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  • Referring to Ezekiel’s age. At the age of thirty a priest, a Levite, was qualified to begin his service to the Lord (Num. 4:2-3; 1 Chron. 23:3; cf. Luke 3:23). This age signifies maturity, indicating that in spiritual things, especially in seeing the visions recorded in this book, there is the need of maturity in the divine life (cf. 1 Cor. 2:14-15; 3:1-2).

  • A river in Babylon that flows east of the Euphrates and eventually empties into it. Chebar means strong, powerful. The river Chebar symbolizes the power of Babylon to damage God’s people (cf. Isa. 8:7-8). It signifies the tide of the present age, which carries people away from God to Babylon. There are two rivers in the book of Ezekiel: the river Chebar in ch. 1 and the river flowing out of the temple in ch. 47. The former carries the people of God away from God and destroys the building of God; the latter brings people into God’s life and builds up God’s dwelling place (cf. note Gen. 2:121).

  • The opening of the heavens is God’s special visitation (cf. Gen. 28:11-17; Matt. 3:16-17; Acts 7:56). The people of Israel had been damaged by Satan and carried away into captivity; as a result, the heavens could not be opened to them. However, among those in captivity there was a priest, Ezekiel (v. 3), who was seeking God and contacting Him and who was connected to the heavens. The heavens could therefore be opened to him and could even come down to the earth, enabling God’s heavenly things to be seen by people on earth and to be fulfilled among them on earth.

  • God’s visions are His revelations, which enable His people to see divine, spiritual, heavenly things. Ezekiel saw spiritual, heavenly visions in his spirit (cf. Eph. 3:3-5; Rev. 1:10; 4:2; 17:3; 21:10) under an opened heaven, and he presented these visions to God’s people that they might be recovered from their captivity for the building up of God’s dwelling place. It was mainly through Ezekiel’s prophesying to the people in captivity (Ezek. 3:10-11) that they eventually detested the idols, turned their hearts to God, and were returned to their homeland after seventy years.

    The Bible as a whole, and the book of Ezekiel as a miniature of the Bible, reveal that God’s eternal intention is to dispense Himself into His chosen people, making them the same as He is in His life, His nature, and His image but not in His Godhead, that they might be mingled with Him as one entity and be built together in Him to be His eternal habitation, the New Jerusalem. This is the central point of the revelation of the Bible and also of the four visions presented in the book of Ezekiel.

  • Whereas the thirtieth year (v. 1) was counted from the year of Ezekiel’s birth, the fifth year here was counted from the year of Jehoiachin’s captivity (2 Kings 24:8-16). Ezekiel also was taken captive at that time. From this verse to the end of the book the years are counted from the year of captivity. Five years after he was captured, Ezekiel began to see the visions in this chapter. In the following years he continued to see visions concerning a later capture of Jerusalem, which took place in the eleventh year of the reign of Zedekiah, who replaced Jehoiachin as king of Judah (2 Kings 24:17-20; 25:1-21). While Ezekiel was in captivity he was brought back in the Spirit to Jerusalem to see the coming events. Before Nebuchadnezzar came to Jerusalem, burned the city, destroyed the temple, and captured Zedekiah, Ezekiel saw these events in his visions.

  • God wanted Ezekiel not only to behold with his eyes but also to hear with his ears (Ezek. 40:4); hence, He gave him His words along with His visions. God’s word to Ezekiel was not an ordinary word but an express word, a special word. God’s express words enable us both to understand the visions and to proclaim and explain what we have seen (1 Cor. 2:9-13).

  • Ezekiel means God strengthens, or may God strengthen, and Buzi means contemptible, or despised. As the son of Buzi, Ezekiel was a prophet despised by the people and treated with contempt, but he was strengthened by God, the Mighty One (Heb. El). As a son of shame, a son of abasement, Ezekiel was appointed by God to be a sign to the people of Israel, a sign of their being put to shame (Ezek. 12:6, 11; 24:24, 27). As a man strengthened and empowered by God, Ezekiel could bear the shame and the disgrace in order to fulfill his ministry as a prophet of God, God’s oracle.

