Ezekiel 1: The Celestial Chariot

GE315 Connection: Through the vision of a heavenly vehicle, Jehovah reveals details and powerful characteristics about himself and his symbolic wife, his heavenly organization. It also highlights that only the purest form of worship is compatible with Jehovah’s heavenly organization.

Ezekiel Sees Theophanies

… I [the prophet Ezekiel] began to see visions of God

Eze 1:1

According to the Pulpit Commentary, we can understand “visions of God” in three ways. (1) It can mean that the vision was great or wonderful because associated with God or (2) it can emphasize that the vision originated from God. 

Yet, what appears most likely is, (3) that the prophet Ezekiel would see manifestations of Jehovah God thus called Theophanies. 

Human eyes can’t see God himself and still live (Ex 33:20) and no human ever saw God (Jo 1:18). Ezekiel sees and shares with us a vision which Jehovah approved to represent himself.

This vision is often called the vision of the “Celestial Chariot”.

Why is this vision often called “Celestial Chariot”?

Because Ezekiel sees a vehicle which resembles a (war) chariot commonly used in ancient times.

4 Horses or “Living Creatures”

Ezekiel sees four “Living Creatures” (Eze 1:5, see also Re 4:6) which he himself later identifies as Cherubs (Eze 10:9, 15; 11:22). Cherubs are angels of a specific rank and their body shape is like the one of a human (Eze 1:5).

4 Wheels

There are 4 huge wheels, each one next to a Cherub. Each Cherub and Wheel build a unity. Where the Cherub goes, also the Wheel goes (Eze 10:16). These Wheels are not lifeless objects, but “the wheels were alive” and full eyes (Eze 1:20 ISV; 1:18; 10:17).

A Platform for the Charioteer

Above the wheels and Cherubs is an ice-like expanse (Eze 1:22), which serves as a platform for the charioteer. On top of it, the charioteer sits on a deep-blue shining throne (Eze 1:26).

A Charioteer

The rider or charioteer of the vehicle is Jehovah, whose “appearance also resembled a human” (Eze 1:26).

Behaves like a chariot

The chariot is not bound by physical laws, for it is symbolic, a depiction of a reality in the spirit realm. However, the vehicle behaves in many ways similar to what we would expect.

  • The Rider gets off the chariot (Eze 9:3)
  • The Rider gets back on the chariot (Eze 10:18)
  • The chariot only moves when the rider is sitting
  • The vehicle would move with all its parts at the same time (Eze 10:19)
  • The vehicle departs by ascending in the sky (Eze 11:22, 23)

Who is in control of the “Celestial Chariot”?

There are two main reasons, which indicate that Jehovah is in full control of the chariot.

1. Jehovah is displayed on top of the chariot

Above the expanse that was over their heads [of the Living Creatures] was what looked like a sapphire stone, and it resembled a throne … It was like the appearance of the glory of Jehovah.

Eze 1:26-28

Jehovah is presented with king-like authority over the chariot.

Another detail: The cherubs and wheels (the chariot) would only move while the glory of Jehovah of was above them. Symbolizing the charioteer taking his proper place (see Eze 10:19; 11:22)

2. Jehovah’s Spirit or “Hand” tells the Cherubs and wheels where to go 

They [Cherubs or Living Creatures] would each go … wherever the spirit would incline them to go. They would not turn as they went.

Eze 1:12

The wheels would be lifted up together with them, for the spirit operating on the living creatures was also in the wheels. 

Eze 1:20

This “spirit” belongs to Jehovah: “the spirit of Jehovah” (Eze 11:5) or “spirit of God” (Eze 11:24)  

The spirit is a force or influence: It makes Ezekiel stand up (Eze 2:2) and it also operates the chariot (Eze 1:20) 

The common point of all the usages of “spirit” in the Bible is

They all refer to that which is invisible to human sight and which gives evidence of force in motion. Such invisible force is capable of producing visible effects.

 it-2 pp. 1017-1027 Spirit

We can compare Jehovah’s Spirit or Holy Spirit to a human hand or fingers. Jesus himself likens the Holy Spirit to “God’s finger” (Lu 11:20, compare Mt 12:28). Like a human charioteer uses his hands to hold the reins of his horses, Jehovah uses his “spirit” to control his chariot.

Ezekiel said that “hand of Jehovah rested strongly on me” (Eze 3:14). He meant that God’s spirit was affecting him.

