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Elpis Israel
by Dr. John Thomas

This is all Moses says about it; and were it not for other testimonies, we should be at a loss to understand its allegorical signification.

The cherubim set up in the tabernacle and first temple were enveloped in a cloud of thick darkness.

At night, the cloud, which was visible without the former, appeared like a blaze of fire; but in the day, it towered aloft as a pillar of cloud.

Darkness and fire were frequent accompaniments of the divine presence; indeed, always so upon great occasions.

The presence, of the Lord upon Mount Sinai was a magnificent and terrible example; and when Jesus expired in blood, Judea was veiled in darkness, and God looked upon it.

With the exception of the thunder, the earthquake, the tempest, and the flashing lightning, God's communings with Moses, and after him with the High Priests, were conducted from between the Cherubim, as upon Sinai -- "The Lord descended upon it in fire; and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace; and God answered him by a voice"; so that the thick darkness became luminous and indicated His presence.

The illumination of the darkness without the voice would be sufficient to give assurance of acceptance.

The Priest having witnessed this on the great day of atonement, when he came out to the people, looking for him with anxiety to know the result, would be enabled to report to them that the Lord had shined forth.

This was the sign to them of a typical salvation.

Hence, Asaph prays, "Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel; thou that dwellest between the cherubim, shine forth - stir up thy strength, and come and save us.

Turn us again, O God, cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved".

But the flaming sword in Eden is more strikingly illustrated as to its probable appearance by Ezekiel's description of the cherubic glory.

He says he beheld "a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the brightness thereof as the colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire; whence issued forth the likeness of four living creatures," or cherubim.

"The appearance was like burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of lamps: it went up and down among the living creatures: and the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning.

And the living creatures ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning".

It was customary for the Lord to answer men by fire, when any great principle, or new institution was to be established.

Thus, the covenant with Abraham was confirmed by fire; there also came out a fire from before the Lord, and consumed the offering on Aaron's induction as high priest; when the plague was stayed at the intercession of David, the Lord answered him by fire from heaven upon the altar of burnt offering, and thus indicated the place He had chosen to place His name there; and also at the dedication of the temple, fire consumed the sacrifices in the same way.

From these examples, I think it is a fair inference, that the flaming sword in Eden was applied to a similar purpose, namely, to flash forth its fire for the consumption of the sacrifices offered by the family of Adam before the Lord.

The fire described by Ezekiel represented the spirit of God in its cherubic relations; for as the fire flashed its lightning so they moved to and fro.

It also represented the glory, or brightness, of the Messiah as he will appear upon his throne.

"I saw," saith he, "as the appearance of a man above upon the throne: as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even upward, and from thence downwards, as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about.

As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about.

This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord".