I am writing this on Sunday, July 1, 2018. I say that because I finished a sermon this morning and had to leave a portion out that I found very interesting. I simply did not have a chance to bring this up. You can watch the sermon here, if you’d like. What I did not get to in these verses was the work of the cherubim. “[A]t the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life,” (Genesis 3:24, ESV).
This is the first mention of cherubim we see in Scripture. What makes this interesting is that the cherubim are always seen as being a type of guard. Most times God is portrayed in Ezekiel, we see Him with the cherubim. In my head, I often picture these beings as the the English royal guards or the Secret Service here in the States. This isn’t because God is vulnerable, but because God is majestic. Here in Genesis, some cherubim are used to guard the tree of life. No one is to come near the tree.
Here is the interesting thing: Ezekiel, in speaking of the prince of Tyre draws a parallel to what happened in the garden of Eden.
“You were the signet of perfection,
full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
You were in Eden, the garden of God;
every precious stone was your covering,
sardius, topaz, and diamond,
beryl, onyx, and jasper,
sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle;
and crafted in gold were your settings
and your engravings.
On the day that you were created they were prepared.
You were an anointed guardian cherub.
I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God;
in the midst of the stones of fire you walked.
You were blameless in your ways
from the day you were created,
till unrighteousness was found in you,” (vv. 12-15, ESV).
It goes on and you can read more of it, but here is the point: Satan, originally a cherub, was appointed as the guardian in the garden of Eden. He was set there as a protector (of whatever sort) toward Adam and Eve, and yet he is the one who became their tempter. Now God has set another set of cherubim as guardians to the tree of life.
We also find depictions of the cherubim in the tabernacle and temple. The curtains are filled with woven cherubim throughout. But even more we see:
And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. . .And you shall put the mercy seat on the top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony that I shall give you. There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that i will give you in commandment for the people of Israel, (Exodus 25:18; 21-22, ESV).
Thus here we see again guarding the testimony and the mercy seat where God would manifest himself. Only the high priest was allowed to go past the curtains of cherubim and in to the Holy of Holies and only on Day of Atonement. The idea is plain to see: there is a separation of God from mankind, with the exception of the high priest and only when he comes with blood. At the same time, the Holy of Holies was to be filled with smoke from the sensor so that even though the priest was in the most sacred of earthly places, there was still a barrier between man and God.
The same is seen in the temple, but we also see that when God leaves the temple, he rides on none other than the cherubim. There is constant separation of man and God and eternal life. That is until we see the cherubim in Revelation. John, taking after Ezekiel who called these being the “four-living creatures,” described the scene for us.
And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth,” (Revelation 5:6-10, ESV).
John first brought these glorious creatures up in chapter 4. In both places we see that these four living creatures are no longer blocking access to the throne, but participating in worship of God and Christ along with the ransomed people for God, the saints. No longer is God blocked by a cherubim veil, but because of Christ, the veil has been torn and we come before His throne in confidence and humility. Oh how the death and resurrection of Christ has changed all eternity–reaching even to the work of the cherubim.