What are the "wheels inside the wheels" and the creatures that Ezekiel saw in the first chapter?


The key point of reading this chapter is to look at it as describing the glory of the Son of God. He is the focus, and not the cherubim who always accompany the Lord.

This chapter shouldn't be read from the context of modern culture, i.e., interpreting the wheels as some sort of mechanical device.

The wheels speak of the the ceaseless energy and activity of God. They speak of His power and dominion. It is a metaphor from ancient civilizations to describe one who is king. You see this concept captured in an ancient throne (I forget the reference, but there are pictures of it [1]) where four "wheels" are set upon the base signifying the king's never ceasing rule and dominion of his kingdom.

From verse 16, the wheel within a wheel is like an emphasis. If a wheel has dominion over the kingdom, yet this wheel is in turn ruled by another, why this is a powerful and fearsome sight to behold!

Theologically, the big idea is that the entire earth is made a mercy seat upon which God sits.

The cherubim which accompany the King of kings are referenced elsewhere in Rev. 4, but also they are said to be set as guards to the entrance to the Garden of Eden. This is where the imagery for the Ark of the Covenant comes from: Imagine Adam and Eve being booted out of the Garden of Eden wearing the skins of the animals slain for them and as they go, they look back and behold two cherubim guarding the only way to God with the blood of the slain animals upon the mountain of God (By the way, the mountain theme is huge in the Bible, all the redemptive acts of Scripture always occur on mountains).

Anyway, from the Bible we learn that the cherubim (living creatures/beasts in some translations) protect the throne of God in the sense that they do not allow sin to enter the presence of God. They also show the way to God. It is in the first chapter that Ezekiel is describing meeting the likeness of the glory of the Lord (Ezek. 1:28). Biblically we know that Jesus Christ is the image of God (see theological note below), so Ezekiel is talking about beholding the glory of God the Son in a preincarnate manifestation. Ezekiel, as with everybody else this happens to, falls on his face in worship.


Theological Note: How do we know that Christ is the image of God? A theological starting point serves us better than a logical one because it is said that Christ is the image of God from the comparison of Scripture. For Christ is the "express image" (Heb. 1:3). He alone displays the Godhead and those who have seen the Son have seen the Father (John 1:18, cf. John 14:9). He is "the image of the invisible God" (Col. 1:15). We are to pattern or model ourselves after Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 11:1; Eph. 5:1). Therefore, it would seem that when God said "let us make man in our image" God was speaking of creating man in the image of Christ. Romans 8:29 supports this saying, "he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren." So man, who is to be patterned after Christ, shall be conformed to the image of His Son for those who believe. And Christ will be the first of many brethren.

Consider that Paul says that we are either "in Adam" or "in Christ" setting up a contrast (1 Cor. 15:21 cf. Rom. 5:12ff). Here Paul refers to our relationship to God, "in Adam" we are fallen with Adam as our representative. "In Christ" we are born again from death promised to Adam (Gen. 2:17) with Christ as our representative.

[1] Drop me line if you know the reference I'm thinking of. [BACK]

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