LIVING CREATURES. A term (often “beasts” in kjv) that apparently sometimes indicates the cherubim (Ezek.1.5-Ezek.1.22; Ezek.3.13; Ezek.10.15-Ezek.10.20; Rev.4.6-Rev.4.9). In the Creation account “living creatures” designates aquatic animals (Gen.1.21), mammals (Gen.1.24), or any animals (Gen.2.19).
. A nontechnical expression in the OT referring to animals (Gen 1:21
). By using it technically, Ezekiel referred to the cherubim (Ezek 1:5
). The four living creatures in his vision each had four faces (man, lion, ox, eagle), and it was their function to uphold the firmament.
In the NT a recognition of the four living creatures in the heavenly scene was made in the Revelation (Rev 4:6-9), always present in and around the throne of the Lamb. Each had six wings (four in Ezekiel) and further differed from the OT description where the ox was replaced by an eagle, each creature having a single identity. The earliest interpretation was made by Irenaeus (a.d. 170) who held that they represented four aspects of the work of Jesus, which in turn characterized in each instance one of the gospels: the lion symbolized power (John); the calf as an animal of sacrifice symbolized priestly character (Luke); the man symbolized incarnation (Matthew); and the eagle symbolized the gift of the Holy Spirit (Mark). Subsequent interpretation most often has followed Augustine’s identification of Matthew’s gospel represented by the lion, Luke by the calf, Mark by the man and John by the eagle.