Beginning at the 6th verse of Revelation 4, there is a detailed description of “the four beasts”. Literally, it should be translated “living ones” or ” living creatures” rather than “beasts”.
There is a symbolism here that demands close attention.
The First beast was like a LION The Second was like a CALF The Third was like the face of a MAN The fourth was like a flying EAGLE.
To understand the meaning of these symbols, we need to go back to the Old Testament. In Ezekiel 1, we have a description of “four living creatures”. In Ezekiel 1 : 10, we are told that on the right side they had the face of a man, and the face of a lion. On the left side they had the face of an ox, and the face of an eagle. These are the identical symbols of the Living Creatures in Revelation 4. As in Revelation so in Ezekiel “there was by them the likeness of a throne” (Ezek 1: 26). In both visions the glory of the Lord is manifested (Ezek 1: 28). In both cases there is a rainbow about the throne, These angelic creatures in Ezekiel were CHERUBIMS ( See also Ezekiel 10).
Notice that John does not describe these beasts except to liken them to something that we would be familiar with. Especially notice the words “like” and “as” in Rev 4 : 7. The first part of Verse 8 adds to this description when it says, “And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within”.
While John could only describe the beasts by comparison, he is very precise in telling what they do, And they rest not day and night, saying, “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY LORD GOD ALMIGHTY,which was, and is, and is to come” (Rev 4 :8).
The four LIVING CREATURES are CHERUBIMS (Refer Ezekiel 10 :20, 21).
In describing the four living creatures, John says that the first “beast” was like a LION. A LION is the “King of the beasts” and represents majesty. Thus Christ is portrayed in the Gospel of Mathew as “King of Kings”.
The Second living creature is said to be “like a calf”. The word translated “calf” can also be translated as “bullock” or “heifer”. This of course, was an animal frequently used for sacrifice. CHRIST here is portrayed as “Sacrifice” for our sins. Mark in his Gospel presents “CHRIST as the SERVANT who was to be sacrificed.”
The Third living creature “had a face as a man”. The third creature would represent CHRIST as a MAN. The Gospel of Luke presents CHRIST as the Perfect Man. Also, as described in Philippians 2, Christ left His position of Glory with the Father and became a man so that He might die on the cross for our sin.
The fourth living creature was “like a flying EAGLE”. The eagle symbolizes Sovereignty and Supremacy. Thus the living creature represents CHRIST in all his DEITY. The Apostle John in his Gospel presents JESUS CHRIST as the SON OF GOD and shows His relationship with heaven.
These four living creatures do not rest day or night as they protect the throne of GOD in its holiness. In the old testament we read something very much similar to Rev 4. When Israel was camping in the wilderness, there were special precautions taken with the tabernacle which was the habitation of God in their midst. The Tabernacle was always in the center of the camp and was surrounded by 12 tribes.
EPHRAIM WEST -> OX FLAG
DAN NORTH -> EAGLE FLAG
REUBEN SOUTH -> MAN FLAG
JUDAH EAST -> LION FLAG.
On the east side was Judah which had a banner of a Lion. Ephraim was on the west with a standard of the ox. Reuben was on the South with the standard of a Man and Dan was on the north with a standard of an eagle.