(chayyah; zoon): "Living creature" (chayyah) is the designation of each of the composite figures in Ezekiel's visions (Eze 1:5,13 ff; Eze 3:13; 10:15,17,20) and, the Revised Version (British and American), of the similar beings in the visions of the Apocalypse, instead of the extremely unfortunate translation of zoon in the King James Version by "beasts" (Re 4:6 ff; Re 5:6 ff; Re 6:1 ff; Re 7:11; 14:3; 15:7; 19:4), which, however, went back to Wycliff, in whose time the word had not the low meaning which "beast," "beastly" have with us; hence, he translates 1Co 15:44, "It is sowen beestli body," meaning simply animal (see Trench's Select Glossary); in Rev "the beasts of the earth," the "beasts" that came up, the notable "beast" that men worshipped, represent the Greek therion, "a wild beast."
The "living creatures" in Ezekiel's vision (Eze 1:5 ff) were four in number, "with the general appearance of a man, but each with four faces and four wings, and straight legs with the feet of an ox. Under their wings are human hands, and these wings are so joined that they never require to turn. The front face is that of a man; right and left of this are the faces of a lion and (of) an ox, and behind, that of an eagle .... out of the midst of them gleam fire, torches, lightnings, and connected with them are four wheels that can turn in every direction, called whirling wheels (Eze 10:12-13). Like the creatures, these are alive, covered with eyes, the sign of intelligence; the spirit of the living creatures is in them. They are afterward discovered by the prophet to be cherubim" (Schultz, Old Testament Theology, II, 233). See CHERUBIM. In Ezekiel's vision they seem to be the bearers of the throne and glory of God; the bearers of His presence and of His revelation (Eze 9:3; 10:3). They also sound forth His praise (Eze 3:12; 10:2). (See Schultz as above.)
The four living creatures in Rev (4:6) are not under the throne but "in the midst of the throne" (the American Revised Version, margin "before"; see 7:17; compare 5:6) and "round about the throne." They are also cherubim, and seem to represent the four beings that stand at the head of the four divisions of the creation; among the untamed animals the lion; among cattle the calf or ox; among birds the eagle; among all created beings the man. It gives "a perfect picture of true service, which should be as brave as the lion, patient as the ox, aspiring as the eagle, intelligent as man" (Milligan in the place cited.). They represent the powers of Nature--of the creation, "full of eyes" as denoting its permeation with the Divine Reason, the wings signifying its constant, ready service, and the unceasing praise the constant doing of God's will. The imagery is founded on Ezekiel as that had been modified in apocalyptic writings and as it was exalted in the mind of the Seer of Patmos.
W. L. Walker