We have been decoding some of the signs and symbols of the prophesy of Revelation, so that we can better understand the meanings of the book. The code is from the Old Testament (OT), and we are using scripture to interpret scripture, as only God can interpret His word. (Dan. 2:18-22)
Once we recognize the use of the symbols then we can know the rules for applying them. We have to follow the patterns of their use, and apply them consistently to be sure we are reading the prophesy in the same manner in which they were used in the OT.
Parts I – IV of this series have discussed the time symbols, the nature symbols, the color and number symbols, and the symbols of the throne scene in chapters 4 – 5. In this Part V we will look at the animal symbols of the battle / war of chapters 6 – 19.
1. Horses – Rev. 6:2-8 – symbols of war; war horses engaged in battle, armies
Joel 2:2, 4 “a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like…..4 The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses; and as horsemen, so shall they run.”
God’s anger with Jerusalem and all of Judea was pictured in this vision of the battle horses, just as it was in Isaiah 5:26-28:
“And he will lift up an ensign to the nations from far, and will hiss unto them from the end of the earth: and, behold, they shall come with speed swiftly: 27 None shall be weary nor stumble among them; none shall slumber nor sleep; neither shall the girdle of their loins be loosed, nor the latchet of their shoes be broken: 28 Whose arrows are sharp, and all their bows bent, their horses’ hoofs shall be counted like flint, and their wheels like a whirlwind:” (KJV)
The “end of the earth” was a reference to the land under judgment, Judea. The “ensign to the nations from far” were the pagan nations God used to destroy Judea. The wheels spoke of their war chariots.
Jer. 6:23, “Bow and javelin they take hold of, Fierce it [is], and they have no mercy, Their voice as a sea doth sound, And on horses they ride, set in array as a man of war, Against thee, O daughter of Zion.” (YLT)
In Revelation, the rider of the white horse is Christ: Rev. 6:2 is a vision before the battle, of Christ leading the battle front; while 19:11-16 is a vision in the midst of the battle against the beast, and the false prophet, with the blood of war upon His garments, and leading His army against the enemies of God, Gog and Magog.
Rev. 6:2, “and I saw, and lo, a white horse, and he who is sitting upon it is having a bow, and there was given to him a crown, and he went forth overcoming, and that he may overcome.” (YLT)
This is an image from Zech 10:3-4 –
“Against the shepherds did Mine anger burn, And against the he-goats I lay a charge, For inspected hath Jehovah of Hosts His flock, the house of Judah, And set them as His beauteous horse in battle. 4 From him [is] a corner-stone, From him a nail, from him a battle-bow, From him goeth forth every exactor together.” (YLT)
The corner stone, the nail (tent peg), the battle bow is Christ, from the house of Judah. The white horse, white for the righteous, pure and holy one of God can be no other than Christ. “Every exactor” referred to taskmasters. or oppressors; those that would carry out His punishments / judgments.
That anyone could set the white horse as a symbol of the anti-Christ is wholly against all scripture. Turning the symbol of white into an evil enemy of God, and stating that this horse and rider are a future anti-Christ is repugnant. The futurist’s viewpoint and twisted use of this verse clearly indicate their irrational, and illogical portrayal of the book, and should be an indication that they are not rightly dividing the word of God.
The red horse with the sword is a war horse indicating blood, and death from battle. The black horse with the scales is one of death and hardship indicating famine and starvation. The pale horse actually bears the name of Death and brings Hades with him, involving the sword, hunger and death of the previous three horses.
Both Foy Wallace, Jr. and David Chilton have good discussions of these four horses in their books (see notes 1, & 2 below), but their points are that the messengers riding the horses are agents of God, and God is sending out these judgments against Jerusalem and Judea. They do not depict one individual or person upon those three horses.
They are symbolic of the same type of judgment God used against Israel and Judea in the Old Testament in Zech. 1:8-11; and Zech 6:2-5.
Zech. 6:5, “ And the angel answered and said unto me, These are the four spirits of the heavens, which go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth.”
They represent the trouble and tribulation that God poured forth upon Jerusalem and all of Judea.
2. Locusts – Rev. 9:3, 7-10 – countless consuming army / soldiers of conquering nations; specifically, the Roman army which marched against Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
This parallels the Chaldean invasion of Judea under Nebuchadnezzar of 584 BC as described in Joel.
Joel 1:6, “For a nation is come up upon my land, strong, and without number, whose teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he hath the cheek teeth of a great lion.”