  • As a priest Ezekiel was one who lived in the presence of God, serving God and being mingled with God. He was in the land of captivity by the river Chebar, not in the holy temple, yet he looked to God, prayed to God, contacted God, fellowshipped with God, and waited for God. Because Ezekiel was such a person, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw visions of God (v. 1).

  • Chaldea was the place where Babel began (Gen. 11:1-9). The name Babel in Hebrew is the equivalent of Babylon in Greek. Thus, Chaldea was actually Babylon (Ezek. 12:13), the place where Satan instigated the greatest rebellion against God among the fallen people. It was also the place out of which God called Abraham that He might have a chosen people (Acts 7:2-4). At Ezekiel’s time many of God’s chosen people had been carried back to that place.

  • The hand of the Lord follows the word of the Lord. If what one ministers is truly God’s word, God’s almighty hand will follow to accomplish what he speaks. God’s hand upon man is also for leading man and for causing one to take action (cf. 1 Kings 18:46). After the Lord’s hand came upon Ezekiel, he did not act according to his own choice but according to the leading and directing of the Lord’s hand.

  • As with the entire Bible, the book of Ezekiel uses visible, physical things to signify spiritual things. The storm wind here is a figure of the powerful Spirit of God (Acts 2:2, 4a). In the Scriptures the wind has both a negative and positive significance. In its negative significance the wind is a symbol, or sign, of God’s judgment upon man (Jer. 49:26; Rev. 7:1). In its positive significance the wind symbolizes the blowing of the Holy Spirit upon man or the descending of the Holy Spirit upon man to cause man to have God’s life (Ezek. 37:9-10; John 3:6-8; Acts 2:2-21). The storm wind here has this positive significance.

  • From the north means from God (Psa. 75:6-7a; Isa. 14:13). Whenever God visits us and revives us, His Spirit blows on us like a mighty wind to bring a spiritual storm into our life, into our work, and into our church, causing us to be dissatisfied and concerned about our spiritual condition and to have a turn in our spiritual life.

  • The cloud here is a figure of God as the Spirit abiding with His people and covering them in order to care for them and show favor to them (Exo. 13:21; 40:34-35; Prov. 16:15; 1 Cor. 10:1-2). God comes to us as the wind, but He stays with us as the cloud. Together, the wind and the cloud are an indication that an important transaction is about to take place between God and man.

  • The fire seen by Ezekiel signifies God’s burning and sanctifying power (Deut. 4:24; Heb. 12:29). Whenever God visits us, His holy fire comes to consume in us everything that does not match His holy nature and disposition. This burning fire also causes us to be enlightened concerning our spiritual condition before God. The more the fire of the Holy Spirit burns in us, the more we are purified and enlightened (cf. Isa. 6:5-7; 1 John 1:7).

  • Following the rendering of the Septuagint and the Vulgate; others translate, glowing metal. “An unknown substance; some think a mixture of gold and silver” (Darby). Gold signifies the nature of God, and silver signifies redemption. The electrum, composed of the elements of gold and silver, signifies the Lamb-God, the redeeming God (see note Rev. 22:15f). That the glowing electrum appeared from the midst of the fire indicates that the burning of the divine fire is for the manifestation of the electrum.

    The spiritual history of a normal Christian should be a continual cycle involving the experience of God as the wind, the cloud, the fire, and the electrum. The more we experience the wind, the cloud, and the fire, the more the electrum is constituted into our being, making us a people who are filled with the Triune God and who manifest His glory. The issue of the spiritual transactions involving the blowing wind, the covering cloud, and the purifying fire is the glowing electrum — the radiant expression of the redeeming God. Cf. note 1 John 1:73b.

  • And at the beginning of the verse indicates that in addition to the electrum, the four living creatures came out from the midst of the fire. The more we experience God as the blowing wind, the overshadowing cloud, the burning fire, and the glowing electrum, the more we are enlivened with the divine life to become the four living creatures. The number four is related to God’s creation (Isa. 11:12; Jer. 49:36; Rev. 7:1) and signifies man as God’s creature.

