Ezekiel Chapter 1: Wheels within Wheels
“On the fifth day of the fourth month of the thirtieth year, I, Ezekiel the priest…was living with the Jewish exiles by the Chebar River in Babylonia. It was the 5th year since King Jehoiachin had been taken into exile.” (Ezekiel 1:1) – 593 BC • Ezekiel taken captive in 597 at age 25 • Most messages contain the month and year. The last in 571 BC
“Ezekiel’s purpose is to declare the holy character of God and to extol His glory…His message is much like that of John in the Book of Revelation, full of imagery and symbolism.” (Believer’s Study Bible)
“The sky opened, and I saw a vision of God…There in Babylonia beside the Chebar River, I heard the LORD speak to me, and I felt his power. I looked up and saw a windstorm coming from the north. Lightning was flashing from a huge cloud, and the sky around it was glowing. Where the lightning was flashing, something shone like bronze. At the center of the storm I saw what looked like four living creatures in human form, but each of them had four faces and four wings.
Their legs were straight, and they had hoofs like those of a bull. They shone like polished bronze. In addition to their four faces and four wings, they each had four human hands, one under each wing. Two wings of each creature were spread out so that the creatures formed a square, with their wing tips touching. When they moved, they moved as a group without turning their bodies.
“Each living creature had four different faces: a human face in front, a lion’s face at the right, a bull's face at the left, and an eagle’s face at the back. Two wings of each creature were raised so that they touched the tips of the wings of the creatures next to it, and their other two wings were folded against their bodies. Each creature faced all four directions, and so the group could go wherever they wished, without having to turn. Among the creatures there was something that looked like a blazing torch, constantly moving. The fire would blaze up and shoot out flashes of lightning.
The creatures themselves darted back and forth with the speed of lightning. As I was looking at the four creatures I saw four wheels touching the ground, one beside each of them. All four wheels were alike; each one shone like a precious stone, and each had another wheel intersecting it at right angles, so that the wheels could move in any of the four directions. The rims of the wheels were covered with eyes. Whenever the creatures moved, the wheels moved with them, and if the creatures rose up from the earth, so did the wheels.
“The creatures went wherever they wished, and the wheels did exactly what the creatures did, because the creatures controlled them. So every time the creatures moved or stopped or rose in the air, the wheels did exactly the same. Above the heads of the creatures there was something that looked like a dome made of dazzling crystal. There under the dome stood the creatures, each stretching out two wings toward the ones next to it and covering its body with the other two wings. I heard the noise their wings made in flight; it sounded like the roar of the sea, like the noise of a huge army, like the voice of Almighty God.
When they stopped flying, they folded their wings, but there was still a sound coming from above the dome over their heads. Above the dome there was something that looked like a throne made of sapphire, and sitting on the throne was a figure that looked like… • a human being. The figure seemed to be shining like bronze in the middle of a fire. It shone all over with a bright light that had in it all the colors of the rainbow. This was the dazzling light which shows the presence of the LORD. When I saw this, I fell face downward on the ground. Then I heard a voice.” (Ezekiel 1:1-28)
Questions? • Is this a literal depiction of heavenly realities? • Is this symbolic of something? • Is this meant to convey a meaning to Ezekiel and to the people of that time? • What does it mean to us?
