection.
  • Both scenes are placed in the heavenly sanctuary as is Rev 4 & 5.
  • Isa 6 describes a worship scene as does Rev 4 & 5
  • Eze 1 describes a functioning government scene where God is administering affairs in some sense, surrounded by obedient attendant. The same is seen in Rev 4 & 5.

Thus, Rev 4 & 5 imports the meaning of both Isa 6 and Eze 1.

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What is the significance of 4 wings vs 6 wings?

They are two different classes of angel.

The four-winged creatures are cherubim, which is plural for cherub.

Ezek. 10:20-21
20This is the living creature I saw under the God of Israel by the River Chebar, and I knew they were cherubim. 21Each one had four faces and each one four wings, and the likeness of the hands of a man was under their wings.
(Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.)

They were also seen guarding the Tree of Life.

Gen. 3:24
24So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.
(Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.)

This was Lucifer's class before he sinned.

Ezek. 28:14 & 17
14"You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; you were on the holy mountain of God; you walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones.
17"Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor; I cast you to the ground, I laid you before kings, that they might gaze at you.
(Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.)

The six-winged creatures are seraphim, who stay near God's throne, singing hymns to Him.

Isa. 6:2-3
2Above 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. 3And one cried to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!"
(Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.)

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