Christians and Bible students often gloss over the subject of “cherubim” in Scripture — most of their notions of what the cherubim are rely on inherited myths or reductive definitions. Probably the most common belief, of course, is that they are some kind of winged angels — whether a baby, man or chimera — but this simplistic idea cannot be reconciled with the entirety of the Scripture, which is what we propose to demonstrate in this essay.
Admittedly however, this involves a somewhat painstaking process — and we would encourage readers to take this subject slowly — as a quick or cursory reading may likely be confusing. Regardless, we’ll endeavor to make it as simple and straightforward as possible.
The most widely held view of the cherubim comes from the description of the ark of the covenant in Exodus 25:20,
And the cherubim shall have their wings spread upward, covering the atoning cover with their wings and facing one another; the faces of the cherubim are to be turned toward the atoning cover.
Most imagine two human-like figures facing one another with wings coming out of their respective backs. It is strange how widely held this view is — considering there is little in this verse that describes them this way. Although we may never know exactly how they looked, we can certainly get a good idea from evidence elsewhere in the Scripture itself.
Many, of course, commonly believe that the cherubim themselves are actual angels — and the cornerstone verse used to prove this notion probably comes from Genesis 3:24,
So He drove the man out; and at the east of the Garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.
Yet it is actually quite reductive to assume that the cherubim here could be referring only to literal angels — and we will show why this is an overly simplistic assumption.
A COPY AND SHADOW
That the cherubim are on the ark of the covenant — which is a part of the tabernacle — should immediately bring Hebrews 8:4-5 to mind:
4 Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law; 5 who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, “See,” He says, “that you make all things by the pattern which was shown to you on the mountain.”
The Hellenized writer of Hebrews tells us that the purpose of the tabernacle was to serve a “copy and shadow of the heavenly things,” but what does that mean? The deliberate choice of the phrase “copy and shadow” in this context refers to the famous allegory of “Plato’s Cave” — where prisoners are chained in such a manner that they cannot move and are able to see only the back wall of the cave. Behind the prisoners is a light source — and when objects are held up between the light source and the prisoners, the prisoners see only the shadows of the objects but not the objects themselves.
The shadow on the wall gives a general idea of what the object is, but it cannot hope to represent the fullness of the object. Consider someone’s shadow — and how dull that shadow compares to seeing the actual living person standing right in front of you with all the color, depth and details.
Not only does the writer of Hebrews use this allegory of Plato’s Cave, but all of the New Testament writers do as well — in fact, while Plato may have popularized the concept, he certainly wasn’t the first to conceive of it — as it far predates him. Some scholars have gone as far as to say that Plato could not have come to his understanding of the cave unless he was a student of Moses.
Hebrews 8 and 9 explains how the tabernacle was a “shadow” of the actual work the Lord Jesus would do for the sake of our salvation — making the meaning of “shadow” here more evident. Hebrews 9:5 says,
and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the atoning cover; but about these things we cannot now speak in detail.
If the writer of Hebrews specifically mentioned the presence of the cherubim in the tabernacle, then we can assume that the cherubim are also a “copy and shadow of the heavenly things” — which would automatically refute the notion that cherubim are literal angels.
While the writer of Hebrews goes on to tell us that he “cannot now speak in detail” on the topic of cherubim — we will endeavor to do exactly that — speak now in detail.
Exodus 25:22 says,
There I will meet with you; and from above the atoning cover, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak to you about every commandment that I will give you for the sons of Israel.
Here the Lord tells us He would speak from between the two cherubim above the ark of the covenant. 1 Samuel 4:4 takes it even further,
So the people sent men to Shiloh, and from there they carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord of armies who is enthroned above the cherubim; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.
This is the first time when the Lord is not only said to speak from between the cherubim, but is also enthroned above the cherubim — but his is also mentioned elsewhere — in 2 Samuel 6:2, 2 Kings 9:15, Psalm 80:1 and Isaiah 37:16.
A QUICK WORD ON INTERPRETATION
Often when Christians interpret what is going on in, say, Ezekiel 1 or Revelation 4, they become very focused on first trying to have everything make sense spatially and physically in their own minds — in order to have a clear, concrete picture of what is going on. To do this is probably the intuitive approach — but not necessarily the correct one.
We should not presume that these events should be taken as literally happening — because very little of what is described in these passages is refers to some actual place in heaven or wherever. Thus, there is no need for everything to be taken literally — and it would be counterproductive to presume it is. As mentioned in Hebrews 8, these things are merely a copy and shadow.
As such, they are the heavenly things described in a physical way so that they can make sense to us. This is very clear in Hebrews 9:8-9,24,
8 The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way into the holy place has not yet been disclosed while the outer tabernacle is still standing, 9 which is a symbol for the present time. Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience… 24 For Christ did not enter a holy place made by hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us
Hebrews has stated that the outer tabernacle was merely “a symbol of the present time”, unable to “make the worshiper perfect in conscience”. Yet that physical tabernacle represented Christ entering heaven itself as High Priest to appear before God on our behalf. The writer is taking a highly metaphorical approach to his interpretation, and we should too.
More importantly, the writer’s metaphorical interpretation results in a reality which does “make the worshiper perfect in conscience”. The “copy and shadow” — which cannot make is perfect in conscience — is representing a heavenly reality which does make us perfect in conscience. Therefore, we must — and it is our endeavor — to follow that writer’s lead.
IMAGERY OF CHERUBIM — CONNECTING THE MAIN SCENES
There are probably three primary sources of cherubim imagery in the Scripture — three symbolic scenes described by the prophets of God. The first one is Ezekiel 1, which doesn’t actually mention the word cherubim. However, Ezekiel 10:15 says,
Then the cherubim rose up. They are the living beings that I saw by the river Chebar.
Ezekiel calls the “living beings” whom he sees by the river Chebar “cherubim.” Ezekiel 1:1,4-5 says,
1 Now it came about in the thirtieth year, on the fifth day of the fourth month, while I was by the river Chebar among the exiles, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God… 4 As I looked, behold, a high wind was coming from the north, a great cloud with fire flashing intermittently and a bright light around it, and in its midst something like gleaming metal in the midst of the fire. 5 And within it there were figures resembling four living beings.
