Animals in Heaven
We have often wondered why the English translation readings of Revelation 4:6-9 use the words “creatures” or “beasts” or “beings”, when the Greek clearly describes these beings as “animals”.
Let’s begin by looking at these verses in the King James Version (emphasis added):
6. And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.
7. And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle.
8. And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.
9. And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever,
The Greek word used is ζωα, pronounced, zōa (a plural, nominative, neuter noun) meaning animals, and ζωον, pronounced, zō-on for a single animal as in verse 7. Zoology, the study of animals, and zoological garden or zoo are words derived from the Greek word for animal, ζωον (zō-on).
John F. Walvoord, states in his commentary on this passage in the King James Version:
The translation “beasts” is quite inaccurate and should be changed to “living ones.” In the Greek the word used is zōon, which means “living ones.” An entirely different word, thērion, meaning “a beast,” such as a wild animal, is used in Revelation 13 to speak of the beast coming out of the sea. The emphasis here is on the quality of life and the attributes that relate to it. (1)
Other scholars must have agreed, for the New King James Version changed the word to “living creature” or “living creatures”, as the case may be, and as other more modern translations have done. The Living Bible translates the word, zō-on, as “living being”. But, none of these translations seem to acknowledge these beings as animals.
Could the reason be that these animals are full of eyes?
Could it be that similar beings are described in Ezekiel 1:5-10 as being of human form with three animal faces and a human face?
Perhaps, but the animals of Revelation 4 each have only one face.
We seem to have no problem discerning that the Lamb of Revelation 5 is Jesus Christ, even though He is described as a lamb with seven horns and seven eyes (verse 6). Then why don’t we acknowledge these beings as animals in Revelation 4?
Are we afraid that if we acknowledge that there are animals in heaven, we would become so emotionally and spiritually convicted that we would no longer eat them or wear their skins? Is it that we are afraid to admit that animals are “living souls” (Hebrew: נפש החיה pronounced, neh-fesh khah-yaw) just as we humans are?
We believe these are exactly the reasons. Compare the Hebrew of Genesis 1:20, 21, and 24, where God created the animals, with Genesis 2:7 where God formed man. We are all described as living souls.
We have culturally distorted the true meaning of this Revelation passage and many others in the Bible simply because we mistreat, kill, and eat animals.
Are the Biblical translations a lie, or are they misrepresentations of the whole truth? In either case they are not the whole truth, as we believe they should be.
Additionally, this mistranslation is quite similar to the ways in which the devil mistranslated Scripture to try to tempt Jesus in Matthew 4. Satan is the father of lies. Thus, we can only conclude that these translators were listening to an unholy spirit, rather than the Holy Spirit, when it came to translating this passage.
(1) Walvoord, John F., The Revelation of Jesus Christ, Chicago, Moody Press, 1966, 109.