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Indeed the powers of the horses are in their mouths,

and in their tails;

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indeed, their tails

are like serpents

having heads

with which they cause harm.


Indeed the power of the swift and powerful ones is in the words they speak, and in the unexpected way they act, unexpected in that they are cunning and crafty, and they have leaders over them, enabling them to do much harm to mankind.


1: “tails”

One does not expect an attack from the back side of an opponent, but only from the front. The context is that of punishment and destruction, which are similar to military attacks. Thus the idea of an unexpected attack is garnered from this image. There are other ideas that can be conveyed by the word picture of “tail,” but this is the one that fits best here.

The Sixth Trumpet Depicts Acts of God, Not Satan

Why do I feel this sixth trumpet points to the actions of God rather than the actions of Satan?

  1. Earlier we read that the ones being sent out were four angels who had been held in readiness for this very time. It is possible to refer to demonic forces as angels, but it was not common and I think that in Revelation a clear distinction was always made. Therefore, if it says angels, it most likely refers to God’s agents, not Satan’s agents.
  2. The hour, day, month and year were previously determined. This meant God had planned it to be just this way. In all fairness, it is possible for God to allow Satan to act and bring a certain level of destruction on mankind, for the Jewish mind sees God as the cause behind all things. He is either the direct, or the indirect cause behind everything; the Hebrews did not draw distinct lines between the two. However, if this is punishment from God, which it is, it would fit best for it to come directly from God, not through God’s adversary. How were the people to know it was punishment if it does not come from the one who punishes sin, but rather from the one who promotes sin?
  3. Satan is happy when man acts sinfully. Satan usually leaves people alone if they are living for themselves and have no hunger for God; he wants them to be comfortable in their sinful condition so he does not make life any harder on them than it already is. Revelation 9:20 and Revelation 9:21 list some of the sinful things they had been doing, all of which Satan wants to promote, not punish.
  4. It appears that one of the primary reasons for this punishment is to call people to repentance—something that Satan would never be involved in. In order to show people the severity of their actions, and wake them up to their need for repentance, God punishes a portion of mankind while leaving the rest with life and opportunity to repent. Most do not repent, but they are given another chance, for such is the merciful nature of our God. This is consistent with the actions of God, not with the actions of Satan.

Their Tails Are Like Serpents

I believe the tail represents the opposite of what is expected. Men were caught off guard by the punishment meted out by these angels to the point that they felt tricked and deceived. This was perceived as deception, which is the primary mode of operation for Satan. In my understanding of this passage this was not Satan or his demons working, but it was perceived by the human recipients as having Satan’s fingerprints on it because they did not expect it.

We have many today who think of themselves as being “good people,” not deserving of eternal punishment. They compare themselves to others that are worse than themselves and therefore think of themselves as OK. They assume God will accept them into heaven for not being totally evil like those they compare themselves to. When God does punish them, they will accuse God of all kinds of things, including deception. However, they will be the ones guilty of deception because they have deceived themselves.


Many scholars see here the actions of Satan because of the mention of the snake, which was indeed the symbol for Satan. However, everything else about the passage points toward the punishment and mercy of God, punishment and mercy being like two sides to the same coin. Therefore, I interpret the mention of snakes to mean that the actions of the punishing angels were perceived as deception, which is Satan’s tool. In the perception of those being punished it comes across as cunning, crafty, deceptive, and unfair because the wicked do not expect punishment. They have convinced themselves that all the talk about punishment is a lie or a religious fairy-tale. When it comes upon them, they are not ready for it, they do not see it coming so they think there must be some mistake.