“I realized I was seeing the brightness of the LORD’s glory!” (Ezekiel 1:28 – GN) • “This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of God.” (Ezekiel 1:28 – NET) • “The sight was like the glory of Yahweh.” (Ezekiel 1:28 – NJB)
The Setting • “Have you rejected us forever? Is there no limit to your anger?” (Lamentations 5:22) • “Mortal man, do you see what the Israelite leaders are doing in secret? They are all worshiping in a room full of images. Their excuse is: ‘The LORD doesn’t see us! He has abandoned the country.’”(Ezekiel 8:12)
The mindset of the people • Everything is chaos • “What hurts me most is this – that God is no longer powerful.” (Psalm 77:10) • God is not involved
“I looked at the dome over the heads of the living creatures and above them was something that seemed to be a throne made of sapphire. God said to the man wearing linen clothes, ‘Go between the wheels under the creatures and fill your hands with burning coals. Then scatter the coals over the city.’” (Ezekiel 10:1-2) • God is not involved? • Everything is chaos? • “What hurts me most is this – that God is no longer powerful.” (Psalm 77:10)
Who is God on the throne? • “God said, ‘I am who I am. You must tell them: 'The one who is called I AM has sent me to you. Tell the Israelites that I, the LORD, the God of their ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, have sent you to them. This is my name forever; this is what all future generations are to call me.’” (Exodus 3:13-15)
“And you will die in your sins if you do not believe that ‘I Am Who I Am’…When you lift up the Son of Man, you will know that ‘I Am Who I Am’…I am telling you the truth,’ Jesus replied. ‘Before Abraham was born, ‘I Am’. Then they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and left the Temple.” (John 8:24,28,58,59)
“So Judas went to the garden, taking with him a group of Roman soldiers, and some Temple guards sent by the chief priests and the Pharisees; they were armed and carried lanterns and torches. Jesus knew everything that was going to happen to him, so he stepped forward and asked them, ‘Who is it you are looking for?’ ‘Jesus of Nazareth,’ they answered. ‘I am he,’ he said. Judas, the traitor, was standing there with them. When Jesus said to them, ‘I am he,’ they moved back and fell to the ground.” (John 18:3-6)
“I want you to remember, my friends, what happened to our ancestors who followed Moses. They were all under the protection of the cloud, and all passed safely through the Red Sea. In the cloud and in the sea they were all baptized as followers of Moses. All ate the same spiritual bread and drank the same spiritual drink. They drank from the spiritual rock that went with them; and that rock was Christ himself.” (1 Corinthians 10:1-4)
Angel of the Lord • Hagar, Jacob, Moses, Gideon • Man of Nazareth • “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (John 1:46 – GN)
Ezekiel’s response to the vision • “…saying, ‘Mortal man, stand up. I want to talk to you.’ While the voice was speaking, God’s spirit entered me and raised me to my feet, and I heard the voice continue, ‘Mortal man, I am sending you to the people of Israel.’” (Ezekiel 2:1-3) • “When I saw him, I fell down at his feet like a dead man. He placed his right hand on me and said, ‘Don’t be afraid!’” (Revelation 1:17)
“When I heard his voice, I fell to the ground unconscious and lay there face downward. Then a hand took hold of me and raised me to my hands and knees; I was still trembling. The angel said to me, ‘Daniel, God loves you. Stand up and listen carefully to what I am going to say. I have been sent to you.’ When he had said this, I stood up, still trembling. Then he said, "Daniel, don’t be afraid. God has heard your prayers…”(Daniel 10:9-12)
Revelation parallels • “At this point I had another vision and saw an open door in heaven. And the voice that sounded like a trumpet, which I had heard speaking to me before, said, ‘Come up here…’ There in heaven was a throne with someone sitting on it. His face gleamed like such precious stones as jasper and carnelian, and all around the throne there was a rainbow the color of an emerald.” (Revelation 4:2-3)
“In a circle around the throne were twenty-four other thrones, on which were seated twenty-four elders dressed in white and wearing crowns of gold. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder. In front of the throne seven lighted torches were burning, which are the seven spirits of God.” (Revelation 4:4-5)
“Each one of the four living creatures had six wings, and they were covered with eyes, inside and out. Day and night they never stop singing: ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was, who is, and who is to come.’” (Revelation 4:8)
