Revelation 4 introduces us to a small group of heavenly beasts that play an intricate part in heaven and the judgment of the Earth in the last days. They are rather curious in their form and how God includes them as an active part in carrying out his will is something to take note of. The following is a list of their characteristics and what I believe they symbolize:
- The 1st beast is like a lion. If you look at the first instance that the word lion shows up in the Bible, it is used to refer to Israel’s son, Judah, as a courageous, skilled conqueror (Gen. 49:9). The next time it is mentioned, it is used to refer to the whole nation of Israel in the context of them being God’s chosen and his conquerors (Num. 23:24). In Proverbs 28:1, those who are deemed righteous are called “bold as a lion.”
- The 2nd beast is like a calf. The first mention of calf in scripture shows that it was a willing sacrifice made by righteous Abraham to the preincarnate Jesus and his two accompanying angels (Gen. 18:7). Calves were also sacrificed to symbolize unbreakable covenants and to memorialize those covenants (Gen. 15:8, 9, 17 ; Jer. 34:18,19). Unblemished calves were used in the Mosaic religious system to atone for sin (Lev. 9:2-3).
- The 3rd beast has a face like man’s. Man, of course, was the pinnacle of God’s creation on Earth because he’s the only one who was created in God’s image. A man’s face also represents the direction or desire of one’s heart (Eze. 6:2; 14:3).
- The 4th beast is like a flying eagle. This represents swiftness (Deut. 28:49; 2 Sam. 1:23), strong and sustained help and protection from Jehovah (Ex. 19:4; Deut. 32:11) and the ability to reach great heights (Jer. 49:16; Obad. 1:4). Eagles also symbolize God-given renewal of one’s strength (Isaiah 40:31).
- Four beasts represent the whole Earth. The number 4 is representative of the whole Earth and these 4 beasts reflect the best of all that God created in the Earth and they have been chosen as representatives of Earth in heaven.
- They are in the midst of & around God’s throne. This shows that God has exalted them to be close to him in a special relationship and to witness up close his works.
- They are full of eyes both in front and back and in their wings. Having eyes all over means they are alert and aware of what is going on around them. It also means they have spiritual insight to learn from the past as they look forward to the future with godly knowledge.
- Six wings. Wings are used to take swift action and having six of them means they swiftly help God finish and fulfill his works in the last days and exercise their God-given dominion to carry out what God has called them to do, which were all functions God brought to pass on the 6th day of creation (Gen. 1:24-31).
- They lead worship of God unceasingly. Non-stop they sing God’s praises in heaven, leading the 24 elders and the rest of heaven in a praise and worship service.
- They worship the Lamb for his worthiness to open the 7 seals (Rev. 5:8-10). It is during this moment of praise that it is revealed who these 4 beasts actually are. They are saints of God. In their song of praise with the 24 elders, they acknowledge they were redeemed to God by the blood of his precious Lamb, Jesus, and were made by God to be his kings and priests and to reign with him (see 1 Peter 2:9 ; Rev. 1:5-6). These are truths that only apply to those who are saved. It should be no surprise to us believers that we are called by God to be like lions, calves, a man’s face, and flying eagles when we note what they represent as mentioned above.
- They usher John into witnessing the opening of the 1st four seals (Rev. 6:1-8). At times, we will be called to usher other believers into what God wants us to reveal to them.
- One of the 4 beasts distributes to 7 angels the 7 golden vials full of the wrath of God (Rev. 15:6-8). This reveals that some saints in heaven will assist God and his angels in carrying out the judgments in the last days. What an honor that will be for them.
Harry A. Gaylord