Therefore we conclude that the four living beings in Ezekiel 1 are themselves cherubim, even though Ezekiel 1 doesn’t actually mention cherubim. These living beings are described in Ezekiel 1:5-11, 22, 26,
5 And within it there were figures resembling four living beings. And this was their appearance: they had human form. 6 Each of them had four faces and four wings. 7 Their legs were straight and their feet were like a calf’s hoof, and they sparkled like polished bronze. 8 Under their wings on their four sides were human hands. As for the faces and wings of the four of them, 9 their wings touched one another; their faces did not turn when they moved, each went straight forward. 10 As for the form of their faces, each had a human face; all four had the face of a lion on the right and the face of a bull on the left, and all four had the face of an eagle. 11 Such were their faces. Their wings were spread out above; each had two touching another being, and two covering their bodies.
22 Now over the heads of the living beings there was something like an expanse, like the awesome gleam of crystal, spread out over their heads… 26 Now above the expanse that was over their heads there was something resembling a throne, like lapis lazuli in appearance; and on that which resembled a throne, high up, was a figure with the appearance of a man.
Something to note about these cherubim is that they are beneath the throne in verse 26 — which agrees with 1 Samuel 4:4, which says that the Lord is enthroned above the cherubim. If we can take this thematic imagery, we see that Revelation 4:6-8 is the second scene which is describing Cherubim in some way:
6 and before the throne there was something like a sea of glass, like crystal; and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind. 7 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. 8 And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.”
In this passage we can see that four living creatures are in proximity with a “sea of glass”, which is like the “expanse like the awesome gleam of crystal” in Ezekiel 1:22.
In Ezekiel 1 there are four creatures each of which have the face of a man, a lion, a bull and an eagle. In Revelation 4 the four living creatures are a man, a lion, a calf — a young bull — and an eagle. The living creatures in Ezekiel 1 have four wings and the living creatures in Revelation have six wings.
With this in mind, the third scene describing cherubim is a seemingly unlikely place — Isaiah 6:1-4,
1 In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. 2 Seraphim were standing above Him, each having six wings: with two each covered his face, and with two each covered his feet, and with two each flew. 3 And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of armies. The whole earth is full of His glory.” 4 And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke.
Again we have creatures — this time two — in proximity with the throne. They each have six wings, which is the same amount as those in in Revelation 4. They also call out the same words as the creatures in Revelation 4, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord…” When they call out, “the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice.” Similarly, Revelation 6:1 says,
Then I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, “Come!”
The creatures of the Revelation speak with “a voice of thunder,” which is similar to a voice at which “the foundations of the thresholds trembled.”
What can often be confusing about these passages is that most translations call the creatures “seraphim” or “saraph” (Strong’s H8314). This word “seraphim” is given almost proper noun status in Isaiah 6 — and while it is not particularly necessary, as many consider “seraphim” to be some kind of order of angels.
This word “saraph” is used as an adjective to describe certain kinds of snakes:
- Numbers 21:6 — “nachash” (Strong’s H5175), or generic serpent/snake
- Deuteronomy 8:15 — “nachash” (Strong’s H5175), or generic serpent/snake
- Isaiah 14:29 — “tsepha” (Strong’s H6848), which is some kind of more specific snake
- Isaiah 30:6 — “epheh” (Strong’s H660), which is some other kind of more specific snake
Therefore, this word is not a proper noun or a specific designation — but rather an adjective which describes certain creatures. According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, the root word is “saraph” (Strong’s H8313), which means to burn. It is likely then that a snake having the adjective “saraph” means that the snake is poisonous — the venom “burns.”
However, if the adjective is given alone with no noun attached to it, we can merely assume that it is something which is burning. In other words in Isaiah 6 this word is merely being given as a description for the creatures themselves — they are “those who are burning.” Remember how Ezekiel 1:4-5 said,
4 As I looked, behold, a high wind was coming from the north, a great cloud with fire flashing intermittently and a bright light around it, and in its midst something like gleaming metal in the midst of the fire. 5 And within it there were figures resembling four living beings.
Daniel 7:9-10 says of the Lord’s throne,
9 … His throne was ablaze with flames, Its wheels were a burning fire. 10 A river of fire was flowing And coming out from before Him…
Revelation 4:5 says,
Out from the throne came flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder. And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven spirits of God
We would argue that the creatures of Isaiah 6 — “those who are burning” — is a reference to the fire in proximity with the Lord’s throne. We can conclude that apart from these cherubim having wings and hands and being aflame, there is no physical description given as in Revelation 4 or Ezekiel 1 and 10. However, as we have hopefully shown, there are other descriptors which allow us to connect them all to be referring to the same thing.
IMAGERY OF CHERUBIM — THE FIGURE ON THE THRONE
Earlier we learned that the “Lord of armies… is enthroned above the cherubim.” In each scene in which cherubim are present, there is also the image of a throne. Ezekiel 1:22,26-28 is no exception:
22 Now over the heads of the living beings there was something like an expanse, like the awesome gleam of crystal, spread out over their heads… 26 Now above the expanse that was over their heads there was something resembling a throne, like lapis lazuli in appearance; and on that which resembled a throne, high up, was a figure with the appearance of a man. 27 Then I noticed from the appearance of His waist and upward something like gleaming metal that looked like fire all around within it, and from the appearance of His waist and downward I saw something like fire; and there was a radiance around Him. 28 Like the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face and heard a voice speaking.
This character from the throne in Ezekiel 1:26-28 is also revealed in Revelation 10:1-3,
1 I saw another strong angel coming down from heaven, clothed with a cloud; and the rainbow was on his head, and his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire; 2 and he had in his hand a little scroll, which was open. He placed his right foot on the sea and his left on the land; 3 and he cried out with a loud voice, as when a lion roars; and when he had cried out, the seven peals of thunder uttered their voices.
These are the similarities across the two scenes:
- There is a great cloud (Ezekiel 1:4), where the figure in Revelation 10:1 is “clothed with a cloud.”
- From the waist down was something like fire (Ezekiel 1:27), where the figure in Revelation 10:1 has “feet like pillars of fire.”
- There was a rainbow (Ezekiel 1:28), where the figure in Revelation 10:1 has a “rainbow… on his head.”
Consider yet further similarities and connections across the Scripture:
- Daniel 7:13 says, “And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a son of man was coming”, which is the same thing as the “great cloud” in Ezekiel 1:4 and being “clothed with a cloud” Revelation 10:1 — Connecting the “son of man” in Daniel 7 with the figure in Revelation 10:1 and the figure on the throne in Ezekiel 1.
- Revelation 1:13 says, “one like a son of man”, which is the same as “one like a son of man” in Daniel 7:13 — Connecting the figure in Revelation 1 with the “son of man” Daniel 7.
