Tuesday, 19 January 2021
And thus I saw the horses in the vision: those who sat on them had breastplates of fiery red, hyacinth blue, and sulfur yellow; and the heads of the horses were like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths came fire, smoke, and brimstone. Revelation 9:17
The previous verse described horsemen totaling two hundred million men. If there are horsemen, then they are riding horses. But John is not understanding modern warfare, and so the horses he will describe are horses in name only. In order to convey to us that they are not really horses, but that they perform the same job as horses in cavalry, he says, “And thus I saw the horses in the vision.”
In other words, he is describing what he sees as horses, even though they are not horses. With that understood, he next begins to describe them saying, “those who sat on them had breastplates of fiery red.”
John is providing the reader with the national colors of the armies who ride on these “horses.” The Greek words for all three of these colors are found only here in this verse. The question here is, “Are all the colors one standard, like the US flag, which is red, white, and blue. Or are they each the main color of a single country within the coalition?”
There are a few countries that have the color combination of all three of these colors, but none are significant enough (at this time) to be a major player in such a battle. Therefore, it is probably (though not definitively) three different predominant colors.
The first is pyrinous, or “fiery.” Thus, it signifies a bright or glittering red. It is a common color of many commie countries such as Russia, China, and so on. Therefore, one cannot dogmatically say it is one particular country.
The next is hyakinthinous or “hyacinth.” It is dark purple or blue. Again, a particular country cannot be dogmatically barked out as being the main country.
The third color is theiōdeis, or “sulphur” (brimstone). It is a yellowish color. One possibility for this color is that it is the yellowish painting found on tanks in desert battle colors today, regardless of national designation. John could be seeing tanks with this desert-like color and is describing it as such.
For example, when fighting in northern densely forested climates, tanks will be repainted darker green to match the surrounding area. The yellowish color might then be what John is seeing in a desert climate of the Mideast. Again, to be dogmatic about a battle which is future, and that concerns the three colors John is seeing, is not the smart option. When the battle comes, the colors will match what John sees. This is certain.
With the colors defined, John next begins to describe the “horses,” saying, “and the heads of the horses were like the heads of lions.” Having never seen a modern mechanized cavalry force, John would use terminology that he was familiar with. And yet, what he saw, and the way he describes it, is exactly as we would expect for a modern force of tanks.
On top of the tank is a turret. One could see that as the “head” of the horse. Out of the turret comes the cannon, and that is how John is seeing it. The horse’s mouth is at the front of the head, pointing forward. It is at the end where the animal breathes and snorts. In saying that the head is like the head of a lion, he is describing the ferocity of the head of a tank, which roars as it expels its ammunition. And of course, John nails that description with the final words of this verse, saying, “and out of their mouths came fire, smoke, and brimstone.”
This is exactly what proceeds from the fierce and angry mouths of modern mechanized armaments. There is a sudden bursting forth of fire when the projectile is expelled. From there, smoke immediately follows it, billowing out of the “mouth” of the barrel. And then from there, the sight and smell of brimstone he is perfectly describing the sulphurous mixture.
From there, the projectile hits its mark, and the same thing is again seen as the explosion erupts in fire, smoke, and brimstone. John is seeing a massive battle which is yet future, and he is describing it in terms that even a person would describe it today if they had never seen a tank. Good job John!
For a short demonstration of these massive “horses” of destruction, go to this link – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=was2xsfFgQ0
Life application: The Lord, through John, has given us a sure insight into the future. Based on the size of the army the location that they are recorded as having come from, we know that the events are ahead of us. They will be fulfilled at some point just as John has seen them. The book of Revelation is describing what is coming against Israel someday.
As terrifying as it is, the Lord covenanted with Israel to always preserve them as a people, even through their times of anticipated destruction. When the Lord speaks, He performs. In the New Covenant, the Lord has provided those who come to Him in faith with a deposit, or guarantee, of our salvation – the sealing of the Holy Spirit. Let us trust that God’s promise is greater than our failings. Just as He has kept and preserved His promise to Israel, so He will do for His redeemed. This is because He is faithful. The blood has been shed, the substitution has been made, and His people have been saved by JESUS!
How wonderful to know that the Bible proclaims future events for man to know, with absolute certainty, that You, O God, have all things under control. When the world seems to be spinning into chaos, and when the leaders of the world’s nations have become completely corrupt, we know that it is a temporary blip on the calendar. They will be swept away in their unrighteousness, and Your people will dwell in safety, peace, and joy. Thank You for these sure and glorious promises, O Lord! Amen.