  • The four living creatures are reckoned not as individuals but as a group, as one entity. As such, they are the corporate expression of the man on the throne (v. 26). That the four living creatures bear the likeness of a man and that God on the throne also bears the appearance of a man indicates that God’s central thought and His arrangement are related to man (Gen. 1:26; Psa. 8:4-8). According to the vision unveiled in this chapter, man is the means for God to manifest His glory, man is the means for God to move on the earth, and man is the means for God to administrate on the throne. God uses the wind, the cloud, the fire, and the electrum to enliven us in order to gain man as the means of His manifestation, move, and administration.

  • These must be the wings of an eagle, since among the creatures represented by the four faces (v. 10), only the eagle has wings. In the Scriptures the wings of an eagle signify the grace, strength, and power of God applied to us (Exo. 19:4; Isa. 40:31; 1 Cor. 15:10; 2 Cor. 1:12; 4:7; 12:9).

  • Feet signify the walk. A calf’s foot is straight, signifying that the walk of the living creatures is not crooked in human cleverness but is straight, frank, faithful, and honest in the divine grace (2 Cor. 1:12; 4:2; Matt. 5:37; 21:23-27; 1 Cor. 4:21; Gal. 2:11-14). A calf’s foot is also cloven, divided, signifying that in their walk the living creatures can discern what is right and what is wrong and what is clean and what is unclean in the eyes of God (Phil. 1:9-10; cf. note Lev. 11:31). That the feet of the living creatures sparkled like the sight of burnished bronze signifies that their walk has been tested and examined by the Lord and that it shines, giving light to others and being a test to their walk (cf. note Rev. 1:151a).

    A calf signifies freshness, livingness, and vigor (cf. Psa. 29:6; Mal. 4:2). The walk of the living creatures is vigorous, full of life, freshness, and newness, like a young calf (cf. Rom. 6:4; 7:6).

  • The hands of a man indicate that a proper, normal Christian should always do things exactly like a man (Acts 20:34). Although we conduct ourselves and labor in the grace and power of God (2 Cor. 1:12; 1 Cor. 15:10), we should be very human in our living, cooperating with God in a human way and fulfilling our human duty. This is to be balanced. That the human hands are under eagle’s wings indicates that in doing everything we should be under God’s grace and under His covering, depending on the Lord and expressing Him.

  • See note Ezek. :12*1.

  • Each living creature had four faces (v. 6). The face of a man indicates that the living creatures live in a proper humanity, the humanity of Jesus. The face of a lion indicates that in relation to sin, the world, and Satan they are bold, strong, victorious, and reigning (Rev. 5:5; Rom. 5:17). The face of an ox indicates that they are willing to bear the burden, to labor, and even to sacrifice themselves (1 Cor. 15:10, 58; Acts 20:24; Phil. 2:30). The face of an eagle indicates that the living creatures are transcendent, buoyant, and powerful in the life of God (John 6:15; Phil. 4:12-13).

    The four living creatures with their four faces signify a coordinated, corporate entity, the corporate Christ (1 Cor. 12:12 and note 1 Cor. 12:122) as the corporate expression of God among human beings. The four faces of the living creatures portray the life of Christ as depicted in the four Gospels: Matthew shows Christ as a lion, the King of God’s kingdom; Mark portrays Him as an ox, the Servant of God; Luke depicts Him as a man, the Man-Savior; and John shows Him as an eagle, the very God (see note Matt. 1:11, par. 3). Thus, the four living creatures are a corporate expression of Christ, living out the life of Christ in a corporate way.

  • Or, And their faces and their wings were spread out upward.