- Revelation 4:3 says, “there was a rainbow around the throne”, which is the same as “the rainbow in the clouds” in Ezekiel 1:28 — Connecting the figure on the throne Ezekiel 1 with the figure on the throne in Revelation 4.
- Revelation 1:16 says, “His face was like the sun shining in its strength”, which is the same thing as in Revelation 10:1, “and his face was like the sun”, which may also be like Daniel 10:6, “his face had the appearance of lightning” — Connecting the figure in Revelation 1 with the figure in Revelation 10 and the figure in Daniel 10.
- Revelation 4:6 says, “before the throne… a sea of glass, like crystal” and Ezekiel 1:22 says, “an expanse, like the awesome gleam of crystal”, whereas Exodus 24:10 says, “and they saw the God of Israel; and under His feet there appeared to be a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself.” — Connecting the scene of Revelation 4 and Ezekiel 1 with Exodus 24.
- Revelation 1:14 says, “His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow”, which is the same thing as in Daniel 7:9, “And the hair of His head like pure wool.” — Connecting the figure in Revelation 1 with the figure on the throne in Daniel 7.
- Daniel 10:5 says, “whose waist had a belt of pure gold of Uphaz”, while the figure in Revelation 1:13 is “wrapped around the chest with a golden sash.” — Connecting the figure in Revelation 1 with the figure in Daniel 10 again.
- Daniel 10:6 says, “his eyes were like flaming torches”, which is the same as in Revelation 1:14, “His eyes were like a flame of fire” and the same as in Revelation 19:12, “His eyes are a flame of fire” — Connecting the figure in Revelation 1 with the figure in Daniel 10 again — and with the rider in Revelation 19.
- Daniel 10:6 says, “his arms and feet like the gleam of polished bronze”, which is the same as in Revelation 1:15, “His feet were like burnished bronze when it has been heated to a glow in a furnace” — Connecting the figure in Revelation 1 with the figure in Daniel 10 again.
- Daniel 12:7 says, “the man dressed in linen [Daniel 10:5 — “there was a man dressed in linen”]… raised his right hand and his left toward heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever”, which is the same as Revelation 10:5-6, “the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven and swore by Him who lives forever” — connecting the figure in Daniel 10 with the figure in Revelation 10.
- Deuteronomy 32:40 says, “Indeed, I raise My hand to heaven, And say, as I live forever”, which is the same as Daniel 12:7 and Revelation 10:5-6 — Connecting the figure in Daniel 10 with the God of Israel.
- Ezekiel 1:4,13 says, “a great cloud with fire flashing intermittently… lightning was flashing from the fire”, which is the same as Exodus 19:16,18, “there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud… the Lord descended upon it in fire” — Connecting the scene of Ezekiel 1 with Exodus 19.
- Revelation 4:5 says, “Out from the throne came flashes of lightning”, which is the same as Ezekiel 1 and Exodus 19 — Connecting the scene in Revelation 4 with the scenes in Ezekiel 1 and Exodus 19.
We conclude then that all these figures refer to the same person — Christ Jesus, the Lord of Armies, Yahweh of Hosts, the God of Israel:
- the one in Revelation 1
- the one on the throne in Revelation 4
- the angel in Revelation 10
- the rider in Revelation 19
- the one on the throne in Isaiah 6
- the one on the throne in Ezekiel 1
- the Lord of Exodus 19
- the God of Israel in Exodus 24
- the one on the throne in Daniel 7
- the “son of man” in Daniel 7
- the figure in Daniel 10
Naturally then, it is the Lord Jesus who is enthroned above the cherubim.
IMAGERY OF CHERUBIM — FIRE AND EYES
If the figure on the throne is the Lord Jesus, then what is the meaning of the recurring symbolism of fire around Him and His throne? Why are the cherubim burning as in Isaiah 6? Revelation 4:5 signifies the fire in a very specific way,
…And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven spirits of God
This is what was represented by the lampstand referred to in Hebrews 9:2 — also described in Exodus 25:31-40 — a candlestick with three branches coming out of either side, which are also candlesticks. The fire then is a representation of the Spirit of God. John the Baptist says in Matthew 3:11,
As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
Acts 2:3-4 says,
3 And tongues that looked like fire appeared to them, distributing themselves, and a tongue rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit…
The Spirit of God — the Holy Spirit — is represented by fire. If the cherubim themselves are burning as in Isaiah 6, then they themselves are consumed by the fire surrounding the throne. In Ezekiel 1:4-5 the cherubim are described within the “great cloud with fire.” Given that the cherubim are burning and within fire — and given that the fire represents the Holy Spirit — we can see that the cherubim are filled with the Holy Spirit.
What is the significance of a baptism by fire and indwelling of the Holy Spirit for the cherubim? What is even the significance of baptism by water? 1 Peter 3:21 says,
Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ
Paul says in Ephesians 5:26-27,
so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.
The symbolic purpose of baptism is the washing and removal of sin in our lives — as John the Baptist says, “I baptize you with water for repentance.” The purpose of a baptism by fire and indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the same. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:11,
Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 2:13,
But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.
On this topic, Paul speaks most severely in 1 Thessalonians 4:7-8,
7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in sanctification. 8 Therefore, the one who rejects this is not rejecting man, but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.
Paul is saying that a rejection of purity and sanctification is a rejection of the Holy Spirit itself — because the work of the Holy Spirit within us is one that must necessarily purify and sanctify us. Peter agrees in 1 Peter 1:2,
according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.
The Lord speaks to this obedience to Him working in tandem with the Holy Spirit in John 14:20-21,23,
20 On that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you are in Me, and I in you. 21 The one who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and the one who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will reveal Myself to him… 23 If anyone loves Me, he will follow My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our dwelling with him.
The Lord has said that obedience must come first — “The one who has my commandments and keeps them is the one who loves me.” Only then will He and His Father make their dwelling within us. Therefore, if the cherubim are filled with the Holy Spirit, they are sanctified by it and are obedient to their Lord Jesus in the midst of them.
The Christ Jesus Himself is described as having eyes like fire in Daniel 10:6, Revelation 1:14 and Revelation 19:2, so we naturally conclude that He is filled with the Holy Spirit as well — even as Luke 4:1 says plainly that He was “full of the Holy Spirit.”
This provides a neat segue into how else the Holy Spirit is represented — starting with Revelation 5:6,
And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slaughtered, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.
