A few months ago I was fortuitously tasked with giving a brief lecture on some of the similarities that are shared by two of the most captivating texts in all of Scripture. This presentation, which revolved around the books of Ezekiel and Revelation, was intended to be one of two introductory lectures that set up a new comprehensive Bible study on John’s Apocalypse that would soon take place at the church in which I serve, Cedar Grove Baptist. My task wasn’t a terribly difficult one, but it did entail a thoughtful investigation. I didn’t want to simply list similarities; it was my desire to locate specific lessons in the prophetic texts that would edify those who attended my presentation.
With this in mind, I prepared for my lecture, and in so doing made a compelling personal discovery about Scriptural interpretation: A myriad of unique applications await those who examine Scripture by comparing two or more books — applications that may not be obvious when examining only a single book. In this post, I will detail two special lessons that became apparent to me after I had spent some time comparing the books of Ezekiel and Revelation.
A Heavenly Roar
“His feet were like burnished bronze when it has been heated to a glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters.” (Rev. 1:15)
In both Ezekiel and Revelation, we find the descriptions of distinctive sounds that accompany visions of heavenly realities. The voice of Christ in the first chapter of John’s Apocalypse, for example, is recounted as being like “the sound of many waters.” This description may seem unusual, but it isn’t entirely unfamiliar to Christians; readers of Ezekiel will automatically notice a similarity. In Ezekiel 43:2, the exiled prophet portrays the voice of God in the very same manner—“like a noise of many waters.”
It isn’t coincidental that both John and Ezekiel described the voices mentioned above in the same way, for the voice of Christ in His divinity is the voice of God. This is a significant lesson which becomes apparent in Revelation when it is compared to the visions recorded by Ezekiel. Since the voice of Jesus in His divinity is experienced as nothing other than the very voice of God, the Bible not only asserts Christ’s status as God, but also suggests that God the Father, and God the Son share the same divine will. Indeed, God’s desire is uniform; the Holy Trinity speaks with a single voice.
“And I also heard the sound of their wings, like the sound of abundant waters as they went, like the voice of the Almighty, a sound of a crowd like the sound of an army camp; whenever they stopped, they let down their wings.” (Ezek. 1:24)
Further, it is only by God’s will—that will shared by all three persons—that the cherubim move and fulfill their role. In Ezekiel, we see that the angels’ wills were conformed to that of their maker’s, for “whither the spirit was to go, they went.” (Ezek. 1:12) The sound of the wings of the cherubim resounded like that of God’s voice, but only as an imitation. Angels, like us, do not share the divine will with the Trinity, but they, unlike us, are completely subservient to it; they do not act in opposition to the LORD’s desire. Christians should strive toward a similar goal—to conform our wills to that of our Redeemer’s. It should be our desire to have movements that sound like the voice of Christ.
The Four Creatures
In the fourth chapter of Revelation, we read about the appearances of four spectacular beings; each of the living creatures described by John had a distinct look. “The first living creature was like a lion, the second creature like a calf, the third creature had a face like that of a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle.” (Rev. 4:7) As for the prophet Ezekiel, he witnessed something analogous. The entities that he watched each had four faces—all of which should sound quite familiar. He writes, “As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle.” (Ezek. 1:10)
The creatures observed by Ezekiel also had four wings (Ezek. 1:12; 10:21), and John’s beings were detailed as having six flying appendages (Rev. 4:8). A multitude of eyes were witnessed by both as well. In Ezekiel’s visions, the prophet saw that the wheels of the heavenly throne chariot were covered in eyes (Ezek. 1:18). Later, he viewed the four cherubim—along with their accompanying wheels—and they all exhibited that very same characteristic (Ezek. 10:12). In like manner, John’s vision included “four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind.” (Rev. 4:6, 8)
Creatures in Contradiction
It is evident that both inspired authors saw angels (and other heavenly realities) that looked very similar, but their accounts are clearly not identical. Does this suggest that the Bible is rife with contradictions? Far from it. It is actually consoling to see differences in the writings of Ezekiel and John. Regarding these profound visions, we are dealing with religious experiences that exceed man’s linguistic capacity. I don’t believe anyone would assert that a vision of the likeness of the Glory of God would be easily describable; truly, humans can only comprehend and chronicle so much.
Yet it does seem clear that both authors saw very similar, if not identical, entities and spiritual objects. Perhaps each account rightly describes what was viewed, and through man’s limited sensible faculties different spiritual shapes, colors, and objects were witnessed by each. This is consoling because it is clear that John did not simply copy from Ezekiel; he experienced these things too, and absorbed and documented them to the best of his abilities.
In a similar way, I think the Bible as a whole uses different words, colors, shapes, and objects to describe the same heavenly realities in order to help us reach beyond the bounds of how we typically think of things. The visions of the prophet Ezekiel assert that the cherubim had four wings, while the apostle John suggests more (six). I believe that this comparison clearly makes known the otherworldliness of non-human spiritual entities. If we take both accounts as true descriptions (which they are) of the same living creatures, it appears that we are dealing with presences that are truly beyond human description—and this is an accurate depiction of God’s heavenly messengers. So one needn’t be discouraged by Scripture’s varying reports concerning certain entities. These reports do not discredit the Bible’s status as divinely inspired; they prove it.