  • Verses 11*b-14 convey a clear picture of the coordination of the living creatures, a portrait of the proper church life. The joining of two wings of the living creatures is for their corporate moving in coordination. The eagle’s wings are the means by which they are coordinated and move as one. This signifies that their coordination is not in themselves but in God and by the divine power, the divine strength, and the divine grace. This is similar to the boards of the tabernacle being joined into one building by the overlaying gold and the gold rings (Exo. 26:26-29 and notes).

  • The wings of an eagle are not only for moving but also for protection. Whatever we do and whatever we are must be by the grace of the Lord and the power of the Lord (1 Cor. 15:10; 2 Cor. 1:12; 4:7). At the same time, we are under the overshadowing, the covering, of the Lord’s grace and the Lord’s power (Psa. 17:8; 57:1; 63:7; 91:4; 2 Cor. 12:9*b).

  • Lit., in the direction of their faces. The move of the living creatures is not individual but corporate. They move as one entity in coordination. Each of the living creatures faces one direction. As they face these four directions, two of their wings spread out and touch the adjacent creatures’ wings, forming a square. When the living creatures move, they do not need to turn; one moves straight forward while the opposite creature moves backward and the other two move sideways (v. 9). This is a beautiful picture of the coordination in the church as the Body of Christ, in which each member has his particular position and function, or ministry (Rom. 12:4-8; 1 Cor. 12:14-30; Eph. 4:7-16). When one member functions, he moves “straight forward” to fulfill his function, and the other members accommodate him by moving in the same direction, some moving “backward” and others moving “sideways.”

    According to the vision of the four living creatures, the coordination of the believers as members of the Body of Christ results in the corporate expression of God in Christ, in the move of God on the earth, and in the administration of God on the throne, thus affording God a way to manifest His glory and accomplish His eternal purpose and plan. In order to participate in such a coordination, we need to have the spiritual experiences and the practical living symbolized by the details in vv. 4-12.

  • The living creatures’ following the Spirit indicates that in order to have the genuine coordination, we need to deny ourselves and walk by the Spirit (Gal. 5:16, 25) and according to the spirit (Rom. 8:4).

  • The issue of the coordination of the living creatures is that they become burning coals, with the holy God as a consuming fire burning among them and within them (Heb. 12:29; cf. Exo. 3:2 and note Exo. 3:22). Furthermore, they become burning torches for shining and enlightening (cf. Rev. 4:5b). The burning of the coals and the enlightening of the torches signify that the sanctifying fire becomes the sanctifying light. That both the Lord on the throne (v. 26) and the living creatures have the appearance of fire indicates that the living creatures are the expression of the Lord.

  • Lit., it. The fire going to and fro among the living creatures is not static but is always moving, indicating that in their fellowship the living creatures allow God, signified by the fire, to move freely among them.

  • That the fire was bright indicates that in their coordination the living creatures manifested a glorious and majestic condition.

  • The lightning out of the fire signifies a special flashing of the divine light in the church during times of storm and darkness.

  • The running of the living creatures like lightning indicates that the living creatures, having a proper coordination, being the burning coals and the burning torches, and having the divine fire going to and fro among them, will not walk but run. They run because they have the power and the impact.

  • The entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation presents a full picture of the economy of God (Eph. 1:10; 3:9; 1 Tim. 1:4) and of God’s move on earth to carry out His economy. In the book of Ezekiel God’s economy and God’s move in His economy are signified by a wheel. The hub of this great wheel signifies Christ as the center of God’s economy, and the rim signifies Christ’s counterpart, the church, which consummates in the New Jerusalem. The spokes of the wheel spreading from the hub to the rim signify the many believers as the members of Christ.

    The appearing of the wheels on the earth beside the living creatures indicates that God’s move on earth follows the coordination of the four living creatures. The move by a wheel implies an extraordinary move with a purpose. Furthermore, it implies that this move is not by our own strength.

  • The wheels being for the four faces of the living creatures indicates that if we would have the Lord’s move, we must first live out the Lord, expressing Him.

  • Beryl is the appearance of the Lord when He is moving (Dan. 10:6). This indicates that within the move of the wheels is the appearance of the Lord.