The symbolism of seven eyes representing the Holy Spirit comes from Zechariah 3-4. Zechariah 4 says,
And he said to me, “What do you see?” And I said, “I see, and behold, a lampstand all of gold with its bowl on the top of it, and its seven lamps on it with seven spouts belonging to each of the lamps which are on the top of it”
Of the seven lamps in Zechariah’s vision, it says in Zechariah 4:10,
For who has shown contempt for the day of small things? But these seven will rejoice when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel—they are the eyes of the Lord roaming throughout the earth.
Here again, the seven lamps are connected with the seven eyes, so that the Holy Spirit is represented by fire and eyes. The Lamb — who is Christ Jesus — has seven eyes on Himself, showing again that He is filled with the Holy Spirit.
Again, however, the double imagery of the fire and eyes used to describe the Lord Jesus is also used to describe the cherubim. Ezekiel 10:12 says,
And their whole body, their backs, their hands, their wings and the wheels were covered with eyes all around, the wheels belonging to all four of them.
Revelation 4:8 says,
And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within
We can naturally conclude then — given that cherubim are covered with eyes — and given that eyes represent the Holy Spirit — the cherubim are filled with the Holy Spirit. There is a certain poetry behind the Holy Spirit being represented by eyes, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:14-15,
14 But a natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But the one who is spiritual discerns all things, yet he himself is discerned by no one.
Having eyes all over one’s body represents a discernment of all things going on around — it is sight far beyond the sight of a natural man, which is exactly what the Holy Spirit gives us.
IMAGERY OF CHERUBIM — THE CHERUBIM
Ezekiel 1 tells us that cherubim have “human form,” “human hands,” and a “human face.” The word use for “human” is “adam” (Strong’s H120), which is where we get the name “Adam.” The symbolism here makes it quite apparent that cherubim are inextricably linked with the Adamic kind — they are Adamites.
Ezekiel 1:7 says,
Their legs were straight and their feet were like a calf’s hoof, and they sparkled like polished bronze.
This symbolism of a calf’s foot like bronze can be found elsewhere in Micah 4:13,
Arise and thresh, daughter of Zion, For I will make your horn iron, And I will make your hoofs bronze, So that you may pulverize many peoples, And dedicate to the Lord their unjust profit, And their wealth to the Lord of all the earth.
From this we can infer that cherubim are destined for victory against their enemies — pulverizing them as bronze hooves would pulverize. Incidentally, this same descriptor is given of the Lord Jesus Himself in Revelation 1:15,
His feet were like burnished bronze when it has been heated to a glow in a furnace
This common characteristic makes sense, as the Lord says in Revelation 2:26-27,
26 The one who overcomes, and the one who keeps My deeds until the end, I will give him authority over the nations; 27 and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are shattered, as I also have received authority from My Father;
The Lord has received this quality of invincibility from His Father — which He then bestows upon His faithful servants. Isaiah 54:15,17 says,
15 If anyone fiercely attacks you, it will not be from Me. Whoever attacks you will fall because of you… 17 No weapon that is formed against you will succeed; And you will condemn every tongue that accuses you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, And their vindication is from Me,” declares the Lord.
Likewise, this invincibility is also described in Jeremiah 51:19-23,
20 He says, “You are My war-club, My weapon of war; And with you I shatter nations, And with you I destroy kingdoms. 21 With you I shatter the horse and his rider, And with you I shatter the chariot and its rider, 22 And with you I shatter man and woman, And with you I shatter the old man and youth, And with you I shatter the young man and virgin, 23 And with you I shatter the shepherd and his flock, And with you I shatter the farmer and his team, And with you I shatter governors and officials.
This is not a literal call to arms or anything of the like — rather these things are shadows of the heavenly victory which is to come — the likes of which make earthly wars pale in insignificance. Revelation 19:14 says,
And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses.
Just earlier Revelation 19 says that the “fine linen” is the “righteous acts of the saints” — therefore the “armies which are in heaven” are the followers of the Lord Jesus. Jude 1:14-15 says likewise,
14 … Behold, the Lord has come with many thousands of His holy ones, 15 to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.
The Lord Himself confirms it in Matthew 16:27,
For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every person according to his deeds.
Thus the “bronze hoofs” of the cherubim are not exercised in worldly wars as men, but rather as angels which are “greater in might and power.” (2 Peter 2:11)
Isaiah 6, Ezekiel 1 and Revelation 4 all agree that the cherubim have wings — in the Scripture wings are a symbol for the strength and endurance which the Lord gives His servants to keep His “deeds until the end.” (Revelation 2:26) Isaiah 40:31 says,
Yet those who wait for the Lord Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.
It is the endurance His servants have in the hope and faith of a victory He will inevitably give them. Exodus 19:4 says,
You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself.
Deuteronomy 32:11 says,
As an eagle stirs up its nest, And hovers over its young, He spread His wings, He caught them, He carried them on His pinions.
This is also a teaching of the New Testament, as it is required of all Christians who professed their hope on the Lord Jesus. Paul says in Galatians 6:9,
Let’s not become discouraged in doing good, for in due time we will reap, if we do not become weary.
The Lord says in Matthew 24:13,
But the one who endures to the end is the one who will be saved.
James 5:10-11 says,
10 As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.
Many passages in the New Testament teach about the necessary endurance required to enter the kingdom of God — and the cherubim show by their wings that they have this endurance which comes from faith in the Lord. It is an endurance in the knowledge that no matter what befalls them, ultimately they will have hoofs like bronze.
It is the ultimate delayed gratification, as we are not waiting for a gratification which is to be gratified in this life. Abraham must wait until the next life to see the promises made to him, and so shall we.
Ezekiel 1:11 says,
Their wings were spread out above; each had two touching another being, and two covering their bodies.
Whereas Isaiah 6:2 says,
Seraphim were standing above Him, each having six wings: with two each covered his face, and with two each covered his feet, and with two each flew.
Between these two accounts, we have the cherubim covering themselves completely with their wings — a symbol of endurance — as we have covered — and so Revelation 16:15 says,
Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked and people will not see his shame.
Clothing in the Revelation is a symbol of righteousness and doing good, as Revelation 19:8 says,
It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.
As Paul said not to “become discouraged in doing good, for in due time we will reap, if we do not become weary.” (Galatians 6:9) The endurance of the cherubim in doing good — their wings — is a covering for their nakedness. Therefore, the cherubim cover themselves with their wings as a symbol that their nakedness has been covered by their endurance to do good.
Ezekiel 1:10 says,
As for the form of their faces, each had a human face; all four had the face of a lion on the right and the face of a bull on the left, and all four had the face of an eagle.
Likewise Revelation 4:7 says,
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.
