The eagle looks at the ministry of Jesus Christ different from the lion, the calf, or the man
By Don Ruhl
The Book of Revelation shows the four living creatures as a lion, a calf or ox, a man, and an eagle. Many scholars believe these represent the four Gospels, with the eagle representing the fourth Gospel. A lion, a calf, and a man have many similarities, whereas an eagle is in a different class. The lion, the bovine, and the man God even created on the same day, the sixth day. The eagle God created the day before, the fifth day. When you learn what the eagle represents and what the lion, the bovine, and the man represent, you will see how it is appropriate that the eagle goes before those three. The three are earthbound, even man, because he only defies gravity briefly. The three can only move on their legs. The eagle flies gently then glides effortlessly.
I want to show you that the eagle looks at the ministry of Jesus Christ in a way different from the lion, the calf, and the man.
The Eagle: A Living Creature Before the Lord
Isaiah 6 shows how the ministry of Isaiah began. He saw and heard things that made the poor man tremble in soul and body. He saw the Lord, but I want you to see who else he saw and heard and what they did, or do, “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. 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!’ And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke” (Is. 6:1–4).
Here the seraphim have one job: Proclaim the holiness of God and announce that the earth is full of His glory.
They are next to the Lord.
They are the ones who told Isaiah whom he saw and by extension, who we are reading about.
There is another time when the seraphim show and announce the Lord.
The seraphim show up again in Ezekiel’s vision. They are not called seraphim here, but from a third passage I will show you in a few moments, we know that the seraphim of Isaiah 6 are the four living creatures. There are four in Ezekiel and four in the Book of Revelation. The ones in Revelation do what the ones in Isaiah do. The ones in Ezekiel are the same as the ones in Revelation. The ones in Ezekiel do what the ones do in Isaiah and Revelation. And the ones in Isaiah and Revelation do what the ones in Ezekiel do. And what the four living creatures/seraphim do, they do in detailed ways in four Books of the Bible, because they are those four Books. Those four Books have the highest and mightiest job ever.
What do the seraphim/living creatures do in the Book of Ezekiel? “Then I looked, and behold, a whirlwind was coming out of the north, a great cloud with raging fire engulfing itself; and brightness was all around it and radiating out of its midst like the color of amber, out of the midst of the fire. Also from within it came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had the likeness of a man. Each one had four faces, and each one had four wings…As for the likeness of their faces, each had the face of a man; each of the four had the face of a lion on the right side, each of the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and each of the four had the face of an eagle…And above the firmament over their heads was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like a sapphire stone; on the likeness of the throne was a likeness with the appearance of a man high above it. Also from the appearance of His waist and upward I saw, as it were, the color of amber with the appearance of fire all around within it; and from the appearance of His waist and downward I saw, as it were, the appearance of fire with brightness all around. Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all around it. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. So when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard a voice of One speaking” (Ez. 1:4–6, 10, 26–28).
The whole chapter shows the work of the four living creatures, who carry about the Lord Himself throughout the earth.
Revelation 4 shows the endless nature of their work, “Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. 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!’” (Re. 4:6–8).
Their work is eternal. They proclaim the Lord on earth (Ezekiel) and in heaven (Isaiah and Revelation). Moreover, John 12 shows that the One whom Isaiah saw was Jesus before He came to the earth. The work of the living creatures is to announce things about Jesus Christ. How do we know about Jesus Christ? The lion, the calf, the man, and the eagle tell us. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John do precisely what the living creatures do. The four living creatures represent the Gospel accounts. Learn the Books and you will see them come across as these animals.
In John 20, the eagle revealed his purpose for writing, “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (Jn. 20:30, 31).
John selected certain signs. He believed these signs were sufficient to persuade people that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. If we believe that, we will have life in His name.
John Likes Numbers
The number three
He shows three Passovers and three other feasts Jesus attended.
John the Baptizer witnesses of Jesus three times.
Jesus is condemned three times.
Jesus speaks three times from the cross.
Peter denies Jesus three times.
Jesus did three things to restore Peter.
The number seven
He shows seven miracles during the ministry of Christ:
He turns water into wine.
He heals a boy.
He cures a paralytic.
He feeds five thousand.
He walks on water.
He heals a blind man.
He raises Lazarus from the dead.
Seven “I am” declarations
The “I am” pronouncements of Jesus Christ, and all that John shows us, answers the question of Solomon ages before. In First Kings 8, as Solomon dedicated the temple with a magnificent prayer, he pondered the size of what he had just built and he wondered at the size of God and knew that the God who inhabits the heavens could hardly be expected to dwell in a puny temple of man. During that prayer, the wise man asked a question and he would be shocked if he had known the answer, “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built!” (1Ki. 8:27).
