Of the many fascinating scriptural descriptions of heavenly things, chapters 1 and 10 of Ezekiel is by far the most stunning and complex. Ezekiel had to describe in the Hebrew language something he saw – something so incredible and foreign as to defy description. Yet describe it he did, though the account leaves modern commentaries equally confused, with some indulging in various allusions on the subject.
If we really want to understand what Ezekiel experienced, we need to allow the Bible to be our guide. Ezekiel begins by describing an incredibly fiery spectacle. “And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself [a fire inside a fire], and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire” (verse 4).
This was some of the most intense brightness you can imagine — a mass of fire concentrated in a vast cloud, so that the flames might be more distinctly observable. Yet the fire never escaped from the cloud (Adam Clarke’s Commentary). The fire “infolding” forms a circle of light, with flames moving round and round and following each other in rapid succession (Barnes’ Commentary). The color of amber in the center of the cloud is from the word ηλεκτρον, translated as very bright, and made of gold and brass. (John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible).
The living creatures – Cherubims
UFO enthusiasts describe the vision as a perennial example of ancient contact with extraterrestrial beings — supposed alien astronauts who visited the Earth in antiquity. However, they gloss over some important facts in trying to tie down this vision into the physical sphere. Let’s consider the living creatures within the flaming cloud. Though having the form of men, they have two sets of wings, four faces, and feet like calves’ hooves. Our aficionados believe that the four faces are the faces of different alien beings looking out of different windows of the spacecraft. This however is a somewhat crude and simplistic description, especially in light of Ezekiel being very precise and particular in describing what he saw.
“Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man. And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings. And their feet were straight feet; and the sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf’s foot: and they sparkled like the colour of burnished brass. And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and they four had their faces and their wings. Their wings were joined one to another; they turned not when they went; they went every one straight forward. As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle” (verses 5-10).
By comparing the description of the living creatures in Ezekiel to that of the living creatures that surround the throne of God in Revelation 4, one quickly realizes that the scenes witnessed by Ezekiel were visions of God and His spiritual host of heaven..
“As with the cherubim flanking the Holy of Holies, the wings of the living creatures in Ezekiel’s vision touch each other. Solomon overlays the cherubim with gold, while the living creatures sparkle like burnished bronze. The four faces of the creatures in Ezekiel’s vision too hearken back to the cherubim and to Solomon’s temple. Lions and bulls are frequently mentioned as part of the imagery of the temple interior (1 Kings 7:25, 29, 36). Cherubim were often depicted as having men’s heads, the bodies of either lions or bulls — sometimes a lion’s fore parts and a bull’s hindquarters (hence the calf’s feet of living creatures of Ezekiel 1:7) — and the wings of eagles sprouting from their lion or bull shoulders.” (engforum)
The ordinary angels apparently resemble men. But cherubim (Michael or Gabriel) are not ordinary angels—“every one has four faces.” So the living creatures of Ezekiel’s vision were not bizarre four-faced space aliens. Nor were they a depiction of different alien species looking out of the portholes of a spaceship. They were cherubims.
If those who want to see the living creatures as space aliens would read more of Ezekiel they would find an almost identical vision in Ezekiel 10:20. There the prophet clearly identifies the beings as cherubim, and says in verse 15 that they were the living beings he saw in his first vision.
“This is the living creature that I saw under the God of Israel by the river of Chebar; and I knew that they were the cherubim.” All four were intertwined as one for “their wings were joined one to another” (Ezek 1:9).
The appearance of these living creatures (cherubim), was apparently highly impressive—they were lit up like fire, with lightning coming out of the fire! Not an ordinary sight.
“….their appearance was like burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of lamps: it went up and down among the living creatures; and the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning” (verse 13).
Now, these cherubim had a job to perform, which meant they transported this vehicle, evidently at the speed of light.
“And the living creatures ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning” (verse 14). “And when they went, I heard the noise of their wings, like the noise of great waters, as the voice of the Almighty, the voice of speech, as the noise of an host: when they stood, they let down their wings” (verses 14, 24).
Ezekiel saw this great, luminous vehicle with wings and revolving wheels moving at lightning speed. It never had to turn; it would move instantly in any direction—like lightning darting around. This vehicle was so awesome Ezekiel had trouble even explaining it.
Vision contained throne and appearance of God
Now focus on the next couple of points, because they are truly breathtaking!
Ezekiel’s vision included a view of God’s throne. “Then I looked, and, behold, in the firmament that was above the head of the cherubims there appeared over them as it were a sapphire stone, as the appearance of the likeness of a throne” (Ezekiel 10:1).
Look closely at what was on top of God’s amazing transportation system.
“…. and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it” (Ezek. 1:25-26).
Imagine – the great God of Ezekiel1- sitting on His throne on top of this amazing transportation system, looks like a man. Study Genesis 1, and you know that mortal man was made in the image and likeness of God. Is there a connection?
Do you want to know what God really looks like? Read on closely.
“And I saw as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about. As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain [a rainbow], so was the appearance of the brightness round about.
This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.
And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake” (Ezekiel 1:27‑28).
Compare this description with Revelation 1 to get an idea of how impressive God is to behold! This is the God of the Bible. This is not some nebulous cloud, or little Lord Jesus in a manger. This is the God of the Bible! This is what He looks like and how He travels. Do you know this God?
Wheel within a wheel
Beside each Cherub a wheel was set with another ” wheel in the middle of a wheel”.
So what is the significance of the wheels?It may be that it is unusual for a wheel to be associated with our modern view of a throne. The Commentaries make it to be one traversing inside of the other. They determined four directions to which the Spirit beings were darting to whatever direction they were commanded (Ezek. 1:16, 17), without turning. As for the “engineering” aspect of the wheels, our human understanding can’t help much since we are dealing with supernaturally-composed matter.
The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary gives this description:
” . . . each wheel was composed of two circles cutting one another at right angles, ‘one’ only of which appeared to touch the ground (“upon the earth” ) “.
The biblical description, “a wheel in the middle of a wheel”, however, would indicate the one inside to be smaller than the other.
Two more important facets are depicted. The first facet is that the “rings were full of eyes” (verse 18).
The other facet of the wheel was their rings (rims) were high and dreadful (verse 18). As far as the geometrical shape is concerned it is not clear whether it means a fantastic size of spokes (wheel diametrically large) or the depth of the ring.
It’s easy to speculate on the subject of this vision because we really don’t have all the answers. It is only when the vision is rendered in translation, rather than in the original Hebrew, that makes it possible for us today to mistake angels for spaceships. What we do know is that God gave the vision so that we could visualize somewhat in our minds eye the glory associated with this great Being, His appearance and His mode of travel.
If anyone has doubts that Ezekiel’s vision is of God enthroned upon the cherubim, consider what Ezekiel says in the final description in this passage (verse 28): “Such was the appearance of the glory of the LORD.”
Then, a few verses later in chapter 2, it was said to Ezekiel, “Son of man, I am sending you to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against Me” (2:3). It is ironic that Ezekiel recognized this vision to be a message from God, yet over 2,500 years after this vision, modern-day UFO hunters want to “reinterpret” Ezekiel’s original understanding of what he saw. Ezekiel’s description of the vision ties in perfectly with other apocalyptic writings such as Daniel and Revelation.
The entire vision is not something taught in modern denominational religions. It should be though, because it would make God distinctively more real than the fuzzy image portrayed by most pastors and ministers, as well as UFO enthusiasts. Meditate on the description of the spectacular vehicle God rides in. This is God’s spaceship, and this vision should make the God of the Bible come alive to you.