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Four Views Of Christ

Scripture: Ezekiel 1:4-10; Text: Ezekiel 1:10

"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" (Ezekiel 1:10).

Out of the fiery heart of a whirling storm cloud, Ezekiel saw four living creatures emerge. They were identical in appearance and each one had four faces, four wings and four hands. They came out of a "whirlwind" and a "great cloud" with fire flashing so rapidly that each flash seemed to catch the one before it. The picture is that of an awful storm which might ordinarily be thought to bring death and destruction, yet from it came living creatures which Ezekiel later called "Cherubims" (Ezekiel 10:20).

Perhaps these creatures shall never be fully understood by men. The mystery which shrouds them is evident by the fact that so many people have different notions about their significance. I readily confess that there is much about this passage that I do not yet understand, but that which I have seen I now rejoice to share with you.

I think that there is significant merit in the view that these four creatures represent the four gospels. I can certainly understand the obvious similarity between four creatures and four gospels. Remember that Ezekiel did not see one creature, but four that all had the same appearance. From that standpoint the gospels might well be intended for though there are four of them (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) they all present basically the same material with regard to the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. While one writer may have focused on one face a little more than another, yet each one focused on all four faces in some degree. Because of the nature of the gospels, their messages will help us to understand the significance of the four faces of the creature which Ezekiel saw.

I believe that the four living creatures were prophetical and divinely designed to aide us in our understanding of the nature and work of Jesus. Each of the faces is intended to present a different aspect of Christ. Remember that as the creature approached, the face of a man was seen. On the right side of the creature was the face of a lion. Then on the left side was seen the face of an ox and finally on the back side was the face of an eagle. It is essential that we keep in mind that the creatures were not real, but were in fact the product of a vision from God. Therefore, I believe that the vision can help us to better understand Christ and His work, while He was on the earth.

The first face which should be considered is that of a man. As the creatures approached Ezekiel, he saw this face first. The significance of the face is that it reminds us of the humanity of Christ. All four creatures had this face and therefore all four gospels deal with His humanity. It is an essential doctrine necessary for the proper understanding of Jesus Christ. The gospels declare His humanity in a variety of ways, one of which is to address Him as the Son of man. Jesus speaking of Himself said, "For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). A similar statement is recorded in Matthew 18:11. In Mark 8:38 Jesus said, "Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels." The gospel of John also refers to Him as the Son of man saying, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man" (John 1:51). Therefore all four creatures (gospels) present the face of a man.

The expression "Son of man" is often misunderstood. It does not mean that He had an earthly father. He is not the offspring of man, but He is the descendant of man and His lineage is traced for us in the first chapter of Matthew. The idea is that the Word was made flesh and dwelt among men (John 1:14). The expression "Son of man" is to designate His humanity. He was and still is the Son of God (Luke 1:35) but by Mary He received a body of flesh. Therefore when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman (Galatians 4:4). By this means, God prepared a body for Jesus (Hebrews 10:5). The face of the man simply teaches that though He is God yet He took a body of flesh and those who gazed upon Him saw the "Face of a man." As a man He hungered, thirst, wearied, wept, and was sympathetic to the poor and suffering.

The humanity of Christ is essential for our salvation. If He had only been God, He could never have died for our sin. In order for Him to die for sinners, it was necessary for Christ to take a body of flesh. The body of flesh could die for the sins that flesh had committed. Only by His miraculous virgin birth could He enter a body exempt of the sin and depravity which mankind perpetuates. Therefore, by a virgin He took a body and for approximately thirty-three years lived on this earth. He came as a man to be our Mediator. Paul wrote, "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 2:5). As God, He could reach the Father and as man He could reach us and by Himself He brought us to God (1 Peter 3:18). "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh" (Romans 8:3). If it were not for the humanity of Christ, we would not have been saved. By the death of His body, our sin debt was paid. He bore our sins in His own body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24) and I am so glad He did. Thank God for this message of eternal hope that is viewed in the face of a man - Jesus.

The second face which should be viewed is that of a lion. The lion is considered the king of beasts and therefore the lion has become a symbol of kingly authority. Jesus is referred to as "the Lion of the tribe of Juda" (Revelation 5:5) and so this face of a lion is intended to portray Christ as king. I think that it is significant to notice the frequence with which the word "kingdom" and expressions like "the kingdom of God" and "kingdom of heaven" are used in the gospels. Even the ancient prophet predicted the kingship of Jesus, saying, "Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this" (Isaiah 9:7). Repeatedly Jesus is referred to as king in the New Testament. When the wise men of th east arrived in Jerusalem they inquired of Jesus "Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him" (Matthew 2:2). In John 1:49 He is confessed as King; "Nathanael answered and said unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel."

While He was called the "King of Israel," His kingdom reaches far beyond the boundaries of that or any nation. The reign of Christ reaches into all nations of the world. He has redeemed a people out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation (Revelation 5:9) and as "king of the Jews" He is king over all the elect. Paul said, "But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God" (Romans 2:29). Gentiles are made spiritual Jews by the redeeming grace of God.