The Gospel According to John answers yes; yes, God will and did indeed dwell on the earth! Do you know and understand who Jesus of Nazareth is?
Listen to the “I am” words, and see the pictures Jesus showed of Himself.
I am the bread of life.
I am the light of the world.
I am the door of the sheep.
I am the good shepherd.
I am the resurrection and the life.
I am the way, the truth, and the life.
I am the true vine.
So then, as He said to the Jews, “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (Jn. 8:24). “Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM’” (Jn. 8:58).
John the Baptizer
The Holy Spirit
The Arrangement of the Gospel According to John
John’s Gospel Account has an arrangement that you can see literally. Look at the text. Just gaze at it and discover patterns, even highlight words if you have to. I want show you John 1:1–18 that you might be tempted with the rest of the Book. (Leland Ryken, Words of Delight, pages 300–303.)
The first part shows Jesus in the beginning,
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
(Jn. 1:1, 2)
John repeated words, “in the beginning,” “the Word,” “God,” “the,” and “was.” The second part emphasizes that Jesus is the Creator,
All things were made through Him,
and without Him nothing was made that was made.
John used antithetic parallelism or chiasmus. The first line is: “All things” then “through Him.” The second line is: “Without Him” then “nothing was made that was made.” First it is the creation, the Creator, then the Creator and the creation. The third part shows life emanating from Jesus,
In Him was life,
and the life was the light of men.
And the light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness did not comprehend it.
(Jn. 1:4, 5)
John used gradation (Lincoln did the same in The Gettysburg Address). Gradation is the last key word in a clause becoming the first key word in the next clause. The fourth part increases the majesty of Christ by showing His forerunner,
There was a man sent from God,
whose name was John.
This man came for a witness,
to bear witness of the Light,
that all through him might believe.
He was not that Light,
but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
The imagery of light continues from earlier. The presentation of the clauses is like a chant. John used repetition again: “witness,” “Light,” sent by God or came from God. The fifth part highlights the work of the Light,
That was the true Light which gives light to every man
coming into the world.
He was in the world,
and the world was made through Him,
and the world did not know Him.
He came to His own,
and His own did not receive Him.
But as many as received Him,
to them He gave the right to become children of God,
to those who believe in His name:
who were born,
not of blood,
nor of the will of the flesh,
nor of the will of man,
but of God.
Contrasts filled that section. The sixth part reveals God arriving in human flesh,
And the Word became flesh
and dwelt among us,
and we beheld His glory,
the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,
full of grace and truth.
Suddenly, John reaches to the beginning of his work and presents a startling revelation. The seventh part presents the witness of the forerunner,
John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying,
“This was He of whom I said,
‘He who comes after me is preferred before me,
for He was before me.’”
Here John used paradox to magnify Jesus Christ. Jesus is greater than John the Baptizer in majesty and origin. The eighth part amplifies the ministry of Jesus beyond all imagination,
And of His fullness we have all received,
and grace for grace.
For the law was given through Moses,
but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
No one has seen God at any time.
The only begotten Son,
who is in the bosom of the Father,
He has declared Him.
Comparing Jesus with Moses, John exalted Jesus. Then John showed a work that only the Son of God could do.
Days and Hours
Jesus preached, taught, and worked for three and a half years. How many things do you do in three and a half years at the peak of your energy, youth, and career that you love? We know that we say and do many things in that amount of time. From what we know of Jesus and from all the interpretations and applications made of the life of Jesus, specifically His words and works, we can begin to understand what John said about the many things of Jesus and how much paper it would take to record it, “And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen” (Jn. 21:25).
Obviously then, John did not write about everything during Jesus’ ministry. We know that John selected only seven miracles to show us, plus Christ’s resurrection. If the ministry of Jesus was exactly three and a half years, and I suspect that it was, based on the precise calculations of Daniel 9, then His ministry lasted 1260 days, assuming we use the 30-day month calendar and year of the Jews. How many of those days did John choose? He used so few of the days of the ministry of Christ, that we can even come close to guessing the number of hours John showed us! Even more interesting is that the days or hours John selected were mostly the ones at the end of Jesus’ ministry! Chapters 13–17 are all one night.
John is an exciting Book. Be ready to rethink the way you look at everything when you read it. Be ready to become a more spiritual person. Be ready to see what is important to our Teacher and then make the same things important to you.
If you embrace Jesus the way He embraces you as presented in the Gospel According to John, you will never be the same.
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