Many believe that these symbols of a man, lion, bull and eagle specifically refer to Israel — because Judah, Ephraim, Reuben and Dan are all represented by a lion, ox, man and eagle respectively, which we see in Numbers 22, where each of those four tribes are represented by a flag — and that each flag represents the two tribes next to them as well. However, it cannot be found in the Scripture itself what was actually depicted on each of the flags.
Some effort can be made to connect animals to those tribes elsewhere, but it doesn’t work either. While Judah can be connected with a lion and Ephraim with a bull, no further symbolic connections can be made to the other tribes.
We have seen this symbolism repeated in many Christian circles — but when we searched for its origins, we found it only within extra-biblical Rabbinic sources. Therefore, we are forced to discard the idea, unless it can be proven within the Scripture itself.
Although the cherubim are closely linked with Israel — with imagery of the cherubim on the tabernacle and the ark of the covenant — the cherubim do not refer exclusively to Israel.
What we can find in the Scripture is that the imagery of lions, bulls and eagles — man already being accounted for above — are references to similar concepts. Balaam prophecies in Numbers 23:22-24,
22 God brings them out of Egypt, He is for them like the horns of the wild ox. 23 For there is no magic curse against Jacob, Nor is there any divination against Israel; At the proper time it shall be said to Jacob And to Israel, what God has done! 24 Behold, a people rises like a lioness, And like a lion it raises itself; It will not lie down until it devours the prey, And drinks the blood of those slain.
2 Samuel 1:23 says,
Saul and Jonathan, beloved and delightful in life, And in their deaths they were not separated; They were swifter than eagles, They were mightier than lions.
Lamentations 4:19 has a particularly interesting reference to eagles,
Our pursuers were swifter Than the eagles of the sky; They chased us on the mountains, They waited in ambush for us in the wilderness.
An eagle can fly swiftly and spot its prey from a far distance. There’s something about fleeing from one’s enemy — that enemy being compared with an eagle — creating a vivid certainty of doom.
There are a good many places in the Scripture using these three animals to show a general prowess — and they are also used to describe certain victory, with the might found in each animal showing their mastery over their enemies. Lions are apex predators. There is no escaping an eagle — and the charge of a bull is hard to withstand — a fearsome combination. These are all similar images to the hoofs of bronze, which is promised victory for those who believe in the Lord Jesus.
IMAGERY OF CHERUBIM — WHEELS AND MOVEMENT
The first thing to point out regarding the symbol of wheels is their innate connection with the Holy Spirit. Ezekiel 1:18 says,
As for their rims [of the wheels], they were high and awesome, and the rims of all four of them were covered with eyes all around.
Daniel 7:9 says,
His throne was ablaze with flames, Its wheels were a burning fire.
In Ezekiel 1 and 10 the wheels are covered in eyes — and in Daniel 7 they are a burning fire. Given their association with fire and eyes, they appear to signify the work of the Holy Spirit.
Wheels are then described as glorious — “their workmanship was like sparkling topaz” (Ezekiel 1:16), “they were high and awesome” (Ezekiel 1:18) and they had the “gleam of a Tarshish stone” (Ezekiel 10:9). As in many cases, the Revelation gives us the answer as to their meaning. Revelation 21:10-21 says,
10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God…
Note how in the description of the holy city, a qualifier is given early on about everything which is to proceed — it has “the glory of God”:
…Her brilliance was like a very valuable stone, like a stone of crystal-clear jasper. 12 It had a great and high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names were written on the gates, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel. 13 There were three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west. 14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.15 The one who spoke with me had a gold measuring rod to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. 16 The city is laid out as a square, and its length is as great as the width; and he measured the city with the rod, twelve thousand stadia; its length, width, and height are equal. 17 And he measured its wall, 144 cubits, by human measurements, which are also angelic measurements. 18 The material of the wall was jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. 19 The foundation stones of the city wall were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation stone was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald; 20 the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprase; the eleventh, jacinth; the twelfth, amethyst. 21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was a single pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.
See how the “glory of God” is described by precious metals and precious stones — probably the most opulent city someone of John’s time could possibly have imagined. He is not trying to tell us that the city will literally look this way — as if the glory of God could be reduced to mere precious metals and stones. Rather, he gives us an image we can tangibly relate to the glory and magnificence destined for the holy city. Revelation 4:3 says,
And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance.
Likewise, Daniel 10:5 says “His body was like topaz” — being described with precious stones also applies to the Lord Jesus, the “glory of God.” Therefore, when the wheels of Ezekiel 1 and 10 are described in like manner, we can conclude that they too have the glory of God in addition to being connected with the Holy Spirit.
Ezekiel 1:16 and Ezekiel 10:10 say,
…their appearance and workmanship being as if one wheel were within another… all four of them had the same likeness, as if one wheel were within another wheel.
Many Christians — in trying to make physical sense of this vision — will interpret the concentric wheels as some kind of alien technology — but Ezekiel is simply saying that the wheels look exactly the same. This is the only possible interpretation because Ezekiel 10:9 says that there was “one wheel beside each cherub” — “concentric” can apply only if there are more than one. Ezekiel 1:9,11-12,19-21 says,
11 Such were their faces. Their wings were spread out above; each had two touching another being, and two covering their bodies. 12 And each went straight forward; wherever the spirit was about to go, they would go, without turning as they went… 19 Whenever the living beings moved, the wheels moved with them. And whenever the living beings rose from the earth, the wheels rose also. 20 Wherever the spirit was about to go, they would go in that direction. And the wheels rose just as they did; for the spirit of the living beings was in the wheels. 21 Whenever those went, they went; and whenever those stopped, they stopped. And whenever those rose from the earth, the wheels rose just as they did; for the spirit of the living beings was in the wheels.
Note that “the spirit of the living beings was in the wheels”, yet “wherever the spirit was about to go, they would go.” We would conclude it makes sense that “the spirit of the living beings was in the wheels” because the wheels are representing the Holy Spirit and the glory of God. So “wherever the spirit was about to go, they would go” refers to cherubim following the Holy Spirit.
Yet they are moving with such perfect unity with the wheels — the Spirit — that “whenever the living beings rose from the earth, the wheels rose also. Wherever the spirit was about to go, they would go in that direction. And the wheels rose just as they did; for the spirit of the living beings was in the wheels.” Yet the unity with the cherubim was such with one another that Ezekiel 1:9,11,14 says,
9 their wings touched one another; their faces did not turn when they moved, each went straight forward… 11 Their wings were spread out above; each had two touching another being… 14 And the living beings ran back and forth like bolts of lightning.