The 3 different occasions when Ezekiel sees the Celestial Chariot

1. Vision: When Ezekiel starts to see visions and gets appointed to warn the Israelites

  • When? “In the 5th year” (Eze 1:2)
  • Where? Ezekiel sees the vision in Babylon close to the river Chebar (Eze 1:3)
  • What? Bringing a warning message to Ezekiel about the upcoming destruction of Jerusalem. Ezekiel should share this message with the Israelites (Eze 1-3). God’s commission for Ezekiel: “I have appointed you as a watchman to the house of Isreal, … you must warn them from me.” (Eze 3:18). Jehovah’s intention: “I am against you, O city and I myself will execute judgment ..” (Eze 5:8)

2. Vision: Ezekiel gets to see the gross idolatry happening in Jerusalem. He then sees how Jehovah symbolically rejects and destroys Jerusalem

  • When? 1 year after the first vision (In the 6th year and 6th month Eze 8:1)
  • Where? The vision brings Ezekiel to the Temple in Jerusalem (Eze 8:3,4)
  • What? Jehovah shows Ezekiel the gross idolatry happening in Jerusalem (Eze 8:7-19). Then Jehovah commanded a man in linen clothes to take burning coals from the chariot and use it to destroy Jerusalem.

In this second vision of the Celestial Chariot, Ezekiel sees more servants of God being closely linked to the Celestial Chariot:

I saw six men coming from the direction of the upper gate that faces north, each with his weapon for smashing in his hand; and there was one man among them clothed in linen, with a secretary’s inkhorn at his waist

Eze 9:2

Six men with weapons and one linen clothed man appear in the temple.
Reading further we see that the man clothed in linen is connected with the Celestial Chariot. He does not only appear in the same vision, but they are clearly linked together:

Then he said to the man clothed in linen: “Enter between the wheelwork [of the Celestial Chariot], under the cherubs, and fill both your hands with burning coals from between the cherubs and toss them over the city.” So he entered as I watched.

Eze 10:2

The “linen clothed man with the secretary’s inkhorn”, like the Cherubs, symbolizes a faithful spirit servant of Jehovah. He obeys Jehovah’s commands (Eze 9:11). The same is valid for the “six men with smashing weapons”.

His superhuman nature is evident when he takes “burning coals” (Eze 10:2, 7) from the chariot to toss them over the city. A symbol of total destruction for Jerusalem.

The literal foreshadowed siege, slaughter and destruction of Jerusalem started 3 years (Eze 24:1) after Ezekiel saw the second vision of Celestial Chariot and ended 3 more years later (see Eze 40:1)

3. Vision: While Ezekiel sees the New Temple Vision

  • When? 19 years after the second vision (In the 25th year Eze 40:1)
  • Where? The vision brings Ezekiel “on a very high mountain in the land of Israel” (Eze 40:2)
  • What? The Celestial Chariot appears again in the latter part of the New Temple Vision. An angel first introduces to Ezekiel a new place of worship. Later the Celestial Chariot approaches the New Temple (Eze 43:3). The chariot enters through the east gate. Interestingly, the Celestial Chariot previously left the temple in Jerusalem through the east gate (Eze 43:4). Jehovah’s glory enters through that gate and was closed afterwards. This gate will not be opened again because Jehovah will never leave the New Temple (Eze 44:1, 2).

What does the Celestial Chariot represent? 

As Ezekiel 1:1 indicated: It is a vision of God and therefore represents Jehovah. However, Jehovah chooses to present himself not alone, but together with his faithful associates, his heavenly organization. In other words, the “woman” mentioned in Ge 3:15.

Who are the associates of Jehovah?
Ezekiel sees four types of spirit creatures directly associated with the chariot and Jehovah:

  • 4 Living Creatures or Cherubs (Eze 1:5; 11:22)
  • 4 Living Wheels with eyes all around (Eze 1:15, 20)
  • 6 men with smashing weapons (Eze 9:2)
  • 1 man clothed in linen (Eze 9:2; 10:2)

Is Jehovah only associated with these 15 different spirit creatures which appear in the vision?

No, as the bible indicates Jehovah’s spirit sons are countless:

“And I saw, and I heard a voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders, and the number of them was myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands”

Re 5:11

A myriad is 10,000. One myriad times one myriad is 100 million. Yet, Revelation speaks of “myriads of myriads” of angels. That is hundreds of millions, perhaps billions, of spirit creatures! 1

In a parallel vision, Daniel a contemporary of Ezekiel sees a similar vision. Interestingly, in that vision as well, Jehovah’s throne had wheels. Daniel saw “a thousand thousands . . . and ten thousand times ten thousand” of God’s spirit sons standing before Jehovah. They sat as a celestial Court, each individual evidently in his own assigned place. (Da 7:9, 10, 13-18)

As for the vision of the chariot, it makes sense to only present 4 Cherubs and 4 Wheels to have a visually complete vehicle. Like the tip of an iceberg, where only 10% is visible, Jehovah’s organization is huge.

