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In Revelation 4 & 5 we see the four living creatures leading the praises to God, and ceaselessly singing "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God almighty.

But then we see these creatures introducing the four horsemen in Revelation six. (Rev. 6:1,3,5,7) Later one of the four living creatures gives the seven bowls full of plagues to the seven angels who go out and pour them upon the earth. (Rev.15:7)

I'm just wondering how this all ties together? What is the work or mission of the living creatures all about, based on these connections?

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    The four horses are divided into two groups: The first white horse becomes the color of judgment blood, both follow the direction of the sun. The other group is formed by the horse of the north where darkness reigns and then the horse of death. The two horses, the black and the white, cross each other in the period of total darkness over the earth: The Crucifixion of the Prince of Life
    – Betho's
    Feb 15, 2023 at 3:05

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I am not sure it is possible to give a final and definitive answer to this question because we are not told. However, here is a suggestion.

Four Living Creatures

The four living creatures of Rev 4-6 are parallel and an allusion to the four living creatures, cherubim, of Eze 1. The purpose of these Ezekiel cherubim was:

  • to do the bidding of God on the throne
  • to transport the throne
  • deliver messages from the throne to other parts of the creation (see Eze 1-10)

If the parallels between the two visions is valid (the parallels are quite striking - see appendix below) then the four living creatures in Rev 4-6 appear to be the four cherubim closest to the throne of God; these are the ones to do God's bidding and convey messages to others. For examples, it is the four living creatures that initiate worship (eg, "Holy Holy Holy") and instruct John to "come and see".

Four Horsemen

The Four horsemen of Rev 6 appear to be parallel and an allusion to the four horsemen of Zech 1 and 6. As such these Zechariah horsemen were messengers to the earth, in a similar fashion and function to the four horsemen of Rev 6.

Therefore, it is quite natural that since the four living creatures convey messages from the throne and the four horsemen convey them to the inhabitants of earth, that the two should be associated.

APPENDIX - Parallels between the Four living Creatures in Eze 1 and Rev 4-6

  • both have faces like an ox, lion, human, eagle
  • four in number
  • have multitudinous eyes
  • have multiple sets of wings (6 in Ezekeil and 4 in Rev)
  • associated with lightning
  • creatures that are closest to the throne of God
  • both associated with a rainbow
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It is hardly possible to be authoritative on the symbolism of Revelation, but these are the connections which I traced in my own book;

The premise (my own guess) that one of the factors in the original concept of the "four living things" in Ezekiel and Revelation was the idea that they represented the "four winds", notionally associated with God's throne in the clouds.

God's threat to scatter Elam by unleashing upon them "the four winds from the four corners of heaven". (Jeremiah ch49 v30, RSV)

In Zechariah ch6, the judgemental forces of God against the world are pictured as four chariots, pulled by horses of different colours.

In Revelation ch6, the judgemental forces of God against the world are pictured as four horses of different colours.

In Revelation ch7 v1, four angels are holding back "the four winds of heaven" to prevent them blowing on the earth. In v2, another angel orders them not to harm the earth, sea, or trees. That order is given aloud so that we may know what's happening. The other angels are obeying it already; holding back the [destructive] winds has the effect of delaying the campaign of harm to the earth, postponing it to the next chapter.

In fact what is happening in ch7 v1 is the suspension of the "four horses" campaign of ch6. That is why the martyrs were told they would have to wait before their vindication could be completed (ch6 v11). In other words, the "four horses" and the "four winds of heaven" are two different images for the same judgemental process.

If the four living creatures represent the four winds, and the four horsemen represent "the four winds of heaven" in judgement mode, then that is the connection between them.

The seven bowls are the climax of the judgemental process.

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