Understanding Prophetic Imaging

At a first glance Ezekiel or Revelations may appear to be daunting because they contain a lot of prophetic elements that have strange pictures. For example, if you asked someone living in the year 1750 to describe a jumbo 747 airplane, it may be described as: “a big bird with silver wings and fire coming out of its mouth that swoops low, eats people, and takes them to who knows where.” You and I would define an airplane in modern terms but someone living in 1750 would use weird pictorial definitions.

As Ezekiel unfolds, you may think, “this guy Ezekiel is strange!” but remember this: Ezekiel lived years ago and he is trying to describe God and end times events the same way as someone in 1750 would describe a 747 airplane.

At one point Ezekiel talks about seeing “the face of an ox, the face of a man and the face of a lion.” He talks about “the presence of God who doesn’t have to turn to look at something because He is all knowing.” When we read “it moves with out turning” that’s what it means: God is omnipresent and omniscient. God doesn’t have to turn and look because He knows and is present everywhere.

Let’s make sense of this passage together:

As for the form of their faces, each had the face of a man; all four had the face of a lion on the right and the face of a bull on the left, and all four had the face of an eagle. (Ezek. 1:10)

The face of the man is that temporal person, with frailties, susceptible to pain, that has an eternal soul but is going to suffer. It’s going to talk about Christ, the Messiah, the presence of God.

Then the face of a lion—you’ve heard the term the Lion of Judah— that’s describing Christ. He will be a man who will suffer but He will also be King.

A bull in those days would be a burden bearer. He will bear our burdens, our load, and our hurts.

The eagle would be as a savior, someone who would hover and have strength to rise up above. The eagle actually soars up above all the thermals and then comes in as a Savior who redeems, like the Holy Spirit.

Those are pictures of Christ.

In verse 13 we see more imagery:

In the midst of the living beings there was something that looked like burning coals of fire, like torches darting back and forth among the living beings. The fire was bright, and lightning was flashing from the fire. (Ezek. 1:13)

Let’s break this down. Does “in the midst of the living beings” imply that God is plural? No, but it does speak about the plurality of God or the faces of God. That’s the only way they could say that He’s in many places at the same time. We know that it’s not talking about many Gods because we don’t pull out one scripture and isolate it. In Deuteronomy 6, the main cornerstone verse to the Israelites, it states, “Hear O Israel, the Lord thy God is one God … ”

We read that in the midst of these living beings there was something “that looked like burning coals of fire, like torches darting back and forth among the living beings. The fire was bright and the lightening was flashing from fire. The being was going to and fro like bolts of lightening.” This translates into God leading the people of Israel by His presence which is manifested by the cloud by day and fire by night.

We see different aspects of the Glory of God described in ways that are a little unusual, but Ezekiel writes a pictorial description of what he has seen. With his limited understanding he is describing the many aspects of God our Savior in the person of Christ.

Although Ezekiel’s descriptions may seem rather strange, don’t let it discourage you from reading this exciting book and gleaning leadership lessons from his life.

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