Nahum 2:4 describes fearsome chariots which “drive back and forth like lightning flashes” — yet with unity enough that they were able to touch one another’s wings — moving with the wheels and Spirit — and move without even turning.
This image represents the perfect unity brought about by the working of the Holy Spirit and the inheriting of the glory of God by the indwelling Holy Spirit — including the resulting great prowess and efficacy. The Lord Jesus says to His Father in John 17:22-24,
22 The glory which You have given Me I also have given to them, so that they may be one, just as We are one
We have seen how the Lord Jesus is filled with the Holy Spirit — because so the Father has already glorified Him. Given that He is filled with the Spirit, He already has unity with the Spirit — and so He says, “We are one.” Christ Jesus’ desire is that we may be one just as They are one — that we have the unity which They have:
23 I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and You loved them, just as You loved Me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.
He then conjoins the unity which we ought to have with the unity They have by saying, “I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity.” This conjoining in His prayer follows the hierarchy lain out by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:3,
But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.
The Father is the head of Christ Jesus, so He says, “You [Father] in Me [Christ].” Christ Jesus is the head of men, so He says, “I [Christ] in them [us]”. By the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Christ is in perfect unity with His Father. If we follow Christ, we will receive the Holy Spirit and be in unity with Him. If we are in unity with Him, we will be in unity with one another — so he says, “that they may be perfected in unity.” This is the unity of the cherubim — because “wherever the spirit was about to go, they would go.”
The Lord covers the giving of glory — represented by the glory of the wheels — the Spirit — when He says, “The glory which You have given Me I also have given to them.” The glory the Lord received from the Spirit is the same glory which He wants to give to His followers. The Lord says in John 14:16-17, 20-21, 23-24,
16 I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, so that He may be with you forever; 17 the Helper is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him; but you know Him because He remains with you and will be in you.
Again, we see the Lord Jesus asking His Father to send us His Spirit so that we may then be given the glory He already has.
20 On that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you are in Me, and I in you.
This is yet another witness because the Lord is in unity with His Father — and if we are in unity with the Lord — then we are in unity with them — according to the proper hierarchy. The Lord confirmed this when He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)
21 The one who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and the one who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will reveal Myself to him... 23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will follow My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our dwelling with him. 24 The one who does not love Me does not follow My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.
Christ Jesus confirms how we may come into unity with Him and His Father — we are to obey His commands. If we obey His commands, the Father will love us — and they both will make their dwelling with us. It is no wonder the Lord said, “the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me”, as Hebrews 1:1-2 says,
1 God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom He also made the world. 3 And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.
What the Lord is saying in the gospel of John is essentially what we have seen in the vision of the cherubim by Ezekiel the prophet. Verse 2 confirms that we have His Son who speaks to us, just as He is speaking to us in the gospel of John. In verse 3 the author confirms, “He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature.” They are one — and the Son represents the radiance of the Father’s glory by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit — a glory the Son desires to impart to us if only we obey Him.
Another cornerstone prophecy Christians often use when attempting to “prove” that cherubim are angels is Ezekiel 28:12-16:
12 Son of man, take up a song of mourning over the king of Tyre and say to him, ‘This is what the Lord God says: “You had the seal of perfection, Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. 13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; Every precious stone was your covering: The ruby, the topaz and the diamond; The beryl, the onyx and the jasper; The lapis lazuli, the turquoise and the emerald; And the gold, the workmanship of your settings and sockets, Was in you. On the day that you were created They were prepared. 14 You were the anointed cherub who covers, And I placed you there. You were on the holy mountain of God; You walked in the midst of the stones of fire. 15 You were blameless in your ways From the day you were created Until unrighteousness was found in you. 16 By the abundance of your trade You were internally filled with violence, And you sinned; Therefore I have cast you as profane From the mountain of God. And I have destroyed you, you covering cherub, From the midst of the stones of fire.”
Incidentally, those who believe cherubim are angels also assumed that this passage refers to Satan. But these conclusions — that cherubim are angels and that this cherub is Satan — are begging the question. They merely assume that angels are cherubim — and also assume that Satan was in the garden of Eden — without bothering to actually support those assumptions — despite the fact that Satan is never mentioned in the garden of Eden — and that the Scripture never says that cherubim are angels.
Unlike Satan, there is a biblical character — who was perfect from creation — whom we can verify with certainty who was actually in the garden of Eden — and that, of course, was Adam himself. It could not be more self-evident. Adam — and possibly Eve — is literally the only character verifiably in the garden of Eden. Yet why in so many interpretations of Ezekiel 28 is Adam never even considered?
Connecting the description we have of the cherubim in Ezekiel 1, Adam has the glory of God symbolized by the precious stones — the stones of fire. He was Adamic and was even the first Adamite. But how then could he be the “covering cherub”? And what does the Scripture mean when it says “covering”?
Exodus 25:20 says,
And the cherubim shall have their wings spread upward, covering the atoning cover with their wings and facing one another; the faces of the cherubim are to be turned toward the atoning cover.
The cherubim on the ark of the covenant literally covered it with their wings. The Hebrew word for cover is “cakak” (Strong’s H5526), which carries a very literal meaning of covering, enclosing or overshadowing; however, the Scripture also uses this word to convey the idea of defending something. Nahum 2:5 says,
He shall recount his worthies: they shall stumble in their walk; they shall make haste to the wall thereof, and the defence [H5526] shall be prepared. [KJV]
The “defence” here is a covering against the wall for protection from projectiles. There are many ways this word is used metaphorically in the Scripture making it difficult to determine exactly how it could be applied to the covering of cherubim in Exodus 25 and Ezekiel 28. However, we can condense it down to a reasonable generic meaning — that whatever is covered is made safe by that covering.
Generally, then, the role of the cherubim was to keep the ark of the covenant safe. But what were they keeping safe? Exodus 25:16 says,
You shall put into the ark the testimony which I shall give you.
Many translations render the word for “testimony” here as “covenant” which renders the verse alternatively to say, “put into the ark the covenant.” By this we understand that it is referred to the “ark of the covenant” not because of what it was physically but rather because of what it contained. Yet what is this “testimony” or “covenant” which was put into the ark? Exodus 31:18 says,
When He had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, He gave Moses the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written by the finger of God.
We have explicit confirmation that these are the tablets put into the ark in Deuteronomy 10:2,
Then I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets which you smashed to pieces, and you shall put them in the ark.
