#20 The Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse
Our text is found in (Rev 6:1-8). We left off last week with the Lamb of God, The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David taking the book out of the hand of God the Father. He alone is worthy for He is our God and Savior Jesus Christ who created all things and who upholds all things by the word of His power! It is He who spoke creation into existence and it is He who will bring all things to an end. While the image of the horsemen can be symbolic of judgment and devastation throughout the ages, I believe that this is a picture of the final judgment upon mankind for their sins from the context of the book of Revelation. Consider two passages from this Book.
The first is found in (Rev 1:19) 19“Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things. The second is found in (Rev 4:1) 1After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things. From the lips of our Lord Jesus Christ we have the context for the book and we are now looking at (what must take place after these things) or at the future.
Understand that other people have other views on this but I am trying to stay within the context and be true to the scriptures. In my view I see this book with the seven seals as the final judgment on the earth. Notice with me what happens when Jesus breaks the first seal.
The Book Opened; The First Seal—False Christ or Jesus
This first seal has some controversy depending upon your view/theological persuasion. I see this as the biggest problem; coloring your understanding of the scriptures with a theological preconception of what you think they mean. People like this say “I believe this way” and then they open the bible and spend untold hours trying to fit everything they see into their belief mold. It doesn’t work that way.
When God directed holy men of old to write as they were moved by the Holy Spirit, He had them write exactly what He wanted to say. He did not, and I repeat, He did not write according to what we want to hear!
God is not a Calvinist! In fact, God does not hold to ANY theological persuasion! We cannot bind Him and make Him fit our theological molds. He left no loopholes when He wrote by which we may play stretch the Bible. God is God, and when He speaks it is His declaration of what is! It is a declaration of His revealed will! When He speaks and we must bow down and say, “Yes Lord, your servant hears!”
Before we approach the lesson proper, I want you to notice something with me. as I said, I see here the end of this sinful world, the culmination of the age and I want you to see something with me: notice this pattern,
1. A conqueror is sent out.
2. War and terrorism are part and parcel of the whole.
3. Famine and pestilence naturally follow the ravages of war.
4. Death and eternal judgment (It is appointed unto man once to die…)
5. Martyrs die for their beliefs.
6. Cosmic disturbances…(This is unique to the end times)
a. what other war saw earthquakes
b. the darkening of the sun
c. the moon turning the color of blood
d. the stars falling
e. the sky receding like a scroll
f. mountains and islands moved out of their places
g. most important of all, the Lamb of God, before whom men flee and
try to hide.
This is more than a mere war! This is the final judgment upon sinners for their evil that they have done under every green tree. And it is Jesus Christ Himself who is directing all things; sending judgment forth upon men. The Conquering King, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David is coming and when He comes who will be able to stand.
With this understanding in mind let us look at the first horseman and we will see what the scriptures have to tell us! Remember that John is reporting all of this as an eyewitness. He says in verse 1Then I saw when the Lamb (Jesus Christ our Lord) broke one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, “Come.” 2I looked, and behold, a white horse, A white horse was ridden by the general. In the old days the good guys always wore white and rode white horses. And so we continue with the vision…and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer. There are two main opinions about this first rider.
Some see this as Jesus going forth to conquer the world for the Kingdom of God. He rides a white horse which is reminiscent of what we see in Chapter 19. He is armed with a bow with which He shoots the arrows of the gospel into the hearts of men. Armed thus He goes forth and conquers the world of sinful man for the glory of God. In the face of this rising tide of men standing for Jesus Christ and His righteousness, evil men rise up to fight and kill. Famine and pestilence follow and death is the outcome.
Others see this rider as the antichrist who goes forth in the guise of goodness and righteousness; masquerading as a minister of righteousness! And this evil man conquers the hearts and minds of sinful man for his own glory. He comes in his own name and men receive him. Who is this first rider? Is it Jesus? Does the first seal picture His first coming to redeem mankind? Or is it the antichrist coming to make war against God and all that He stands for? I am inclined to believe that it is the antichrist for the simple reason that when Jesus came to redeem mankind He came as a servant, not a conquering king, though He did conquer the hearts of sinful men with His precious blood. He was like a lamb led to the slaughter and opened not His mouth. He was gentle and lowly in heart.
The antichrist will go forth to conquer the world for Satan and will rage against all that is holy and set himself up as God. He will go out conquering and to conquer the hearts of those whose names are not written in the Lambs book of life. He will also wage war against the Lamb and His followers. But he will not succeed because he is merely a tool used by God to accomplish His will. In this case it is the destruction of this world and the judgment on sinful men. God used Nebuchadnezzar, Titus Vespatian, Balaam and Judas to accomplish His will and the antichrist will be no different.
Though he may rage as the heathen do, like these men, he will be able to do nothing more or less than what God decrees. The escalating violence upon the earth in these successive chapters is frightening and devastating and it is no wonder men’s hearts will fail for fear at the sight of the onslaught of terror! Men will cry out like the inhabitants of Egypt and Sodom as Gods furious wrath is poured out upon them! As the conqueror goes out to conquer…
The Second Seal—War
3When He broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come.” Before we proceed there are those who believe that the antichrist will usher in a false, pseudo peace. Remember the words of Bill Clinton during his 1992 presidential campaign. Twisting the scriptures he said “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard neither has entered into the heart of man what we can do!” He believes, as others do, that man can create a utopia, a paradise here on earth by following a man-made formula. This is the Tower of Babel mindset
But remember the scriptures which tell us, (1Th 5:3) “While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. Man-made peace never lasts. WWI was supposed to be the war to end all wars and yet a mere twenty one years later saw the rise of imperial Japan and Nazism with all of its horrors. Recently I heard a man say that more than 50 million people lost their lives in that horrible war. Three years after the end of WWII saw the Korean War and shortly after that the Vietnam War!
