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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
    Commented Feb 15, 2023 at 3:05
  • The story about four living creatures in Rev has a parallel story in Ez 1. He speaks about four faces, but Revelation mentions only one; the face of a man, but with features of a “flying eagle”, a “lion” (probably because of a roaring sound at take off), and of an “ox” (probably because of four legs). So, we are probably hearing about features, not faces here. It seems like a flying saucer here is depicted. An airborne vessel that can shoot out four legs when landing. The many eyes that it is surrounded by could be small windows, or maybe cameras. Ezekiel’s rings within rings matches here too. Commented Apr 21 at 0:59
  • In a technologically primitive person’s mind the sight of this seemingly alive machine would have displayed an awesomeness that would have amounted to the perfect holiness of God. The words “Holy, holy, holy” would have resonated deep in the soul; at the sight of this marvellous vessel. Alternatively, there could have been four of these vessels, or one big and four small. How much poetic license is used in Revelation is impossible to say. Commented Apr 21 at 9:57

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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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    +1 And I also noticed that in Revelation 4:6 ". . . And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind." My speculation is that God assigned these creatures to watch and judge everything that God does. This is why they continually say "Holy, holy, holy" as they watch.
    – Dieter
    Commented Apr 20 at 18:45
  • @Dieter - good point - agreed.
    – Dottard
    Commented Apr 20 at 21:46
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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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Jesus has just finished judging the churches in Rev chapters 2-3 (judgment begins at the house of God: 1st Peter 4:17). Now judgment is being exercised upon the "world" systems (beginning with the throne/court room scene in Rev. chapters 4-5). The number "4," is also the number of the world government, or systems. The 4 living creatures would initiate the judgment of God upon the world. Being the closest to the throne of God, these creatures would represent the voice of God as He begins to judge the "world." The "4" living creatures appear to carry more authority than all other created beings in the throne/court scene. As such, they represent the absolute sovereign power of the only true God, and His sovereign authority to judge in righteousness and equity (Psalm 9:8). The "4" horsemen seem to represent the beginning of the judgment upon the "world" systems as they are called out by the 4 living creatures to begin the judgments, thus, it is appropriate that the "4" living creatures call them forth. This implies total judgment upon the whole non-Christian world, as seen in chapters 6-20 of Revelation. Interestingly, the earth itself, which is still under "the curse," is also judged (a new heaven and a new earth Rev. chapters 21-22)!

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