Joel 2:25, “ And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you.” (KJV)
Isa. 33:4, “And your spoil shall be gathered like the gathering of the caterpiller: as the running to and fro of locusts shall he run upon them.” (KJV)
Rev. 9:7-10, ”7And the likenesses of the locusts [are] like to horses made ready to battle, and upon their heads as crowns like gold, and their faces as faces of men, 8 and they had hair as hair of women, and their teeth were as [those] of lions, 9 and they had breastplates as breastplates of iron, and the noise of their wings [is] as the noise of chariots of many horses running to battle; 10 and they have tails like to scorpions, and stings were in their tails; and their authority [is] to injure men five months;” (YLT)
The locusts symbolized complete desolation of the land, that nothing would be left. This is the fourth beast of Dan. 7:7 with the great iron teeth; the Roman empire. The Roman legions were famous for completely destroying those cities and nations who rebelled against Rome. They practiced scorched-earth warfare.
The scorpion tail symbolized the power to hurt and torment that would make men wish for death, but would deny them that release. (Rev. 9:6)
3. Dragon – Rev. 12:3, 4, 7, 9, 13, 16, 17; 13:2, 4, 11; 16:13; 20:2 – the devil, Satan, the serpent of old from Genesis. chap. 3.
The word “dragon” is drakon in the Greek, and means a huge serpent. It only appears in Revelation. In the OT, it is the serpent in Ex. 7:9-10; the representation of Nebuchadnezzar as a dragon in Jer. 51:34; the representation of the idolatrous tribes of Israel in Deu. 32:33; the representation of Babylon in Isa. 27:1; 51:9; and the representation of Pharaoh, king of Egypt in Ez. 29:3.
The symbolic use of “dragons” and “serpents” meant the pagan, heathen nations who worshipped and sacrificed to idols, the unclean things they made with their own hands. Those pagan, idolatrous nations were always the enemies of the Most High.
Rev. Chap. 12 opens with a flash back to the birth of Christ and His church in the first part of the first century A.D, and is the fulfillment of Is. 26:17-21. Remember that Revelation is not a chronological account, but rather a series of themes, spot-lighting the events, recounting the prophesy from different aspects much as an historian would recount a war from different battle fronts.
Chapters 4 – 11 were presented and originated from the throne of God with the ascension of Christ, His judgments, and His leadership of the battle to be fought against the enemies of God. With Chapter 12 the prophesy turns to the battle that Satan and his agents / messengers brought against Christ and His church, His bride, the new Jerusalem.
The dragon in Revelation was a representation of the world power that was the enemy of Christ and His church. It appeared in “heaven”, the sphere of the political world dominion and power of Rome, the empire which ruled over Palestine, the “earth.” (See Part II for the meanings of “earth,” and “heaven” as used in prophesy.)
Satan was personified in the Caesars of Rome, and in the Sanhedrin of Judah who persecuted the saints and Christ’s church. This was the battle between heathendom, pagan idolatrous nations which was prophesied in Ez. chap. 38, with the enemies of God (Gog, the prince of the land of Magog) who were trying to obliterate Christianity. See here for a good discussion of Gog and Magog.
The seven heads and ten horns of the dragon correspond to the seven heads and ten horns of the sea beast in Rev. 13.1 identifying them as the same world power.
Psa. 74:12-14, ” And God [is] my king of old, Working salvation in the midst of the earth. 13 Thou hast broken by Thy strength a sea-[monster], Thou hast shivered Heads of dragons by the waters, 14 Thou hast broken the heads of leviathan, Thou makest him food, For the people of the dry places.” (YLT)
Satan gave power to the beast to make war against the saints. (Rev. 13:4) He knew his time was short. (Rev. 12:12) His work and power accumulated through the pagan and idolatrous kingdoms of Babylon, Medo-Persian, and Greek empires and were culminating in that of the Roman empire. If Satan could not stop Christianity then and there, he would never be able to do so. Of course, he was never going to win. (Psa. 98:1; Is. 25:7-9; Dan. 12:1-3)
The dragon’s tail swept away a third of the “stars of heaven” in v. 4 and cast them down to “earth.” Remember from Part II that the “stars of heaven” were the sons of Israel, or the Jews. This is a reference back to Rev. 8:7-12 with the third parts harmed under the four angels. It refers to the Jewish authorities, and apostate people of Judah and Jerusalem.
The symbolic vision in v. 4 of the dragon standing before the woman ready to devour her child as soon as it was born is the image of both the Virgin Mary and the birth of Christ (Is. 66:7), who then fled to avoid the slaughter of the innocents under Herod (Matt.2:13); and also stands for the mother church born on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38-41) which later fled into the wilderness mountains to survive and be sustained during the persecution and tribulation of the Roman/Judean war. (See Matt. 24:16-20; Mark 13:14-18; Luke 21:20-22)
The Roman Caesars were claiming to be gods, and sons of gods. Their claims were those of impostors, who forced the people to worship them through acts of terror. Those that succumbed to the “mark of the beast” were those that worshiped the Caesars of Rome, and other pagan “gods.”
