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Symbolic horses of Joel 2 and Revelation 9

July 11, 2013

Several prophecies, including Joel 2, Rev. 9 & 19 speak of armies of horses, and horsemen. They are not literal horses, but figurative.

In Joel ch. 1 the invaders have lions’ teeth.

“Awake, ye drunkards, and weep; and howl, all ye drinkers of wine, because of the new wine; for it is cut off from your mouth. 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 1:5-6]

In Revelation, the horses of the 2nd woe have lions’ heads.

The people in Joel 2:2 are “without number.” They are described as unique.

“A great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations.” [Joel 2:2]

This great army is depicted in the wilderness, anticipating entry to paradise.

“A fire devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth: the land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea, and nothing shall escape them.” [Joel 2:3]

Christians seek to enter the better country of the gospel [Heb. 11:16], the heavenly Jerusalem.

The people of Joel 2 appear like horses, and horsemen.

“The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses; and as horsemen, so shall they run.” [Joel 2:4]

They are called ‘God’s army’.

“And the Lord shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp is very great: for he is strong that executeth his word: for the day of the Lord is great and very terrible; and who can abide it?” [Joel 2:11]

If the people repent, God promises to remove the invading army, which is referred to as ‘the northern army’.

“But I will remove far off from you the northern army, and will drive him into a land barren and desolate, with his face toward the east sea, and his hinder part toward the utmost sea, and his stink shall come up, and his ill savour shall come up, because he hath done great things.” [Joel 2:20]

In Joel’s prophecy, horses have a symbolic meaning similar to locusts. The heads of locusts and grasshoppers resemble the heads of miniature horses. These are two metaphors that in prophecy, may represent people who call themselves Christians.

Joel refers to the invading army as “the heathen” who reign over God’s people.

“Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly: Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet. Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O Lord, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God? Then will the Lord be jealous for his land, and pity his people.” [Joel 2:15-18]

Zion is not the earthly Jerusalem, but is now the heavenly mount Zion, the church. [Heb. 12:22]

The basis for locust imagery in prophecy is the report of the spies who Moses had sent to survey the promised land after the Exodus. Ten of the spies brought an evil report. They compared themselves to grasshoppers, and the people occupying the land they called giants. The Israelite spies said, “we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.” [Num. 13:33]

Paul said the experience of the Israelites in Moses’ day happened for our examples, i.e., for the benefit of believers.  The experience of Christians is comparable to that of the Israelites. Most of the Israelites who lacked faith to enter the promised land wandered in the wilderness for the rest of their lives. Those Christians who lack faith are also represented by locusts in prophecies such as Joel 1-2 and in the first woe in Revelation 9, and they are represented by horses and horsemen in Rev. 9:13-19 and in other prophecies. In this age, the church is in a spiritual wilderness, a place prepared by God [Rev. 12:6, 14] where she is nourished with spiritual manna. Her wilderness is a place of trial and testing and preparation for entering the “better country.” [Heb. 11:16]

The psalmist identified the chariots of God with angels.

The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place. [Psa. 68:17]

The number mentioned in this verse seems to agree with the number of horses of the 2nd woe: 200,000,000.

Horses in both Joel’s prophecy, and the 2nd woe, may represent people who lack understanding. [Psa. 32:9]

Jeremiah compared people to horses in various ways. He wrote,

“They were as fed horses in the morning: every one neighed after his neighbour’s wife.” [Jer. 5:8]

For Jeremiah, horses represent those who do not repent. He wrote:

“I hearkened and heard, but they spake not aright: no man repented him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done? every one turned to his course, as the horse rusheth into the battle.” [Jer. 8:6]

Lions’ heads could represent the natural mind of man, or carnal nature, opposed to the things of God. David wrote:

“They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion.” [Psa. 22:13]

He prayed that God would save him from the lion’s mouth.

Save me from the lion’s mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns. [Psa. 22:21]

Jesus used animals as metaphors referring to people, specifically, sheep, serpents, fish, birds.

Peter used the expression “natural brute beasts” in reference to false teachers.

“But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption;” [2 Pet. 2:12]

He spoke of unfaithful Christians as like animals; “the dog that turns to its own vomit, the sow that is washed returns to wallow in the mire.” [2 Pet. 2:22]

James compared man’s tongue with animals, and said that whereas every kind of animal had been tamed, no man could tame his own tongue. He wrote:

“My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of gehenna. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.” [James 3:1-9]

A reference to bridles, and bits in the mouths of horses, occurs in Revelation 14. The depth of blood from the winepress of God’s wrath reaches to the horses’ bridles.

The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath. They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses’ bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia. [Rev. 14:19-20]

What are these horses, and what are their bridles? The winepress of God’s wrath is not literal; the grapes are not humans. I suggest that the horses in the prophecy are metaphors that signify people, and the bits and bridles signify their words, and speech. The blood from the winepress is another metaphor, since natural grapes do not produce blood. When Jesus established the new covenant, he identified wine with blood.

“And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you. [Luke 22:19-21]

I suggest that the blood from the winepress in Rev. 14 is the blood of the new covenant, and the prophecy alludes to the message of the gospel, which because of the winepress is revealed to people who lack understanding, who are represented by the horses.

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  1. July 12, 2013 at 12:51 pm
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