The meaning of Ezekiel’s vision is beyond me, although I have heard Brad Scott teach on the meaning of Ezekiel’s vision of living creatures and wheels within wheels.
What we do know, without delving into the Hebrew and connecting all the dots throughout Scripture as Brad does, just from the plain reading of the text, is that Ezekiel saw a vision of the glory of the LORD (Eze 1:28). He saw the throne and the One who sits on the throne, who is the Creator and Ruler of heaven and earth.
Now a little later in Ezekiel, the living creatures which he is seeing for the first time, are called cherubim (Eze 10), which we have seen before in Scripture:
So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life. Gen 3:24
I have a theory, that cherubim appear in Scripture accompanying or guarding the place of the presence or glory of the LORD; where they appear, the throne of God is close by. Here they are shown guarding the entrance of the garden of Eden. God dwelt in the garden of Eden with man – it was a place of His presence, which man from this point forward, no longer had access to.
“And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony, about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel.” Exo 25:22
Moses was told to make everything for the tabernacle according to the pattern that he was shown. Why? Because it is a copy for this natural world, illustrating the spiritual world and spiritual realities (Heb 8:5). Two cherubim of gold were to cover the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant, with their wings touching, and their faces toward the mercy seat. God spoke with Moses, from above the mercy seat, from between the cherubim — in other words, it was the place of His presence, where He met with man. We find the cherubim again surrounding or covering His presence and His throne.
And David arose and went with all the people who were with him from Baale Judah to bring up from there the ark of God, whose name is called by the Name, the LORD of Hosts, who dwells between the cherubim. 2 Sam 6:2
The phrase, “who dwells between the cherubim,” is found over and over again in the Old Testament. The cherubim are again accompanying the presence of God or the place of His throne.
King Solomon included carved work of cherubim in the Temple (1 Kin 6-8), upon which the glory of the LORD descended and stayed (1 Kin 8:10-11). Ezekiel saw a vision of a rebuilt Temple, in which cherubim figure (Eze 41). Isaiah saw a vision of the throne room of God, with glorious beings with six wings, whose appearance burned like fire (the Hebrew root meaning of seraphim) and who cried out “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” (Isa 6:1-3).
Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying:
“Holy, holy, holy,
Lord God Almighty,
Who was and is and is to come!” Rev 4:6-8
The living creatures that John saw can be compared to the living creatures that Ezekiel saw, or possibly that Isaiah saw, and even the likeness of the man, the lion, the ox or calf, and the eagle is repeated in Revelation. So we see that throughout Scripture, Old and New Testament, these living creatures are surrounding the throne of God or the presence or glory of God.
Now here is something interesting: we saw back in Num 2, that Israel was commanded to encamp a certain way around the tabernacle of the testimony. Each tribe had their standards which were identified with them. Judah camped east of the tabernacle, and his standard bore the lion. Reuben camped south, and his standard bore the man. Ephraim camped west, and his standard bore the ox. And Dan camped north, and his standard bore the eagle. The diagram makes it plain to see, that the tabernacle of God, the place where His presence and glory dwelt, even in the wilderness, was surrounded by the lion, the man, the ox, and the eagle.
The later prophets who saw the vision of the throne, or the vision of the glory of the LORD surrounded by these burning angelic beings, saw it in the beginning of their calling or prophetic visions. I don’t know why, other than to impress upon man that the God we are tempted to disobey, the God we are in danger of rejecting, is the holy, great and glorious God and Ruler of the universe, who is fearful, awesome, and wonderful. Therefore, be wise, O men, wherever you are, and humble yourselves before Him!
For further reading:
The four gospels, the four encampments of Israel, and the four living creatures