The Four Faces

My wife and I chose the four faces of the cherubim as our wedding theme. We displayed these faces in silver on colored banners. The bridesmaids wore silvery dresses (made by my grandmother and my mother-in-law) with sashes around their waists in these colors. The groomsmen wore silvery tunics (made by my wife) with sashes over their shoulders (made by me, as well as the stole for the minister). And we explained our theme on the back of our wedding program (which I designed lovingly and meticulously) as follows.

I may have committed some, uh … “light heresy” at the time. 😀

Our Wedding Theme

In one sense, the ancient theme of the Four Faces is the meaning to the Great Mystery of the meaning of life itself, which of course is the plot written by the Author of Life Himself in the grand design of His story—history. The meaning of our existence is the great work of God glorifying Himself. Soli Deo Gloria—to God alone be the glory.

Man is a communal being by his very creation as the image of God. This is because God Himself is a communal being—the eternal Communion of the three Persons mutually indwelling one another in loving fellowship, a blessed Trinity serving and honoring one another. The Father and the Son labor to build a House for the Spirit, the Son and the Spirit labor to muster an Assembly of worshippers for the Father, and the Father and the Spirit labor to prepare a Bride for the Son. The Church is the result of those labors—the House, the Assembly, and the Bride.

Sacred Scripture says that the fullness of the reality that is the Christian Church was the Great Mystery in ages past but has now been revealed in these last days. The labors of the Trinity through history have followed a particular plan and process to bring the Church at last to maturity at the consummation of history, and rich glimpses of this plan have been given by God in symbols and shadows.

The four faces and the guarding cherubim who display them are some of those symbols throughout history. The cherubim first appeared at the eastern gates of the Garden of Eden bearing flaming swords and guarding the way to the Tree of Life after the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise. The cherubim were assigned to carry out the duties that Adam failed to do in the Fall until the new Adam came to be the root of a new humanity who was unswervingly faithful to God. Israel was raised up to be a ministering nation to all the other nations. At the center of Israel’s ministerial society was the Tabernacle and the priesthood, and the chief priest was arrayed in precious stones with four wings on his clothes guarding the people from God’s consuming presence—just as the cherubim were and did. But the nation and the priesthood failed in their duties as well. A greater Israel and greater High Priest were needed and were provided by the ever-faithful God.

The four faces of the cherubim as they were seen by the Prophet Ezekiel and the Apostle John have long been recognized as a progressive theme in God’s work. First, the Bull is a centrally important animal in the sacrificial system of the ancient priesthood of Israel. Second, the Lion is the symbol of the tribe of Judah and the kingdom of David which arose to protect the people of Israel. Third, the Eagle is the symbol of the prophets who were sent to the people of Israel to call them back to loyalty in their covenant with God. Fourth, the Man is the symbol of something new, different, and more glorious than what came before—the coming of Christ to save his people and inherit the whole world as his possession.

These three offices represented by the bull, the lion, and the eagle are the three uniquely anointed (messianic) offices, and Jesus the Anointed One (Messiah) is the greater and more glorious fulfillment of all three offices in one man. The four Gospels also emphasize these four aspects—Jesus as priest in Matthew, Jesus as King in Mark, Jesus as prophet in Luke, and Jesus as glorious in John, different from the rest.

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