Jehovah considered the precedent in Jerusalem, as very important. He made known that he himself took care of the judgment (1. Vision) and destruction (2. Vision) of Jerusalem and showed his divine blessing on the future pure form of worship (3. Vision).

What is a priority to the Almighty, is also a priority to all his spirit sons.

As charioteer Jehovah “rides” (compare Ps 18:10) not only on the angles which were visible in the vision of the chariot:

In that sense, Jehovah “rides” upon them all [all spirit creatures], directing them with his sovereign rule, as if they comprise one huge, unified vehicle.

Pure Worship of Jehovah​—Restored At Last! Ch. 3 P.9

Therefore, the chariot represents Jehovah and all his faithful angels.

What Qualities Do We Learn From God’s Organization?

1. Awe-Inspiring  

I saw a tempestuous wind … and there was a huge cloud and flashing fire surrounded by a bright light, and from the midst of the fire was something that looked like electrum.

Eze 1:4

The vision was preluded with strong physical sensations for Ezekiel, and he experienced and saw a … 

  1. Tempestuous Wind
  2. Huge Cloud
  3. Flashing Fire (or Lightning)
  4. Bright Light
  5. Glowing Materials
  6. Huge size of the wheels

This experience was awe-inspiring to Ezekiel.

Ezekiel’s reaction to these overwhelming impressions?
“When I saw it, I fell facedown …” (Eze 1:28).

2. Obedience

“They [Cherubs or Living Creatures] would each go … wherever the spirit [Jehovah] would incline them to go. They would not turn as they went.”

Eze 1:12

Jehovah is the charioteer and in full control of his organization. All the spirit creatures involved are obedient to his command.

3. Fast as Lightning

“… moved backward and forward as quickly as flashes of lightning”

Eze 1:14

Although the celestial vehicle is huge, it is fast as lightning.

Jehovah’s very name suggests, that he can become or use anything needed to accomplish his purpose. In light speed, he and his organization can adapt to any situation.

David described the speed Jehovah came to his aid. Jehovah “came riding upon a cherub and came flying” even “upon the wings of a spirit.” (2Sa 22:11; Ps 18:10)

4. Powerful Characteristics

Each of the four [Cherubs] had a man’s face with a lion’s face on the right, a bull’s face on the left, and each of the four had an eagle’s face

Eze 1:10

The human face and the three animal’s faces all represent outstanding characteristics found in earthly creation: the human’s ability to love, the lion’s courage, the bull’s power, and the eagle’s far sight.

Imagine a creature with the mental capacities of a human, the power and courage of a bull and lion and having the eyesight and being able to fly like an eagle.

Jehovah and his associates truly have outstanding qualities, abilities, and power.

5. Seeing Everything and Being Omnipresent

Their [Cherubs] entire bodies, their backs, their hands, their wings, and the wheels, the wheels of all four of them, were full of eyes all around

Eze 10:12

The many eyes remind us of Proverbs 15:3: “Jehovah’s eyes are everywhere”. Nothing in the universe is unnoticed to Jehovah.

Ezekiel saw something similar to the prophet Daniel (Da 7:9): Jehovah sitting on a throne with wheels. Jehovah’s sovereign power is omnipresent.

6. Flexible and Versatile 

When they moved, they could go in any of the four directions without turning as they went.

Eze 1:17

Each wheel had a wheel inside it​—one of the same diameter that fitted crosswise into the base wheel. Only in this way could the wheels be said to go on their four respective sides.2

This emphasizes the immense maneuverability of Jehovah’s organization. Although huge and fast, Jehovah can at any moment change the direction: left, right, front, back, up or down.

7. Holiness

My [Jehovah’s] holy places you [Jews] despise

Eze 22:8

The very reason the celestial chariot came to bring judgment, was the spiritual defilement of the Jews. Although bearing the name of Jehovah and even having Jehovah’s temple or “house of Jehovah” they failed to comply with Jehovah’s standards of holiness.

Jehovah requires holiness of everybody associated with him. This is also emphasized by the majestic and holy appearance of Jehovah’s chariot.

8. Interest in Humans

… and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels would also be lifted up

Eze 1:19

Jehovah’s vehicle in fact, touched the earth. Jehovah has keen interest in earthly affairs, especially in connection to his worship.

  1. wp17 No. 5 p. 4 The Truth About Angels
  2. w91 3/15 pp. 8-13

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