  • That all four wheels had the same likeness, the same appearance, indicates that the move of the Lord has the same likeness and appearance in every church (1 Cor. 4:17; 7:17; 11:16; 14:33; 16:1; 1 Thes. 2:14 see note Rev. 2:73 and note Rev. 1:201).

  • A wheel within a wheel indicates that in the move of the living creatures there is the move of the Lord, i.e., that the Lord moves in their moving (cf. James 5:17 and note James 5:171). The inner wheel, the Lord as the hub, is the source of power for the moving of the outer wheel, the church as the rim.

  • The wheels going in four directions, not turning as they went, indicates a move in coordination, without any turns (cf. note Ezek. 1:121).

  • In ourselves we should be small, but the wheel beside us, i.e., the move of God’s economy with us, should be high and awesome (1 Cor. 15:9; 2 Cor. 11:5; 12:11; Eph. 3:8-11).

  • Eyes indicate insight, foresight, and other kinds of sight. The more we have the move of the Lord, the more we are enlightened and the more we will be able to see.

  • That the wheels follow the living creatures indicates that if we move in faith, the Lord will follow our move.

  • The wheels follow the creatures (vv. 19, 21), and the creatures follow the Spirit, but the Spirit is in the wheels. This indicates that we are one with the Lord, and He is one with us (1 Cor. 6:17). The Lord follows us, we follow the Spirit, and the Spirit is in the wheels.

  • Referring to the living creatures.

  • Based on the experiences signified in vv. 4-21, the spiritual sky over the heads of the living creatures is crystal clear, like a great expanse of awesome crystal. Furthermore, this sky is expanding and is as stable, unchanging, as crystal. In such a situation, there is nothing between the living creatures and God and nothing between them and one another. They have a thorough fellowship with the Lord and with one another. This requires the maintaining of a pure conscience without any offense toward God and men (Acts 24:16).

  • The wings of the living creatures going straight out signifies that under a clear and expanding sky we can have the adequate and proper coordination, a coordination that is altogether straight, with nothing crooked. Cf. note Ezek. 1:71.

  • The using of two wings to cover the living creatures indicates that in the coordination we should not display ourselves but should hide ourselves under the Lord’s grace (2 Cor. 3:5-6; 12:9; Phil. 3:3). See note Ezek. 1:113.

  • The voice coming out of the wings that were joined to one another is the testimony of the living creatures. This indicates that the voice of the testimony of any local church must be the voice of a corporate, coordinated body, a voice that comes out of the proper coordination (cf. Acts 2:14). Such a testimony will be strong, like the sound of great waters; moreover, it will be the voice of God Himself and the voice of an army fighting the battle for God’s economy.

  • This is God’s voice. The living creatures standing still and dropping their wings indicates that they know not only how to speak and sound forth their voice but also how to listen to God’s voice (cf. Exo. 21:5-6; Isa. 50:4-5; Luke 10:38-42).

  • The four living creatures are not only for the manifestation of the Lord and not only for the move of the Lord but also for the administration, the government, of the Lord. The Lord is among them and above them for His manifestation, move, and government. In such a situation God is not only the God of heaven but also the God of the earth (see note Matt. 11:253b). Through the living creatures the heavens are open to the earth and are joined to the earth.

    The Lord’s presence is always with His throne. The Lord’s throne is both in the third heaven and in our spirit (Rev. 4:2-3; Heb. 4:16 and note Heb. 4:161; cf. 2 Tim. 4:22). The throne above the crystal clear expanse indicates that whenever we have a “clear sky” in our Christian life and in our church life, we will be under the ruling of the throne. The highest point in our spiritual experience is having a clear sky with a throne above it. To reach this point means that in everything we allow God to have the preeminence and are completely submissive to God’s authority and administration. The throne is not only for God to reign over us but also for God to accomplish His eternal purpose. If we have the throne in our spiritual life, God will not only rule over us but will also fulfill His purpose in us, with us, and through us.