He is now reigning "For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet" (1 Corinthians 15:25). Since He has made us kings and priests to our God and His Father (Revelation 1:6), He is "KING OF KING, AND LORD OF LORDS" (Revelation 19:16). He reigns as king, for He exercises kingly authority over His kingdom. As King, He possesses power greater than any earthly king has known. Theirs was a power vested in them by the position they occupied which gave them wealth and the allegiance of men, but with Jesus the power belonged to Him before He took the reigns of the kingdom. His power is not only over flesh (John 17:2) but also over all the realm of nature. At His word, the sea and wind change. He not only possesses power over life, but death also. Men could not take His life, so He gave it up (John 10:18) and the grave could not keep Him, so He rose again (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). He said, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth" (Matthew 28:18). Therefore as our king, we are to obey the laws of His kingdom, as set before us in the Bible. Let us therefore bow humbly before our king and reverence Him as we look steadfastly upon the face of a lion.

The third face which Ezekiel described for us was that of an ox. This face was over the left shoulder of the creatures. The ox is an animal that had been worked upon by men, to prepare it to work for him. They have been used to pull the plows that broke the field of our forefathers and pull the wagons in which they rode. Since the ox is prepared for the service of man, it's face was intended to convey Christ as the tireless servant of God and man. As you examine the gospels, I believe that you will view this aspect of Christ. I see Christ in this regard as He performed the many miracles of His public ministry. I have counted above thirty-five miracles which Christ performed and most of them were fore the benefit of others. He healed children and adults alike, of both demons and diseases. By His power the dead were raised to life again and the living were miraculously fed. Time and time again He reached out to those in need and supplied their needs out of His riches of grace. Thus, Jesus was revealed by the face of the ox, as a servant.

Yet more important was His servitude to His Father. Jesus said, "For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me" (John 6:38). The will of the Father to which He had reference, was the salvation of the elect by His death on the cross. Speaking of Christ, Paul wrote "But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Philippians 2:7-8). Paul clearly declared that Jesus took the form of a servant and as such went to the cross of death. I believe this is what Jesus meant when He said, "Even as the Son of man come not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28). When He came to this earth, it was not for the purpose of being served; but that He might serve others. He served His Father in heaven by saving His children from their sins, but He also served the saved by paying their sin debt. He literally became our servant as He represented us on the cross. He did for us what we could not do for ourselves or each other, when He became sin for us and made us righteous in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).

The servitude of Christ was manifested to His disciples when Jesus took a towel and basin of water, then washed their feet (John 13:1-17). He took the role of a servant, that both they and we might see Christ in service to God and man. Because of these truths we should be able to understand Luke 22:27, where Jesus said, "For wither is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth." He lived among men as a servant but now that He has ascended into heaven, we are to serve Him. He was our servant and as the ox, He pulled our plow of salvation. Now we are saved to serve Him as the Jews were freed from bondage in Egypt to serve God (Exodus 8:1). Look upon Jesus and see the face of the ox, then let us take His yoke upon us and join with Him in service to our Heavenly Father (Matthew 11:29).

The fourth and final face was on the back side and it was the face of an eagle. The eagle is a bird of lofty flights and so depicts the deity of Christ. We have previously viewed Him as the "Son of man," now we see Jesus as the "Son of God." As the Son of God, Jesus is divine and the majestic eagle in high flight, attracts our attention upward to see, Jesus as God. While other gospels begin with the genealogy or birth of Christ, it should be interesting to note that the Gospel of John begins with the eternity of Christ. Therefore, he focuses our attention upon the deity of Jesus by saying, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1). In this gospel alone Jesus refers to the "Father" over one-hundred times. He even emphatically declared, "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30) and "he that hath seen me hath seen the Father" (John 14:9). He truly was and is divine because He is the Son of God. I happily join with Peter to declare "And we believe and are sure that thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" (John 6:69).

His divinity was proven by all the other views of Christ, but this one focuses more specifically upon His divine nature and being. Because He was born of a virgin, He was declared to be "God with us" (Matthew 1:23) and was known as God manifest in the flesh (1 Timothy 3:16). As the King of Kings, He was seen ruling over the army of heaven and the inhabitants of the earth (Daniel 4:35). A mortal king may do the later, but only an immortal and divine King could do the former. Even by His servitude, He manifested Himself as God, for He served by saving us; which is impossible for men to perform. Jesus said, "But with God all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26) and He is God. To deny the deity of Christ is to deny many of the teachings of the Bible. If we believe the Bible, then we acknowledge Jesus as God, from everlasting to everlasting. Though we may not know as much about Him as we would like, He sees and knows our insides, as clearly as our outside. Even our thoughts and hearts are "opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do" (Hebrews 4:14). We are always changing, but being divine, He is "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). Now as always, we are slowly, gradually dying; yet as God, He ever lives to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25). Jesus is the second person of the divine God-Head. John said, "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word (Jesus), and the Holy Ghost;: and these three are one" (1 John 5:7). To gaze upon the face of the eagle is to rejoice in the deity of Jesus Christ.

In closing, I think it needs to be said, that these views of Christ are intended for a dual purpose. On the one side, they help us to see Jesus, that His glory might be made manifest. These truths honor Him and lift high His holy name. The other side is designed to invoke greater service among us as the objects of His grace. If we see what Jesus means to your welfare in time and eternity, then we should understand that He is not only worthy of your service but He is due it. Psalm 29:2 says, “Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” How can we possibly consider these truths, without our hearts being touched and stirred with the conviction, that we are to give greater service and praise to Jesus. If by His word and grace, you are blessed to see these four views of Christ, then "I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service" (Romans 12:1). It is thought “reasonable service” that we who view Him by faith, should serve Jesus gladly, daily.

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This page last updated on June 7, 2014