Satan’s desire was always to deceive the nations / people so that they would turn away from the one, true God. This was the war that was prophesied in Gen. 3:15 to be fought between the Seed of the woman (Christ) and the seed of the serpent. This battle waged by Satan was present throughout all of the OT. He desperately wanted to prevent Christ’s birth, and then to destroy Him.
The battle between the dragon and his “angels” – messengers / agents / followers – and Michael and His “angels” was fought in the “heaven” of the political, world-rule of the Roman empire.
Michael was the chief of the angels, and Daniel’s “prince” in Dan. 10:13, 21. Michael was the “great prince” who was prophesied to stand up for Daniel’s people in Dan. 12:1 during the time of tribulation, and the Archangel of Jude 9 who contended with the devil for Moses’ body. The word “Archangel” is capitalized, therefore a specific angel, and means the ruler of the angels. The only other time this word is used is in 1 Thess. 4:16 when Christ descends from heaven with the voice of the archangel.
Michael of the OT was the prefigured Christ, and the warrior, the Prince of princes (Dan. 8:25) who fought for His people, and is used again in Revelation as the symbol of Christ, the warrior on the white horse. Christ and the apostles and the newly converted saints were the ones battling with Satan and his angels. The battle was fought on the “earth” of Jerusalem, Judea, and Palestine. (Rev. 12:13-17)
There was no battle in the heaven where God sits on His throne. There is no evil, nor apostasy in heaven above! Therefore, this battle in Rev. 12:7-8 was symbolic of the spiritual struggle of principalities over the newly born church of Christ.
It took place during the time when the “woman,” the church fled into the wilderness in v. 6 where she hid for the 3-1/2 years (time, times, and a half / or 1260 days) which Christ told his disciples to do in Matt. 24:15-20. This was the 42 months of the Judean / Roman war when the gentile nations trampled the “outer court” of the temple under their feet (Rev. 11:2), and which ended with the destruction of that old Jewish temple in Sept. A.D. 70.
Thus, the dragon, Satan, and his emissaries / angels were defeated, and fell from their positions of power down to “earth.” (Rev. 12:8-9) Revelation chap. 12 is a preview of the battle that is portrayed in more detail throughout chapters 13 -19.
See here for more on the red dragon of Revelation 12.
4. The Beast of the sea – Rev. 13:1 – as discussed above, the old Roman empire of the first century A.D. The word “beast” here is “therion” and means a wild beast, a predator that devours the young and the weak. In general, it is a symbol of the pagan world power which was presented in the Roman empire of the first century A.D.
It rose up out of the sea.. that is the gentile nations across the great Mediterranean sea. The seven heads were seven kings / Caesars. The ten horns were the lesser ruling senatorial provinces that did not have the power or rule equal to Caesar. The power to wage war for 42 months was the war against Judea beginning in A.D. 66-67 and culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
Its target, or prey was the newly born, young church of Christ, and His saints.
The blasphemies spoken against God were from the mouth of the pretending Caesars who claimed to be God, and who vowed to destroy all other claimants, and all the seed of David. Specifically, during the great tribulation, the persecution of the saints, it became centered in one man, Nero. (Rev. 13:18)
The symbol of the beast of the sea switches back and forth between the collective pagan empire of Rome, and the representative of that empire, Caesar.
See previous post, “The Beast of Revelation”.
5. The Beast of the earth – Rev. 13:11 – the apostate, non-believing Jews who crucified Christ and persecuted His saints.
The word “earth” was a metaphor in the OT for Israel, and stood here for the land of Judea, the remnant of Israel. The Jews enlisted the power of the Roman Caesars to both crucify Christ, and persecute the Christians. This is referred to again in Chap. 17 as the woman (Jerusalem) who rode on the head of the Roman beast.
Together, the sea and land beasts were the persecuting powers who killed the newly converted Christians who were a threat to both their power and control of the people.
See previous post, “The Whore of Babylon” for more detail.
Psa. 2:6-11 prophesied the victory of Christ:
“2 Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. 7 I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.
8 Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. 9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.
10 Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. 11 Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.” (KJV)
Revelation was the prophesy and message to the first century Christians that the battle was coming upon them, and they were to shortly see their victorious Christ. It stands as our record that Christ won that battle against the devil for all time! Christ brought His kingdom into full power in A.D. 70 and has been ruling all the nations with a rod of iron ever since.
Sources: KJV, and Young’s (YLT). All bold emphasis is mine.
- The Book of Revelation by Foy Wallace, Jr. (pp. 141 – 149)
- The Days of Vengeance… by David Chilton, (pp. 82 – 86)