  • A sapphire stone, blue in color, signifies a heavenly condition that exists when God is present in a particular situation (Exo. 24:10). The throne being in the likeness of a sapphire stone shows the presence of God in a heavenly situation.

  • The One on the throne looks like a man, yet with Him there is the appearance of the glory of Jehovah (v. 28), indicating that the One sitting on the throne is both God and man. This is Jesus Christ, the God-man, the mingling of God and man. He was the complete God, and He was incarnated to be a man (John 1:1, 14). Having the nature of man, He lived, died, resurrected, and ascended as a man, and now as the One on the throne, He is still the Son of Man (John 6:62; Acts 7:56). Hence, since the ascension of the Lord Jesus there has been a man on the throne. In the millennium and in the new heaven and new earth for eternity, there will still be a man on the throne (Matt. 19:28; Rev. 22:1, 3).

    As revealed in the Bible, God’s mysterious intention in His relationship with man is to mingle Himself with man and thereby to become the same as man and make man the same as God in life, in nature, and in expression but not in the Godhead. Man was created in the image of God to express God and to rule for God (Gen. 1:26-28 and notes). The One on the throne and the four living creatures both have the appearance of a man, indicating that the four living creatures on earth are the expression of the One on the throne (see note Ezek. 1:52b). This expression is the manifestation of God in humanity (1 Tim. 3:15-16). God in heaven desires to gain man on earth for His expression by working Himself into man. Furthermore, God’s intention is to work on man in order that man will be on the throne. As the Pioneer, the Forerunner, the Lord Jesus cut the way to enter into glory and sit on the throne (Heb. 2:6-9), and we, His many brothers, are now following Him (Heb. 2:10-12; Rev. 3:21; 22:5).

  • The appearance of the man on the throne has two aspects: from His loins upward He has the appearance of electrum, and from His loins downward, the appearance of fire. The upper part of a man, from his loins to his head, is the part of feeling, of sensation, signifying his nature and disposition. According to His nature and disposition the Lord Jesus on the throne has the appearance of electrum, signifying the redeeming God. The lower part of a man’s body is for moving. The appearance of fire from the loins downward signifies the Lord’s appearance in His move with God’s burning and sanctifying power (see note Ezek. 1:44).

    When the Lord comes to us, He comes as fire to enlighten, search, and burn. Then through the fire He becomes electrum to us. After all the negative things have been burned out of us by the Lord as the consuming fire (Heb. 12:29), the electrum, the redeeming God, will remain in us. See note Ezek. 1:45d.

  • A rainbow as the brightness around the man who is sitting on the throne signifies the splendor and glory around the Lord on the throne. At Noah’s time the rainbow in the cloud was a sign of God’s faithfulness in keeping His covenant with man and every living creature that He would never again destroy mankind with a flood (see note Gen. 9:131a).

    A rainbow can be considered as being produced from the combining of three basic colors — red, yellow, and blue. Red, the color of fire, refers to God’s holiness; yellow, the color of electrum, signifies God’s glory; and blue, the color of the sapphire throne, signifies God’s righteousness. God’s righteousness, holiness, and glory are three divine attributes that keep sinners away from God (see note Gen. 3:241a). However, Christ came, died on the cross to satisfy the requirements of God’s righteousness, holiness, and glory, and was resurrected, and He is now our righteousness, holiness, and glory (1 Cor. 1:30). Because we, the believers, are now in Christ, in the sight of God we bear the appearance of Christ as righteousness, holiness, and glory. This is the appearance of a rainbow as a testimony of God’s faithfulness in sparing us and saving us, the fallen ones, from His judgment on sinners. In the New Jerusalem, a city whose foundations have the appearance of a rainbow (Rev. 21:19-20), we, the aggregate of the saved ones, will be a rainbow reflecting the brightness of God’s righteousness, holiness, and glory and testifying forever that our God is righteous and faithful (see note Rev. 21:191a, par. 2). As portrayed in this chapter, the Christian life and the church life will consummate in such a rainbow. At that point God’s eternal plan will have been accomplished.

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