Friday, 30 October 2020
The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying:
“Holy, holy, holy,
Lord God Almighty,
Who was and is and is to come!” Revelation 4:8
Continuing with the symbolism of the four living creatures of the previous verses, John describes them further, saying, “The four living creatures, each having six wings.” As noted, these four creatures represent the four gospels. They speak of the living Christ who came to accomplish His mission. The number four in Scripture speaks of creation. EW Bullinger defines it as –
“…that which follows the revelation of God, namely, His creative works. He is known by the things that are seen. Hence the written revelation commences with the words, ‘In-the-beginning God CREATED.’ Creation is therefore the next thing—the fourth thing, and the number four always has reference to all that is created. It is emphatically the number of Creation; of man in his relation to the world as created; while six is the number of man in his opposition to and independence of God. It is the number of things that have a beginning, of things that are made, of material things, and matter itself. It is the number of material completeness. Hence it is the world number, and especially the ‘city’ number.”
Of the number six, he then says it “has to do with man; it is the number of imperfection; the human number; the number of MAN as destitute of God, without God, without Christ.” That may seem inappropriate for a being before the throne of God, but it is the symbolism that is being relayed that is what is to be focused on. To get a further clue as to these beings, Isaiah 6 provides the following –
“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. 2 Above 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. 3 And one cried to another and said:
‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
The whole earth is full of His glory!’” Isaiah 6:1-3
In this, we have a representation of the four gospels – the message of Christ that goes throughout the whole world (the created order) to all peoples (the human number). Those who respond are covered by the kanaph (the Hebrew word for “wing”), meaning an edge or extremity. The covering of the face would signify reverence and humility, covering the feet would indicate obedience and possibly modesty, and flying with two wings swiftness in executing God’s commands. Their wings then testify to the state of the redeemed in the world where the gospel has gone forth. With this understanding, John continues, saying they “were full of eyes around and within.”
It is not the wings that are full of eyes, but the creatures. The idea is that their view remains unhindered even with the movement of the wings. The eyes are that which behold. In this case, and because the eyes are all over the creatures, they never stop viewing the Lord. Because of the glory they see, John says, “And they do not rest day or night.”
As the creatures represent the gospel going forth to the people of the world, it is the continuous state of that since it was first given. It is an eternal message that never ceases to be proclaimed. The eyes speak of what it beheld in the gospels concerning the glory of God. What is displayed there is beheld by man and the response is that the creatures then say –
“Holy, holy, holy,
Lord God Almighty,
Who was and is and is to come!”
It is through the gospels that the nature of God – His Triune nature – is finally revealed to man. Thus, the call is known as the Trisagion, or “Thrice Holy.” In the gospels, man discovers that God is Father, God is Son, and God is Holy Spirit. Each is Kyrios ho Theos ho Pantokratōr, or Lord the God the Almighty, and all are displayed through the Son. He is the focal point of our understanding of the Godhead. It is He who reveals the unseen God to us through the record of the gospels. As fully God, He is the One, “Who was and is and is to come.”
The phrase takes the reader back to Revelation 1:4 & 1:8. To understand the terminology, you can refer to the commentary there. In the end, it is Jesus Christ who is on display to the whole world. Man is lost, and without Him, there is no hope. But through the message of the gospels, man can comprehend the nature of God who sent the Son to redeem him. The proclamation of “Holy, holy, holy” continues on forever because man who has come to Christ will live forever in the presence of God to declare His praise. It will be an unceasing chorus proclaiming His glory for all eternity.
A notable difference between Isaiah’s vision and John’s is when the seraphim in the temple at Jerusalem spoke, they said, “The whole earth is full of His glory.” However, the angels in John’s vision say, “Who was and is and is to come.” The difference is that Isaiah was on earth and God’s presence in the temple was radiating out through the world, illuminating it with His splendor. John, however, was taken to the heavenly throne room. Instead of speaking of His illumination of the creation (something already implied in the “four” gospels), the creatures proclaim His eternality – He is the one who transcends time, space, and matter which comprise His creation. He is infinitely and timelessly holy.
Life application: In the vision Isaiah beheld, the four living creatures are called seraphim. This word means “burning ones,” and their burning appearance certainly comes from reflecting the glory of God. This is similar to Moses’ face when he spoke with God. Afterward, his face shone radiantly. These creatures are always in the presence of God and therefore burn intensely. Therefore, they behold the glory of God directly and they are continuously strengthened in their being. They are ever being revitalized from the glory of what they see and will be eternally awake, alert, and responsive to what they behold.
God is infinitely holy, or infinitely separated from what is fallen and sinful. In this repetition of “holy, holy, holy,” there is an emphasis on God’s supreme holiness. But holiness doesn’t just separate “from,” it also separates “to.” When someone or something is dedicated and purified, there is a separation “to” God. The perfect separation to God for humans is to be united to Him through Christ and His work on our behalf.
In coming to Christ, the transfer from “condemned” to “saved” is made. This is not of ourselves, but because of God’s work in Christ. He alone can make the change in fallen man because He alone is JESUS.
Simply unimaginable! O God, to gaze upon Your infinite glory and beauty is the desire of our hearts. Now we have Your word to meditate upon and to see what Your glory is like, but in the future, we will know intimately that which we now only see in our minds’ eye. We long for that wonderful day when we behold You through our own living eyes! Amen.