Now that word for “covenant” or “testimony” (Strong’s H5715) can mean all of those things — including “covenant,” “testimony,” “law” or “witness” — all of which apply to the nature of the covenant the Lord made with Israel, as Deuteronomy 32:26 says,
Take this Book of the Law and place it beside the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, so that it may remain there as a witness against you.
There are numerous places in the law which state that the keeping of the covenant and the law was “life” to Israel. Deuteronomy 30:15-16 says,
15 “See, I have placed before you today life and happiness, and death and adversity, 16 in that I am commanding you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, so that you may live and become numerous, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to take possession of it.
Of all the places in Scripture where the keeping of the law is promised to be life, we have chosen this one for a very specific purpose — it intersects with two New Testament teachings on eternal life. Just earlier Deuteronomy 30:11-14 talks about the the commandment not being “too difficult” or “too far away” — the very section Paul quotes in Romans 10 where he explains the righteousness according to faith — and where Paul specifically explains that Deuteronomy 30:11-14 is a shadow of the righteousness according to faith. Paul writes in verse 10,
for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
Paul is explaining how Deuteronomy 30 is a teaching on eternal life, resulting from the righteousness which is according to faith.
Not only that, but Deuteronomy 30:16 states that the keeping of this law will result in life in the promised land for Israel — that Israel may “live and become numerous.” Yet in Hebrews 3 to 4, Psalm 95 is used to prove that the rest promised to Israel — the rest they were to find in the promised land — is a shadow or allegory for eternal life.
In other words, Israel keeping the law, covenant and testimony within the ark — and their success in the promised land as a result — is a shadow or allegory for eternal life. Consider then that the cherubim were covering the ark of the covenant — covering it to keep it safe.
Therefore, if the law, covenant and testimony were the way to life — and if the cherubim were keeping that way safe — and if Israel were the custodians of the ark of the covenant and all it entailed — then doesn’t it stand to reason that Israel themselves were the cherubim?
Israel certainly fulfilled the role of being a “covering cherub” protecting the covenant and law — as Paul intimates in Romans 9:4,
who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons and daughters, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the Law, the temple service, and the promises
But how do we tie this back to Ezekiel 28? We know that a “covering cherub” is one who keeps safe the way of eternal life. Genesis 3:24 says,
So He drove the man out; and at the east of the Garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.
Is it not rather self-evident at this point? Yet it is even more evocative when we consider that the word for “guard” here is Strong’s H8104, which doesn’t really mean “guard” in the traditional sense. The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon and the Strong’s Concordance define the word as “keep, watch, preserve.”
We can conclude then that the cherubim of antediluvian times were to fulfill the same role or office that Israel was to fulfill in post-flood times. Cherubim were stationed at the east of the Garden of Eden to guard — or keep or preserve — the way to the tree of life. We can connect this role with Adam — and Adamites — in a way that is very simple and self-evident — because we have an example of Israel doing the exact same thing
Furthermore, there is a very important connection to be made here, which Paul alludes to in Romans 8:14,
For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
If cherubim are led by the Holy Spirit — and sons of God are led by the Holy Spirit — then it stands to reason that cherubim and sons of God could well be the same thing. The “sons of God” in Genesis 6 are the cherubim who were placed at the east of the Garden of Eden. Hebrews 1:10 says,
Yet the number of the sons of Israel will be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or counted; and in the place where it is said to them, “You are not My people,” it will be said to them, “You are the sons of the living God.”
Paul uses this very passage in Romans 9:26 when explaining how salvation — promised to Israel — came through Israel to reach the Genesis 10 nations and Israel. The realization of becoming sons of God came through the office of the cherubim, which is Israel.
Tying this to Ezekiel 28:
- Israel is an anointed cherub which covers (verses 14 and 16)
- Israel are Adamites — who were in the garden of Eden (verse 13) — who were created blameless (verse 14)
- Israel had the glory of God in the form of precious metals and jewels associated with the temple practices (verse 13)
- Israel is the mount of God (verse 14) — “For on My holy mountain, on the high mountain of Israel” (Ezekiel 20:40)
Yet we see in the Genesis 6 account that they failed to fulfill their office as cherubim and sons of God. The “covering cherub” was destroyed by those very same events — they were destroyed by the flood. Yet 2 Peter 3:5-7 says,
5 For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, 6 through which the world at that time was destroyed by being flooded with water. 7 But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly people.
Peter is saying that just like the heavens and earth were destroyed by the flood, it will be destroyed in like manner by fire at the end of our current age. It was the flood which destroyed the previous cherubim and in like manner the current cherubim will be destroyed — except by fire. We have precedent for Ezekiel 28 that cherubim or sons of God may indeed be destroyed by such a catastrophic event.
Ezekiel 28 in the context of Israel holding the office of cherubim has not happened yet. Ezekiel 28 is an end time prophecy stating that just as the cherubim of antediluvian times died, so will those of the current office of cherubim die as well. Ezekiel 28 is something which can only apply to Israel, as we will see.
Consider that the office of cherubim was to be held by Israel — the children of the flesh according to Paul in Romans 9. However, Paul argues that the children of the flesh are not guaranteed to become children of the promise who were to inherit eternal life. He argues that there are children of the flesh — supposed to occupy the office of cherubim — who are destined to be destroyed as “vessels of wrath.”
Ezekiel 28 is prophesying against those children of the flesh who are vessels of wrath — with the king of Tyre being used as a shadow.
Let us compare Revelation 18:9-20 — an end time prophecy against the whore of Babylon — with Ezekiel 27 — also a prophecy against the king of Tyre. Feel free to read along, but we will do it point for point:
- Kings being enriched — financial success with the whore (Rev 18:9 — Eze 27:33)
- Weeping over the whore (Rev 18:9 — Eze 27:30-31)
- Fear over the whore’s destruction (Rev 18:9 — Eze 27:35)
- Cargo of gold (Rev 18:12 — Eze 27:22), silver (Rev 18:12 — Eze 27:12), precious stones (Rev 18:12 — Eze 27:12), fine linen (Rev 18:12: — Eze 27:16), purple (Rev 18:12 — Eze 27:7,16), scarlet (Rev 18:12 — Eze 27:16,24), every kind of citron wood (Rev 18:12 — Eze 27:5-6), every article of ivory (Rev 18:12– Eze 27:), every article made from very valuable wood (Rev 18:12 — Eze 27:5), bronze (Rev 18:12 — Eze 27:13), iron (Rev 18:12 — Eze 27:12,19), spice (Rev 18:13 — Eze 27:19), wine (Rev 18:13 — Eze 27:), olive oil (Rev 18:13 — Eze 27:17), fine flour (Rev 18:13 — Eze 27:17), wheat (Rev 18:13 — Eze 27:17), cattle (Rev 18:13 — Eze 27:21), sheep (Rev 18:13 — Eze 27:21), horses (Rev 18:13 — Eze 27:14), slaves, and human lives (Rev 18:13 — Eze 27:13)
- Sailors stand at a distiance (Rev 18:17 — Eze 27:29)
- Threw dust on their heads (Rev 18:19 — Eze 27:30)
Given all these parallels, it’s safe to conclude that Revelation 18 is actually quoting Ezekiel 27 — and that the king of Tyre in Ezekiel 27 is a “copy and shadow” of the whore of Babylon in Revelation 18. Yet what is the whore of Babylon?