“The four living creatures sing songs of glory and honor and thanks to the one who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever. When they do so, the twenty-four elders fall down before the one who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives forever and ever. They throw their crowns down in front of the throne and say, ‘Our Lord and God! You are worthy to receive glory, honor, and power. For you created all things, and by your will they were given existence and life.’” (Revelation 4:9-11)
“Then I saw a scroll in the right hand of the One who was sitting on the throne. There was writing on the inside and the outside of the scroll, and it was sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel, who shouted with a loud voice: ‘Who is worthy to break the seals on this scroll and open it?’” (Revelation 5:1-2)
“No one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll and read it. Then I began to weep bitterly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll and read it.” (Revelation 5:3-4)
“But one of the twenty-four elders said to me, ‘Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has won the victory. He is worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals.’ Then I saw a Lamb that looked as if it had been slaughtered, but it was now standing between the throne and the four living beings and among the twenty-four elders…He stepped forward and took the scroll from the right hand of the One sitting on the throne.” (Revelation 5:5-7)
“As he did so, the four living creatures and the twenty-four fell down before the Lamb…They sang a new song: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to break open its seals. For you were killed, and by your sacrificial death you bought for God people from every tribe, language, nation, and race...’ Again I looked, and I heard angels, thousands and millions of them! They stood around the throne, the four living creatures, and the elders, and sang in a loud voice: ‘The Lamb who was killed is worthy to receive power, wealth, wisdom, and strength, honor, glory, and praise!’ And I heard every creature in heaven, on earth, in the world below, and in the sea---all living beings in the universe---and they were singing: ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb, be praise and honor, glory and might, forever and ever!’” (Revelation 5:9-13)
Amplification of Praise • God on the throne holds a scroll. Surrounded by: • 4 living creatures • 24 elders • No one is worthy to open the scroll • The violently slaughtered Lamb on the throne is worthy • A “new song”: “Again I looked, and I heard angels, thousands and millions of them! They stood around the throne, the four living creatures, and the elders, and sang in a loud voice…And I heard every creature in heaven, on earth, in the world below, and in the sea---all living beings in the universe---and they were singing…”
[The act of the scroll being handed to the slaughtered Lamb] “…does not mean that the throne of the universe is occupied by two persons, but that God, the ruler of the universe, has functionally defined his rule with his act in Jesus. Revelation’s Christology, like New Testament Christology generally, is not a response to the question, ‘Who is Jesus?’ but ‘Who is God?’ Jesus does not replace God, here or anywhere else in Revelation. God rules, but God has definitively manifested his rule in Jesus, who turned out not to be the Lion who devoured our enemies but the Lamb who was slain.” (Eugene Boring, “The Theology of Revelation”, pg 266)
“Christ and the saints conquer by dying; Satan and the powers of evil by physical force.” (Anthony Hanson, “The Wrath of the Lamb”, pg 165) • “Omnipotence is not to be understood as the power of unlimited coercion, but as the power of infinite persuasion, the invincible power of self-negating, self-sacrificial love.” (Caird, “Revelation”, pg 75)
“The historic Christian doctrine of the divinity of Christ does not simply mean that Jesus is like God. It is far more radical than that. It means that God is like Jesus.” • Elton Trueblood
“Wherever they went, they gave me a bad name. People said, ‘These are GOD’s people, but they got kicked off his land.’ I suffered much pain over my holy reputation, which the people of Israel blackened in every country they entered. ‘Therefore, tell Israel…I’m not doing this for you, Israel. I’m doing it for me, to save my character, my holy name, which you've blackened in every country where you’ve gone. I’m going to put my great and holy name on display, the name that has been ruined in so many countries, the name that you blackened wherever you went.” (Ezekiel 36:20-23 MSG)
What can we say about the One on the throne? • Ezekiel: • God is still involved • God is still powerful • Our world is not mere chaos • Revelation: • God involved himself to the ultimate degree • God’s ultimate power is his self-sacrifical love • Our world is chaotic, but follow the Lamb
“They won the victory over him because of the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony. They didn't love their life so much that they refused to give it up.” (Revelation 12:11)