Thursday, 21 January 2021
For their power is in their mouth and in their tails; for their tails are like serpents, having heads; and with them they do harm. Revelation 9:19
In this verse, John continues with his description of the horses which he has been conveying. Clearly, his words refer to modern mechanized vehicles, and especially that of tank warfare. In his continued words, he says, “For their power is in their mouth.” He is adamantly proclaiming that what was stated in verse 17 is correct. There, he said, “and out of their mouths came fire, smoke, and brimstone.”
At John’s time, who would believe such a thing? Because of the incredible nature of the matter, he is reiterating it to ensure that we know that what he said is exactly what he meant. Because it seems so incredible, the thought has long been spiritualized. But to ensure that this means of interpretation is understood to be incorrect, he next says, “and in their tails.”
Someone spiritualizing these verses might say that the power in the mouth of these horses is referring to powerful demonic orators whose mouths destroy those they speak of. And this would not be an unfounded analogy. But what about the tails having power? This too could be spiritualized, right from Scripture –
“The elder and honorable, he is the head;
The prophet who teaches lies, he is the tail.” Isaiah 9:15
One could make the argument that this power in the tails is that of false prophets teaching lies. However, with all of the symbolism taken together, and with an understanding of modern air and ground wars, those interpretations must be excluded. The precision of the terminology is such that these words really should be taken literally. Especially when the number of those included, and the ratio of those who will die, are exactingly stated by John.
With this approach understood (meaning a literal interpretation), what is the power in the tail? The secondary weapon systems on tanks are their machine guns, often at the back of the tanks. These cover the rear flank and, sticking out as they do, would appear like tails to John. To continue with his first-century analysis of a 21st-century battle tank, he next says, “for their tails are like serpents, having heads.”
Serpents are long and thin. This is true in comparison to the larger canon of the front. Further, in saying they have heads, John is conveying the thought that they can spit out venom. Just as the main barrel spits out fire, smoke, and brimstone, so these also are able to spit forth. Because of this, John says they have heads. And the analogy continues when considering the sound of a machine gun, almost hissing as it ejects its many bullets (listen here for a demonstration that would have led John to make this close analogy – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZj_Io9jr70).
With this understood, John next says, “and with them they do harm.” That is a most apt description of the effects of a large caliber machine gun as its lethal rounds tear apart other vehicles and humans, and the sand and rock spit up all around as the bullets land around their intended targets.
Life application: The vision only becomes clear in modern times and it points to the fact that Revelation was and is a book of prophecy about a future battle, not something which occurred in his lifetime. Those who want to claim that the church replaced Israel will argue that all of the events of Revelation are past, but this is simply a bad analysis of the timeline, the purpose of the book, and of the meaning of this symbolism that is given.
We are living in exciting times and the events of Revelation are coming nearer by the moment. Maybe they will even occur in our lifetime. In saying that, it is not meant that we will be here. The Bible teaches a pre-tribulation rapture. However, the events may be coming in the span that comprises that of a person alive today.
If this is so, thank God for what His word says concerning our deliverance from this coming world of woe. Thank God for the sure promises found in our Lord, Christ JESUS!
Thank You, Lord, for giving John the visions which we see recorded within the book of Revelation! Because we have an understanding of what he saw, we can look with confidence concerning the events of the book, knowing that You are in complete control of the future and that You have a plan laid out for the people of God. Our confidence and hope are in You! Amen.