- Revelation 17:1,5 calls the whore of Babylon “the great prostitute… drunk with the blood of the saints.” Isaiah 1:21 says, “How the faithful city has become a prostitute, She who was full of justice! Righteousness once dwelt in her, But now murderers.”
- Revelation 17:3 says she has “committed acts of sexual immorality” with “the kings of the earth.” We would encourage a full reading of Ezekiel 16 in this regard — and that you consider it in relation to Ezekiel 27 and Revelation 17-18 as a whole. The number of detailed similarities is too many to cover here as well.
- Revelation 17:4 says she is “clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold.” Jeremiah 4:30 says to Israel, “you dress in scarlet… you adorn yourself with jewelry of gold.” 2 Samuel 1:24 says, “Daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, Who clothed you in scarlet, with jewelry, Who put gold jewelry on your apparel.”
- Revelation 17:16 says that the beast “will hate the prostitute and will make her desolate and naked, and will eat her flesh and will burn her up with fire.” Jeremiah 4:30 says to Israel, “Your lovers despise you; They seek your life.” Ezekiel 16:37 says to Israel that God will “gather all your lovers whom you pleased… and expose your nakedness to them.” The Lord says that Israel’s “desolation is near.” (Luke 21:20)
The whore of Babylon is actually linked to many prophecies not just against Israel but also against the nations as well — especially Babylon, of course. However, for our current purposes, we intend to focus on how the whore of Babylon is inextricably linked with Israel itself as well.
The king of Tyre in Ezekiel 27 is the subject — and shadow — of an end time prophecy against the whore of Babylon in Revelation 18 — and in Ezekiel 28 he is also the subject — and shadow — of an end time prophecy against the “covering cherub,” which is supposed to be Israel — who is inextricably linked with the whore of Babylon in Revelation 17-18. Ezekiel 28:16 says,
By the abundance of your trade You were internally filled with violence, And you sinned; Therefore I have cast you as profane From the mountain of God. And I have destroyed you, you covering cherub, From the midst of the stones of fire.
As we have shown, Ezekiel 27 and Revelation 18 are all about an abundance of trade — but Ezekiel 27 is also about the king of Tyre. The whore of Babylon in Revelation 17-18 is inextricably linked with Israel — who is supposed to hold the office of cherubim — as we have demonstrated.
Then in Ezekiel 28:16 the “covering cherub” is accused of an “abundance of trade” — a prophecy that makes sense only if the whore of Babylon is supposed to be a cherub — and as we have shown, it most certainly is. And this prophecy makes sense only if they were on the “mountain of God,” which is Israel — as we have shown.
Is the “covering cherub” engaging in an “abundance of trade”? Yes!
And what comes after this in Revelation 19? It is the day of the Lord — the return of Christ Jesus and the beginning of the end of the age. Going back to 2 Peter 3, recall Peter said that just as the earth was destroyed by water in the flood — which destroyed the previous cherubim — the current earth is reserved for fire. Peter says in verse 10,
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be discovered.
In like manner, the current children of the flesh — who are supposed to hold the office of cherubim — will be destroyed by the coming of the Lord in Revelation 19. In the same way that the previous cherubim were destroyed by the flood, the current cherubim will also be destroyed by fire. It wouldn’t be unreasonable then to argue that Ezekiel 28 is comparing the current cherubim with the antediluvian cherubim.
With all of the above in mind, it seems inconceivable that Ezekiel 28 is a prophecy about Satan, as so many believe. In light of this scriptural interpretation, it should be clear why assuming Ezekiel 28 to be about Satan is yet another example of begging the question.
Furthermore, given what we have demonstrated here about the identity of the cherubim — and their role in prophecy — it should be evident why assuming that cherubim and “seraphim” are merely some kind of order of angels is begging the question as well.
PERFECT IN CONSCIENCE
Earlier we described our approach to interpreting the nature of the cherubim in light of Hebrews 9:
The writer [of Hebrews] is taking a highly metaphorical approach to his interpretation, and we should too. More importantly, the writer’s metaphorical interpretation results in a reality which does “make the worshiper perfect in conscience.” The “copy and shadow” — which cannot make us perfect in conscience — is representing a heavenly reality which does make us perfect in conscience. Therefore, we must — and it is our endeavor — to follow that writer’s lead.
To “speak now in detail” of the “cherubim of glory,” we have taken a metaphorical approach — without making an arbitrary or abstract interpretation which is not self-evident in the Scripture itself.
We hope that we have offered an interpretation of the cherubim that “makes the worshiper perfect in conscience” — and that instills in us the desire to live up to the responsibilities of that office. Consider Revelation 22:1-2,
1 And he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, 2 in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
Now look at Ezekiel 47:12,
And by the river on its bank, on one side and on the other, will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither and their fruit will not fail. They will bear fruit every month because their water flows from the sanctuary, and their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing.”
The oft-called “third temple” of Ezekiel 40-48 is, in fact, a “shadow and copy” of the heavenly city — the New Jerusalem — which the above comparison makes sure. Ezekiel 41:20 says,
From the ground to above the entrance cherubim and palm trees were carved, as well as on the wall of the sanctuary.
The cherubim and the trees are promised eternal life — but only so long as they live up to the office for which they are called. Psalm 1:1-3 says,
1 Blessed is the person who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! 2 But his delight is in the Law of the Lord, And on His Law he meditates day and night. 3 He will be like a tree planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season, And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.
Those whose “delight is in the Law of the Lord” are those who truly cover the ark of the covenant as cherubim should. They are the ones who keep the Lord Jesus’ commandments, as true cherubim should. They are the ones in whom the Spirit of the Father comes to dwell — as it should be with true cherubim.
They are the trees planted by streams of water which yield fruit in its season — whose leaf does not wither, and who prosper in whatever they do — in the heavenly city — the New Jerusalem.