Who are the Cheribums? Part 1

Over the last several months, I have been exploring the idea of “mature sonship”.  This was motivated in part by trying to formulate a theme for a men’s fellowship study. In particular, I have focused on what it means to be a mature son of God. I am encouraged by this study because it seems to be a teaching that transcends multiple denominational lines. In an age where there is so much division in the body of Christ, it is refreshing to see a teaching that can potentially unite us.  For those of you who may not be familiar with, or put off by the term “son” or “sons of God” allow me to expound on this concept briefly.  A mature son is a fully developed, fully functioning believer who is not lacking or needing anything that the world has to offer.  In scripture there are several classes of “sons of God”. For example, in the Old Testament, God calls Israel His “first-born son”. (Exodus 4:22)  He again calls David his son in Psalms 2:7.  Furthermore, in the New Testament, believers are called “sons of God”. (1 John 3:1)  Of course God’s ultimate or unique son is Jesus Christ. (John 3:16)  In addition to all of this, there are two words in the Greek that are both rendered “son” in English. These two words are “huios” and “teknon” respectively. A “huios” is a son that has come to maturity, in today’s terms it would be a son that has come of age. This son no longer needs parental authority and is able to function on his own. This son is not gullible and “is not carried away by every wind of doctrine.” (Ephesians 4:14)  This son is able to produce more sons, he has matured to the point of being able to reproduce himself.  God is able to indwell this son because he is a heavenly conscience creature.  This is a secure son, not wanting or needing praise, recognition,or attention.This son’s origin and destiny in Christ Jesus is that of the cherubim and these sons constantly look toward the blood on the mercy-seat.

A “teknon” on the other hand is a underdeveloped son. This son still needs to be accountable to a tighter authority. This son’s talents and gifts still need to be nurtured so that the immature son doesn’t abuse them.  He is still going through a process. I believe this process is more practical than miraculous.  You see this dynamic played out in several places in the Old Testament.  For example, David was called at age 12 to be king over Israel,however, he didn’t come to his throne until he was 30. My guess is even though David was anointed to be king, he still needed time to mature before he could inherit his throne.  You also see this in the life of Joseph. Joseph received his calling at an early age through a dream, but it took him many years and trials before he was made ruler over all of the Pharaoh’s land in Egypt.  This is the point that most of us as believers are at. However, it comes a time when we are charged “to grow up into Him.” (Ephesians 4:15)  While mature sonship serves as a backdrop to this teaching, it’s not just about mature sonship.  This study is an introduction to a systematic teaching about the nature and origin of cherubims.  I will also explain how these particular creatures relate to the Kingdom of God.

It is my determination that based upon a closer look at tradition and the biblical text, that our traditional view of cherubims have been erroneous.  Traditionally most scholars have classified cherubims as angels.  It is the purpose of this study to distinguish these two spiritual, but distinctively different creatures.  This can be confusing for several reasons.  First of all, there are some places in scripture where angels do refer to men. Second, both angels and cherubims are described as winged creatures.  Lastly, there are some angels that have the power to materialize into men.

THE FIRST MENTION OF CHERUBIMS                                                                                                      Cherubims first come on the scene in Genesis 3:24 “So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.” Now most people assume that they were there to keep man away from the tree of life but the text clearly states that they were there to keep the way to the tree of life.  This is what makes the study of cherubims significant. What are these creatures actually keeping?  The Hebrew word for “keep” is “shamar”. This word means, “to guard or protect”, it also gives the idea of working or being responsible for something. 

CHERUBIMS ARE ONE WITH THE MERCY SEAT

The next mention of cherubims occurs in Exodus 25.

17And thou shalt make a mercy seat of pure gold: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof. 18And thou shalt make two cherubims of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat. 19And make one cherub on the one end, and the other cherub on the other end: even of the mercy seat shall ye make the cherubims on the two ends thereof. 20And the cherubims shall stretch forth their wings on high, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and their faces shall look one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubims be. 21And thou shalt put the mercy seat above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee. 22And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.(Exodus 25:17-22)

There are several points of significance that should be emphasised about these creatures:

  1. They are in the mercy seat
  2. They are of the mercy seat
  3. They are one piece with the mercy seat.
  4. They are facing each other looking towards the mercy seat, or atonement cover.

Of course, the mercy seat was where the blood was placed on the Day of Atonement. (Leviticus 16:14) This is an Old Testament concept that foreshadowed a New Testament fulfillment. 

JESUS IS THE NEW TESTAMENT MERCY SEAT OR ATONEMENT COVER

 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished(Romans 3:25 NIV)

Whom God hath set forth [to be] a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.(Romans 3:25 KJV)

Whom God put forward [before the eyes of all] as a mercy seat {and} propitiation by His blood [the cleansing and life-giving sacrifice of atonement and reconciliation, to be received] through faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in His divine forbearance He had passed over {and} ignored former sins without punishment. (Romans 3:25 AMP)

So whether it’s a propitiation, mercy seat, or atonement cover; it all points to the same person, Jesus the High Priest of the New Covenant.  This is fully brought out in Hebrews 9:5.

 Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover. But we cannot discuss these things in detail now.(Hebrews 9:5)

So if Jesus is the new testament mercy seat or atonement cover, then who are the new testament cherubim?  They would have to be creatures who were in and of Christ.  The new testament is unanimous about who these creatures are, they are redeemed believers in Christ.  It is us, not angels that are a new “creation” in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17)  We are the ones that are begotten from above. (John 3:3) We are the ones that are born of the eternal substance.(Hebrews 5:9)

  1. We are in Christ
  2. We are of Christ
  3. We are one with Christ
  4. We look toward the blood on the mercy seat (Christ).   

 Angels on the other hand, are ministering spirits.(Hebrews 1:14)  Angels serve those (believers) who will inherit salvation.  Angels are not in Christ (at least not in the earth). New testament believers are crowned with the same glory as Jesus.

9But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. 10In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. 12He says, “I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises.”(Hebrews 2:9-12)

This may seem confusing at first, Jesus being made lower than the angels. This is however, a quote from the old testament (Psalm 8:5) “you made Him a little lower than the angels” should be translated “you made Him a little lower than Elohim or the Divine Counsel.”   This is the only place in the old testament where “elohiym” is translated “angels”. (Strong’s #430)

In the next article, we will discuss different functions and manifestations of these cherubim creatures.  We will also take a closer look at the anointed cherub as he is described in Ezekiel 28.

PEACE, JJ

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