Mankind cannot achieve the utopian peace they desire. Only God can accomplish perfect peace. The ‘peace’ that men bring about is shaky at best and temporary; a mere lull in the scheme of things, like the dead calm before a tornado or an earthquake. And in reality, these times of peace are brought about by the hand of God. When He breaks another seal we see…
4And another, a red horse, symbolic of carnage, discord, bloodshed. went out; at the command of God and to him who sat on it, notice what it says, it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that when God removes His restraining hand men would slay one another; and a great sword was given to him. Now this sword can be a large broadsword or it can mean a short stabbing sword such as the Romans used. But the result is the same. It is war! Remember what Jesus said in (Mr 13:20) “Unless the Lord had shortened those days, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom He chose, He shortened the days. A by-product of the devastation of war…
The Third Seal—Famine
Again I want you to see who is in charge of all of this. We read in verse 5When He Jesus Christ broke the third seal, Jesus Christ is sending all of these horrible judgments upon mankind. Why? SIN!!!!!! And I want you to notice something. In Chapter 16 and verse 9 we read this…“And men were scorched with great heat, and instead of seeking forgiveness they blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory. They were sold under sin to do evil with all of their hearts. I always found it so strange that the children of Israel would be suffering unspeakable horrors and instead of returning to the living God they would not repent of their evils.
Instead they would redouble their efforts to appease Baal and Moloch, offering increased human sacrifices and committing other atrocities that would curl our hair. They would not repent of their sins but having hit rock bottom they had begun to dig! Here we see the same thing. Men would not turn from their false religions and from their allegiance to the beast and so war came. This did not turn men from their evil ways so God turns up the heat again. We read…I heard the third living creature saying, “Come.” I looked, and behold, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. 6And I heard something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not damage the oil and the wine.”
Black, in the Scriptures, is the image of fear, of famine, of death. Consider… (La 5:10) “Our skin was black like an oven, because of the terrible famine.” (Jer 14:2) “Because of the drought Judah mourneth, and tile gates thereof languish; they are in deep mourning [literally, black] for the land.” (Joel 2:6) “All faces shall gather blackness.” (Na 2:10) “The knees smite together, and there is great pain in all loins, and the faces of them all gather blackness.”
From the color of the horse here introduced, we would therefore naturally look for some horrible calamity. And indeed the famine has come. We cannot even begin to grasp what a famine is like. We see the images on our television of swollen bellies and stork thin bodies. But we have not experienced this for ourselves. Yet! But that day will soon come. The only reason we have had no nationwide famine in our land is because of the loving, merciful hand of God. But one day, on the day appointed by our Father it will come! God will not always strive with man! He will not put up with our sinfulness forever. He gave Sodom and Gomorrah time to repent.
He granted the antediluvian world 120 years to turn from their wicked ways. But we know that they did not repent. They loved their sin more than their lives and so God snuffed them out. This same God who is of purer eyes than to behold evil will not allow us to do as they did and get away with it. Though He has been long-suffering to us, remember that He was also long-suffering to these nations as well. But on the appointed day He spoke and these civilizations perished.
Consider Second Peter chapter two where we read these words beginning at verse 1 “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. 2 Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; 3 and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. 4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment; 5 and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; 6 and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter;7 and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men 8 (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds), 9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment,10 and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority. Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties, 11 whereas angels who are greater in might and power do not bring a reviling judgment against them before the Lord. 12 But these, like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed, reviling where they have no knowledge, will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed, 13 suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong. They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you, 14 having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children; 15 forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; 16 but he received a rebuke for his own transgression, for a mute donkey, speaking with a voice of a man, restrained the madness of the prophet. 17 These are springs without water and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved. 18 For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, 19 promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved. 20 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21 For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. 22 It has happened to them according to the true proverb, “A DOG RETURNS TO ITS OWN VOMIT,” and, “A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.” As nation rises up against nation and destruction reigns, mankind’s ability to provide food will be increasingly destroyed, perhaps by nuclear bombs which would devastate land for miles around and men are starving from the famine, the natural result is seen in…
7When the Lamb broke the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, “Come.” 8I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; literally a pale ashen green pallor characteristic of a decomposing corpse. This is a horrible sight to say the least. But consider the rider…and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades (that is the grave) was following with him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth.
Let’s look at this from the standpoint of today’s population just to get a picture of the scope of what is being said here. There are around 7 billion people in the world today. If 25 percent or one fourth of the population were killed, that would equal out to 1.75 billion. Can your mind grasp this horrific picture of death? This is beyond anything we can conceive of. Our feeble, finite minds are too limited to deal with such a picture! No war we have experienced or even read about comes close to this! But again we are dealing with the end of the world here. And again we see the truth of scripture which states that the wages of sin is death. This is but the beginning of birth pangs! There are yet greater horrors than these!
Sinful mankind loves his sin and will not repent so as to be saved. Sinful man hates God and all that He stands for and he will be judged accordingly! The day is coming when Jesus Christ will release these harbingers of judgment and that will be a time of horror and misery such as the world has never known.
So how should this truth affect us? First, it should stir our hearts to be about the business of declaring the truth of salvation that is found only in Jesus Christ, warning sinners to flee from the wrath to come. Their only hope is Jesus. They must turn from their sins or they will die, twice.
Secondly, we should be looking up in hope, looking forward to what lies ahead, for soon our redemption will be drawing nigh. We need not fear as the heathen do for there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. When we see these things beginning to come to pass, we will know that He is near, even at the door. And then we will be going home.